Being your own boss: the rise of self-employment

Jess Merson, from Wellingborough, has set up her own accountancy business
Jess Merson, from Wellingborough, has set up her own accountancy business

More and more people have been starting up their own businesses and becoming self-employed in a bid to beat the recession, new figures have shown.

About one in every seven employed adults are now working for themselves, says the Office for National Statistics – and self-employment has become the biggest growth sector.

Self-employed people also work longer hours and tend to be older than the average worker, says the same study.

For some people, the move into self-employment may be linked to difficulty in finding employment, while for others it represents a brand-new challenge.

Wellingborough mum-of-two Jessica Merson, who is about to make the leap from an accountancy job with the NHS to starting up her own freelance practice, J Merson Accountancy, said for her it was the latter.

She added: “Starting up my own business is something I’d wanted to do for a long time and I’ve spent the last couple of years working towards it.

“It is a little nerve-wracking, as it’s a big step to take, but it’s also very exciting at the same time.

“I just felt it was the right time and that I could offer something different to what was already out there.

“My husband is very supportive and has helped with the website and with the marketing side of things.”

Jessica said she did a lot of research before deciding to take the plunge and starting her own business, and that is the main piece of advice she would pass on to others.

Weldon man Andy Gibney, self-employed in a variety of fields for almost 20 years, said staying abreast of the latest trends is also vital.

Andy started his own martial arts business almost two decades ago, and began by offering self-defence classes to large firms like British Steel and Tesco.

Since then he has branched out and become a novelist and motivational speaker.

His company is called No Brain No Gain.

However, while Andy said he has enjoyed success since becoming self-employed, he adds that he nearly lost everything two years ago.

He said: “It wasn’t down to the recession, it was down to me.

“The world had changed and I hadn’t kept up.

“At one time all you had to do to promote your business was take out a few ads, now social networking and having a presence on the internet is just as important.”

Andy is also the chairman of the Kettering branch of the Federation of Small Businesses’ monthly breakfast club, held at the Kettering Park Hotel from 7am on the third Friday of the month.

He added: “Networking is just as important.

“Being self-employed can be a completely different world and sometimes you need the support of those around you.”

A union secretary, however, has warned that the growth in self-employment is masking the fact that the UK labour market is weaker than it appears.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The recent rise in job levels is being driven by self-employed jobs rather than full-time, permanent work that many people want and need.

“There may be good reasons for being self-employed, but it would be naive to think all these workers are budding entrepreneurs.”

Jobless total steady

The number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance across our area remained relatively steady in the final two months of 2012.

In Kettering, there were 16 fewer people collecting unemployment benefits in December, compared to the previous month, 2,218 people down from 2,234.

This represented about 3.7 per cent of the workforce – slightly higher than the East Midlands average, which stands at 3.5 per cent, and the same as the national average, which is also 3.7 per cent.

Corby saw an increase of more than 100 in the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance, 1,980 in December compared to 1,875 in November. The December tally represents about 4.9 per cent of the workforce.

Wellingborough saw a slight drop in the number of claimants, down to 2,035 from 2,085, or 4.2 per cent of the workforce.

East Northamptonshire has the area’s lowest levels of unemployment, but there was a very small increase in the number of claimants, up to 1,430 in December compared to 1,415 the month before.

Rushden’s unemployment is currently 2.6 per cent, about one per cent below both the averages for East Midlands and Great Britain.

December’s figures are the most recent ones available from the Office for National Statistics.

New firms record

The latter part of 2012 saw a record number of new companies formed in Northamptonshire, according to a report into business confidence in the region.

The figures, put together by business formation firm Duport, said in the third quarter of 2012, there were record numbers of new firms set up in Kettering.

In Corby, the only figures available were for the first half of 2012, but again Duport said it represented a record six months for new company formations.

According to Duport, 154 new firms were registered with Companies House between July and September last year, compared to 142 during the same three months in 2011 – an increase of about 8.5 per cent.

This was more than double the national average of an increase of 3.8 per cent.

As a whole, Northamptonshire saw 1,261 new firms registered during that three-month period in 2012, compared to 1,046 in 2011 – an increase of 20.6 per cent.

While Kettering saw an increase in new company formation during that time, Wellingborough saw a marked drop.

A total of 83 firms were registered in the third quarter of 2012, compared to 120 the previous year.