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Many want to go self-employed - but do the figures add up?

At a time when the agency industry is being wooed by new self employed business models, a new survey suggests most people want to work for themselves.

It shows that almost two in five people definitely want to work for themselves at some point in life. This rises to 58 per cent among those aged 18-34, and 68 per cent of men in this age group.

The most common reasons for wanting to work for yourself are having flexibility over your hours, being your own boss, choosing the work you do, working from home, and following your passions.


The most off-putting things are insecurity of income, insecurity of work and the loss of benefits from work – like pensions and sick pay.

The figures come from an Opinium survey of 2,000 people for business consultancy Hargreaves Lansdown and from a new self employment report from the same firm.

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “Working for yourself means you’ll have the best boss of your career, you can work when and where suits you, and have the freedom to follow your passions. 

“However, this comes with a cost. The key is to find a way to take advantage of the benefits of self-employment without the hit to your financial resilience.

“Part of the problem is that on average self-employed people earn less. Clearly there are enormous differences depending on the job itself and the hours you work, but when you look at the most common salaries in the financial year ending 2016, for employed people it centred around £400 and for self-employed people it was around £240 a week.

“As a result, self-employed budgets are more stretched. It’s one reason why households headed by a self-employed person have an average of £275 left over at the end of the month – compared to employed households with £322. To make matters worse, their income can be lumpier too, so there will be months when there’s nothing left by the end of the month. It means fewer of them have enough left over to be secure.

“Even when they avoid debts, tight and variable budgets make it harder to save for the future. It’s one reason why self-employed people save an average of four per cent of their income, compared to employees who save six per cent.”

The Hargreaves Lansdown study found that while 71 per cent of employees would get a pay-off if they were laid off, only 12 per cent of self-employed people would. 

Meanwhile, 95 per cent of employees would be paid if they were too sick to work, while only 33 per cent of self-employed people have this protection. 

This is in addition to the pension shortfall, which means only 24 per cent of self-employed households overall are on track for a moderate retirement income - compared to 46 per cent of employed households.

  • Billy the Fish

    Where is the measurement for happiness/contentness in life or empowerment for self-employed vs employed? This article suggests that is one of the main reasons why someone would choose to become self-employed. I'd imagine the scores would be pretty high for SE.
    I also imagine the reason why salaries are lower for the SE model is because payments made (whenever you wish) are by dividend rather than PAYE, which also has significant tax benefits. Both points missed here for some reason.
    It seems the author prefers 18-34 year olds to follow business as usual. Can't think why.
    If you are in that age bracket and want to give it a go there are at least as many reasons to do it as there are not to.

  • Hit Man

    I cant find anyone who wants to work employed let alone self employed

  • icon
    • J T
    • 05 October 2023 17:16 PM

    “ …71 per cent of employees would get a pay-off if they were laid off, only 12 per cent of self-employed people would.”

    Surely you don’t lay yourself off when you’re self-employed?


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