Happy free willies? Investigating the relationship between freelancing and subjective well-being

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Small Business Economics


Peter van der Zwan, Jolanda Hessels and Martijn Burger

Publication date


In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of own-account workers (the self-employed without employees), including freelancers, in many developed economies. Despite the importance of the group of freelancers for modern economies, little is known about the perceived benefits of freelancing. We use six waves of the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (“Understanding Society”, 2009–2015) to investigate subjective well-being levels of freelancers in terms of satisfaction with life, work, leisure time, income and health. Although freelancing jobs are uncertain and temporary, our cross-sectional (pooled ordinary least squares (OLS)) and longitudinal (fixed-effects) analyses reveal that freelancers are on par regarding life satisfaction with other own-account workers, employers (self-employed workers with employees) and wage workers. The most striking result is that freelancers are significantly more satisfied with their leisure time than other own-account workers, employers and wage workers. Also, freelancers score significantly higher in terms of work satisfaction than wage workers, but do not exceed other own-account workers and employers in terms of work satisfaction. Freelancers are equally satisfied with their health as other own-account workers and employers. In sum, the analysis of several subdomains of life reveals much how different groups of self-employed workers score regarding their overall subjective well-being.






Management: Business, Labour Market and Well Being


Online Early; Open Access; © The Author(s) 2019; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.