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Self-employed happier than employees despite “harder working life”

Majority of UK's self-employed say their ambition is to maintain a good standard of living and are "overwhelmingly satisfied" working for themselves

Self-employed individuals in the UK are more satisfied with their jobs than full-time employees despite having a more difficult working life, a report from think tank Bright Blue has suggested.

According to the Standing alone? report, more than three-quarters (80%) of the UK's self-employed on a low income are “overwhelmingly satisfied” with their job, compared to 74% of full-time employees on low incomes.

The study also found that self-employed people are twice as likely to reside in a ‘low income’ household – a gross household income below 60% of the median – and work an average of 38 hours per week, in comparison to an average of 26 hours per week for employees in low income households.

When it came to future goals, three quarters of the self-employed respondents said their ambition was to sustain a good standard of living, with 13% looking to grow their business to be as large as possible.

The report also revealed the top three challenges for self-employment: income fluctuations (55%), lack of holiday pay (37%), and being able to save “for a rainy day” (36%).

The findings follow research from PayPlan last month which indicated that the self-employed are more likely to be in debt than employed and unemployed people.

David Kirkby, author of the report, commented: “Self-employed people on low income should be the priority. Earnings from self-employment have fallen in recent years and the self-employed are now more likely to be on low income than employees.

“Self-employed individuals on low income are often in a particularly precarious situation financially. They typically experience significant fluctuations in their income which can be difficult to manage. They receive only limited access to existing state welfare and have low savings rates.”

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.


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  1. I think the other thing to consider is the long term effects of being low-income self employed, not having a pension provided by an employer and little chance of making personal savings this is a worrying time bomb. It is a prospect that has to be considered if we are to protect the older generation in years to come!