Freelancers – secure your future!

If you’re a freelancer and know or work with other freelancers, we can help you secure your future and maintain control of your business by setting up as a co‑op.

Self-employed people work across all sectors – from design and research, to music teachers and couriers. Freelancers can set-up as a co-operative business in a number of ways – for example, by forming a business where members retain their self-employed status, or by forming a workers co-op and becoming employed (but retaining ownership and equal control) by the business. 

The Hive offers up to 10 days expert one‑to‑one business support, peer mentoring and skills training to explore this option with you and start you on your journey, as well as online resources – all for FREE1:

Support available

Apply for up to 10 days support for new co‑operative businesses

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Hear InFact's story

                        A                         group of freelancers joined forces to start a web design and tech worker co‑op.

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FREE resources

Access FREE information and downloads to get you ready for everything business planning to registering your co‑op.

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What is a freelancer? 

A freelancer undertakes work on a self-employed basis. More specifially, a BBC article on the 'The rise of self-employment', defines a self-employed person as someone who:

  • Owns a business, rather than working for an employer
  • Agrees on a fixed price for their work with their employer or client
  • Decides on their own schedule when work is available
  • Works for more than one client
  • Provides the tools, equipment or materials that are needed to complete a job

Number of freelancers in the UK

Latest ONS figures state there are 4.8 million people self employed in the UK today.

  • In 2001, there were 3.3 million people self-employed, making up 12% of the labour force.
  • In 2017, this number increased to 4.8 million people self-employed, which accounted for 15.1% of the labour force.

Examples of freelancer co-operatives

Music teachers’ co-operatives

Many music teachers, previously employed by local authorities, have turned freelance in recent years after local government cuts led councils to cease providing that service. A number are now forming co-operatives in order to provide security for their work. The Swindon Music Co-operative was the first, with new co-operatives emerging in Newcastle, Grimsby and the Isle of Wight. In Milton Keynes all instrumental teachers were made redundant. Since then 68 teachers have formed a co-operative, providing accessible and affordable service to schools. The demand is such that a new guide has been produced by the Musicians’ Union to provide music teachers with advice on setting up a co-operative.2

Creative co-operatives

Artists and designers – and creative freelancers more widely – have often been interested in their own independence as well as collaboration, and so a co-operative has been a natural fit. There are thousands of people in the creative industries using co-operatives to share office or gallery space, to market their products and to work together – from co-operatives of designers and film-makers like Paper Rhino to arts studios like Ceramic Arts Studio in Bristol and actors’ co-operatives such as North of Watford Actors’ Co-operative in West Yorkshire.2 Read our case study on InFact Digital Co-op.

Driving instructors’ co-operatives

Typically driving instructors are self-employed and join a driving school franchise but there are some who want more control over their work and have formed co-operatives with their colleagues. For example, Evo Driver Training in the Isle of Wight is a co-operative of self-employed driving instructors.2


1 Access to The Hive website and all its information and resources is completely FREE. Successful applicants to The Hive will be charged a small fee by Co-operatives UK to access the support. This will be just £100 or £75 for Co-operatives UK Members, and is a flat rate, irrespective of the number of days accessed. This fee has been included to ascertain the level of commitment of the client, as learnings from previous co-operative support programmes have suggested that any advice deemed to be ‘free’ is valued less highly by clients. Co-operatives UK reinvests these money into future support provision.

2 https://www.uk.coop/newsroom/new-show-30-year-rise-precarious-work-and-housing 

Updated: 20/02/2020