The Domino Effect of Self-Employment

520,000 new businesses were created in the UK last year, with nearly 73,000 of them (14%) set up by former corporate employees - as a nation we're clearly becoming increasingly entrepreneurial and maybe even recapturing something of our "bulldog spirit" when it comes to trade and innovation.

Photo by

There are many ways to look at statistics, but for me there's one stand-out conclusion to be drawn from recent employment figures from the Office for National Statistics. These show that, of the increased number of people in work in the UK between 2008 and 2013, 75% were self-employed, with overall self-employment in the UK now standing at 14.8%. This tells me that the UK's workforce is increasingly choosing independence and self-reliance to the limitations and uncertainty of paid employment.

520,000 new businesses were created in the UK last year, with nearly 73,000 of them (14%) set up by former corporate employees - as a nation we're clearly becoming increasingly entrepreneurial and maybe even recapturing something of our "bulldog spirit" when it comes to trade and innovation.

And it's not just Brits who are escaping the 9 to 5 rat race, many others across the world are taking the road to freelancing and self-employment.

In the Netherlands, over the last 10 years there's been a 92% growth in freelancing. While in countries particularly hit hard by the global downturn, self-employment is especially strong. In Italy, 23.4% of the population are self-employed, in Greece it's even higher at nearly 32%, while in Europe overall, 14.5% classify themselves as self-employed.

Even in the US, where self-employment's taken a knock in recent years - numbers falling significantly since 2006, largely because the downturn affected traditional self-employment areas, such as construction - there are signs that the self-employed are bouncing back, with services such as marketing and web developers, seeing some of the largest gains.

This rise in self-employment has been going on for the last few years, a phenomenon which many economists predicted was just a sign of turbulent economic times - something that would reverse as the economy improved.

It doesn't seem like it.

Yet despite the trend showing no sign of faltering, there's still a body of opinion that regards those who take the self-employment route as somehow desperate, or failures - not good enough to make it in a 'proper' career.

Obviously, some will be forced into self-employment only because they see no other way forward. But that's still a rational choice. A sign of maturity, evidence of someone taking responsibility for their own future rather than opting for inaction.

Other will go into self-employment because it's the obvious way to capitalize on their experience, ideas and background. These are the 'natural entrepreneurs' who were probably never comfortable in a job anyway, and have been waiting for their moment to escape.

Still others will consider their options, then decide that self-employment is the best route for them right now. By changing their mindset about what employment means for them, those in this group are able to move forward in a new direction that is better suited to the world we live in now.

Will every one of them succeed? Of course not, but then they may well have failed in a job too.

Success requires skills, determination, being able to deal with rejection, not accepting 'no' as an answer, self-belief, vision and endurance. Most entrepreneurs have on average 3.8 'failures' before they finally succeed. But they have a destination in mind and keep on going until they get there, acquiring life-long learning on the way that pays dividends many times over. Without becoming self-employed and setting up their own business, they would never otherwise develop the invaluable experience and skills that they do.

Therefore, I see going into self-employment as a means of personal evolution that also helps to move society forward as a whole.

And when you consider that in America it is predicted that there will be about 60 million professional freelancers by 2020, it seems likely that many more of us who would normally have opted to work for someone else will have to recalibrate our view of the working world.

That could mean millions of us having to stop seeing ourselves as employees and start believing in ourselves as entrepreneurs and small business owners.

So we need to view self-employment not as a last resort, but as a first choice - and that means looking afresh at how we perceive and measure economic success.

Perhaps instead of thinking about a 'job creating' economy, we need to be thinking about building a 'self-sufficiency' economy, one in which rather than looking to someone else for a job, we make our own.

Such self-reliance will be economically good generally, with the low start-up costs of self-employment generating opportunities to serve niches in the marketplace that larger organisations wouldn't find viable.

At a personal level too, there are very real benefits to self-employment.

Not only is there the freedom to escape the drudgery of working to somebody else's rules, but also the opportunity to build a lifestyle of our choice.

And with technology now releasing people from the constraints of location and time zone, and giving them the ability to link with others in new and flexible ways, the bringing together of many people in one place to carry out one specific task looks like an increasingly dated business model.

So self-employment isn't to be sneered at, as some journalists would have you believe, but a totally viable alternative to the traditional approach to work.

I'm a passionate believer that the future really does belong to the self-employed.

Maite Baron writes at where she shares strategies to help you take control of your professional live. To get useful ideas, tips and the latest updates start by download 2 free chapters of Award winning book Corporate Escape The Rise of the New Entrepreneur here