Today marks the start of the most stressful week of the year for the UK’s freelancers, according to research by business finance experts Access Commercial Finance.
It’s all to do with unpaid invoices.
These invoices start to stack up higher than ever at this time of year as independent workers chase payments held up by the Christmas holidays.
The study, involving more than one thousand freelancers, found that on average, 62% of freelance workers have at least one overdue invoice at any given time. 9% say they have at least four outstanding invoices at any one time.
But the problem peaks during in mid-February, when invoices raised before Christmas become overdue in higher numbers.
The study found that freelancers have an average of three overdue invoices going into the third week of February, three times the annual average.
The majority of freelancers (54%) involved in the study say they budget for late payments, due to the frequency with which invoices become overdue.
Two thirds (37%) said they expect to be paid late because of Christmas.
Perhaps most alarmingly, more than three quarters of freelancers (77%) say that chasing overdue invoices in the most stressful part of the job.
The worst offenders, according to the study, were the fashion industry, higher education and local authorities.
The study also found that large organisations are significantly more likely to keep freelancers waiting for payments. According to the study, three quarters of freelancers say organisations with more than 200 employees were the worst culprits for late payment.
Matt Haycox, funding consultant with Access Commercial Finance, believes businesses should commit to paying freelancers on time.
“The fact that freelancers are actually budget to cover late payments is a disgrace.
“In many cases freelancers will have already paid for their own training and development and businesses benefit from access to that highly skilled worker without shouldering any of the development cost. Freelancers don’t get holiday or sick pay and rarely have the resources to chase down late payers.
“One of the biggest complaints uncovered in our study is the amount of time freelancers spend chasing large companies for overdue bills.
“Businesses of all sizes, but especially larger organisations with less nimble accounts processes, need to recognise the importance paying freelancers on time. Not doing so puts these workers at real risk of hardship and could even force some of them out of self-employment, depriving us all of their hard-earned skills and talent.”