9 May 2014

According to a report by the Resolution Foundation, nearly one in seven British people are now self-employed and earning 40% less than the typical employee. Is this because we’re getting more positive about business and generating our own opportunities, or because we’ve become so dissatisfied with the job market?

Firstly, I wonder whether there are really that many people setting up their own businesses. There are a lot of self-employed people who do contract work for a company, but could very easily be employees. Businesses sometimes hire people on this kind of basis for tax reasons or because it makes hiring and firing easier (maybe that’s for another blog). It’s worth pointing out there’s a difference between people who are self-employed, doing their own tax assessments, and entrepreneurs.

So, why are more people working for themselves? I’d put it down to dissatisfaction with the way people get treated in the workplace. If you’re uninspired by the management within your employment and if you’re not learning and developing then, in my opinion, you might as well. It also goes to show that it’s not all about the money, but the drive to improve something. I support anybody who wants to go into business and if you knuckle down and do it because you want to create a better service or product, then you’re more likely to be successful.

Photo by Sarah McNeil

Photo by Sarah McNeil

Looking back on my own experience, I was so far behind what my friends were earning for years. Accountants actually advised me to give up, although it was that kind of attitude that made me knuckle down more. When I came to Manchester, I started on something called the enterprise allowance scheme, which was the brainchild of Thatcher. It gave me about £40 a week and whilst it wasn’t much, it enabled me to keep the wolf from the door and was enough to entice me into having a go.Is there anything like this available now? I’m not sure there is. There are loans you can get, but I would say bring the enterprise allowance back. Not everything Thatcher did was great, but I’m a businessman who started off because she gave me an opportunity to have a go. I started off as self-employed, playing pianos, and then grew that into a business, but all that was made possible by this enterprise allowance scheme.

What do you make of it? If there really are one in seven of us becoming self-employed, is it out of choice or out of necessity? Is there enough support out there to help these people to make it work?

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