By Daniel Hunter

With an ever-increasing number of people going self-employed, from freelancing to starting their own small businesses, the self-employed workforce is now a vital contributor to the UK economy. But where are UK’s self-employed based? And what does Self-employed Britain look like today?

Online freelancer marketplace PeoplePerHour, has created a ‘Freelance Map of Britain’ showing how the freelance workforce is spread across the UK and revealing hotspots, where the number of people joining the freelance ranks over the past 12 months has grown at the fastest rate.

PeoplePerHour looked at the locations of almost 400,000 freelancers registered on the website, and the results of their research revealed a clear north-south divide — with a booming freelance marketplace in the North, and nine out of the top 10 freelancer hot spots situated in the North of England and Scotland.

The figures revealed that the Yorkshire region is a hive of freelancer activity, with four Yorkshire towns and cities, Bradford, Sheffield, Halifax and Huddersfield, appearing in the list of top UK freelancer hot spots.

Head of the top 10 table is the west Yorkshire city of Bradford, which has a population of almost 300,000, and used to have a thriving textile industry. Over the past 12 months, Bradford has seen its freelancer population more than double, with the number of people registering on PeoplePerHour, and selling their skills and services through the website, rising by 165% in the past 12 months.

Similarly, Sheffield (139%), Halifax (123%) and Huddersfield (115%), have seen their freelancer population swell in the past year. And the north west of England and Scotland also feature prominently in the top 10 list, with Liverpool (135%), Manchester (130%), Dundee (132%) and Aberdeen (111%) all experiencing a boom in people working for themselves, and selling their specialist skills and services online.

Surprisingly, there are no cities in the south or East of England that feature in the list of top 10 freelancer hot spots, and only one city in the Midlands, Leicester (146%), which has seen the second biggest rise in freelancer numbers in the past 12 months.

Although freelancers are selling a range of skills and services online, from design to book-keeping, it is the creative economy that is growing faster than any other sector. In the list of most popular services offered by PeoplePerHour freelancers, web development and design, copy editing and writing, graphic design, and SEO fill four of the five top spots.

Interestingly, when you look at the skills and services being offered by location, freelancers based in the north are generally offering more creative services, such as writing, design and illustration. While in the south, the most common services include legal support, accounts and book-keeping and general administration.

“The surge in people selling and buying freelance services is not a coincidence — Britain’s labour market is going through a fundamental change. Traditional employment is unlikely to return to pre-recession levels, as increasingly businesses want a more flexible workforce," Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour, said.

"They prefer to be able to hire on an as-needed basis, rather than having the cost not just of employing full-time staff but also the additional cost of having employees on-site.

“A growing freelance marketplace is the best hope of creating a more flexible workforce, tapping into the wasted resource of tens of thousands of skilled people whose potential is not being realized. The north of England has been particularly badly hit during the recession, but these figures suggest that the north has a pool of highly skilled workers who are not realizing their potential, and have decided that the flexibility of working as a freelancer will provide them with more opportunities. Certainly with the internet allowing freelancers access to a global marketplace, the opportunities are limitless.

“For those people who make the decision to freelance, it may simply be to make some extra money to top up their main salary. For others though, what starts out as a few hours of extra work here and there, can quickly turn into a fully-fledged business. With the right platform, the freelancer of today, is the budding entrepreneur of the future; and making it easier for people to start a business, can only be good news for the UK economy.”

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness