Are the ranks of the UK’s professional contracting community expanding in number? New figures for the ONS certainly suggest that they are, as between October-December 2013 and the same quarter in 2014 the number of people choosing contracting and self-employment rose by 88,000 (2%) and the number of women opting to go it alone surged dramatically.

The number of women choosing to become their own bosses during that time leapt by 77,000, a spectacular increase of 5.6%.

IPSE chief executive Chris Bryce referred to “the steady march” of self-employment and freelancing and warmly welcomed the rise in the number of women choosing to go into business for themselves. This was, he said, “a whopping 14 times higher than that of men.”

Mr Bryce continued: “As we inch closer to the general election, the parties must further strengthen their commitments to supporting the UK’s 4.5 million independent professionals. We welcome Conservative efforts towards ending late payment of small suppliers and providing free Wi-Fi on trains, while Labour’s plans are positive but could go much further to ensure they support this vital section of the UK’s economy.”

The decision to make the leap from salaried employment is often a positive one for skilled professionals. Those opting to freelance as Umbrella Company employees can look forward to higher hourly earnings than they could expect to achieve in salaried roles. Employers looking for skilled professionals are often willing to pay more per hour in exchange for the flexibility offered by contractors, which saves on long-term overheads associated with permanent hires, such as payroll administration, holiday and sick pay.

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