“Sometimes I’ve heard it said that ‘even self-employed people need a union’. I disagree. Especially self-employed people need a union.”
As a self-employed business owner, I know that every self-employed person is different so I asked a few people I know about their experience of being self-employed and all sorts of words – some positive, some negative came up:
Two things really resonated with me. The first is that it really is an adventure – you have the responsibility to forge your own path and if you think something needs doing or is a good idea the only person stopping you is yourself.
For example, I decided during August that an online version of my training for charity trustees was a good idea – and the beta group for Charity Finance 101 are just a month later taking the course.
However, with that comes the second word that really resonated which is that it can be pretty lonely. It is down to you to chart your course, and your amazing ideas can potentially also do really badly: what if no-one buys your product or service? What if a client gives you a bad review?
This affects not just your mental health directly through the vulnerability you show by being open to criticism but also directly impacts your finances and your household’s security.
This doesn’t go away if you take the leap of employing others, in fact I would say that it increases your responsibility. While the right team can help you create something really special they still look to you to lead the way. After all, you have suddenly become ‘the boss’.
Sometimes I’ve heard it said that ‘even self-employed people need a union’.
Especially self-employed people need a union.
Being part of a union helps with both the support and the loneliness but also can help with the responsibilities you take on. And, one thing that has been demonstrated over and over again in the last few months is the importance of working together – self employed people have been disproportionately impacted by Covid in terms of income and lack of support from the Tory government. That’s not to complain, the self-employed people I speak to are resilient and willing to try new things – but we do need a fair chance.
Of course it also goes both ways. As a business owner you likely to be both very passionate about what you do and more willing than most people to accept uncertainty. However, if you take the plunge to employ people it’s important to remember what is now normal for you isn’t normal for your employees – they are used to being paid to do a good job, not running a business. You need to provide security, make sure you are a good employer and encourage them to join a union too!
I am one of the UK’s self-employed. I love it and I wouldn’t change it, I want the union movement to embrace what we do and to ensure that the millions like me are part of the solidarity between all workers.
“Due to a lack of understanding and misrepresentation, many people presume self-employed people are playing the system or at worst, that we’re tax dodgers fiddling the system. Had a union like Community not existed for us when coronavirus hit, that perception may have persisted and the government wouldn’t have been forced to offer us support package us through the earlier part of the pandemic.”
“I’ve seen many business owners forced into self-employment because they work for larger organisations who see self-employed subcontractors as a cheap way to avoid paying minimum wage.”