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Self-Employment Planning for People With a Developmental Disability

Self-employment comes with many rewards. You can do what you love, choose when and where to work, stay active, and give back to people in your community.

You can do work that matches your skills and the needs you have related to your disability. You’ll also feel proud of what you accomplish.

Keep in mind that self-employment takes dedication and determination. Your skills—what you’re good at—have to match what other people or businesses need. The work you choose has to involve things you can do when living with a developmental disability. You might need to call on family, friends, or a work partner to make a go of it.

Know what you’re good at

The first step is to figure out what type of work you want to do. Many people who are self-employed do work they’re interested in or passionate about. Think over these questions:

  • What do you like to do? Are there tasks in your house or in the community that you enjoy? Do you have a hobby, or something you’re really interested in, that you could turn into a business?
  • What don’t you like to do?
  • What do you do well? Have you learned skills as a volunteer? For example, if you’re really good at fixing things, maybe you could start a small repair shop.
  • Many different kinds of skills can help you in any job, including self-employment. Which of these skills do you have? Do you need to learn other skills? Is there someone who could help you with them?

Look around at where you live, where you go to school, and the people you like to hang out with. Is there a need in your community that isn’t being met? Something people want, or that could help them? Thinking about these things can give you some great business ideas.

Be creative when you think about what kind of job you want to do. Talk to other people who are self-employed. You might be surprised at how people have turned their ideas into a successful business.

In this video, 3 young adults with developmental disabilities have started their own businesses with the help of their caregivers. Now when they go to work, they’re doing what they love:

Exploring Self-Employment Opportunities for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (5:25)

This video describes the value of being self-employed for people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. It highlights 3 successful businesses and how they got started.

What do you need to make it work?

You know the work you want to do. Now it’s time to figure out how you’re going to do it. Succeeding as an entrepreneur takes careful planning, and there are some extra steps you should take when you live with a developmental disability. Do your research so the decisions you make are right for you. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Where will you do your work?
  • How will your disability affect the work you want to do? Do you need short work days or someone to help you run the business? Will you need supports to be successful?
  • What training will you need?
  • Do you have a business plan? Who could help with that? Explore Alberta’s resources for small businesses and specialized programs like Entrepreneurs with Disabilities, which can help you prepare for and start a business.
  • Who will do the day-to-day business jobs? You, or someone working with you, will need to make sure your business avoids common pitfalls. Who will make sure you have the right licences, your accounts are up to date, and your taxes get paid?
  • How much will it cost to start and run your business? People who own a similar business might talk with you about what to expect and what you’ll need to get started.
  • Where will you find the money to start your business?
  • How much money do you need to earn?
  • How will people find out about your business?
  • Who can you call on for help if you need it?

Could self-employment change my income support?

If you earn money from your self-employment, it might affect the income support or services you now get from government programs such as:

Make sure you check with every program that you connect with, to see what difference self-employment might make.

Find out more about self-employment

Remember, you need to plan carefully to become self-employed. Reach out and get the help you need from family, friends, and caregivers. Having your own business can be fun and rewarding—you’ll learn new skills, meet people, and do the work you love.

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