Julie Deane reveals how self-employment changed her life

Wednesday 11 November 2015

People who have made the move into self-employment, or are considering doing so, have been offered some advice on independent working by someone who has been there and done it.

Julie Deane OBE is the founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company, which she started from her own kitchen with just £600 in savings and the support of her mother.

Ms Deane launched the business as a way to raise funds for her children's education and has seen it grow into a global success, with hundreds of employees, revenues of over £13 million and a host of celebrity fans including pop star Taylor Swift.

As a result, she was chosen to lead a government review into self-employment, the aim of which is to identify the various challenges and opportunities facing independent workers and to recommend changes the government can make to support this portion of the workforce.

Shortly before the conclusion of a survey asking the self-employed for their views on these issues, Ms Deane spoke to Startups.co.uk about her own experiences of independent working.

She said self-employment had a transformative effect on her life, allowing her to put her children through private school. It also afforded the flexibility parents need to balance career ambitions with being a strong, supportive presence in their children's lives, which can sometimes be difficult to achieve with traditional, full-time jobs.

"[My children] were six and eight years old at the time and it gave me the opportunity to be there for them and to do something really exciting; much more than the 9-5," Ms Deane said.

"I can work from 8pm to midnight instead of the usual working hours."

People interested in following a career path that gives them more freedom and control over issues such as work/life balance now have a wide range of options to choose from, such as setting up as a sole trader, establishing a limited company or going through an umbrella company.

With 4.5 million people now self-employed in the UK, Ms Deane said the aim of the government review is to gain feedback and opinions directly from the people that matter most: the workers.

"At the end of the review (set to publish March/April 2016) I want to be able to go back to the government with a list of practical recommendations that can really help the self-employed community," she added.

When it comes to the challenge of turning a simple business idea into a viable, successful company, the entrepreneur advised that self-confidence and tenacity are among the most valuable attributes to have.

"You need to have belief in yourself - it's very easy to be talked out of something but you need to have cheerleaders around you when you're starting out," Ms Deane said.

By Victoria McDonnell

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