SELF-EMPLOYMENT in Dorset has risen by seven per cent since the financial crisis, new figures show.

The number of self-employed people in Dorset now stands at an estimated 59,500, equating to 16.4 per cent of the working population. The total is up from 55,400 before the recession in 2007/2008, as more and more people turned to working for themselves.

The figures were highlighted by Business Debtline, run by the Money Advice Trust, to warn of a worrying ‘advice gap’ for people starting up their own business. It says many self-employed people get into difficulty because they start trading without the help needed to understand how to run a business and keep finances on track.

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 Dorset 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.”

Around 260 sole traders, partners, and other small business owners in Dorset 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 advice they need.

In its new report, The Cost of Doing Business, the charity revealed the challenges facing many self-employed people. More than one in three 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 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 affected by stress, anxiety or depression and more than half suffering sleep loss.

Ms King added: “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.”