Growing number of Scots workers choosing self-employment

IT'S the dream of many frustrated office staff. But a growing number of Scots are taking the plunge by becoming their own boss.

Kim McAllister interviews Ian Laidlaw, chief executive of Peterhead Harbour. She joined a growing number of Scots by becoming self-employed in 2010. Picture: Contributed
Kim McAllister interviews Ian Laidlaw, chief executive of Peterhead Harbour. She joined a growing number of Scots by becoming self-employed in 2010. Picture: Contributed

Self-employment in Scotland has risen by 11 per cent in the last eight years, accounting for almost 300,000 jobs.

Around one out of 10 workers north of the border have set up on their own, with the majority working in IT and the financial services sectors, according to to the Royal Bank of Scotland Regional Economic Tracker.

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Experts said the rise was due to a “perfect storm”, with Scotland well-placed to support budding entrepreneurs in the years following the 2008 financial crash.

“We’re a small enough country that access to the business leaders and investment is fairly straightforward, but big enough to allow products and services to flourish,” said Kim McAllister, director of Impact Online and editor of Scottish Entrepreneur magazine.

“Incubators like Codebase and Entrepreneurial Spark are helping people expand quickly with their services but they are also amazing communities in their own right.

“People are happy to share their experience and ideas which can prevent costly mistakes and really speed up the route to market - and international markets at that.

“From my own experience, I’ve found this amazing solidarity with other Scottish entrepreneurs. It’s like we recognise a hunger and appetite for risk in each other and just really want to help everyone make it.

“Everyone I’ve asked for advice or contacts or help promoting something has been only too happy to do what they can.”

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The RBS report found entrepreneurs have made “a fantastically important contribution to the UK’s labour market recovery.

The report continued: “The pace of self-employment growth has varied over the course of the recovery. Right at the beginning in 2009 and 2010 self-employment was growing even as firms were shedding jobs.

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“In general as employers recruit workers faster we see fewer people starting up on their own, but self-employment growth has been particularly resilient and only now with unemployment below 5 per cent are we starting to see the growth in employee jobs outstrip self-employment’s expansion.”

McAllister is among the Scots who have founded their own business in the past six years. She established Impact Online, a digital PR agency in 2010, before launching Scottish Entreprendyuer in April.

“Right now is the perfect time to be an entrepreneur in Scotland,” she added.

“There are some amazing angel investors like Investing Women, there’s the Scottish Co-Investment Fund which is the envy of many other countries and there are organisations like Entrepreneurial Scotland fostering a real community and drive for the country to be the most entrepreneurial in the world.

“I chose to launch my own business because I wanted to be my own boss and have the control over my working life. I definitely work harder than I did as an employee but I set my own timetable and work with clients I admire on projects I believe in. Six years in, I am really proud of the company and reputation I’ve built. I love my job, I could never go back.”