Annual Survey Report 2023

Insights into the opinions and experiences of the UK's contractor workforce and the businesses which engage them. Access the results of the Qdos annual survey. 

Each year, a number of our customers – the self-employed, contractors and businesses alike – share their views on the topics and issues shaping flexible working. We carry out this research to understand how our customers are feeling, reflecting on the year that was before focusing on the year ahead.

Download the all-singing, all-dancing report below.


Annual Survey Report 2023

Download your copy of the most recent Qdos annual survey.

Being self-employed in 2023

The impact of IR35 reform

Following the introduction of IR35 reform in the public (2017) and private (2021) sectors, businesses and organisations have now had time to understand and adapt to the off-payroll working rules. As a result, businesses are demonstrating that they can manage these rules, with more and more compliantly engaging contractors outside of IR35.

Almost 900 contractors responded to our survey; three-quarters (74.4%) were able to secure roles outside of IR35 in 2023.

At the time of our survey in November, almost two-thirds (61.6%) of contractors were engaged outside of IR35 – and just 5% operating within the scope of the roles.

Despite this, almost half (45.9%) of contractors had challenges finding outside IR35 roles over the year, compared to just a sixth (16.5%) who found it easy.

However, some are optimistic that this will improve. Over a quarter (28.1%) of contractors are ‘very’ confident they can secure an outside IR35 role in 2024, with a third ‘somewhat’ confident. But a fifth (20.4%) of contractors are ‘not very confident’ and 10.1% ‘not at all confident’ this will be the case.

In our previous annual survey, 80% of contractors were able to secure a contract outside of IR35. While this year’s number is down slightly (74.4%), a larger survey base – 874 respondents compared to 698 in 2022 – means it is still a positive outcome.

Business performance

 As we’ve noted, flexible workers faced several challenges last year. Even so, almost half (48.8%) of our respondents rated their business performance as ‘consistent’ and a third (34.1%) believe their year was ‘successful’.


Just 17% of respondents rated their year as ‘poor’, with half of them (49.2%) blaming IR35 reform. Nearly a quarter (23.1%) suggested that inflation was to blame, while a small number (6.7%) believed that ongoing, post-Brexit issues contributed to the challenges they faced. Anecdotally, others cited the pandemic and companies taking projects in-house.


Looking ahead to 2024, though, many (44.8%) contractors are ‘fairly confident’ about their business prospects, and 14.2% are ‘very confident’. Others – conscious of the challenges 2023 held – are either ‘fairly’ (15.8%) or ‘very’ (6%) concerned, with some (19%) neither concerned nor confident.


In 2023, the majority (58.5%) of freelancers continued working with the same clients as the previous year, leaning on existing relationships to generate business.

Many (43.2%) also sourced work from referrals, or through their personal networks. Others found work via recruitment agencies (21.7%) and LinkedIn (18.9%).


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