New campaign to help crisis of confidence among the self-employed

The wave of people who turned to self-employment after the financial crisis could now be feeling mor

The wave of people who turned to self-employment after the financial crisis could now be feeling more vulnerable, an adviser to a business group has said. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A new campaign is hoping to help the crisis of confidence among the East of England's half a million sole traders.

The Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) small business index for the self-employed was +2.8% in the second quarter of 2018 – down from the two-year high of +9.7 seen in the first three months of 2017.

By contrast, confidence among firms with up to 10 or 11 to 20 employees stands at +19.3 and +39.5 respectively this quarter.

It also contrasts with the FSB's overall quarterly index, released last week, which showed small business confidence up significantly in the first three months of the year.

There are estimated to be 464,000 self-employed people in the East of England – just over 15% of the region's workforce.

In response the FSB has launched a campaign dedicated to improving the prospects of the UK's 4.8 million sole traders, after more than one in four (28%) told the lobbying group they their expect business performance to worsen over the next three months and 41% expect no meaningful improvement.

FSB East Anglia area lead David Howell said: 'Our self-employed community contributes billions to the economy annually yet they're still treated as an afterthought by policy makers. We'll be campaigning over the coming months to change that.'

The FSB's Think Self-Employed agenda, published on Monday as part of its campaign, calls for measures to slow the fall in self-employed confidence including two weeks of statutory paternity pay and a self-employed adoption allowance, reform of Universal Credit to protect sole traders from losing out due to fluctuating incomes, and a Brexit deal which allows travel across European borders without administrative or cost burdens.

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Tom Purvis, political and economic adviser at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) said the organisation supported the FSB's aims – and would even take some further, for example requesting the shared parental leave policy be extended to self-employed parents.

He said changes to taxation, government regulation and the Brexit vote had all shaken confidence among the self-employed.

'We hear quite often that the self-employed are not being listen to, that they are being drowned out,' he said.

'In the fall-out of the financial crisis a lot of people went self-employed because it gave them flexibility. Now we have got to the stage where a lot of self-employed people might be feeling vulnerable.'

'I have to make the most of opportunities'

Despite feelings of despondency around the UK, a self-employed events manager from Norwich is forecasting good things for her business.

Barbara Reed launched Breed Events in spring 2017. Clients in her first year include car sharing company Liftshare and the ArcTanGent festival in Bristol.

She said that, despite challenges, she feels optimistic about the future.

'There are a lot of opportunities open to me and it is down to me to make the most out of them. I am a firm believer that you are the maker of your own luck,' she said.

'My life is at times a roller coaster and there have definitely been sleepless nights – however it is part and parcel of owning a business and that has always been the case. It is just a question whether it is the right thing for you to do.

'At times I have to dig deep, but resilience, self belief and most of all passion for what I do allows me to push through barriers.'