Third of contractors suffer ‘disheartening’ skills decay

Developing a freelancer-friendly training system to help business soloists fine-tune their skills might hit a dud note if new research is right.

And calling contractors to upskill into IT architecture could equally be falling on some deaf ears if the findings – from a poll of 1,000 freelancers – are unaffected by respondents being anonymous.

In fact, despite these two attempts to get contractors to be even more ‘expert’, nearly one in three freelancers say they have become less expert than when they started contracting.


Or in the words of the pollsters, 27 per cent of people who currently work independently admitted that they have “de-skilled” since becoming freelance.

So ‘career compromise’ or ‘stunted career progression’ is hurting 29 per cent of freelancers -- likely in the survey to include both the ‘de-skilled’ contingent, plus a few more indpendents.

Ironically, 41 per cent -- an even bigger chunk, only got into contracting to get the career they wanted. Printer firm Epson which commissioned the findings called them “disheartening.”


“The skills that clients need from their self-employed workforce constantly change”, said the firm, pointing to global, economic and digital factors.

“If freelance workers can't respond to that by investing in their own professional development, they leave themselves very vulnerable”.

The rub is -- self-improvement through training courses is rarely at the top of freelancers’ ‘to-do’ lists, according to Epson’s Annika Fargerstrom.


“[This is] largely because there are a dozen other tasks there already….[such as] accounts and taxes, office equipment, marketing and IT”, she said. “[Then the challenge is] fitting all of this in around their paid commissions.”  

Recommendations from the firm, which is providing unlimited printing at a London co-working pop-up, include putting in place invoice and order processing systems to help reduce the hassle of traditionally manual tasks.

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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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