Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Professionals in most senior positions choosing to become contractors grows by 47% in five years

Self-employment growing at the fastest rate at senior levels

The number of self-employed contractors at director or senior manager level has increased by 47% in the last five years from 502,000 to 739,000, says Procorre, an international professional services consultancy that operates in all business sectors in over 100 countries.

Procorre says that this far outstrips the growth rate of 21% across all levels of self-employment since 2009, and the 32% growth in self-employment amongst all managers and professionals (see graph). Senior professionals opting for self-employment enjoy the flexibility of working for themselves whilst gaining real job satisfaction as they use their experience to develop their business. 

Some commentators have suggested that the rising level of self-employment in the UK is purely driven by lower-paid workers, many of whom would prefer a permanent role if it were available to them. However, Procorre says that further analysis reveals that there are many high-level, senior professionals who are actively choosing to become self-employed.

Procorre says that the improving economy should give senior professionals the confidence to quit their full-time jobs in favour of working as a self-employed contractor.

The number of self-employed contractors in the most senior roles has increased by 47% over the last five years – more than at any other level

Lisa Mangan, Relationship Manager at Procorre, explains: “Self-employment is becoming an increasingly attractive option for staff in the most senior positions. Many directors are keen to take back control of their work-life balance and boost their earnings at the same time.”

“There was a degree of nervousness about self-employment when businesses were struggling during the recession, with many seeing a permanent job as a safer option. The reality is that nowadays full-time employment gives you very little protection in an economic downturn. In fact, many contractors did very well during the financial crisis and now confidence is growing we’re seeing an unprecedented wave of highly-skilled workers becoming self-employed.”

“Large swathes of professional and technical specialists view this switch as low-risk but with real financial and personal benefits.”

“Many senior professionals will feel that they now have an opportunity to advance their careers by becoming self-employed. They can then enjoy the freedom to pick and choose roles which are of the most interest to them as well as being more financially rewarding.”

Procorre points out that permanent employment may not be the best fit once an executive achieves expertise in a niche area. This is because many businesses may need a particular skillset over a short period to help deliver specific projects, but once these goals have been met, there may be little need for that particular expertise the contractor offers.

Lisa Mangan continues: “For many businesses, the most efficient use of resources may be to ‘buy-in’ the desired skills on a short-term basis. This approach also allows the contractor to focus upon their area of expertise and maximise the amount of time doing what they do best, rather than dealing with the distractions of day-to-day management or office politics.”

“It is an approach that maximises the contractors income and minimises overheads for the employer.”

Rise in self-employment not just caused by lower-paid workers being forced to become self-employed

Lisa Mangan continues: “This does challenge the widely-held view that the rapid growth in self-employment since the financial crisis is caused only by negative reasons, such as lower-skilled workers being forced to choose between self-employment or no employment at all.”

“It is important to remember the large and growing group where self-employment is the preferred option.”

* Includes Managers, Directors And Senior Officials and Professional Occupations. Office of National Statistics, Self-employed Workers in the UK.