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Self-employment

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If the idea of being your own boss is attractive, you might be thinking of becoming self-employed. Self-employment presents both opportunities and risks., You should give some serious thought to what you have to offer and what you will need.

Having what it takes to be self-employed

Self-employment isn’t the right career option for everyone. Think through the skills, values, knowledge and experience that you already have. A good place to start is to complete a skills audit. Identify your core values too, as this will help you to recognise what you need to stay motivated in building and running your business or freelance work. Additionally, you can market yourself according to those values. See our careers self-assessment pages for more help.

Generating ideas

List self-employment roles that interest and challenge you as well as considering whether there is a market for the trades, services or roles you could offer.

A market for your ideas

Before setting yourself up as self-employed, it is essential to carry out market research to assess the feasibility of your ideas. How many similar or replica services or businesses are already operating in the geographical area you intend to operate in? What is the average price being charged, operating hours and location?

Having the edge over competitors

What would be different and an improvement about your service or business compared to others offering the same products or services.

Financing your business

Consider the options for financing your business. Will you use a business loan or privately fund your business? Create a business plan which details short, medium and long term financial planning.

Writing a business plan

Market research information you collect can be used to develop a business plan, which is essential if you intend to apply for funding. Free sample UK business plans are available at GOV.UK: write a business plan.

Advantages and disadvantages of becoming self-employed

There are many advantages to being your own boss such as:

  • Managing your own time and workload.
  • Developing your career in your own way.
  • Independence from organisational processes and constraints and control over you work environment.

Consider the drawbacks to see if self-employment is for you. You will:

  • Be responsible for all aspects of your business including financial responsibility, such as budgeting for wages, sick and holiday pay.
  • Have to organise suitable premises for yourself and your employees.
  • Have to deal with unexpected issues that could impact on your personal circumstances.

What self-employed OU students think

The attractions of being self-employed

"Independence, excitement, adventure, learning, personal development, thrills and disappointments – an emotional rollercoaster which is never boring!"

The first steps

"My first business plan was fundamentally wrong, but every journey must start from somewhere. The planning started a conversation with myself and others, and through that dialogue I learnt and grew."

Useful links

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