Julie Deans’ Self Employment Review: An Independent Report

Julie Deans’ Self Employment Review: An Independent Report

Julie Deans’ Self Employment Review: An Independent Report

Julie Deans’ Self Employment Review: An Independent Report was published this month. Here are the highlights.


Her Executive Summary highlights the internal motivation that I think will be familiar to many entrepreneurs. (Emphasis mine.)

Motivation – The majority of the self-employed have made a positive choice to be so and have no plans to return to employment. They have found a good balance with work/life commitments and are often happier.

Shared Work Spaces

One of the key recommendations relates to what she refers to as “shared work spaces”:

Shared work spaces are becoming more important. The location and availability of such spaces needs to be better communicated so as to increase awareness. Increased visibility of, and accessibility to, shared work spaces needs to be improved. Consideration should be given to incorporating such a space in local libraries and community centres bringing commercial activity and life to underutilised resources already in place.

Isn’t it interesting that she doesn’t point the finger at those who need to increase the awareness of such spaces? But, I can attest to that fact that – even as a community creator and (eventual) space owner, I have found it difficult to find information on all available spaces in NI. And, her statistics, again, seem to back this up.

Work hubs have been created to facilitate and encourage this type of flexible working however over half (55%) of the people who answered my online survey had not heard of them, or had not used them. A quarter of people (25%) said that they would be encouraged to use a work hub if they were available in a location that was more accessible to them and the third that had used them found it to be a positive experience. There are many such spaces available, a new organisation, Spacehop, encourages work hubs within people’s houses and Google’s Campuses offer spaces for this type of entrepreneurial working. Visibility of and accessibility to this new and evolving way of working needs to be improved.

Dare I say it that many communities and spaces are not showcasing all that their wonderful, busy, creative business communities and spaces can offer to potentially interested parties? There are many coworking communities and spaces in NI, yet sometimes I feel as if I’m celebrating them more online with the odd retweet (and, yes, I’m methodical about following, reading and retweeting them) than they’re saying about themselves!

While she doesn’t elaborate on the importance of shared spaces, I’m joining the dots to another two statistics she quoted: less than 25% have an employee that when self-employed people were asked what they missed from employment, colleagues was top of the list (25%). Might coworking communities and spaces provide part of the solution?

Growth Areas

So, what is changing? What is moving? What is increasing?


I’m pretty delighted about this little nugget, being a female an’ all!

since 2009 women have accounted for over half of the overall growth in self-employment.


Her recommendations are that – since self-employment is growing at a crazy rate – the curriculum needs to catch up. Since she found that many self-employed people request more help and information on financial matters, she thought that might provide a focus for the curriculum.


Yes, I know we’ve all heard about how technology has revolutionised the way we work to the point of cliche, but look what she picks up on!

Technology has revolutionised the way we work and offers great opportunities for the self-employed. Trade and professional organisations must take responsibility for keeping members up to date with technological advances. The self-employed, if wanting to grow their businesses, need to use whichever networks and forums they feel most comfortable with to keep their knowledge base current. I would advocate combining disparate age groups and underutilized existing community resources to facilitate this exchange.

At our parent business, Sensei, we teach Networking Skills, among several other communication skills. We’ve always encouraged people to steer clear of those networks that don’t work for them and find something that is comfortable, fits their personality or preferences and built their business friendships there.

Coworking spaces’ photographs celebrate creatives in their twenties, but we know the attraction of coworking spaces is in the mix of people above all else (well, that’s what you coworking enthusiasts are telling us in our Giant Coworking Survey). At WabiSabi, that has to include people of all ages. Bucking the trend cliché, some of the most fearless, inventive, resilient and tech-savvy people in our community are not in their twenties. This is backed up by the statistics she quotes: 43% of the self-employed are aged 50 or over.

Inspired by Ellen Langer, I decided long ago that age was just a number and I was not going to be limited by our culture’s confines. Neither will our members.


She states in her Introduction that she asked self-employed people, by way of a survey, for their thoughts. And, she asked representative bodies for their thoughts. I’d have preferred it had she spent more time with the people in person, and less time with representative bodies. However, I appreciate that when conducting such a report, much time is taken up talking to individuals, and that in order to realistically gain the responses from multiple people (in this case 900), surveys and group responses are essential.

That said, the 41-page review presents some fascinating insights. Take a look.

Read Julie Deans’ Self-Employment Review: An Independent Report here.

Image credit: gapingvoid


Dawn Baird
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