As the long-awaited new series of the smash hit HBO TV Game of Thrones returns to our screens, audiences worldwide are tuning in to discover the fate of their favourite characters – will Arya get to face down the Queen of the Iron Throne herself, Cersei (whose power dressing has increased tenfold since her post shame-walk makeover)? One things for sure, with George R.R. Martin at the helm, literally anything could happen.
But how does this relate to the freelancer you may ask (or perhaps that’s just me)? Well, according to Merriam Webster, the earliest written evidence for the word ‘freelance’ comes from Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, 1819, in which a lord refers to his paid army of ‘free lancers’ – medieval mercenaries who would fight for whichever nation or person paid them.
“I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them… thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.”
– Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
Back to Game of Thrones and I’m quite certain Tyrion Lannister wouldn’t have gotten half as far without Bronn and his other Free Lancers – and (almost) similarly our economy is only strengthened by the UK contingent workforce of freelancers and contractors, with many in the UK aspiring towards ‘freelancing’ as a respected career path in their chosen sector.
In his report, Good Work – The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, Matthew Taylor recognised that the flexibility of the UK’s workforce is one of the key contributors to record employment rates, with current ONS statistics showing an employment rate of 74.9% as of the 12th July 2017 – the highest since records began in 1971!
Whilst the definition of freelancer has certainly evolved in meaning, the essence remains the same, skilled specialists will always be needed for projects and campaigns, though thankfully in much less dangerous circumstances – you’re less likely to find a freelancer hiring out their sword skills these days, but instead the largest sectors for the self-employed according to Taylor are joinery, plumbing and construction.
So, why do increasing numbers of us choose this way of work? As discussed in his review, flexibility is important for many of us. Our lives are busy and the opportunity to control aspects of your work, including working hours is one major advantage to self-employment,
“Individuals have the opportunity to work in a range of different ways, on hours that fit around other responsibilities, such as studies or caring responsibilities.”
IPSE have pinpointed a trend in a growing number of working mothers choosing self-employment, perhaps because it can provide parents with the flexibility that some employers can’t.
“The number of mothers working as freelancers is 302,000, which is 15 per cent of all freelancers. This has increased 79 per cent since 2008, nearly double the rate of increase in the freelance workforce as a whole.”
It’s clear that whatever your reasons for going freelance, there is a wealth of opportunity available to skilled independent professionals, whether you’re in Westeros, or the UK!