Time to appreciate the perks of the job?

Becky O’Connor
You daydream about rocking up at one of those shared workspaces at 11am in your jeans (Source: Getty)

For full-time office workers blinking out of the window onto the cold, grey, concrete City, the advantages that they enjoy over the self-employed might not seem obvious.

You daydream about rocking up at one of those shared workspaces at 11am in your jeans, laptop on your back, ready for a self-managed day of freelancing, and all the while planning four weeks off in August, because you can. And you resolve to make it happen.

You wouldn’t be the only one to reach this conclusion, because the number of self-employed people in the UK has reached 4.8m. A decade ago, it was 3.8m.

There’s the odd blip in the figures, as self-employed numbers went down slightly last quarter, but the long-term trend is upwards.

The reasons are well-documented. There are hundreds of articles outlining the benefits of going it alone as the best way to live your dreams.

As someone who was self-employed for eight years, I know that it really can be fantastic. For me, the appeal was being around more for my young kids.

But things like the irregular cash flow, the chasing of payments, and the logistics of an irregular working week around childcare arrangements became a burden.

Indeed, the benefits of the full-time employment contract are often undervalued.

It’s hard in these times of record employment to appreciate this next point, but a job is a thing of great value.

Older generations who worked through the early eighties, when the unemployment rate shot up to nearly 14 per cent, know this, and might find it bemusing that so many young workers now choose a life of relative insecurity, when they have the option of full-time employment.

It’s not just the regular, dependable monthly income that a job has over self-employment. Jobs pay you for holiday, sickness, and compassionate leave. They pay your tax and National Insurance – no complicated tax returns and accountancy fees to manage.

Crucially, they contribute to your pension. Nearly half of self-employed people between 35 and 55 don’t save into a pension – deferring one of the downsides of self-employment until they retire, when it will come as a massive shock.

Self-employed people tend to think that they will carry on working, not really grasping that they will have different priorities and energy levels when they reach 67.

Some people view self-employment as more secure, because that way, you never have the anxiety of being made redundant. But self-employed people are still dependent on a growing economy and demand from businesses for additional services. They might not lose a job in a downturn, but they can still lose income.

The traditional nine-to-five might really not be for you – and life is too short to do something that makes you unhappy. I’m certainly not advocating gratitude for having a job at the cost of your soul.

But workplaces are, generally, more flexible than they used to be, allowing some of the benefits of self-

employment, such as work-from-home days. You might even be able to get a taste of what it’s like to work in your pyjamas occasionally, without pulling the plug on your employment contract.

If you are in a corporate job and are thinking about going freelance, weigh up the pros and cons. If you decide to go for it, then do – if it doesn’t work out, you can always return to the corporate world. It’s not a one-way ticket.

But know that there are costs you may not have fully appreciated to going it alone – and the supposed benefits might just be benefits that you could have anyway without having to give up good, old-fashioned job security.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.