The Enterprise Fairytale – InBiz Style

If you’d like to manage your work around your life, self-employment may be the answer for you. All it takes is a bright idea and the determination to succeed.

InBiz – advert in RAW Magazine and TMP Website (emphases are mine)

This is another one for the Advertising Standards Authority in my opinion.  The implication that all you need is a bright idea and some determination and “hey presto!”.  Anyone can surely muster these resources?  The implications of such a message are both absurd, hurtful and unhelpful.

  • No hint of risk or downsides to self employment
  • No hint of the challenges involved in succeeding at self employment in an increasingly competitive environment.
  • No mention of the tensions and strains that a decision to go self employed might put on relationships with families and friends – or how it could end up in increased debt.

A naive and incredible appeal to the hopeless, the gullible and the many who are referred by the Job Centre at pain of losing their benefits entitlement if they don’t give it a go.  After all it only needs a bright idea and the determination to succeed (subtext “What IS wrong with you people?).

Of course I understand why we do it.

It works in the short term to get people through the door and onto our programmes so that we can trigger payments from funders.  Until of course the truth about this brand becomes widely understood.  It might work for a minority but for most it will be yet another false dawn – simply adding to feelings of learned helplessness.  But then we just repackage and rebrand the offer and it is BIG Business as usual.  If these services are so very good, and all it requires is a bright idea and some determination then how come the worklessness problem is so persistent?

We must start to be much more honest with people.  A bright idea helps.  Determination is good too.  But it might also take months or years of skill development.  Hours and hours of hard graft pushing for business and dealing with customers.  A credit history that allows you to borrow and invest at the right time.  A degree of financial literacy to ensure that you are not ripped of by lenders. Family and friends who are supportive and understanding.  A resourcefulness and resilience to get through some really tough times. And in my experience a lot of luck too.

Self employment is a double edged sword.  For some it transforms their lives for the better.  Much better.  For some it becomes just another attempt to get off benefits.  For some it results in serious indebtedness, misery and worse.

Until we start to build an honest dialogue with people that we purport to help about the nature of our products and services and provide long term, skilled, person centred support that mobilises the resources of the community to help people to make progress then I am afraid we are likely to make little impact on JSA figures.

(With thanks to Charlotte for pointing out this line.)


  1. Harry Fortune says:

    I’ve come across the Inbiz programme and it really only suits a very small amount of people. The people who I have spoken to, who have been part of it, as a last resort to keep their benefits and also to consider self employment. These people have found the scheme has really knocked their confidence as they are almost forced to start their business in 13 weeks. And if this doesn’t look likely after their first one or two sessions then they are ditched – the system knocking them sideways yet again. The programme works well if you are almost ready to start, both mentally, financially and with your skills base. One of the great parts of the Inbiz scheme where I am was the opportunity to test trade without locing your benefits. You then save up all your profit and this helps with the transisiton as you cannot access your profits until your start properly. A great idea – but from what I gather no longer available.

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