Working for yourself

Find out what you need to think about if you want to be self-employed or start your own business, and where to get more information.

Instead of working for a company, you could consider working for yourself. Self-employment offers the opportunity to be your own boss. You could be working as an individual, as a freelancer, or sole-trader, or you could set up your own business. It can be hard work, and not all businesses succeed, but there are lots of rewards if you do well. 

What is the difference between self-employment and setting up your own business?

Self-employment means that you work for yourself as a freelancer or sole-trader. If you want to employ people, you need to set up a limited company or join a partnership. As the owner of a business, you are treated differently for tax purposes to a sole-trader. You are treated as both the owner of the business and an employee of that business. 

Some things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of working for yourself:

  • Do you have the training and skills you need to run your business? It’s really important you can do the job – for example, if you want to work as a camera operator, you need to be able to use a camera. Check out what you may need for various different careers in our explore jobs section.
  • You’ll need a sound business plan – this is a written statement of your business outlining how it will work, and, more importantly, how it will make money.
  • You’ll need to look into funding – this could be from private means, but more often takes the form of a bank loan or government grant.
  • Are you going to be working alone or will you be employing people? If you employ other people, there are certain things you’ll need to have in place.
  • Have you registered your business with the tax office? Whether you’re a business employing a few dozen people, or a sole-trader, you’ll need to inform HM Revenue & Customs that you’re trading, and fill in the appropriate tax paperwork.

Need more information?

There are a number of government advice services if you’re considering setting up a business. They can offer advice and information about grants and funding.

  • In England, you can call the Business Support Helpline on telephone: 0300 456 3565 or textphone: 0208 742 8620. They’re open Monday to Friday 09:00 – 18:00 (UK time).
  • In Northern Ireland, contact InvestNI.
  • In Scotland, contact Business Gateway.
  • In Wales, contact Business Wales.