The number of self-employed people in Northumberland has risen by 14 per cent since the financial crisis and now stands at 21,100, according to new figures published by the Office of National Statistics.
The rise comes as experts at Business Debtline called for more support in tackling the advice gap for those starting out in self-employment.
New figures show an estimated 21,100 people in Northumberland were self-employed in 2014/15, equating to 14.8 per cent of the working population. The total is up from 18,500 before the recession in 2007/08, as more and more people have turned to working for themselves.
The figures were highlighted by Business Debtline, the free debt advice service run by the Money Advice Trust, to warn of a worrying advice gap for people starting up their own business. It says that many self-employed people get into difficulty because they started trading without the help needed to understand how to run a business and keep finances on track.
More than 80 sole traders, partners and other small business owners in Northumberland contacted Business Debtline for help with business debts by phone last year and the charity is concerned that many more self-employed people in the county who are struggling are not getting the free debt advice they need.
Claire King, the Money Advice Trust’s insight manager and author of the research, said: “The surge in the number of people who are self-employed in Northumberland is one of the consequences of the recession – and in many ways they are the unsung heroes of our economic recovery. Unfortunately, some are paying a high personal price for the risk they have taken to support the economy. We must do more as a society to give them the best chance of succeeding.
“We would like more to be done to widen access to the business advice and information at the outset of people’s journey into self-employment. This really can make the difference between triumph and disaster.
“Fortunately, where the self-employed do find themselves in financial difficulty, free, independent advice is available to help them resolve the situation. I would urge anyone in Northumberland who is struggling to cope to seek free advice from Business Debtline as early as possible.”
In its new report, The Cost of Doing Business, the charity revealed the challenges facing many self-employed people who are struggling to cope. More than one in three Business Debtline clients interviewed drew less than £100 income from their business each month, leading to a constant struggle to stay on top of their personal, as well as business, finances and more than three-quarters (76 per cent) had to cut down on household spending as a result.
Business difficulties were found to have significant knock-on effects, with more than eight in 10 (82 per cent) affected by stress, anxiety or depression and more than half (54 per cent) suffering sleep loss.
Business Debtline, provides free, independent and confidential advice 24 hours a day online at www.businessdebtline.org and on 0800 197 6026.