How To Be Self-Employed (With Steps and Career Options)

Updated 31 March 2023

Self-employment is a career opportunity where a professional works independently rather than for a company. Becoming self-employed has many potential benefits, including greater flexibility in your schedule and location. If you're interested in becoming self-employed, learning more about this opportunity could help you decide if it's right for you and, if so, how you can get started. In this article, we provide the potential benefits of being self-employed, show how to be self-employed and list career paths you can explore.

Read more: Be Your Own Boss in 8 Steps

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How to be self-employed

The following steps can help you learn how to be self-employed:

1. Explore your career options

The first step in becoming self-employed is exploring your career options. Becoming self-employed is a great time to think about your passions. Self-employed professionals often have more flexibility in their hours and responsibilities, and it may be a great opportunity to design your ideal career. Also, starting and operating your own business can take time and effort, and choosing a field you're interested in may help increase your chances of success.

Consider making a list of your interests, skills and experiences when choosing a career path. Then, you can use this list to think about potential careers. For example, if you love photography, you may be interested in becoming a freelance photographer.

Read more:

  • How to Explore Your Career Options (With Guide and Tips)

  • How To Find Your Passion

2. Choose your speciality

After selecting a career field, consider taking time to focus on a speciality. Think about the services or products you can offer. Also, consider who your potential customers may be and what problems you can help them solve. By focusing on a specialty, you may create a detailed business plan that can help you succeed as a self-employed professional.

For example, if you're interested in photography, you might consider narrowing your speciality more by choosing certain services to offer. You might specialise in wedding photography or professional headshots. By selecting a focused service, you may reach a more targeted audience.

3. Explore and analyse your market

Before launching your self-employment career, consider exploring and analysing your market. This includes researching your competition. You may make a list of companies or professionals offering similar services. Try to find out what products or services they sell, what their prices are, how they advertise them and who their target audience is. Then you can compare your analysis with your own business plan.

For example, if you want to become a self-employed freelance writer, you might look at other writers in your speciality. You can compare their services and prices. This may help you begin your own freelance plans.

4. Create goals

Using your market research, you can make short-term and long-term goals for yourself. You can use these goals to evaluate your success and make changes as necessary. Try to be as specific as possible when writing your goals by using SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. This means they're detailed and realistic with deadlines.

This can help you measure your growth and track your progress. For example, you might have a goal to gain 15 new clients in your first quarter. At the end of your first quarter, you can compare your results with your initial goal. If you met your goal, you might set a higher objective for the next quarter. If you had less than 15 new clients, you might revisit your plans to create a more effective marketing strategy.

Read more: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

5. Draft your initial business plan

You can use your goals to create a strategic business plan. To help you make a plan, consider what steps you can take to help you reach your goals. For example, if you want to sell your products to 100 customers in your first year, you might first create a plan to grow your audience by adding a new marketing strategy or using advertisements.

As part of your plan, consider the tools and strategies you can use to help your business succeed. For example, if you want to become an independent videographer, you may need to purchase or rent your own video equipment. Consider your initial expenses and how you plan to fund them before beginning your independent business.

6. Make a transition plan

After creating your business plan, consider creating a transition plan to help you move into a self-employed role. If you're planning on leaving your current role, you may need to give your employer notice. Consider reviewing your company's policies to ensure you provide enough notice.

Some professionals decide to begin self-employment as a part-time role or a side job. For example, if you're interested in becoming a freelance web developer and you currently have another full-time job, you may offer freelance web developing services on the weekend or after work. This can help you develop your skills and grow your network connections. As you grow your business, you may decide to move into a full-time freelance position.

Related: 20 Side Jobs To Generate Additional Income

7. Complete administrative tasks

You can begin completing the administrative tasks involved in becoming self-employed. If you're launching a new business, you may choose a business name. You may also create a website or social media for your new company or services. If you're working as a freelancer, consider creating a portfolio reflecting your skills and services.

8. Register with the Business Registration Service

Before launching your business or freelance services, you can register with the Business Registration Service to get an Australian Business Number (ABN). Self-employed professionals use this number to file their taxes and invoice their clients. You may register for an ABN online as a freelancer, contractor or sole trader.

9. Launch and grow your business

Once you have your ABN, you may begin your self-employed career. Depending on your services and needs, you may work remotely from your home or you can rent an office location. Consider marketing your services or products to help you grow your business.

Self-employed careers

If you want to be self-employed, you can work in a wide variety of career areas. Here are some common self-employed career paths you can take, with some sample job titles:


A freelancer is a skilled individual that offers services to clients on a contract-free basis. Freelance work offers maximum flexibility in terms of pay, responsibilities and deadlines. You may begin your freelance career as a side job or part-time opportunity. Freelancers enjoy the ability to work remotely in many cases as well, further increasing the flexibility offered by being self-employed.

Freelancers can work for multiple clients at one time, increasing revenue streams and professional connections. Some common freelancing jobs include:

  • Journalist

  • Copywriter

  • Copyeditor

  • Photographer

  • Videographer

  • Graphic designer

  • Web designer

  • Web developer

  • Accountant

  • Virtual assistant

  • Real estate agent

Related: How Does Freelancing Work? (With Pros and Cons to Consider)

Independent contractor

An independent contractor is similar to a freelancer, but they work on a contract basis. This means they sign a contract with a company to work with them for a specified period of time. They may also sign a contract agreeing to work on a single project. The client has full control over the outcome of the project. For example, a business owner may hire an independent contractor to complete a new building.

Independent contractors often enjoy the same flexibility as freelancers, but they're more adherent to the customer's specific requirements. The contractor and the client usually decide the pay structure for an independent contractor. Contractors can include:

  • Construction contractor

  • Carpenter

  • Driver

  • Brand ambassador

  • Hairstylist

  • Plumber

  • Electrician

  • Painter

  • Mason

  • Event planner

  • Consultant

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship also called a sole trader, is when you own your own business. Freelancers and independent contractors may own their businesses, offering services and goods to others as part of a sole proprietorship, or you can become a franchise or small business owner. These professionals may have flexibility, depending on their industry and services.

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Benefits of being self-employed

Self-employment offers many potential benefits, including:

  • Flexible schedule: Self-employed workers often have the option to choose their own work schedules. Choosing your own schedule can help you make time for other things in life besides work, such as family, friends or hobbies.

  • Flexible pay: Self-employed people often have the ability to choose hourly or annual rates for their work. They may also have the added flexibility of choosing their own health insurance, life insurance and other benefits through private providers.

  • Independence: Many people choose self-employment because it offers more independence. Self-employed people act as their own managers and can make independent choices in terms of their daily tasks and schedule.

  • Job security: In traditional companies, you may experience downsizing or other changes in your employment. When you're self-employed, you may have more job security.

  • Tax benefits: Depending on your location and career, you may experience additional tax benefits as a self-employed professional. Independent business owners may write off some of their business expenses.

  • More personal connection with customers: As a self-employed professional, you might interact more with customers. They may contact you directly, which can help you make meaningful connections.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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