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Self-Employment: Skills and Experience

To succeed at running your own business, it helps if you already have certain skills and experience. If you don’t, you can get them before you launch your business. In fact, you may already have more skills than you think, thanks to previous job or life experiences.

Examples of skills and experience

Business experience is about knowing common terms in your industry, ways of working, and many other factors that affect a business, such as who to talk to when you need something.

Categories of skills and experiences that can set you up for success include

  • Education. Whether you went through college or university, or took a short-term course or certification, education can give you the right skills to start a business.
  • Business experience. If you’ve worked in a small business before, that’s an advantage. If not, ask for advice from a mentor, close friend, or relative who has.
  • Decision making. Quick decisions made without much thought are not always the right ones, but fretting about decisions is not good, either. Being able to make sound, informed decisions quickly is a key skill.
  • Money management. First-time business owners may spend too much money on the wrong things. Knowing how much to spend and on what is crucial.
  • Marketing. Knowing how to promote your product or service is key to your success. People tend to buy what they know about.
  • Communication. In any business, being able to communicate effectively with many types of people is vital. They may be subcontractors or clients, suppliers or funders. They may be hard to please, hard to get along with, or just unreliable. It’s best if you can be easygoing and pleasant no matter what.

Your own skills and experience

Think back to previous jobs you’ve had, even in childhood. Did you run a lemonade stand? Fundraise for a school trip? Make something and persuade others to buy it?

If so, you may have picked up business skills without knowing it. The real world of work may have helped as well. Did you learn about

  • customer service at a retail job?
  • accounting at a business?
  • marketing while studying or working in communications?
  • organization while doing—almost anything?
  • a combination of skills while volunteering?

You may also have natural skills, such as artistic talent, or the ability to talk to anybody. Or you may have picked up practical skills along the way, like building a website.

Think about the skills and experience entrepreneurs need. Then measure them against your skills and experience to see what you need to work on.


Entrepreneurs come from diverse work and learning backgrounds, and there are many ways to get the skills you need. Think about all the paid and unpaid jobs you’ve had over the years. Have they taught you to

√ take measured risks when necessary?
understand how starting a business might affect your lifestyle and income?
make sound decisions quickly and without too much worry?
tackle new situations with confidence and optimism?
pave your own path no matter what others think?
be confident about your ideas and plans?
let go of failures easily, but also learn from them?
ask questions when you don’t know something?
communicate effectively with all kinds of people?

If you answered yes to most of these, you are likely ready to start a business and see it succeed. But keep in mind that your skills and experience should be paired with the right traits and attitudes as well as habits and motivators, so look at those too.

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