Connectivity proves critical as more than half of entrepreneurs run a business from their phone

  • Better mobile and broadband connectivity helping budding entrepreneurs as 30% of UK workers gear up to start an online business or side hustle in 2023
  • Phones top list of tech tools used to run a business, as part of a push for greater flexibility
  • National study by BT finds that social media and websites are now more important than a bricks and mortar presence for entrepreneurs

Research unveiled by BT Business today demonstrates the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit stands strong in 2023, with more than four in ten (44%) of the workforce revealing that they would like to start a business or side hustle in 2023. And with technology and improved connectivity making things easier than ever, almost one in three (30%) UK workers are looking to start up online. 

The survey found that almost three quarters (73%) of those already running a business or side hustle feel they couldn’t do so without reliable broadband and mobile connectivity. Mobile phones are now rated the number one device for managing a business – with 59% choosing their phone as the top tech tool to run their operations – outstripping laptops and desktop computers*.

The research uncovered the critical importance of reliable connectivity for today’s small businesses, as 41% of entrepreneurs now run their business solely online, with no in-person presence. The study also highlighted the economic benefits of being a digital entrepreneur, finding that social media, their own website and e-commerce platforms are all now more important than bricks-and-mortar locations for driving sales**.

The new data from BT Business highlighted that the cost-of-living crisis is driving UK-based entrepreneurs to take the plunge – with making extra cash the top motivation for those who have already started a business (28% of respondents agreed).

Flexibility is another motivator for current entrepreneurs, with breaking free from the “traditional 9 to 5” (26%) and being able to work from anywhere in the world (22%) cited as other top reasons for having launched a business in the digital age.

Choosing when and where they work is also key for those in the UK workforce still thinking about starting their own business this year. 38% say that the benefit of launching their own online business or side hustle would be fitting it around other priorities, such as family. 34% would like to do it around their current day job, and the same proportion (34%) are drawn to being able to run their business from anywhere in the world.

 Improvements in connectivity have helped to spread the economic benefit of digital entrepreneurship across the UK, with over two thirds (69%) of those surveyed saying technology has empowered them to run their businesses in more rural areas of the country, away from cities.

Social media in particular is playing an important role. Almost a third (30%) of entrepreneurs feel excited about the role that social media plays in running their business. While over three quarters (76%) of today’s business owners rely on social media platforms or an online presence to drive sales.

However, as with all fast-paced advancements, many can be left feeling lost and confused – highlighting the importance of digital skills for today’s “techpreneurs”. The survey data highlighted a proportion of business owners do not feel positive about the role of social media. A fifth (20%) feel “behind the times”, 16% feel “stressed”, and others are feeling “anxious” and “confused”.

“From side hustles at the kitchen table to start-ups and scale-ups, at BT Business we recognise that reliable and fast connectivity is the backbone of small and medium businesses up and down the UK,” explains Chris Sims, Managing Director – Small and Medium Enterprise, BT.

“As digital entrepreneurialism goes from strength to strength, our networks are processing more data than ever. That’s why we’re committed to providing the very best broadband availability, speeds, and mobile connectivity for all of our customers – and investing in upskilling more small businesses to help them unlock their digital earning potential.”

Mobile data usage amongst BT business customers has grown 16% year-on-year in the last three years. The network reported its highest volume of data processed ever on Boxing Day 2022.

As the reliance on digital tools grows, the BT Business team investigated how prepared entrepreneurs feel when it comes to using tech to boost their business. Of those surveyed, 76% expressed a desire to improve their digital skills. Out of this group, 24% want to focus on targeting the right audience online, 21% want to improve their understanding of social media, and another 19% want to strengthen their cyber security skills.

Business owners also recognise the positive impact these improved digital skills can have on their profits – with 35% agreeing it will help them boost sales and reach new audiences. Other benefits cited include saving money (26%) and time (25%).

To help bridge the gap, and support small business owners in improving their digital skills, BT offers a range of courses specifically targeted to work life as part of its Digital Skills initiative. These courses are free to access, and cover a wide variety of topics including digital marketing and social media, helping to address the challenges faced by entrepreneurs navigating the modern SME landscape.

To date, more than 750,000 businesses have benefited from digital skills training support from BT – against a wider backdrop of 5.47 million small businesses across the UK, contributing £2.1 trillion to the economy***.

Stacey Kehoe, founder of Brandlective Communications, is a BT Business customer who has benefitted from the free digital skills courses. She explains: “With so much uncertainty around the economy, it can be hard to feel like you have control over your business. However, preparing yourself through training is a great way to stay ahead, ensuring you have the necessary skills to move forwards. Get out there and learn new skills, who knows where it could take your business.” 


Research conducted by Opinium of 2,000 UK Adults, including 500 people who run their own business or side hustle, between 30 December 2022 – 05 January 2023

*The devices most used by Brits to manage their businesses are phones (59%) and laptops (53%).

**Websites are the channel which sees the most sales for those with a business or side hustle (30%), closely followed by social media (28%). Ecommerce marketplaces (18%) and bricks and mortar locations (16%) are also key for generating income.

*** National small business data taken from: ‘BUSINESS POPULATION ESTIMATES FOR THE UK AND THE REGIONS 2022’, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, October 2022

About BT Group

BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile telecommunications and related secure digital products, solutions and services. We also provide managed telecommunications, security and network and IT infrastructure services to customers across 180 countries. 

BT Group consists of three customer-facing units: Consumer serves individuals and families in the UK; BT Business* covers companies and public services in the UK and internationally; Openreach is an independently governed, wholly owned subsidiary wholesaling fixed access infrastructure services to its customers - over 650 communication providers across the UK. 

British Telecommunications plc is a wholly owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about

*BT Business was formed on 1 January 2023 from the combination of the former Enterprise and Global units.  It will commence reporting as a single unit from 1 April 2023, with pro forma reporting information to be produced ahead of BT Group’s Q1 FY24 results.