HR · 5 October 2017

Overstretched micro business owners reveal their true working hours

It is estimated there are currently 150,000 freelance hairdressers operating in the UK
It is estimated there are currently 150,000 freelance hairdressers operating in the UK

Almost a third of Britain’s micro business owners have longer working hours than the national 48-hour limit for regular employees, according to new survey findings, but a remarkable number remain happy with their work-life balance.

A poll of over 500 freelancers and micro business owners, undertaken by cloud accounting provider FreeAgent, confirmed a familiar reality for the self-employed of extensive working days with little down time.

Aside from the third working over 48 hours a week, five per cent admitted they spent over 64 hours working on their company every over the course of the week.

With so many hours occupied by their business, Britain’s micro owners are evidently struggling to find the time for a break. Previous FreeAgent research found that almost one in four were unable to take a holiday or break of over a week during the previous six months.

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However, in a testament to the commitment of Britain’s entrepreneurs, three-quarters of freelancers and micro business owners were happy with their work-life balance. 

Commenting on the findings, Ed Molyneux, FreeAgent CEO, said the lure of freedom and flexibility continued to bring many people into self-employment, but highlighted the “very hard and challenging” reality of running a small company. 

Molyneux continued: “Although many freelancers and micro business owners enjoy more flexibility over when and where they can work, our research shows that they are actually likely to work just as many hours as people who are not self-employed – and sometimes a lot more. That’s because they have to manage all of the admin and behind-the-scenes parts of their business, not just the parts that they get paid for.”

Molyneux warned the growing number of self-employed unable to find time for a holiday that they risked burning out, potentially putting their business in jeopardy.

“With the right tools in place to help ease the admin burden, however, we believe that micro-business owners can spend less time on the fiddly parts of running their business and gain the confidence to take a holiday without feeling like they’re abandoning their work,” he added.

It wasn’t entirely doom and gloom for all micro business owners. At the other end of the spectrum, eight per cent claimed they work under 16 hours a week on their business, while 16 per cent worked between 16 and 32-hour weeks.

Read more: What micro business owners thought in 2016

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Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.


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