Passion pays: businesses born from hobbies contribute £39bn to UK economy

  • Almost one in four (23%) sole trader businesses stemmed from a hobby
  • Sole traders with a passion for their business have a 55% higher turnover on average

London, UK (18 March 2022) Sole traders who have pursued their passion and turned their hobby into a successful business idea are contributing a staggering £39.6 billion to UK business turnover[1].

New research, by specialist insurer Hiscox and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), reveals that almost one in four (23%) sole traders fulfilled their dream of turning a hobby into a business.

Looking at the whole UK sole trader community, the majority are still enthusiastic about their work even if it did not start from a hobby, with 90% of all sole traders stating they have a passion for their business. This passion is helping them to achieve a turnover which is on average 55% higher than those who don’t share quite the same enthusiasm.

The research also reveals that more than half of all sole traders who took the start-up plunge were motivated by work life balance (52%) and a desire to be their own boss (61%). Flexibility of working hours and location – (84%) and (54%) respectively – and the freedom to define their own business (52%) also featured high on the list of self-assessed advantages to becoming a sole trader.

More than 2 in 5 (43%) sole traders have their idea and turn it into a business within just a year, showing that when it comes to something you care about, many are quick to make the leap. In fact, the UK has seen a significant rise in the number of sole traders in recent years; with more than 3.5 million sole traders at the start of 2020, up 28% from 2.8 million at the start of 2010.

Isha Patel, small business insurance expert at Hiscox, said:

“The career advice to ‘do what you love’ is front and centre among the impressive number of sole traders who are now making a living from their hobby. Our findings show that those business owners with a passion for their work have a 55% higher turnover on average than other sole traders, which just goes to show the impressive economic impact that passion for the day job can have when it comes to running a successful small business.”

Lee Chambers, Psychologist, said:

“Passion is an incredibly powerful emotion, and in business, it can help to drive a positive mindset and a ‘never say die’ attitude for business owners. Launching a business on your own can be a daunting experience, so having enthusiasm for the world you are operating in can give business owners that extra boost to keep going, and the edge over competitors. The last few years have been a time to reset for many, with lots of people reconsidering their priorities when it comes to the world of work, and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more people turning to a more independent way of working in the years ahead.”

Additional data and case studies are available on request.

[1] Sole traders accounted for £169 billion of the total £4.5 trillion UK private sector turnover estimated at the start of 2021. 23.5% of sole traders said their business was previously a hobby, and 23.5% of £169 billion is £39.6 billion.


About the research

The research was conducted by Opinium between 9th and 14th February 2022. Its findings are based on responses from 503 sole traders in the UK.


The research, carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), was based on a bespoke survey of over 500 sole traders, alongside analysis of the annual business population estimates published by the Office for National Statistics.

Press contacts

If you have any questions about the release or the data please contact:


Greg Baker                         +44 (0) 20 7973 5983      [email protected]


Carmel McCarthy               +44 (0) 77 6928 0903      [email protected]  

About the Hiscox Group

Hiscox is a global specialist insurer, headquartered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). Our ambition is to be a respected specialist insurer with a diverse portfolio by product and geography. We believe that building balance between catastrophe-exposed business and less volatile local specialty business gives us opportunities for profitable growth throughout the insurance cycle.

The Hiscox Group employs over 3,000 people in 14 countries, and has customers worldwide. Through the retail businesses in the UK, Europe, Asia and the USA, we offer a range of specialist insurance for professionals and business customers as well as homeowners. Internationally traded, bigger ticket business and reinsurance is underwritten through Hiscox London Market and Hiscox Re & ILS.

Our values define our business, with a focus on people, courage, ownership and integrity. We pride ourselves on being true to our word and our award-winning claims service is testament to that. For more information, visit

About The Centre for Economics and Business Research

The Centre for Economics and Business Research is an independent consultancy with a reputation for sound business advice based on thorough and insightful research. Since 1992, Cebr has been at the forefront of business and public interest research. They provide analysis, forecasts, and strategic advice to major UK and multinational companies, financial institutions, government departments and agencies and trade bodies. For further information about Cebr, please visit

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