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The highs and lows of being self-employed

Running a small business can be incredibly difficult. Not only do you have to focus on creating the best product or service to successfully take on your established competitors, you’ve also got to stay on top of all of the fiddly bits of admin to keep your business going.

However, it’s still alarming to learn exactly how tricky and time-consuming it is to be self-employed. Although many small business owners get a great deal of satisfaction from running their ventures, they often work incredibly long hours to try and make their businesses thrive.

We recently polled around 700 of our small business customers to ask them exactly what they thought about their day-to-day working lives, and some of our findings paint a fairly bleak picture about the reality of self-employment.

More than a third (36%) of people we surveyed said that they typically worked more than 48 hours a week on their business, with almost one in ten (8%) admitting that they worked more than 64 hours. In addition, just 13% of respondents said that they rarely or never worked on their business in the evenings or at night.

More worryingly, we also found that 81% of small business owners said they had worked through an illness in the past because they didn’t feel that they could afford to take time off from their business. More than half (53%) said they’d felt burned out by working too hard and an overwhelming 86% said that at some point they had sacrificed their own personal care for the sake of their business.

Despite the gloomy picture of long working days, antisocial hours and the risk of burnout from trying to keep a business afloat, the good news is that the majority of people we surveyed said that they enjoyed working for themselves.

More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents said they would recommend self-employment, while just 9% said that they wouldn’t. This builds on the findings of our previous research, in which the majority of small business owners we surveyed felt that running a business improved their mental health and that they had a good work-life balance.

Clearly, there remains a lot to be done to help self-employed people cope with the pressures of running a business. Here at FreeAgent we’re committed to playing our part in making self-employment as painless (and enjoyable) as possible by taking the stress and strain out of the day-to-day bookkeeping and business admin - find out more here.

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