Career Development

Micro-Businesses in the UK: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful

rsa_second_age_of_small_preview‘The Second Age of Small’ is a new report jointly produced by artsy e-commerce giants Etsy and the UK organisation the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

They’ve put together a handy 9-part summary of the findings on their website, so in order to mark the 2nd Small is Beautiful conference happening this week in Glasgow, I thought I’d pick out the key points below:

Basic facts about micro-businesses:

  • A micro-business is defined as firms with 0-9 employees.
  • In the UK, micro businesses today account for 33 per cent of private sector employment and 19 per cent of our total output.


  • “Micro-business employees are the most satisfied group of workers in the labour market, scoring highest on several indicators such as job control, influence in decision-making, loyalty to the business and even satisfaction with pay.
  • Moreover, micro businesses are more likely to employ individuals on the economic margins, including migrants, the disabled and the recently unemployed.”

The BAD:

  • “Micro-business owners tend to be paid less, engage in training less frequently and have fewer benefits such as extended maternity leave.”
  • Half of people starting up in business never making it to their third anniversary


  • “People running micro businesses have different objectives, not all of which prioritise efficiency and innovation.”
  • In other words, money isn’t always the most important thing to micro-business owners. Meaningful work, freedom and more control are also driving forces for many of us.

The Six Tribes of Self-Employment

However motivations obviously differ amongst micro-business owners. The RSA have identified six ‘tribes’ who have different motivations for being in business:

Looking at the options below, I’d currently put myself 50% in the ‘Independent’ category and 50% in the ‘Survivors’ category. If you own a micro-business, which ‘tribe’ best describes you? Where would you like to be?

6 tribes of self-employment

Learn more:

– Read the full Second Age of Small report

– Small is Beautiful takes place on 17 & 18 June 2015. Find out more at

– Watch The RSA’s Self-Employment Summit:

The RSA, in partnership with Google and Etsy, hosted a one-day summit back in February “bringing together leading thinkers to explore the causes and consequences of the boom in self-employment.” Featuring: Geoff Mulgan (Nesta), Will Hutton (The Observer) and Vicky Pryce (CEBR) Chair: Adam Lent (RSA)

2 replies on “Micro-Businesses in the UK: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful”

Glad to hear it Pete! I think it’s a more useful way of thinking about things than the term ‘freelancing’ which sometimes has negative connotations. Also, it’s important to highlight that not everyone wants to run a ‘start-up’ or grow their business into a big corporation.


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