Contractors' confidence 'bounces back'

A national survey shows contractors’ confidence in both their business performance and the economy recovered to “encouraging” levels in the final quarter of 2015.

The increase, which follows record pessimism in Q3, is in spite of business costs for such contract workers’ rising – 60% now fear for their bottom line, up from almost 50% in July.

But 35% are more confident in their business outlook (up from 28%); a higher proportion than at any other time of 2015 were ‘on-contract’, and their faith in the economy is up too.

These positives in the last three months of 2015 help explain why the contractors’ confidence index now stands at +9.8, up from just +2.4 in Q4, said IPSE, which runs the national survey.

Building their brand or reputation is the engine driving freelancers’ confidence, the survey shows, ahead of innovating in how they offer their service. Flexible working from more end-users is helping them too.

“It’s great to see freelancers’ confidence in their business and economy bounce back after a significant dip in the Autumn,” said Chris Bryce, chief executive of ISPE, which described the findings as "encouraging."

However, such independent professionals “remain wary”, IPSE’s report says, with concerns for the future centring on “the government’s attitude towards them” and any regulation as a result.

This cautious feeling seems likely to be found among contractors working in roles defined by the Office of National Statistics as Standard Occupational Classification Code Two.

Including mechanical engineers and IT project managers, this occupational type of contractor is downbeat about their business performance over the next 12 months, IPSE found.

Their pessimistic outlook “may have come as a result” of these professionals “seeing a fall in earnings” in 2015. It may also be down to April’s raft of new rules, such as the new dividend tax.

IPSE reflected: “Overall freelancers are quietly confident about their business performance over the next 12 months, [but] concerns surrounding a potential increase in business costs and the impact of government action [are] holding back any runaway optimism.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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