Top takeaways from Julie Deane’s Self-Employment Review

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and nobody knows this more than Julie Deane, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company. She started her business from her kitchen table, but has gone on to become an iconic, global and well-loved brand.

Julie was recently commissioned by the government to investigate the small business landscape and learn more about what startups and small business owners really think. The review can be found here – it’s an illuminating read for anyone interested in entrepreneurship. Here are some key facts from the report.

Self-employment is growing steadily – and it’s vital to the economy

Self-employment is vital to economic recovery, and the report discovered that the self-employed population has now reached the record level of 4.6 million - an increase of 800,000 since 2008. In fact, the self-employed now make up 15% of the workforce and have accounted for nearly half of the increase in total employment since the recession. Go startups!

The industries are changing

Interestingly, almost 60% of the rise in self-employment within the last five years has been due to professional, higher-skilled jobs, rather than skilled sole traders such as plumbers and electricians.

Entrepreneurs are older

A significant 43% of the self-employed are aged 50+ - and despite the attention young entrepreneurs get in the media, just 11% are under 30. When it comes to traditional employment, workers above 50 and below 30 are actually split roughly equally.

More women than ever are starting businesses

A third of the total self-employed population is women – 1.49 million of them – and since 2009 women have accounted for over half the overall growth in self-employment. In fact, recently the number has increased faster than men.

It’s generally a positive decision

It’s heartening to discover that 87% of self-employed workers see their decision to start up as a positive one. Common themes included to earn more money, to meet a social need, for job satisfaction, personal ambition and more. Above all, people said that being self-employed offered them the flexibility and independence than they wouldn’t find elsewhere.

People are working longer

Unsurprisingly therefore the majority do not plan to leave anytime soon. Over 80% of the self-employed have no plans to leave within the next 3 years and of those that do intend to leave, most of them intend to retire.

They miss some things about employment

Despite happiness over being their own boss, those running a business stated missing having colleagues around (25%), infrastructure (14%) and regular income (12%), as well as job security (10%) and benefits (9%). Not getting paid when ill was a problem for 30% - as was, worryingly, not being able to save enough for the future (26%).

Not everyone wants to grow

It’s interesting to note that 52% of people running their own businesses answered that they had plans to grow – but that leaves 48% who say they have no plans. Of those who want to grow, 30% want to do it in the next year, 18% in the next 5 years, and 3% in the next 10 years.

The internet is vital

A huge 97% of respondents said they use the internet for their business, demonstrating how vital it is for all industries now – but only a surprising 11% said they use it for marketing. Social media is a really valuable avenue for businesses, so it’s interesting that so many are missing out.

Less red tape is needed

Perhaps one of the least surprising takeaways is that 65% of the respondents of people identified removing red tape as their main issue, with 39% listing red tape as the top priority for change. Entrepreneurs want to be running businesses, not jumping through hoops and filling out paperwork – it’s time for change!

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