For five years, from 2012 to 2017, I worked in a freelance capacity. I was lucky that for the majority of that time Eurotunnel Le Shuttle kept me busy. But outside of that, I can’t say it was the best time of my life (despite my high hopes going into it). There were a few times where I was wondering where the next paycheck was coming from.
The problem was that by 2017, it felt like the world and his wife were also at it. Many of my friends are also freelancers, and the tales of woe I heard saying how increasingly difficult it was to get work became commonplace. With hindsight, the obvious thing to do was to work together more, but the fragmented nature of the work just didn’t allow us to sit down together long enough to create anything useful.
My film projects floundered as I couldn’t make the jump from earning the daily crust to being able to put the hours in to get the funding I needed to make them. It was a very frustrating time.
One good thing that did come out of it is The New Accelerator, which I co-created with my good friend David Winstanley. The only reason we have managed to keep that going is that we struggled on long enough to figure out the quick way to do things. Now it barely takes up more than a couple of hours of my week.
The lack of holidays and sick pay meant that my family suffered in terms of having trips abroad. I was lucky that in the four years I worked at Eurotunnel I didn’t get properly ill once (thanks, I think to the daily walk to and from work).
And all along, the government seemed to want to do more and more to make life harder. Realising they were losing out on income tax (the magic of dividends!), they started adding taxes left, right and centre. The party that claimed to pro-business made it clear that it was anything but.
As of summer 2018, by which point I’d given in and got myself a ‘proper job’, there were 2 million self-employed people in the UK. The market in which I worked (marketing and web, mostly, with the occasional foray into video where I could), was completely saturated. It probably still is.
Whatever the next Prime Minister does, he/she needs to look at lowering taxes, particularly corporation tax. I get the feeling that there is little understanding in Whitehall of the entrepreneurial mindset that drives the gig economy, and ministers need to better understand what it’s like to work in such a competitive market, with so few perks, rather than penalising them more and more for perceived loss of tax revenue.