Women forge freelance careers on lifestyle trends

Women adept at spotting emerging lifestyle trends are increasingly among the UK’s growing army of one-person businesses, a set of industry and official figures show.

Announcing that more women than ever are choosing to ‘go it alone’, a business insurance broker said that 43,000 females new to trading approached it in 2011, against 34,000 in 2010.

Based on a total of 117,000 newly self-employed quote requests it received, the dataset from Simply Business shows that women with creative or service-led offerings drove the 12% growth.

The increase, which means that more than a third (37%) of start-ups are now female-run, is mainly thanks to more women deciding to work for themselves as beauticians, hairdressers, pet minders or niche caterers.

It tallies with an overall upturn in self-employment in the UK, where a record 4.1 million people registered to work for themselves in the 12 months to October 2011.

Recorded in the latest official Labour Force Survey, the new peak in self-employment represents an increase of 4% on the previous year and is the highest since records began.

Companies House, the registrar of companies, testifies to the upturn in micro enterprise, reportedly finding 2.5m active accounts on its database as of December 18th 2011; up almost 6% year-on-year.

Accompanying figures from Barclays, seen by the Daily Telegraph, even prompted the bank’s SME analyst to say Britain’s self-employed ranks are “in the middle of a boom.”

Estimating from its own data that 480,000 traders set up, Dr. Richard Roberts reportedly pointed out that, on top of the “two strong years” preceding it, 2011 saw start-ups grow by up to 5%.

Not all individuals are going it alone because they chose to; however, as Roberts thinks any rise in entrepreneurial activity is from people shifting from unemployment to self-employment.

This view of freelancing as a last resort for laid-off employees is not universally accepted as the driving force behind more individuals going it alone, although freelance trade body PCG did recently acknowledge the influence of “economic circumstances.”

From a business insurance broker’s viewpoint, it is women skilled at spotting “emerging lifestyle trends” who are the real engine of one-person start-ups in the UK.

Reflecting on its findings, Simply Business said that alongside beauticians, hairdressers and caterers, it had also seen a rise in female cleaners, market stall traders, chefs and cake makers.

Yet that’s not to suggest women aren’t holding their own in ‘hard-skill’ industries, the broker said. It says accountancy is the now the tenth most popular start-up occupation for females, while the number of self-employed female lawyers is also up (by 16%) over the past 12 months.


4th January 2012

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