Freelancers — Who is Responsible for What?

Are you currently freelancing, or are you considering a career shift into self-employment? In this article, we help you prepare for self-employment by discussing freelancer responsibilities in the UK.

Are you currently freelancing, or are you considering a career shift into self-employment? In this article, we help you prepare for self-employment by discussing freelancer responsibilities in the UK.

Responsible Freelancers, Towergate

“Freelancers are more in demand now than ever before, according to IPSE Economic Adviser, Lorence Nye. “There is clearly an appetite for the flexibility the self-employed provide to businesses at this time; they are vital in this climate.”

Indeed, as IPSE’s research proves, self-employment continues to rise in popularity; as of August 2016 there were 4.79 million self-employed individuals in the UK—1.91 million of whom were freelancers. But IPSE also reports that training for many self-employed individuals is “woefully inadequate,” and that many freelancers enter the workforce without fully understanding their responsibilities.

If you are currently self-employed, or if you’re thinking of joining their ranks, here’s a primer on your rights and responsibilities:

Your Rights as a Freelancer

  • You are legally protected by the terms of your contract with your client.
  • You are entitled to be paid for work you’ve done.
  • You have a right to a safe working environment. (see:
  • You are protected against discrimination in the workplace (see:

Note that because you are your own boss, you don’t have the same protection that employees have (e.g. employment law doesn’t cover you), nor do you usually have a right to things like sick pay or legal protection under your clients’ company schemes.

Your Responsibilities as a Freelancer

As a freelancer, you are responsible for running your business and for its success or failure. This means that you are usually wholly responsible for the job you’ve been hired to do and that any liability is your responsibility. You’ll need to insure your business to protect yourself against worst case scenarios.

Freelancers typically need some or all of the following coverage:

Professional Liability Insurance

Professional liability insurance is the most common type of insurance for freelancers, especially if you’re selling your skills or knowledge, providing advice to your clients, handling data, managing any confidential intellectual property, or providing other professional services. Professional Liability Insurance benefits everyone from consultants to physiotherapists.

Why do you need it?

Responsible Freelancers

Compensation claims have no legal cap in the UK, meaning one mistake could cost you hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions!) of pounds. If a claim is ever levelled against you by an unsatisfied client, you’ll be happy you’re covered against claims of negligence, libel/slander, and the cost of any legal counsel you may need.

Public Liability Insurance

Public liability is another important type of insurance—especially for freelancers whose work puts them in public contact. This type of liability isn’t a legal requirement, but it will save you a headache (and potentially a lot of money) should a member of the public ever sue your freelancing business.

Why do you need it?

Public Liability Insurance helps cover injury claims and property damage. So if you’re in the business of providing advice to your clients, you may not need Public Liability Insurance. However, if your work ever poses a potential risk to the public, your clients, or your clients’ property, then you should strongly consider Public Liability Insurance.

Employers Liability Insurance

As your freelancing business grows, you may take on employees. When this happens, it’s important to understand your responsibilities as an employer and the rights of your employees.

Why do you need it?

In the UK, Employers Liability Insurance is a legal requirement if you have any staff. This insurance covers you against claims made by your employees (e.g. if an employee injures themselves on the job).

Group of responsible freelancers

Other Specific Coverage

  • Home Business Insurance – If you work out of your home, your house insurance may not cover your home business. This specialty insurance will protect your building and equipment against theft and damage.

  • Professional Consultants Insurance – Consultants are at the greatest risk of civil liability claims, which means you need professional indemnity and coverage against things like libel and slander.

  • Construction Insurance – This insurance covers freelance contractors in the construction industry against public and product liability, among other common risks.


Other Responsibilities:

Insurance and liability aren’t the only things you’re responsible for when you’re self-employed. You’re also responsible to:

Do you have questions about how to best protect your freelancing business? Contact us today—we’re happy to help!

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