Small firms are optimistic for 2024 as they go for growth

Written by: Rachel Miller

Date: 8 April 2024

A female entrpreneur is looking forward to a more successful 2024

A new survey of small businesses has found that two-thirds of UK business owners and freelancers say they expect to do better in 2024 compared to last year.

Business owners are in optimistic mood, despite concerns about the economy, according to the 2024 annual survey of small businesses conducted by Atom Content Marketing, publishers of the Donut websites.

The findings suggest that growth is the key ambition for UK SMEs, with 66% reporting that they expect to do better this year than last and 32% revealing that they plan to start a new business.

It means that a significant number of owners expect their business to outperform the economy - only 24% expect the UK economy to improve this year; one in four say the economy will remain the same and 28% say it will get worse.

All change in 2024?

Concerns about the economy and rising prices remain uppermost, however, with 16% citing these factors as their main worry. Other key concerns are: cash flow and funding, political change and work-life balance.

Survey respondents are mainly business owners (48%), freelancers and sole traders (26%) or directors (19%). Most owners say their business is at the growth stage (29%), 22% are established, 18% are start-ups and 18% are pre-launch. Just 8% say they run mature businesses, possibly looking for an exit. One in three (32%) say they are planning to start a new business this year.

The top five marketing tactics for small businesses

Marketing is a key focus for the small businesses polled, with 53% respondents saying that they plan to spend more on marketing in 2024. However, 43% say they have no plans to increase their marketing budget.

The top five ways that business owners plan to market their business this year are:

  • Social media posts;
  • Email marketing;
  • Online advertising;
  • Local advertising;
  • Exhibitions and events.

When it comes to business challenges, respondents report that the legacy of the pandemic is still having an impact. Other key struggles include: getting website traffic, finding new clients and managing finances. Almost one in five say they plan to build a new website.

The joys of being your own boss

When asked "What's the best thing about working for yourself?", respondents cited:

  • The freedom of being self-employed;
  • Creativity and problem-solving;
  • Having autonomy and independence - not having to do someone else's bidding;
  • Choosing projects that are personally interesting and engaging;
  • Managing your own time and working at your own pace.

What I wish I'd know before I started a business

A number of key themes emerged when respondents were asked what they wish they'd known before they started their business. These included:

  • The importance of strategic planning and understanding the market;
  • The need for support - from teams, networks or partnerships;
  • The learning curve associated with starting a business;
  • The time it takes to do tasks like setting up a website and chasing invoices;
  • Balancing work-life commitments and managing wellbeing;
  • The importance of financial planning;
  • Understanding marketing strategies, especially social media.

You can find the full results on the Start Up Donut blog.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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