The rise of self-employment

Being your own boss may sound like some people’s idea of a perfect job. Keeping your own hours, answering to no-one else and deciding what work to do may seem ideal, but the rise in self-employment in the UK has less to do with the quest for independence and more an economic necessity.

 According to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the percentage of UK workers has risen from 8% in 1975 to 14% in 2019. Since the financial crash of 2008, the amount of solo self-employed people has risen sharply too.

Solo self-employed means someone who works on their own, with no employees. A courier is a good example of a solo self-employed worker. They work alone and contract their work out to certain delivery companies.

As the job market in the UK becomes more diverse and non-traditional, the rise of self-employment looks set to continue. Although market forces may dictate this trend, there some areas of self-employment which prove attractive to couriers in particular.


People are self-employed for a number of reasons and often not by choice. While we may think of a sole trader as someone who runs their own business, the reality is that a solo self-employed person often has to rely on contract their services to whoever is willing to hire them.

The rise of self-employment is therefore more a reflection of the changing economic landscape and the growth of what has become known as the ‘gig economy’. People are often forced into taking short-term jobs because that is what is available to them.

In the case of self-employed couriers, this can be quite lucrative as it is an industry that has benefited heavily from the surge in online shopping. With eCommerce companies consistently seeking logistics solutions when it comes to fulfilling increasing customer orders, delivery companies will need more couriers, increasing work opportunities.


Self-employment, no matter the line of business, affords more flexibility. A sole trader can essentially keep their own hours, within reason that is. Many people who work as self-employed couriers, for example, are bound by delivery schedules, but within that, there is a degree of flexibility about when they work.

Some couriers who are self-employed work on a part-time basis to supplement their primary income or simply because they don’t want to work full-time. Being self-employed allows them to make that choice. It also allows them to decide which jobs to take on or not.

Work close to home

Many self-employed couriers are attracted by the fact they can work close to home. This a good option for those who considered working in deliveries, but have been put off by having to drive long distances. Many delivery companies will seek to enlist couriers for particular areas and regions. This ensures that their deliveries are being carried out by people with knowledge of that particular area.

From the courier’s point of view, it reduces the amount of time they have to travel between each delivery and allows them to complete their deliveries quicker.

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