We're all self-employed now - and it's very stressful

Sarah Coles
self-employed and working from home
self-employed and working from home

Self-employment is booming. It now makes up 15% of the UK workforce, and could soon overtake the public sector. So it's particularly worrying that a new study has revealed that a fifth of self-employed people find it much more stressful than having a full-time job.

The Scottish Widows think tank, The Centre for the Modern Family, found that the relatives of self-employed people said their household was under more stress because their family member had chosen to work for themselves.

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The irony is that many people took this career path so they could enjoy more flexibility and more time with their family. Some 53% of people wanted to be able to choose their own hours, while 17% needed to fit their work around childcare responsibilities (among mothers, 48% chose self-employment in order to fit around the needs of children). They got the flexibility they needed, and 35% of people say they spend more time with their family. However, it comes at a huge cost.


One in five people with a self-employed relative say their family member has more financial worries as a result of working for themselves, and another fifth say they are generally more stressed too. One in ten say the whole family is suffering as a result of their career choice.

Aside from money worries, part of the problem is a lack of delineation between work and home. Almost one in five say that working for themselves means they are always on call.

Anita Frew, Chair of the Centre for the Modern Family, said: "To a growing number of people, self-employment offers a chance to structure a rewarding career around family life. However, our research suggests that the pressures and stresses of being their own boss may, for some, be too much for a family."

Is there an answer?

She is calling for better access to financial and practical support, which could mean people, "feel better equipped to make their path in self-employment less stressful for themselves and their families, and bring them more of the benefits which attracted them to self-employment in the first place."

One option, Scottish Widows suggests, is to make pension payments free of National Insurance for self-employed people. On one level it might help make up for the fact that not having an employer means that nobody else will ever contribute to your pension.

However, realistically, it's unlikely to stop the stress associated with having an insecure income, and it isn't going to make a difference to those who struggle to deal with the uncertainty of where the next piece of work is coming from, and whether they will be able to find enough work to keep the wolf from the door.

There's no solution for either of these things, and self-employed people are either able to come to terms with it, or they can't and they have to accept that they may not be cut out to join the gig economy.

But what do you think? Are you one of the 42% of people who want to be their own boss, or part of the 40% who would much rather have the security of being a permanent employee? Let us know in the comments.