Ben Dellot, RSA on The Power of Small

Benedict Dellot

RSA, or the Royal Society for the Arts, recently conducted a project with Etsy called The Power of Small. The research and survey seeks to better understand the  changing community of microbusiness. Since 2008, a remarkable 600,000 new microbusinesses have been created; self-employment has increased by about 30% since 2000, and 15% of the workforce is now self-employed.


Ben Dellot walked us through some of the key results.


Stereotypes – The stereotype of middle-aged men being a typical business-owner is changing rapidly. Women, over-65s, and young people in particular are turning to self-employment.


Where? – Where are they starting these businesses? Overall, London and the south of England have the greatest number of microbusinesses. By proportion, however, micros are much more significant & important outside London.


Why? Reasons why more people are leaving traditional employment are disputed. The jobless argument – that people are creating their own work due to unemployment – is actually a myth, according to RSA survey & research. Actually, overwhelmingly respondents told the RSA that they want more freedom. In fact, self-employment has been increasing year-on-year since 2000, not just since the economic crash of 2008. Few wish to return to employment


How? – How are micros thriving under the current economy? Small businesses survive in service industries and artisanal markets, which UK is shifting towards. Demographics are also important. Healthy retirees, a baby boom, immigration, and new technology and its users all contribute. Many respondents commented on new technology – with most saying that it is vital for their business to exist.


The six tribes of self-employment – RSA looked into the reasons why people become self-employed. These are usually split into those pushed into it, and those pulled into it by opportunity. They are: The Visionaries, Locals, Classicals, Survivors, Independents, and Dabblers. Read more in the full report: Salvation in a Start-Up.


In summary: Is it a good thing to be self-employed? Is it something we want to champion and promote or should we be discouraging it?  At first sight, life in self-employment can look a bit bleak: earnings are low compared with employed people, but many report pros like lifestyle benefits of increased freedom and creative direction. As highlighted in the findings of the RSA/Populus survey – the reason is because the self-employed often derive greater freedom, meaning and control from their work.


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Watch Benedict's talk:




Benedict Dellot from Small is Beautiful on Vimeo.

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