Working 9 to 5, not the way to make a living?

Our new Research Executive, Lynsey Jackson, with news from the frontline of the gig economy…

In a world where Instagram modelling is actually a profession, people quit careers to play Pokemon Go and selling your unused knick-knacks on auction websites can make you a small fortune, it’s clear to see that working 9am till 5pm is no longer always considered the ‘norm’. In fact when it comes to earning money, many people now consider different paths, with many citing the desire to avoid the humdrum of the office based permanent job. The most popular reason, of course, seems to be being your own boss (well, after the Instagram career has failed of course).

According to the BPE 2015 Statistic Release, the UK private sector is dominated by non-employing businesses and small employers; with SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprise) accounting for 99.9% of companies. At the start of 2015, there were an estimated 5.4 million UK private sector businesses and 4.1 million (76%) of these had no employees.

PeoplePerHour recently claimed that 1 in 2 people will be working freelance by 2020 and although I’m as sceptical of self-serving research as the next person, so I think it’s safe to say that the way we do business in the UK is changing. For many people, the days of being chained to the desk during core hours (do they still exist?), of being stuck on the tube during rush hour with an armpit in your face and a newspaper resting on your back or more importantly the days of arriving home after the kids have gone to bed (and the EastEnders duff duffs are over).

The question that comes to mind, therefore, is that if people are working for themselves and by themselves, what happens when they have too much work and not enough time or resource to get it all done? After all, any freelancer or new business owner will tell you that unless you are financially stable and well established, all work is good work; especially in the early days when one good job leads to another, and then a good recommendation is followed up by some new work and then another good recommendation leads to more work and so on and so forth.

Well, there is an answer for that too! Many of the freelancers actually set up as virtual assistants (a virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office). So effectively, everyone working to support and promote the business is, in fact, their own boss – pretty neat right?

Of course, there are huge positive aspects to being your own boss. The luxury of choosing what work you want to accept is a good place to start followed closely by the ever popular ‘work-life balance’ (the gym at 11am is much quieter than 6pm and who knew the bank was a great place to be at 2pm?). You see where I’m going with this right?

However, it’s not all plain sailing as there are of course some drawbacks to working alone. A key one being chasing payments (is that an Adele song?). According to recent Sage research, 68% of SME’s have to wait 60 days for payment and spend 336 hours every year chasing up late payments.

There’s also the lack of immediate support networks usually offered by colleagues and senior managers. Oh no, I stand corrected. With recent initiatives such as ‘National Freelancers Day’ and an endless list of websites offering tips on combating loneliness as a freelancer it’s clear that networks do exist, you just have to see which ones work for you.

With developments such as these in the last few years, it’ll be interesting to see how work will change in the future – Oh no, wait a minute, according to we can do that as well apparently.


Lynsey Jackson is a Research Executive at Employee Research, as well as the founder of Outside Admin.

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