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Self-Employment: Is it for Me?

When you are self-employed, you make your own work. You can do this by selling a product (such as handmade jewelry, home-baked cakes, or an app you’ve invented) or a service (such as house painting, graphic design, or hair styling).

There are many pathways to working for yourself. For example, you can buy a franchise, go into consulting, or become a contractor. What these all have in common is that you find and grow a client base and provide your products or services for a price. Often, it means just one person is running things: you.

Why become self-employed?

The reasons that people choose to be their own boss vary based on their goals, interests, and life stages. They may choose this path if

  • they have trouble finding a job that matches their skills and interests
  • they are trying to juggle work with caring for a child or a parent
  • they have retired but want to work part-time for extra income
  • they have just always known that this was what they wanted

Self-employment is a great option for people who have something unique they can make or do, as well as the drive to find their own leads and follow up on them. A few jobs where self-employment is common are

  • tutor
  • music teacher
  • plumber
  • house painter
  • writer or editor
  • film maker
  • building contractor
  • event planner
  • personal trainer

Self-employment vs. entrepreneurship: What’s the difference?

Although these words are often used to mean the same thing, they’re really not. An entrepreneur is nearly always self-employed, but not all self-employed people are entrepreneurs.

The term “entrepreneur” usually refers to someone who wants to build a growing business and employ at least a small workforce. Someone who simply works for themselves, without any staff, may not wish to scale up. Many contractors fall into this group.

Entrepreneurs also tend to take on more risk than those who are simply self-employed. For instance, they may take out loans to buy equipment, invest in technology, pay staff, fund research, and rent office space. In contrast, you can become self-employed with as little as a home office and a smart phone.

That said, some people who choose this path still assume a degree of risk. For example, if you make cabinets, you may need to invest in tools and supplies, a working space, business cards, and a website, even if you plan to work alone.

Who does the support work?

If you become an entrepreneur, you will likely hire people to perform the support work that keeps an office running from day to day. If you are self-employed, you likely do the support work yourself.

Say you decide to set up a business adapting homes for people with disabilities. You’ll use your construction skills every day. But you may also need to

  • answer emails
  • build and maintain a website
  • keep up with social media
  • build a network
  • keep your accounts up to date
  • create invoices
  • schedule projects
  • hire help when you’re busy

In other words, you may need to be a builder, marketer, accountant, secretary, customer service representative, and many other workers all in one.

That sounds busy—and perhaps a little daunting—but for many people, it holds appeal because it’s a chance to have total control over all aspects of a business.

And who knows? If it grows, you may find that you are an entrepreneur, after all.

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