Freelancers & contractors rely on personal network over agencies for new projects


Almost half of UK freelancers and contractors currently source new contracts through referrals and their personal network, compared to 44 per cent who use job boards and recruitment agencies to find roles, new research has indicated.

Research into freelancers and contractors predominately working in IT and technology has revealed that 48 per cent secure new work through referrals and their personal network, whereas 44 per cent find work through recruitment agencies and or job boards. Interestingly, 5 per cent source work through ‘other’ methods and just 3 per cent approach clients cold, through emails and calls.

There is a possibility that changes to public sector IR35 might have impacted the number of contractors who source work through recruitment agencies – given agencies’ involvement in helping their public sector clients set the employment status of the contractors they place.

HMRC recently revealed that its CEST Tool has been used approximately 450,000 times to help set IR35 status. Recent Qdos Contractor research highlighted that 85 per cent of contractors distrust the tool entirely to make accurate IR35 decisions. Furthermore, 88 per cent contractors do not believe public sector clients or agencies are able to make accurate IR35 decisions without the input of the contractor

Qdos Contractor CEO Seb Maley commented on the findings: “While there isn’t much in it, many contractors prefer to source new projects through referrals and a personal network which they’ve worked hard to build throughout their careers.

“That said, recruitment agencies – which are able to offer independent workers relevant opportunities consistently – continue to play a vital role in how contractors find work. For agencies to attract even greater numbers of contractors though, they must show independent workers they are doing everything in their power to help public sector clients make well-informed IR35 decisions. Understandably, contractors will want to know that their agency is working closely with their client to help set an accurate employment status.

“Should IR35 reform be extended to the private sector – which looks likely in time – this will become even more important.”