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Our annual study into the relationship between mental health and self-employment this year shows a number of new challenges, and not just due to COVID.

Read the overview of data from 2020 below, or dive into the detail.

Read the report.
2020: Key Findings
Mental Health is increasingly a reason to go freelance

yet most didn't consider the impact of freelancing on their mental health before they become self-employed.

51% of our entire panel hadn't considered the potential impact of freelancing on their mental health before becoming self-employed.

43% of new freelancers (those who have been self-employed for 0-12 months) cite wanting to improve their mental health as a motivation to become self-employed - this is in contrast to established freelancers where only 18% say it was a reason.

Poor mental health has had an impact on the majority of freelancers' ability to work
but few are actively putting things in place to improve it.

64% state that stress, anxiety or poor mental health has at some point had a negative impact on their ability to work since freelancing but only 29% say that looking after their own mental health is absolutely part of their plan to build a successful business. 32% of our group are spending 2 or fewer hours a week investing in their own mental health on average.

Even taking rest can lead to stress
despite rest being critical for good mental health.

67.44% state that even taking time off creates stress, and 47% are stressed by a lack of control over their own working hours or workload, despite a quarter of the group citing more control over hours being a primary reason for becoming self-employed.

Isolation is a more of a problem this year

absolutely driven by the pandemic.

79% are spending more than 50% of their working time working alone, 58% are spending more than three-quarters of their time working on their own

72% say feeling isolated causes them to feel stress, which is a significant increase on last year when 59.3% said working alone wasn't causing them stress.

The self-employed don't feel supported by government
, and it's not just a pandemic issue.

72.30% have said COVID and the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health

67.44% said they did not feel supported during COVID by government during the pandemic (this increases to 80.5% if you only consider limited company owners), and 85% say they don't feel supported as a small business by government generally.

Brexit (64%) and IR35 (39%) are still concerning for many too.

Too many freelancers don't have and cannot find the support they critically need.

68% don't feel they have adequate support for their mental health within the context of work.

64% don't know where they'd be able to get support for their mental health at work, as a self-employed professional.

Clients aren't doing their part to support their freelancers
and bad client behaviours are leading to stress and poorer mental health.

71% don't feel their employing organisations or clients have their emotional wellbeing in mind in any way, and over 80% would like their clients to take some shared responsibility towards their mental health.

Common causes of stress and negative impact of mental health directly under the control of clients include:

Having to chase late/unpaid invoices (62.79%)
Poor communication from client (73.5%)
Lack of on-boarding / project kickoffs (54.9%)
Lack of feedback (34.8%).

But despite all this - there's still optimism.

89.85% say uncertainty around the future is worrying them.

But 65% are still feeling positive about 2021 professionally.

Do something about it

If you're interested in learning more about the data or our work - please contact us.

If you're an employer, and want to learn how to better support your teams - find out how we can help you work well with your freelancers and become Freelance Friendly

If you're an individual and these challenges feel familiar - join Leapers. We're the team for people without a team, providing peer-support and curating and creating resources which help. A free and welcoming community.
Join us.

Read the full report

Deep dive into the full data, and explore what has an influence on the mental health of the self-employed.

Read the report

All data within this report: Copyright 2021 Foxlark Strategy Limited and must not be used or republished without express permission. Please do not re-publish this data or commentary without quoting the original source as "Leapers Annual Study 2020" with a link to https://leapers.co/research. For any additional requests or further data, please contact [email protected]

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