Over five million people in the UK are self-employed – that’s roughly one in seven workers. With this set to rise by another 15% in the next year, it is almost certainly the future of work.
1. A better work-life balance
No one likes being micromanaged. Having someone tut at you for getting into the office five minutes late, or making you feel guilty for taking your full lunch break is not conducive to job satisfaction. Nor is having to plead for time off to take care of tedious everyday tasks such as getting the car serviced or seeing a dentist.
Self-employment puts you firmly in charge of your own schedule, and as society slowly comes to recognise the benefits of a good work-life balance, job flexibility will become increasingly important. In fact, according to one survey, 79% of freelancers said the most valuable element of their work was being able to manage their own time.
2. Software makes it seamless
Even though self-employment may involve spinning a lot of plates, software and technology make them all a lot easier to manage. For example, tax is an oft-cited headache, one Coconut was created to eliminate - making it simpler for self-employed business owners to do their accounting and tax, with built in invoicing, expense tracking and tax estimation tools.
Meanwhile, communication is a doddle thanks to simple video and conference calling, and digital marketing is easy to roll-out and manage with simple website builders, social media software and email managers. If you are snowed under, you could even hire a virtual assistant to help.
A traditional workplace might farm all these tasks out to separate departments, but newly available technology means you can now easily take care of them all yourself.
3. Everyone is living longer
We’re living in an ageing society, which is great news for those who want to get as much out of life as possible. But this, along with uncertainty around pension returns, means that a lot of people will have to keep working beyond their normal retirement age.
Self-employment gives older people more freedom and flexibility than a traditional workplace set-up – and those that start their own business before their official retirement will be able to keep on working on their own terms. Some figures even suggest that over-50s will represent the majority of the UK’s self-employed workforce by 2024.
4. Supply and demand
A lot of big companies and public sector organisations are feeling the economic squeeze, but they still need to get their jobs done.
Taking on a new member of staff can be pretty expensive once you factor in the hiring process, benefits and overheads – and that’s not even taking into account the salary! If a company can ‘buy in’ a skill instead of forking out for these fixed costs, they most likely will.
5. Entrepreneurship is sought after
Shows like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice are definitely guilty of showing the glamorous side of hustling, but they do demonstrate the potential – and feasibility – of a good idea. Creative and cultural industries are growing, craft skills are becoming increasingly valued and the celebrity market is booming. Meanwhile, websites such as Etsy, eBay and Kickstarter exist to promote entrepreneurialism from the ground up. There are easily more opportunities for self-employment now than a decade ago, and there will be even more in the future.
6. The robots are coming!
Okay, not quite. There are a lot of scare stories about artificial intelligence and automation replacing human workers, but while we’re a long way off that kind of dystopian future just yet, it is true that this sort of technology will disrupt the future of work.
Some reports suggest that up to 30% of jobs could be automatable by the mid-2030s. But those that are self-employed can get ahead of this in one of two ways; first, by carving out a side hustle that provides new skills and experiences and therefore a kind of a career safety net, and second, by getting on board the innovation train and making automation, AI and machine-learning the focus of their own, essentially future-proof, small business.
7. A supportive community
Self-employment can be lonely, and you don’t always have the best infrastructure at hand when you first start out; working at the kitchen table is basically a rite of passage! But as the trend towards self-employment has grown, so too have the resources available to those making the change.
The number of global co-working spaces, for example, is expected to increase by 42% by 2022. Meanwhile, the networking industry is booming, and an ever-flourishing social media landscape means it’s easier than ever to find support, advice and connections, all of which is helping to make self-employment the new normal.