The 6 tribes of self-employment – what type of entrepreneur are you?

There’s no doubt that entrepreneurs are a diverse group of people, but which category do you fall into? A new report into the UK’s microbusiness boom by The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and Etsy has uncovered six main tribes of small business owners...

“Our analysis shows that the self-employed are a diverse group undergoing a gradual but important change,” explains Benedict Dellot of the RSA. “The number of people running microbusinesses is growing substantially, yet the real activity appears to be happening at the small end of small, with the part-time self-employed accounting for much of the business activity witnessed in recent years.”

Take a look at the six tribes below. Would you classify yourself as a visionary, classical, independent, local, survivor or dabbler entrepreneur? Or maybe you feel like you don’t fit into any of these, in which case let us know how you’d describe your approach to business…

Optimistic, growth-oriented business owners who are usually driven by a mission and a sense of purpose. They are more likely to be younger and male, and to employ many employees.

Key facts:

  • 60 percent employ between five to nine people
  • 68 percent want to grow their business as large as possible and take on employees
  • 49 percent say meaning is one of the things they look for most in their personal work
  • Half (52 percent) work over 45 hours a week, and 13 percent work over 60 hours

Generally older, these embody the popular image of the entrepreneur. They are largely driven by the pursuit of profit, 
and think the business is the be all and end all.

Key facts:

  • 42 percent say the prospect of earning more money was one of the main reasons for starting up in businessThe six tribes of self-employment 45
  • Over half (57 percent) say that being able to use their talents to the full is one of the main things they look for in their personal work
  • A third say they want to grow their business as large as possible and take on employees
  • 21 percent are over the age of 65

Freedom-loving, internet-dependent business owners who are driven by the opportunity to vent their creative talents. They are typically younger and left-leaning.

Key facts:

  • 65 percent said the prospect of greater freedom was one of the main reasons they decided to start up in business
  • Nearly half (48 percent) say they would not have been able to  start their business were if not for recent advances in technology like the internet
  • Half (51 percent) want to grow their business but only four percent by taking on staff

Relaxed and generally free from stress, these operate low-tech businesses which serve only their local community. They earn a modest income and many are close to retirement.

Key facts:

  • 70 percent want to keep their business about the same size
  • Half say they would have been able to start their business without recent advances in technology such as the internet (a much higher figure than the other groups)
  • 30 percent say that low levels of stress are one of the things they look for most in their working lives
  • Nearly half (47 percent) are between the ages of 45–64

Reluctant but hard-working individuals who are struggling to make ends meet, in part due to the competitive markets they operate in. They earn less from their business, and are more likely to be younger.

Key facts:

  • A fifth say one of the main reasons they started up was to escape unemployment
  • 10 percent plan to close their business and do something else in the near future
  • Half (48 percent) work more than 45 hours a week on their business
  • A quarter earn less than £25,000 from their business (eight percent are making a loss)

Usually part-timers, their business is more of a hobby than a necessity. A large number are retirees seeking to do 
something interesting in their spare time.

Key facts:

  • A fifth (21 percent) said one of the main reasons they started  up was to do something interesting in their spare time (a much higher number than in the other tribes)
  • 10 percent plan to reduce the size of their business in the near future, while a fifth (21 percent) plan to close the business entirely 
  • A quarter (25 percent) are over the age of 65, and 58 percent own their home outright without a mortgage


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