Many people like to bake or take photographs in their spare time, but according to new research, a growing number are considering turning their hobby into a full-time business.

A recent study by Wix found that 50% of Brits aged between 25 to 35 are planning to launch an online company in 2017.

So what’s behind this entrepreneurial boom? Here’s more on the study and why millennials in particular are turning towards non-traditional roles.

Startup inspiration

According to Wix’s study, 44% of people would prefer to be their own boss rather than work for somebody else. Which is hardly surprising, I suppose?

However, one statistic that is quite startling is that over a quarter of people believe they could make up to £48,000 pounds a year if they turn their hobby into a business.

That’s quite a bold claim, especially taking into consideration the industries that people are interested in.

From those considering starting an online business in the coming months, 19.2% of people cited the startup category of cooking, while 18.5% cited baking, 18.3% photography and 16% sports.

As we can gather from this, there is a growing shift towards creative roles, with the majority choosing this over technology or finance-driven industries.

Interestingly, many respondents cited TV shows like the Great British Bake Off and The Apprentice as the inspiration for their own entrepreneurial goals, as well as motivational online content like TED Talks.

Similarly, with millennials now preferring to watch YouTube rather than traditional TV, perhaps we can also put it down to the example shown by social media influencers – a career path that is typically built on self-motivation and self-expression.

For younger generations, it is equally clear that happiness is a big motivation, with 49% of respondents saying that doing something they love is far more important than earning lots of money or having an impressive job title.

Luckily, digital companies do appear to be cottoning onto this trend, with many more introducing workplace initiatives to attract and retain talent, such as flexible and remote working and training opportunities.

Biggest hurdles

Despite an increased desire to work independently or become self-employed, there are undoubtedly still huge barriers to success.

Although 70% of Brits in the study said that finance was the biggest factor stopping them from launching a startup, 57% said a lack of marketing skills, while 49% said a lack of digital skills like SEO and analytics. This isn’t big news, of course.

Last year, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report on the ‘digital skills crisis’, highlighting the fact that 12.6m of the adult UK population lack basic digital skills.

The report urged the government to take action, calling for increased focus on digital skills in apprenticeships, universities and schools.

However, while an investment in education is certainly required, we cannot ignore the untapped potential that already exists within businesses, with many also calling on companies to ensure employees develop their digital competence.

Similarly, with 47% of employees having never taken steps to boost their digital skills - it is also vital for employers to promote the value of it.

Path to success

While the digital skills gap remains a big barrier for would-be entrepeneurs - and the reason why turning a hobby into an online business might remain a pipe dream rather than a reality for some - the desire to do so still reflects the change in how younger generations perceive work.

Alongside increased flexibility, this also boils down to the kind of work young people are keen to get involved in.

Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey showed that, despite being known as the “me me me” generation, millennials have a greater desire to work for companies that have a positive impact on society – with the majority agreeing that success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance.

In fact, millennials that intend to stay with their organisation for at least five years are far more likely to report a positive culture, with an alignment of values being incredibly important for job satisfaction.

Interestingly, this was also reflected in our series of interviews with the Top 100 Disruptive Brands of 2016, with executives citing shared values, creativity and a lack of ego as some of the skills and characteristics most valued by startups.

In conclusion...

With a growing percentage of young people looking into self-employment, it remains to be seen how the digital skills gap will affect the ratio of success to failure.

Perhaps then, if the UK Government succeeds in driving action to combat the issue, we can expect tomorrow's workforce - otherwise known as Generation Z - to be the real digital entrepreneurs of the future.

To see how your digital knowledge stacks up, take Econsultancy’s Digital Skills Index.

Or to improve your skills, you can also check out our range of digital marketing training courses.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 3 January, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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