What is Self Employment? Everything You Need to Know

Interested in self employment? Great!

Becoming self employed can be exciting, scary, and rewarding. You can be your own boss, set your hours, work from home, and spend more time with your family!

No wonder self employment is on the rise.

According to a 2019 study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, more than 57 million Americans were engaged in freelancing  in 2019– one of the most popular types of self employment.

Upwork/Freelancers Union Report on Freelancing in 2019

But what is self employment? What exactly are the advantages of self employment? 

In this article, you’ll learn all about self employment and types of self employment. And stick around until the end for a list of 50 top self employment ideas.

What is Self Employment?

The term “self employed” means that someone earns money by working for themselves instead of for another person or company. In other words, it’s like being a one-person business.


Here are five quick examples of self employment:

Freelance writerIndependent business consultantLocal handypersonFood truck ownerFarmers

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you’re considered self employed if you:

Carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor.Are a member of a partnership that carries on a trade or business.Are otherwise in business for yourself (including a part-time business).

Now, let’s take a closer look at some common types of self employment.

Types of Self Employment

People who work for themselves go by many different names. Most prefer the general terms “independent worker” and “self employed.”

However, self employed individuals go by names that provide more insight into the type of self employment they’re involved in.

How freelancers describe themselves graph

Let’s take a closer look at some different types of self employment.


A freelancer is someone who provides services to clients with no expectation of ongoing work. Many freelancers work with multiple clients at a time. Common examples include freelance writers, designers, and photographers. With nearly two-thirds of freelancers finding work online checking out remote job sites where you can find this type of work easily should be your first port of call.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors provide services under the terms of a written or verbal contract. These contracts can be project-based or time-based. 

Some independent contractors work full-time for one company and resemble an employee. However, as an independent contractor, they’re responsible for paying their own Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Common examples include realtors, web developers, and project managers.

Small Business Owners

The term small business owner is broad and can apply to any small business that sells products or services. Generally speaking, most small business owners work to develop a sustainable business with systems and processes.

Common examples include owners of mom-and-pop stores, independent cafes, and ecommerce businesses.

Side Hustlers

This type of self employment refers to people who earn money working for themselves while also being employed by others full-time or part-time.

For example, a journalist employed by a newspaper might also write freelance articles for other publications. Or a full-time employee could work 10 hours a week doing something they love like getting a photography business up and running.

Advantages of Self Employment

Why be self employed?

According to the study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, most full-time freelancers prefer to be self employed because it allows them to have a more flexible lifestyle.

Additionally, the self employed want to:

Be their own bossWork from the location of their choosingChoose the projects they work onHave a schedule that enables them to pursue their personal goals.Be in control of their financial futureHave independence from factors such as office dynamicsBe free to pursue work they’re passionate about or find meaningfulHave the ability to pivot their skills and projects when it suitsSpend more time with family

Why people choose to be a freelancer

Self employment also opens up opportunities for individuals who would prefer not to work for a traditional employer due to personal circumstances, such as a disability, the need to take care of a loved one, or being a single parent.

But isn’t self employment insecure and unpredictable?

You can think of freelancing as volatile and risky, or as flexible and opportunity-rich,” said Sara Horowitz, author of The Freelancer’s Bible. “Doesn’t having multiple sources of income and multiple money-making skills sound less risky than putting all your eggs in one employer’s basket? Freelancing lets you shift gears when the world does.”

The Downside of Self Employment

It would be unfair to say that there are only advantages to self employment. There are some disadvantages to it also. 

For instance you need to find clients, and work on your sales abilities so you can generate profit, and pay the rent. 

You also need to be a jack of all trades also. From marketing, sales, project management, client management, customer service, payroll, invoicing, and so much more, self employment forces you out of your comfort zone, and into learning new things every day.

Finally you might work alone most of the time, so you may not have a good support system in place, like if you were working within a team of people. This can lead to mental health issues, that you need to nip in the bud as soon as possible. Signing up for mindfulness classes, attended events for people in similar situations, and maintaining a good physical and social calendar can help to ensure your mental health doesn’t suffer when you become self employed.  

50 Best Self Employment Ideas

Interested in self employment opportunities? Here’s a list of 50 self employment ideas to inspire your journey!

Self Employment Ideas That Allow You to Harness Your Internet Savvy1. Join an affiliate program2. Become a social media influencer3. Model for brands and creators4. Start a blog5. Be a YouTuber and make money6. Manage social media campaigns and accountsSell Goods Online with These Self Employment Opportunities7. Sell products online with Shopify8. Dropship products online with Oberlo9. Sell print-on-demand products online10. Sell your homemade creations on EtsySelf Employment Opportunities That Take Advantage of Your Work or Career Experience11. Teach English online12. Tutor maths, sciences, or the arts13. Edit and proofread for students14. Write marketing and sales copy 15. Create web content for businesses16. Write an ebook17. Create and sell an online courseOffer Your Professional Services with These Self Employment Ideas18. Sell your graphic design services19. Offer web development services20. Become a portrait, event, or wedding photographer21. Sell your stock photos on BurstShutterstockPexels, and iStock22. Edit photos, audio, or video23. Become an interior designer24. Keep books or do accounting25. Consult on marketing, management, or advertising strategies26. Create IT solutions for local businesses27. Repair home electronicsSelf Employment Ideas That Utilize Your People Skills28. Coach others on their careers29. Be a motivational speaker30. Coach people on public speakingPut Your Organization Skills to Work with These Self Employment Opportunities31. Plan events and weddings32. Be a personal or virtual assistantSelf Employment Ideas That Allow You to Employ Your Life Experience33. Babysit or nanny34. Walk or sit pets35. Tailor clothes and other household items like curtains, drapery, and linen36. Clean houses and commercial spaces37. Offer decluttering and organizational services38. Pack and unpack for movers39. Be a gardener40. Be a personal cook or food catererPut Your Training to Work with These Self Employment Opportunities41. Teach yoga, pilates, or dance42. Be a personal fitness trainer43. Work as a freelance barber or a hairdresser44. Do professional make up for special occasions, events, or film sets45. Be a personal shopper46. Become a massage therapistSelf Employment Ideas that Allow You to Work With Your Talents47. Do voice-overs48. Create a podcast49. Sing or dance at events and venues50. DJ at parties or eventsSummary: Becoming Self Employed  

Self employment is the process of earning money from your own endeavors, instead of being employed by someone else. 

Self employed individuals go by different names, such as freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners.

There are tons of advantages to self employment, too. Many people enjoy being self employed because they can be their own boss, have a flexible schedule, and work from home.

All in all, employment isn’t for everyone. If you’re one of these people, you might agree with businessman and speaker Farrah Gray, who said, “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

Want to Learn More?10 Small Business Statistics Every Future Entrepreneur Should Know10 Best Side Hustle Ideas to Make Extra Money20 Online Jobs That You Can Start10 Obvious Signs You Should be Working for Yourself

Read more: oberlo.com

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