Self-Employed Account for One in Six of Britain's Working Population

Self-Employed Account for One in Six of Britain's Working Population

Self-employed builderDid you know there are 4.5 million self-employed people in the UK? You're probably accommodating some of them in your workspace.

ONS figures show that self-employment was higher in 2014 than at any point over the past 40 years, with approximately 15% (1 in 6) of the UK's working populating operating under a self-employed basis. So significant is this market that David Cameron refers to self-employed professionals as the "engine of our economy and economic revival."

All of this begs the question: Where are the opportunities for flexible workspace operators?

To identify the opportunities we should first establish some of the barriers facing self-employed business owners, which may prevent them from entering flexible workspace.

In its Q2 2015 survey of 700 members, IPSE (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed) revealed some of the constrictions UK freelancers are currently facing:

  • Lower demand: There has been a slight dip in demand for freelance work, according to the poll. In Q4 2014, 86% of respondents were engaged in a project compared to 80% in Q2 2015.

  • Political instability and rising costs: In addition to a General Election, Q2 2015 was bookended by two Budgets - the latter of which has been described as "disappointing" by IPSE. Measures such as a tightening of rules around travel expenses and the way dividends are taxed will likely place some downward pressure on the self-employed.

However, there are some positive outcomes:

  • Record highs in confidence: The freelancing community "has seen steadily increasing confidence since Q4 2014", marking an overall boost of +11.8%. According to IPSE, this is largely attributed to improvements in the wider economy and more investment intentions by companies.

  • Uplift in earnings: Over the last quarter, IPSE revealed that freelancers' daily rate of pay increased by an average of 11%, which it says "broadens the already significant gap between freelancers and regular employees". IPSE also says that higher earnings underpin increasing confidence within the freelancing community.

Challenges facing the self-employed

Given this spike in confidence, should you expect to see more self-employed workers in your business centres? It's possible, although like every market, there are various reasons why they choose not to occupy flexible workspace.

Chiefly, a significant proportion of self-employed roles do not require flexible workspace. According to the ONS, over one-quarter of all self-employed roles are skilled trade occupations including construction, carpentry and joinery. Taxi drivers also fall into this bracket.

That said, the ONS also reported that predominantly office-based roles, including marketing, finance and property consultancy, have "seen the largest rise in self-employment over the past five years".

Other self-employed markets that have been growing steadily since the recession include professional, scientific and technical activities, spanning roles such as book-keepers, photographers and chartered accountants.

Know your market

While the growth ambitions of some self-employed individuals may not extend to running a team or expanding into a larger business, they have alternative targets that require support in various forms.

And this is where the flexible workspace industry comes in.

For instance, office-based independent workers often wish to protect their home address and may also require help answering calls - in which case a virtual office is the ideal solution. They may also need access to on-demand meeting rooms

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