Job market data shows the number of self-employed UK workers has fallen by 6.6%1 in the past six months alone, while more than 100,0002 job cuts have taken place in the UK so far during the pandemic.
Self-employment is challenging at the best of times, perhaps never more so than in 2020. With this in mind, experts from the University of Law (ULaw) Business School have analysed self-employment figures in the UK and sourced advice from successful entrepreneurs on how to overcome adversity and thrive in a challenging business environment.
Despite 2020 so far showing a drop in the number of self-employed workers, encouragingly this number has steadily increased by 34% over the last 15 years4 with more than 4.7 million Brits in this category5. The consistent increase shows that pursuing a self-employed career continues to be an attractive option.
In terms of the most prominent self-employed occupations6, construction comes out on top, with 862,060 workers in this field registered as self-employed. Other popular industries for self-employed workers are professional services, scientific and technical activities (610,385) and human health and social workers (366,566).
With self-employment representing 15% of employment in the UK7, ULaw spoke to leading entrepreneurs on why choosing to go self-employed is still a viable career option despite the current climate, as well as their top tip for a self-employed career.
Be present and consistent online
Gemma Nice, a self-employed yoga coach, recently decided to take the plunge to work for herself after being on furlough from her veterinary nursing career of 19 years. Her top tip for anyone considering going self employed is: “Be present in all aspects of social media and be consistent. People are watching and learning from you all the time even if they aren’t engaging with you there and then.”
Consider your personal pros and cons
Amie Marshall, a self-employed Clinical Nutritionist who created her own business six years ago, says: “I would encourage anyone who is debating whether to go self-employed during the current climate to write down the pros and cons in order of importance. For example, if you are used to a stable salary and that is essential to you, remember being self employed has its ups and downs – the pandemic aside, every industry has slow months, but always remember that if it’s your dream, you can make it happen.”
Lee Chambers, a self-employed Psychologist and Career Consultant, says: “I recommend considering a mentor, who can help you plot a path and advise the pitfalls they faced. It’s definitely a learning journey, so enter with a beginner’s mindset and start to read and practice the skills you will need to flourish in the early days. Start to build a network of other business owners and freelancers who understand the challenges and can collaborate together.”
Andres Perez, Director of the University of Law Business School, said: “Pre-pandemic, we were seeing self-employed figures consistently increasing in the UK as more people sought to work for themselves. Naturally, Covid-19 has slowed this growth and self-employed workers have been hit hard, but entrepreneurship comes hand in hand with grit and determination, which are certainly key to a strong recovery from any business setback – pandemic or otherwise.
“When it comes to the benefits of self-employment, research has shown that self-employed workers have reported improvements in the ability to concentrate, levels of self-confidence, self-worth and happiness. Self employment also allows workers to be flexible with their time and create a better work/life balance.
“Of course, self-employment won’t be for everyone, but the transferrable skills can propel you in any career and it’s this practical experience and knowledge we try to instil in our students.”