In the last two decades self-employment in the UK has grown steadily, with around 4.21 million people now self-employed. The increase in the number of people working for themselves can be largely attributed to the internet, which has enabled people to work remotely, created more job opportunities and meant that products and services can be advertised to a wide audience.

There are many benefits to being self-employed. You have no one to answer to, you can keep all your profits, you can choose your own hours and you’ll be doing something you’re passionate about and skilled at.

If you’re considering a career change and would rather work for yourself than someone else, you might be wondering what self-employed jobs are available. In this article, we’ll give examples of some of the best self-employed careers, reveal the industries with the most self-employed people and talk more about the benefits of self-employment.

There are many lucrative and inventive ways to make money for yourself, but some of the best self-employed jobs include freelancing, tutoring, life coaching, pet sitting and influencing people on social media.

Other top self-employed careers include investing, buying and selling online, caring for the elderly and repairing things for people. 

Our top self-employed careers are as follows:

1. Freelancer

If you have a particular skill and contacts in your industry, you could set yourself up as a freelancer. 

The great thing about freelancing is that you can pick and choose which jobs you take on, so you’re only working on projects you’re good at and that interest you. Freelancing can also be done remotely, which means you can work from the comfort of your own home and avoid that dreaded daily commute to work.

Even if your contacts book is empty, freelancing is still a viable option if you’re exceptionally talented at something. You just need to start with a few clients by taking on smaller jobs and being prepared to work for less money until you build your reputation.

Some of the services you could provide as a freelancer include:

  • Content marketing
  • Freelance writing
  • Graphic design
  • Public Relations (PR)
  • Social media consulting
  • Video producing
  • Web design

The best way to find freelance work is by searching online. There are millions of websites and blogs requiring the help of an expert and sites like Fiverr can match you with these. Alternatively, you could get in touch with businesses in your area to see if they would benefit from your services.

2. Tutor

If you are above average in an academic subject and enjoy teaching people new things, you might want to consider becoming a tutor. 

English, science and mathematics are the core three subjects in the National Curriculum and many students struggle with them. So if you excel in any of these areas, you could create a rewarding business in terms of both money and career satisfaction.

But tutors aren’t just needed for academic subjects. If you can play a musical instrument, you could make a living as a music tutor, teaching either children or adults how to play. You don’t even need to be an accomplished musician — you just need to know the basics and have patience.

Another option is to become an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor. All you need to do this is to be able to speak English and have access to a computer so you can connect with your students online. ESL tutors are needed in countries all around the world to teach people English from scratch or how to speak it better.

3. Life coach

Being a life coach is an extremely fulfilling self-employed job. In this role, you can help people to overcome some of life’s biggest issues, such as negative personal relationships and career struggles.

Typically, life coaches will help their clients in all areas of their lives, but there’s nothing stopping you from specialising in an area that interests you.

Some of the niches you could choose to offer advice and planning in include: 

  • Breaking bad habits
  • Careers
  • Finance management
  • Hobbies / social activity
  • Motivation
  • Relationships
  • Weight loss

You don’t need any training to become a life coach. You just need to have good listening skills and the ability to give straightforward, useful advice in order to create a well-balanced and successful life for your clients.

4. Pet sitter

Animal lovers who enjoy being outdoors in all types of weather might be suited to a self-employed career as a pet sitter. But to succeed in this role, you not only need to have an understanding of animals, but you must also have strong interpersonal and communication skills. You’ll also need patience, as it can take time to build up a solid client base.

You don’t necessarily need qualifications to become a pet sitter, but experience working at an animal shelter and taking courses in animal first aid, animal care or animal behaviour will boost your professional standing.

The services you could provide as a pet sitter include:

  • Dog grooming
  • Dog walking
  • Feeding pets while their owners are away
  • Looking after pets in the owner’s home
  • Pet boarding
  • Pet taxis

Being a pet sitter is a physically demanding job which carries a great deal of responsibility, but you will be rewarded with flexible working hours and varied work.

5. Influencer

You don’t need to be an A-list celebrity to be a social media influencer. If you’re an expert in an obscure or highly specialised field, it is possible to build up a sizeable social media following among enthusiasts of that niche. 

It’s not just about the number of followers you have, though. If your followers engage with you and listen to your opinions, you could start making money as an influencer with as few as 1,000 followers.

As an influencer you make regular posts about a specific topic on your social media channels and brands will contact you to promote their goods to your followers. Some influencers do this for free, only asking that they get to keep the product they’re promoting, but the way to make real money is to charge the brands a fee.

6. Investor

Unless you’re extremely knowledgeable about stocks and shares, we wouldn’t advise you to try to make a living from investing. This type of work involves a great deal of risk, so if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up losing money instead of making it.

That said, trading stocks professionally is one of the oldest self-employed jobs there is and if you have enough money and you’re prepared to take a gamble, you may be able to live off the dividends or appreciation of the companies you invest in.

7. E-commerce

The easiest way to become self-employed in e-commerce is to start selling on websites like eBay, Amazon, Gumtree and Etsy.

The more items you sell, the more money you’ll make, so search your house for possessions you no longer want, ask friends and family members if they have anything they don’t want anymore and visit charity shops, car boot sales and markets for things you might be able to sell on for a profit. Note that competition in this industry is heavy, so the items you choose will have to be either unique, valuable or low-cost. If you’re creative, you could even sell products you’ve made yourself. 

The main thing is to make as much profit as you can on the items you sell. If, for example, you can buy an item for £10 and sell it for £100, you have the potential to build an extremely lucrative business.

And like many of the self-employed jobs on this list, you can work from home, meaning you don’t have to travel to and from the office every day.

8. Eldercare

If you’re passionate about helping people and you have patience and compassion, caring for the elderly could be the self-employed job for you. 

People are now living longer, which means there’s even more of a demand for carers. Many elderly people are choosing at-home companions over care homes because it’s cheaper and it enables them to stay in their own homes.

You can progress from being a companion to running your own business by starting a service that arranges care providers for the elderly.

9. Repairer

If you’re good with your hands, starting a repair business is a great way to work for yourself. 

It’s likely you’ll need to invest some capital upfront for tools, materials and maybe a vehicle, but once you’re established, you may even find you’re in a position to turn down work.

An even more lucrative business idea is mobile repair work. Coming to a person’s house to fix something that’s broken is a highly valuable service that offers a level of convenience to the customer that’s much needed in today’s busy world.

Repair work can involve just about anything, such as:

  • Appliances
  • Buildings
  • Cars
  • Computers
  • Furniture

According to data from Statista, the industries with the most self-employed people are as follows:

IndustryNumber of self-employed people
Professional, scientific and technical activities563,00​​​
Wholesale, retail and repair of motor vehicles340,000
Administration and support services310,000
Human health and social work activities279,000
Transport and storage266,000
Information and communication192,000
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, energy and water169,000
Accommodation and food services147,000
Financial and insurance activities83,000
Real estate activities75,000
Public admin and defence; social security41,000

As stated earlier, some of the benefits of being self-employed are that you can be your own boss, choose your own hours and do something you’re skilled at and passionate about.

Being your own boss means you’re only accountable to yourself and you don’t have the pressure of getting the job done on someone else’s terms.

Working your own hours enables you to work whenever and — in some cases — from wherever suits you. For many people, a big draw of working for yourself is that they can concentrate more on their personal lives by spending more time with their families or taking up a new hobby.

The main downside of self-employment is that it can mean a considerable amount of instability, however, it’s ideal for those who are tired of the rat race and no longer wish to work in a corporate environment.