Side businesses boost UK economy by £40bn

Side businesses boost UK economy by £40bn

Over a quarter of Brits in full-time employment now own a ‘side business’ providing a £40bn per year boost to the UK economy, according to new research by 02.

On average, side business owners are topping up their usual annual salary by 23% or £6,446 a year, generating a collective £40bn a year to the UK economy.

The research also reveals that two fifths of UK workers (40%) know someone else who works both 9-to-5 and 5-to-9, with 23% of respondents saying that they are considering setting up a side business in the future. 

When asked what motivated them to establish their side business, two thirds of people surveyed said they wanted to earn extra money (58%) whilst for over a quarter (27%) it was to follow their passion.

But running a side business is no small feat: the results also found that people are typically spending over nine hours a week outside of their day job on their side business, equating to nearly 59 extra working days a year.

The findings revealed that one of the key enablers to starting a side business is technology, which has lowered both the barriers and risks by reducing the cost of setting up and running a business, while giving business owners exposure to more potential customers than ever before.

When asked if they would have been able to establish their side business 15 years ago, 45% of respondents said no. In fact, over a third (35%) also said they do not think they would have been able to have established their business before the prevalence of smartphones, with a huge 53% declaring their smartphone a fundamental tool for their side business today.

Entrepreneur Tess Stokes is someone who knows only too well what it takes to set up a business while running a full-time job. Co-founder of the hugely popular party holiday company ‘G&T Weekends’, she said: “My co-founder Gillian and I established G&T Weekends on our three main passions in life: entertaining, exploring the world and networking. We whisk guests away on bespoke holidays and have discovered that a side business provides the perfect opportunity to turn a hobby into a fruitful career.

“All this has been made possible by portable devices and flexible working. Our business is based between London and Toronto, so we are reliant on 24/7 connectivity and the ability to stay up-to-date on the go. As the research reveals, I could not imagine establishing my business 15 years ago without technology.”

Ben Dowd, O2 sales director added: “Mobile devices are now more than ever the remote control of our personal lives, but as our research reveals they are increasingly becoming a remote office for our side business passions. Whether it’s taking the first step to try out a business idea outside of normal working hours or making the transition to pursue that idea full time, O2 can help with free tech advice every step of the way.”


The O2 Business research found the top-ten most popular side business sectors were:

Tech/IT (e.g. PC repairs and website design)

Arts & Crafts (e.g. jewellery making, card making and painting)

Blogging/Vlogging (e.g. blogs on beauty and sports)

Fitness (e.g. person training or a dance instructor)

Food/Drink (e.g. Catering, bar work and even selling eggs from pet chickens)

Health & Beauty (e.g. hairdressing, nail painting and selling cosmetics)

Gardening (e.g. landscaping, selling home-grown plants and lawn and hedge cutting)

Tutoring (e.g. school-level tutoring, music tutoring and postgraduate supervision)

DJ-ing/Music (e.g. club DJ, singer or playing in a band)

Photography (e.g. wedding photography and children’s photography)