The sudden surge in self-employment across the UK has resulted in the nation’s freelancers and contractors suddenly being put under the microscope by various business and research groups. The latest such report comes from the Royal Society of Arts and online retail platform Etsy. Titled “Salvation in a Start-Up”, the report encompasses the views of around 1,000 microbusiness owners.

The key finding echoes that of previous reports – that the UK’s newly self-employed are there through choice, rather than being forced into business ownership by the recession. Of those surveyed only a quarter started out on their own due to unemployment – with a much larger percentage (between 50-55%) becoming self-employed to enjoy greater freedom, creativity, and to escape the financial trappings of full-time employment such as commuting and childcare costs.

The report also highlights a frequently-overlooked benefit of self-employment – as an important coping mechanism for those with physical or mental illnesses. Of the freelancers and contractors surveyed 38% reported self-employment allows them to handle physical health conditions better, while almost one in five rated the ability to manage their mental conditions “extremely important”.

The report concluded the average self-employed worker earns less than their salaried counterparts, experiencing a shortfall of around £74 per week, or around £3,800 per year. The report splits the self-employed into six distinct groups – venturists, localists, careerists, survivalists, independents, and dabblers.

The RSA’s Benedict Dellot, author of the report, told the Guardian:

“I think we have this new type of worker, at least some of the self-employed, that value different things at work, the softer benefits over the harder ones.”

The Trade Union Congress, which authored a similar report which drew more stark conclusions, responded:

“We can both celebrate the budding entrepreneur and object to the bogus self-employment of the building workers and internet delivery van drivers that are just as much part of the insecure exploited workforce as those on an abusive zero-hours contract.”

The report will be formally launched at an event in London this evening – there are still tickets available here.

Photo by Alejandro Pinto