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Self-employed now one in seven of the workforce

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One in seven workers in the UK are now self-employed, according to analysis by Direct Line for Business.

This means there are now one million more self-employed workers than there were in 2008. They continue to increase at a phenomenal rate – the second quarter of 2017 saw 23,000 more self-employed workers registered in the UK, taking the total number to 4,814,465.

Men account for over two thirds of these self-employed workers, but women are becoming self-employed at a faster rate. Today, there are 300,000 more female self-employed workers than in the second quarter of 2013, an increase of 24%.

The construction sector has the highest number of self-employed workers – with 973,000 workers accounting for 42% of the total construction industry. This is followed by professional services (577,000 sole traders) and car mechanics (407,000). Sole traders in these three industries account for 40% 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 become considerably easier. She added: “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.”

The research also suggests that the opportunities for freelance work have become more abundant. A quarter (27%) of those self-employed believe there are more opportunities for freelancers and contractors to capitalise on, however, 22% think there is now more competition for projects than before, as more people are setting up alone.

Almost half (45%) of sole traders believe having full control over working hours and holidays is the primary benefit of being self-employed. Being the sole recipient of all profits was also listed as a key benefit. In contrast, unsteady income is a major drawback.

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