Majority of sole traders want to stay small and independent

Seven in ten sole traders in the UK enjoy being small and don’t aspire to grow – with many citing the associated financial and creative independence, a new report has found.

Small business platform Xero UK – whose MD and co-founder is Glasgow-born Gary Turner – has revealed the responses from 1,000 UK sole traders last month, finding that 62 per cent say the advantages far outweigh those of being a larger business.

When asked about the benefits of being a sole trader, the most popular responses were flexible working (63 per cent), independence (49 per cent), job satisfaction (29 per cent), and creative freedom (25 per cent). Half believe it’s more ethical to stay small, while just over half feel more supported by customers because of their size.

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Donna Torres, director of small business at Xero, said: “The UK’s sole trader community is over three million strong, but will grow in the next few years. The pandemic has changed many people’s priorities and encouraged them to take the leap into something new. But it should be done with eyes wide open to the challenges of staying small, particularly as the Covid pandemic and Brexit continue to impact businesses.”

Flexible working topped the list of advantages - at 63 per cent. Picture: Barbara Gindl/APA/AFP via Getty Images.
Flexible working topped the list of advantages - at 63 per cent. Picture: Barbara Gindl/APA/AFP via Getty Images.

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Xero in fact said that in terms of hurdles, a lack of employee benefits topped the list at 58 per cent, while only 8 per cent feel they’ve been fully supported by government during the pandemic, and 57 per cent believe support has been more focused towards larger firms.

In terms of the impact of the pandemic, just over half said the past year has had a significant impact on their wellbeing.

On a more positive note, digital tools were cited as being key in helping sole traders adapt and survive during the pandemic – with a third saying Covid pushed them to use new e-commerce tools.

Looking to the future, 31 per cent will no longer pay for a permanent office after the pandemic, and eight in ten will only have an “at home” office space –while a fifth are even considering basing themselves abroad.

Ms Torres added: “We’re working with and calling on the government to ensure businesses of all sizes have access to the right support and tools to bounce back.”

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