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  1. Self-Employed Person
  2. Independent Contractor
  3. Gig Economy
  4. SEP IRA Plan
  5. IRS Publication 334
  6. Self-Employment
  7. Freelancer
  8. Self-Employment Tax

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Self-Employment: Definition & An Overview of How It Works

Updated: November 24, 2022

Self-employment is a term used for jobs in which the worker is not an employee of another person or organization. Self-employed people work for themselves and are their own bosses. They may own their own businesses as sole proprietors, or work as independent contractors. Self-employment can be a great way to earn a living, but it also has its challenges.

In this article, we’ll discuss what self-employment means and an overview of how it works. We’ll also look at some of the pros and cons of being self-employed. Lastly, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular careers for self-employed workers.

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    • There are a wide variety of ways to be self-employed.
    • Self-employment tax considerations can be complex.
    • There are a number of deductions you can take for self-employment expenses.
    • You can still collect unemployment if you’re self-employed in most cases.
    • It’s possible to make money being self-employed, but it takes time.

    What Does Self-Employment Mean?

    Self-employment is a type of work in which a person is their own boss. They are responsible for their own income and expenses. This can be done through owning a business or working as a consultant. There are a few different ways to become self-employed. The most common way is to start your own business. This can be done by starting a new business or buying an existing one. It doesn’t necessarily require a professional degree to get started so it’s accessible for many people. Another way to become self-employed is to work as a consultant. This means you are hired by other businesses to provide specialized services.

    There are many benefits that self-employed workers enjoy. These include:

    • Having control over your own life and schedule
    • Being able to work from home
    • Having the ability to choose your own clients
    • Being able to make your own decisions
    • And more

    There are a few things that all self-employed people have in common. First, they often have to wear many different hats. This means they often have to do tasks that they may not be familiar with, like bookkeeping or marketing. Next, self-employed people often work long hours. This is because they don’t have the benefit of receiving consistent income like salaried employees. Instead, they only get business income when they work. Finally, self-employed people are responsible for their own success or failure. This means they need to be good at managing their time and money.

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    What Are The Types of Self-Employment?

    Being self-employed can take on many different forms even down to the business structures. Here are a few examples:

    Freelance Work

    This includes working as an independent contractor, consultant, or freelancer. You may provide a personal service, like writing or web design. Freelance work involves selling a service to other business owners or customers.

    Small Business Owner

    This is when you own and operate your own business. This can be anything from a restaurant to a tech business startup. You are responsible for all aspects of the business, from marketing to bookkeeping.


    This is someone who takes an idea and turns it into a business. They may work on their own or with a team of additional employees. This can include everything from developing a new product to creating a new company. It may involve putting together a business plan, finding financing, and locating potential clients.

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    Self-Employment Tax Considerations

    Taxes for self-employed workers can be expensive and time-consuming. You should always consult a tax professional when filing annual taxes, but here are some important factors to keep in mind.

    Self-Employment Tax

    When you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for paying your own state and federal taxes. This includes both income and Social Security taxes. You can either pay these taxes quarterly or as part of your annual tax return.

    Self-Employment Deductions

    You may be able to deduct certain business expenses from your income. This can include items like your home office, equipment, and supplies. You can also deduct business travel expenses and car expenses. There are also special startup tax deductions for expenses you’ve incurred while starting your business. 

    Self-Employment Health Insurance Deductions

    You can also deduct the cost of health insurance premiums from your self-employment income for tax purposes. This includes both individual and family policies.

    Self-Employment Retirement Contributions

    You can also contribute to a retirement account like an IRA or SEP IRA. These are a deduction against the income you’ve received while running your business. This allows you to save for retirement on your own terms. It can also help ease your tax burden.

    Self-Employment Retirement Considerations

    When you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for both your own retirement and Social Security contributions. This can be a lot of work, but it’s important to think about your future. You may want to consider saving for retirement in a 401(k), IRA, or another account.

    There are also many tax benefits to contributing to a retirement account. You can open an IRA or 401k through many financial institutions. These are typically very low cost or free.

    Here are some of the most popular financial institutions for retirement accounts:

    • Charles Schwab
    • Fidelity Investments
    • Vanguard


    All in all, self-employment is an appealing option for many people who enjoy the flexibility of making their own schedules and decisions. Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, there’s no wrong way to be self-employed. 

    Time-consuming drawbacks with taxes, insurance, and retirement plans are a deterrent. These disadvantages are easily handled with the right planning. 

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    FAQs About Self-Employment

    What is the IRS definition of self-employment?

    The IRS or Internal Revenue Service defines self-employment as “the conduct of a trade or business by an individual.” This includes anyone who is in business for themselves.

    What are the most popular self-employed jobs?

    There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some of the most popular self-employed jobs include web development, writing, hair styling, massage therapy, and many more.

    Can I still collect unemployment if I'm self-employed?

    It depends on your state’s laws. In most cases, you will be able to collect unemployment if you’re self-employed. However, you may have to meet certain requirements.

    Can you make money being self-employed?

    Yes, you can make money being self-employed. However, it’s important to remember that it takes time and hard work to get your business up and running.


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