New research from the Universities of Sheffield and Exeter have revealed that self-employed people often feel happier and more engaged with their work than those who are employed by someone else.

Who they askedSelf-Employed Happier

The researchers looked at data from 5,000 workers in the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand. They looked at a number of different sectors, from health to finance to education.

A deeper analysis was undertaken on employees across four job types – supervisors, non-managerial, middle managers and senior managers. Of the workers studied, non-managerial workers were found to be the least satisfied and engaged.

Of the self-employed who took part in the research, many sectors were covered including financial services, retail, education, insurance, real estate and management consultancy.

Why are the self-employed happier?

The researchers say this is because they enjoy more freedom to innovate and influence their work environments. This is despite common fears over lack of job security and longer hours.

Ilke Inceoglu, a professor at the University of Exeter Business School and co-author of the study said: “Being engaged in their jobs makes people feel energised and pleased with their own contribution. Measuring how engaged people are in their work is therefore a really useful way to gauge their wellbeing and shows we must move beyond just looking at job satisfaction.”

Self-employed people were also found to be more experienced in greater opportunities for innovation, achieving challenging targets and meeting high standards.

Peter Warr, co-author of the study from the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield said: “Professional workers who are self-employed really value the autonomy they have. They have the freedom to innovate, express their own views, have influence beyond their own role and compete with other companies and people.

“They really get to use their own expertise, so don’t seem to mind working long hours. They can find meeting high standards really fulfilling.”

Benefits of going self-employed

If you’re considering self-employment you’ll no doubt see several studies like this. What’s the secret to happiness? With work it appears to be the sense of freedom that you get from being your own boss, plus the potential to earn more.

Being an employee means you’re limited to your salary and the office you work in. Being self-employed means you can work wherever you work best, be it at home or at a coffee shop.

If you become a freelancer, you have no one to answer to (besides your clients). This means you can work whatever time of day you want, early morning, afternoon or late at night. The traditional 9-5 just isn’t productive for a lot of people as those aren’t their best hours.


Are you one of those happier self-employed people? What is it about self-employment that satisfies you the most? Would you ever go back to working for someone else? Please share any thoughts below.