Going it alone - UK has record number of self-employed workers Going it alone - UK has record number of self-employed workers

Going it alone: UK has record number of self-employed workers

  • Record-high 4.8 million self-employed workers registered in the UK
  • One in seven workers in the UK are now self-employed
  • Sole traders say having full control over working hours and holiday is best benefit of being self-employed
  • Thirty-two per cent of sole traders believe advances in technology have made their jobs easier

The UK has more self-employed workers than ever before, according to new analysis1 by Direct Line for Business. One in seven workers (15 per cent) in the UK are now self-employed. This is a significant increase over the past decade, with nearly one million more self-employed workers than there were in 2008.

The second quarter of 2017 saw 23,000 more self-employed workers registered in the UK, taking the total number to 4,814,465. This surpasses the previous record number posted in Q4 2016, when there were 4,802,384 single operator businesses across the country.

Men still account for the majority of the UK's self-employed, accounting for over two thirds (67 per cent) of these workers. However, over the past five years the number of women taking the step to become their own boss has soared, with 300,000 more female self-employed workers since Q2 2013, an increase of 24 per cent.

On an industry level, construction is the sector with the highest number of self-employed, with 973,000 workers accounting for a fifth (20 per cent) of all sole traders and 42 per cent of the total construction industry. This is followed by professional services (577,000 sole traders) and wholesale, retail, and repair of motor vehicles (407,000), with sole traders in these three industries accounting for 40 per cent of all self-employed workers in the UK.

Carly Menken, Head of Trading at Direct Line for Business, said: "Developments in technology coupled with the convenience of the internet mean that starting a business has never been more straightforward and it's especially encouraging to see more women taking advantage of these advancements and opting to start their own business. Working alone can be extremely appealing; setting out your own work day and being able to enjoy the profits of your labours. However, it is often a daunting experience when you first start out and can be confusing to know what insurance is right for you."

"Insurance is necessary for businesses of all sizes so it's important that business owners spend time researching and educating themselves so they can feel confident they are choosing the right cover to safeguard their business."

Table one: Leading industries for sole traders

Industry Number of sole traders Percentage of total self-employed workforce Percentage of all employees in industry
Construction 973,000 20% 42%
Professional, scientific & technical activities 577,000 12% 25%
Wholesale, retail & repair of motor vehicles 407,000 8% 10%
Administrative & support services 370,000 8% 24%
Human health & social work activities 323,000 7% 8%
Transport & storage 307,000 6% 20%
Information & communication 254,000 5% 19%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, energy & water 223,000 5% 25%
Education 221,000 5% 7%
Manufacturing 219,000 5% 8%
All other industries 927,000 19% 13%
All industries 4,814,000 100% 15%

Source: Direct Line for Business 2018

Research2 conducted by Direct Line for Business reveals thirty-two per cent of sole traders believe developments in technology have made it easier for people to go it alone. Working project-to-project is becoming more common in the business world. A quarter (27 per cent) of those self-employed believe there are more opportunities for freelancers and contractors to capitalise on, however, 22 per cent think there is now more competition for projects than before, as more people are setting up alone.

Almost half (45 per cent) of sole traders listed having full control over working hours and holidays as the primary benefit, while a fifth (20 per cent) think being the sole recipient of all profits is the best thing about working alone.

Table two: Primary benefit of operating as a sole trader

What is the best thing about operating as a sole trader? Ranked first Ranked second Ranked third
Having full control over working hours and holidays 45% 17% 17%
Being the sole recipient of all profits 20% 22% 17%
Not having to manage employees 12% 27% 20%
Lower overhead costs 12% 16% 23%
Not having lengthy discussions as I am the sole decision maker 12% 14% 19%
Not having to disclose company information/data 0% 4% 4%

Source: Direct Line for Business 2018

Unsurprisingly, half of those working alone (51 per cent) stated unsteady income as the primary drawback, while a tenth find financial liabilities (12 per cent) and not having enough time for new business (10 per cent) as the biggest disadvantages of working alone. Other concerns include not having anyone to discuss ideas or opportunities with (nine per cent), not having enough support to carry out work (six per cent) and uncertainty over the type of insurance required (three per cent).

Notes to editors

1 Direct Line for Business analysis of ONS employment figures for Q2 2016 (EMP14: All self-employed by industry sector: People (not seasonally adjusted), published 16th August 2017

2 Consumer omnibus research completed amongst 500 SME decision makers from 22-29 September 2017, 139 were sole traders.

For further information please contact:

Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Antonia Green
Tel: 020 7282 2967
Email: antonia.green@citigatedr.co.uk

Direct Line for Business
Jade Trimbee
PR Manager
Tel: 0137 283 9452
Mobile: 07825 315 931
Email: jade.trimbee@directlinegroup.co.uk

Launched in 2007 Direct Line for Business provides a range of insurance products for the small business sector direct by phone or online.

Direct Line for Business insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line for Business and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line for Business products or get a quote by calling 0345 301 4827 or visiting www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk

Press Release Small Business Insurance

Last Updated: 22 Feb 2018