More young people consider freelance work

Thursday 6 June 2013

Britain could be about to see a boom in young self-employed workers, according to a new report from the Prince’s Trust.

Released to coincide with the 30th anniversary celebrations of the charity’s Enterprise Programme, the research finds that only five per cent of young adults are already self-employed. These few are becoming more optimistic, with 40 per cent expecting business to pick up over the next six months.

But a sizeable number aspire to follow them - within the next five years, a quarter of those surveyed said that they planned to begin working for themselves. Many more were thinking of striking out on their own slightly later, with 30 per cent expecting to strike out on their own at some point in the future.

High youth unemployment rates are among the biggest factors in this drive towards independent working. One in four 16-30-year-olds said that they would rather attempt to set up and run their own business than continue chasing a limited number of jobs in competitive market conditions.

But technology is also preparing the way for more young freelancers. Just over 25 per cent of young adults said that they could set up a viable business from their bedroom within the next six months thanks to the power of the internet.

The freedom to work remotely offered by the web will take this even further in the future, according to the survey. Around 46 per cent of younger adults predicted that within the next three decades, it will be possible to work from any location around the world - an option which will make online freelancing even more of an attractive prospect.

However, the study also finds that some young people do not plan to let go of the security blanket of a paid job immediately. In five years’ time, just over one in ten saw themselves holding down traditional employment whilst freelancing on the side to supplement their income. Since two-fifths also expected to become unemployed at some point during their working life, it could be that freelancing is also a means of protection for some workers from the slings and arrows of the wider jobs market.

“This research reveals an increasingly entrepreneurial mood among young people,” says Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust. “Five years on from the start of the recession, youth unemployment remains high and many are seeing self-employment as a way to break the cycle of joblessness.”

Many young people share common concerns about taking their first steps towards becoming a self-employed professional. Unsurprisingly, investment difficulties were the most popular worry, with nearly three out of five saying that they would be put off working for themselves by the fear of not having enough money. Another 42 per cent said that tough economic conditions were likely to dissuade them from becoming self-employed.

In addition, three-in-ten felt that a lack of appropriate support would discourage them from going solo, but 33 per cent said they would be more likely to think about self-employment if they had a good mentor.

By Victoria McDonnell

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