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Late payments and cancellations plague freelancers

Event freelancers share challenges ahead of a predicted 20 per cent rise in freelance workforce by 2020

Pictured: Chris Williams, MD of Network Freelance, which represents UK freelancers across all industries

Event freelancers are facing delayed payments or last minute cancellations ahead of a boom among the UK freelance workforce, which is expected to grow 20 per cent in four years.

The independent events professionals say they are having to chase late payments from clients and adapt to seasonal hiring patterns, with some saying work is sometimes cancelled at the last minute.

It follows the launch of a representative body, Network Freelance, which aims to support the UK freelance community by campaigning for fair treatment and timely payments.

It all comes ahead of a surge of growth among the freelance workforce, which currently stands at 1.91 million people or 19 per cent of workers. That number is expected to grow to represent 40 per cent of UK workers by 2020, with freelancers costing on average £7,000 less than full-time staff members, according to IPSE, a not-for-profit organisation representing EU freelancers.

One event freelancer, who wished to remain anonymous, said his biggest problem was finding regular work.

"I haven't been unpaid but I have lost work because the client is cutting costs so I’m not then being used," he explained.

"I have definitely had a few late payments extending into three or four months, which is a big problem financially for my accounts. You can’t overcome them, just don’t work for them again maybe and chase them constantly. Thank God for credit cards!"

The freelancer said work offers came in waves. He added: "It is usually all or nothing and then all at once, so you have to turn down jobs which hurts. You need to have a good contract to have as a bread and butter income, I've found. Or a regular client or job.

"Jobs are certainly being offered at the last minute. But then I also have regular clients who book a few months in advance too, so it's 50/50. I've also had enquiries come in and told them 'yes I'm available', only to then chase and chase for a few weeks to firm up a booking, and then they come back and say they're going to use their own staff. Frustrating."

Network Freelance managing director Chris Williams has established the community and started a campaign #FeeNotFree to look out for freelancers, saying numbers were "booming".

He said: "The biggest challenge facing freelancers today is being paid. Freelancers are facing unregulated clients paying on very lengthy payment terms and sometimes failing to pay at all.

"Our members-only platform is designed to offer a fairer, more supportive network for both freelancers and clients, based on the principles of mutual respect and proper remuneration. With safe payments, no bidding and no penalties for working with clients away from the site, it takes away the stress and hassle often associated with these platforms."

Williams, who is running for consultative council position at IPSE, said membership was open to any freelancer.

He added: "The freelance community is certainly growing as more and more employees see the benefit of working with freelancers. They are flexible, skilled professional independent workers that offer timely and cost effective help when needed to an organisation.

"If you hire a freelancer for a year, compared to a PAYE member of staff you as a business save nearly £7,000 - there is no national insurance, no enrolment to pensions and no employment tax involved."

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