A recent study by AXA surveyed 9000 UK residents and found that 1 in 10 intend to start their own business in the next 12 months. This equates to a staggering 3.5 million people across Britain, over 8 million in total (a quarter of the UK’s total workforce).
Of course, we don’t know how representative this survey is and it’s a relatively small sample size to make such confident assumptions. However, while the threat to the Collabor8te biscuit tin may be overstated, let’s not dismiss these forecasts out of hand. For over a decade there has been an upturn in self-employment and this has not been dampened through recession and the Brexit process. This has seen a change in the way people work, and in part has been responsible for the rise in co-working spaces such as Collabor8te.
Why the predicted spike in growth at this time? What is driving people to throw off the shackles and security of employment and work for themselves. Indeed, is it through choice? Or are the prevailing economic conditions and years of austerity forcing people to create their own work?
AXA described the recent shift as a security policy and self-employment as a ‘safety net’. In other words, an active choice in uncertain times. On direct questioning those surveyed stated their drivers were insecurity and a perception that despite the political and economic uncertainties surrounding Brexit, working for yourself provides the means to reduce dependency on others and regain control of the working environment. Forty percent of those who were aiming to move to self-employment thought that their job would not be there in 4 years’ time.
The picture is inevitably more complicated than that and difficult to unravel in a survey. Reasons for moving to self-employment are multi-faceted and change across different age and gender demographics. They are also influenced by changing political environments.
The largest growth in self-employment over the last few years has been in the part-time sector. That is something that is evident in the mix of membership types at Collabor8te and the uptake of hours. People are running businesses alongside employment, or choosing to work part-time as a way, for instance, of managing retirement or family commitments. The opportunity to be your own boss and control the numbers of hours you work, as well as how and when you do them, is the ultimate way to increase flexibility in your life, whatever your reasons for wanting to do so.
The real question then – why is self-employment increasingly seen as the way to achieve this flexibility and balance, despite the UK Government introducing more flexible working policies. The political and economic unpredictability over the last few years, which shows no signs of abating, means that the working environment and job market are becoming increasingly competitive. People’s ‘choice’ to work for themselves might well be one that is shaped by these tough conditions. Couple these factors with increasing retirement ages, and investment in childcare that falls well below many of our European counterparts and you have a perfect storm that has been building for years and has reached peak force, tipping the balance in favour of working for yourself.
And whilst it may be daunting, we salute all those who take the plunge. Small business owners and entrepreneurs are responsible for 70% of private sector employment growth in the UK since 2011. They are driving the British economy and making it an international force to be reckoned with.
The reasons for starting your own business are as individual as the person creating it. Once you have taken the decision to do so, joining a co-working community can make the journey one where the wind is always on your back pushing you forward and further than you could go alone.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others”