Never mind the widely lauded SME, this is the age of the one man band and indeed the one woman band, as more of us strike out on our own and build the bedrock of the modern economy. OPB (One Person Bands) are not just freelancers and should not be confused with SMEs. From dancers to software designers, cleaners to carers, tech heads to architects, they are the self employed, self motivated fire starters of the future, who are rapidly complementing those in traditional jobs, assuming their positions in the mainstream, and not the sidelines of the UK economy.

OPBs contributed £119 bn to the UK economy last year, a rise of £10 billion from the previous year, according to a study by their industry body IPSE. They continue to be the fastest-growing segment of the wider self-employed population, making up more than half the sector. Today, their contribution is still under appreciated, however, partly because of definition.  While SMEs enjoy a high level of awareness and understanding, of support and recognition, especially in the Brexit climate, the micro economy does not.  

OPBs are crucial contributors to our economic world as individuals, but their collective power base has yet to be properly defined or recognised.  They are referred to as freelancers, contractors, sole traders, part time workers or even limited companies. They are scooped up into that popular but increasingly erroneous collective catch all that tries to explain modern corporate staffing policies and shifting work patterns - the gig economy. But it is a misnomer, because the truth is they define themselves as their own bosses, not as part of somebody else’s understanding, but as individuals.  This will change, because the stars are aligning for them.

There are two key reasons behind the rise of this new economic powerhouse.  Firstly, lifestyle. People are demanding greater levels of flexibility and less rigidity from their employers.  The desire to tend for family, to take time off when one feels like, to work on one’s own terms has tipped the balance. Wherever you look, companies are trying to retain talent by loosening the traditional constraints that bound the worker to the employee, responding to new expectations with new flexibility.  The gig economy is in part a reaction to the desire of people to enter the workforce on their own terms.

Most important however, is the advent of technology, which has made it far simpler for OPBs to take control and manage their workloads. Being one’s own boss can be compromised by the necessities of admin and the whims of banks who have not always welcomed those with irregular income and status.  But just as software has become affordable and simple to use, so have smartphones introduced newly empowering financial technology.

A lady who has traditionally taken in ironing and paid in cash, is now an app enabled fintech heroine who connects her bank account to that of the customer, invoices on her smartphone on the go, knows when the invoice has been opened and is often paid by return by a happy customer.  This is nothing short of remarkable. A sparkie traditionally paid in tenners is just as likely to be paid over Amazon via the same ipad the customer uses to skype his grandchildren.

These intelligent, real time, connected financial apps comes in many shapes and sizes, often leaving the banks playing catch up.  These days, your smartphone can manage your finances in ways that were not even possible three years ago. Online and offline channels are increasingly being integrated and cashless payment apps are fast becoming the norm.  At Albert, we created an invoicing and expenses app that saves customers hours every week. Invoices can be drawn up immediately on mobile devices, not after work when people would rather relax. Expenses can be photographed and indexed, invoices can be sent, tracked and monitored, alerts can be sounded when money has been received or once an invoice has been opened, (making it harder for a customer to say it has not been received).

Apps can be connected to a current, or business account, so that what goes out, what comes in, and what’s pending can all be tracked in real time, giving  a rounded, accurate picture of where the freelancer stands. The cost of hiring accountant can be kept in check too, with a single electronic download - not a shoe box full of receipts.

As the OPBs step into the limelight, the financial world is opening up to them.  Now we want politicians, traditional financial institutions and regulators to adapt to the new realities, with similar levels of forward looking innovation.

In the meantime, to all those thinking of going it alone, you won’t be. There’s a lot of financial software, as well as a shifting workplace culture out there waiting to welcome you. Whether you are already your own boss, or contemplating it, whether you’re worried about the admin that enslaves the entrepreneur, or are already its master, or mistress, you are part of a growing army of self employed entrepreneurs for whom financial innovations and arrangements are combining to ensure that OPBs find their feet in a dynamic, fit for purpose modern economy.

Ivo Weevers, CEO, Pocket Bookkeeper App

Ivo Weevers is CEO and Co Founder of pocket bookkeeper app Albert -, the best reviewed bookkeeping app on the UK Apple app store with over 2,500 five-star ratings and six times featured by Apple.