Image: Doug Belshaw Image: Doug Belshaw

More than half (52%) of freelancers in the UK are less confident in the economy for the next 12 months than they were last year, according to the Association for Independent Professionals and Self Employed (IPSE).

The organisation said this is a significant decline from the last quarter of 2015 which showed a confident outlook for the economy. More than half (56%) of freelancers also expect business costs to increase in the next year.

However, most freelancers remain confident in their own businesses performance. Over two thirds (68%) are as confident or more confident in their business outlook for the year ahead when compared to the previous 12 months. The most confident freelancers were in technical support roles, including legal and healthcare support.

In the first quarter of 2016, freelancers recorded just 2.1 weeks of time spent not working. This is the nearest to full capacity (84%) that freelancers have been operating at for the past 12 months.

Freelancers’ personal brand and reputation in the marketplace were identified as the most significant factors driving positive business performance (57%). Government attitude to freelancing, as in the previous two quarters, remained the most commonly cited factor to negatively affect business performance (54%).

Chris Bryce, IPSE CEO, said: "This survey shows that freelancers are resilient. Most remain confident in their business even as they are less sure about how the economy will shape up in the next 12 months. Because they work flexibly, freelancers are in many ways much better equipped to deal with a volatile economic picture.”

Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin and co-author of the report, said: "The most important thing that freelancers continually attribute to achieving success is building their own brand and reputation. Likewise, being able to deliver innovation is key. Freelancers who can put these factors together provide a potent combination for businesses.”