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Self-Employment Planning for Individuals with a Developmental Disability

Self-employment comes with many rewards. For most people, it's having a sense of accomplishment while getting the chance to do what they love.

Self-employment can also allow individuals to be active and positive contributors within the community.

Self-employment may require hard work, dedication and ongoing commitment. It may also require support from friends, family and community partners. Being successful will mean matching the skills and interests of the individual with a disability with appropriate self-employment opportunities. It will also be important to keep in mind the business and community needs.

Identify skills for self-employment

Start by thinking about the likes, dislikes, skills and abilities of the individual with a disability. This information will be useful in forming the basis of self-employment. Consider:

  • tasks the person is already doing or enjoys doing around the house or in their community
  • skills used in volunteer work
  • essential skills that can translate into self-employment.

Self-employment ideas can come from almost anywhere. Look beyond the obvious. Be creative and let the passions of those involved guide potential business ideas. Look to community partners who work with the individual. People with personal experience in self-employment can help. So can people who know the individual's interests, strengths and passions.

For more self-employment ideas, check out this video.

Things to consider about self-employment

Think about the working conditions and supports needed for success. Consider these questions:

  • Where will the work take place?
  • Will training be needed to do the work?
  • Will an investment be needed, and if so, how much?
  • Who will market the business and how (personal contact, leaflets, social media, website, etc.)?
  • Who will handle practical, day-to-day business activities. These include meeting and following up with clients, scheduling work, licensing, accounting, taxes, etc.
  • Does the business have to break even or earn money, and if so, how much?
  • Are there community resources in place that can support the individual with planning?

It is important to have a support system that is willing to help. Reach out to someone who has their own business and can guide you through the process. There are also a number of online resources to help you get started:

  • Business Abilities helps people with disabilities explore self-employment career opportunities. Their website and YouTube channel provide resources to help research business ideas, prepare a business plan and start, manage and grow a business. The program is free.
  • Alis has a list of resources to help you with self-employment or running a small business.
  • The Government of Canada has a number of checklists and guides for starting a business.
  • Business Link is a non-profit organization that helps Albertans start small businesses. The website has information you might need when starting a small business.

How does self-employment affect income?

One of the many benefits of self-employment is that it generates income. Self-employment income may affect levels of income support received from government programs. Check with the program to ask how any income from self-employment may affect funding or services.

Challenges and rewards of self-employment

Developing new skills and being active in the community can be reasons enough to consider self-employment. Finding the right self-employment opportunity for a person with a disability will take planning and the help of friends, family and community partners.


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