New to self-employment advice

If you’re thinking about becoming self-employed, or recently started working for yourself on a full or part-time basis, it can feel scary and overwhelming. As a freelancer, contractor or running a business, you’re responsible for every aspect of your career. But it can also be enormously liberating, as well as financially rewarding. So, we’ve created this advice section specifically for those new to self-employment.

As the UK’s non-profit for self-employed professionals since 1999, we represent and support 13,500 members, and more than 4.2 million people at every stage of their careers. As you build your business and experience, you can find detailed information in our Advice section to support both your work, and the potential impact on your personal life.

But you don’t need to know everything about consulting, contracting or running a business to get started, or to become extremely successful. Most experienced freelancers and self-employed veterans look back fondly on the thrill and excitement of their early days, with all of the new opportunities it brought.

And we’re here to support you, both through the benefits of IPSE membership (including tax and legal helplines, discounted insurance and more), and our advice articles which can help you prepare for self-employment and make educated decisions when you’re just starting out.

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Switching to self-employment

The majority of advice for becoming self-employed concentrates on those with limited experience, resources or finances. But what if you’ve already invested time in building your career, started a family, or taken on significant financial commitments?

Our advice on switching to contracting, consulting or running a business will help you transition into self-employment as seamlessly as possible. Helping you to hit the ground running with clients and customers, reassure family and friends about your decision, and understanding the potential risks.

Alongside our articles explaining how to become a specialist in various self-employed roles, we’ve created advice for anyone looking to freelance around full-time employment for extra income or to try working for themselves for the first time. As well as for anyone who is switching from an existing role to become a contractor, consultant or run their own business.

Key articles: 

How to switch to self-employed consulting

Whether you’re considering a mid-career move to work for yourself, or need to find alternative employment at short notice, find out how to switch to self-employed consulting in a way that’s quick, effective and easier than you might think.

How to prepare for self-employment

Whether you're starting fresh, or transitioning from an existing career, find out how to prepare for self-employment to make the transition much easier. Even investing a small amount of time in a few areas will mean you can focus on growing your new business and finding clients. Minimising the risks of financial and legal issues means you'll be less stressed and able to enjoy the experience of becoming your own boss

Freelancing around full-time employment

You can earn a useful extra income or prepare for a permanent career change by freelancing around your current, full-time, job. But while it's a great way to build experience and supplement your wages, there are some things to consider before you begin. Knowing the potential problems will minimise employment risks, money and tax issues, and putting your personal relationships under strain


New to self-employment?

Find out how IPSE's range of member benefits provide expert guidance, vital protection, and real connections, so that you're never in doubt.

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Financial guidance for the newly self-employed

One of the biggest areas of concern for anyone thinking about becoming self-employed will be managing finances. Is it better to begin as a sole trader or a limited company director? What’s the best way to pay yourself, and how should you take dividends? And when is it worth investing in an accountant for specialist financial advice?

Our financial guidance for starting self-employment explains the options available, and could potentially save you a lot of time and money. While most early mistakes are fairly easy to rectify at a later date, you won’t be able to recover the lost income, or unnecessary costs. All of which can be avoided with a little preparation.

Plus, as your business grows, we have dedicated advice sections for your ongoing professional and personal financial wellbeing, self-employed tax, IR35 and managed service companies.

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Key articles:

How to pay yourself as a limited company director

Make the most of your self-employed income and find out how to pay yourself as a limited company director, using the right combination of salary and dividends. And how to manage National Insurance contributions, Corporation Tax, pensions, business expenses and Directors' loans

How to take dividends from a limited company

In this guidance, Integro Accounting talk you through dividends: How they work, the benefits, the restrictions and whether paying yourself through dividends is right for your business.

Self-employed tax guidance

Do you need to complete a tax return? What can you expense? What happens if you have fluctuating income? IPSE's tax guidance answers these questions and more to get you in the best shape possible for your tax return and tax year end.

Choosing between becoming a sole trader or limited company

Whether you're just about to become self-employed, or considering a change your business structure, choosing between operating as a sole trader or limited company involves weighing up a number of factors. By looking at our guide to the positives and negatives of both options, you'll be able to make a more informed decision, potentially saving you a significant amount of time and money

Financial wellbeing guidance

You might not have started self-employment or freelancing with the primary aim of becoming rich. But managing your financial wellbeing is vital to ensuring a sustainable career.

What are angel investors?

Have you ever come up with an idea for a new business or start-up which would require more capital to get going? Angel investors offer an alternative to taking on business loans, or trying to secure investment from large venture capital (VC) firms.

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Avoiding legal issues if you’re new to self-employment

Even if you’ve regularly dealt with invoices, contracts and more in a previous role, it can be more intimidating when you’re self-employed, and solely responsible for your business. Especially when you switch to supplying large companies and organisations, rather than working for them.

From what to do if you’re chasing late payments, to intellectual property and copyright issues, we have a range of advice to help you avoid legal issues when you become self-employed.

Key articles:

How to avoid legal issues when you become self-employed

Make the switch to a new career less stressful by learning how to avoid legal issues when you become self-employed. With a little time and preparation, you can sidestep the common problems which often trip up new freelancers, contractors and business owners. And this will save you time, money and stress, allowing you to focus on enjoying your work, and growing your new business.

How to tackle copyright infringement as a freelancer

It’s not just those people working in creative fields who need to know how to tackle copyright infringement as a freelancer. Whatever self-employed sector you’re operating in, understanding how to enforce your rights can help if someone decides to steal your brand, or copies the products and services you offer.

IR35 advice

IPSE continues to campaign against IR35, pushing the government to address the underlying problems in the tax system so we can do away with IR35 once and for all.

Setting up for self-employed success

You don’t have to create a business plan or brand strategy to be successfully self-employed. But investing some time to set out your ambitions and objectives will give you something to aim for and enables you to track your progress when you’re starting out.

Planning your budgets is also a valuable part of preparing for a self-employed career. It can be hard to predict your potential income, but understanding the costs involved will help you set your prices, plan for bills and expenses, and realise sooner if you need to increase your income.

One area that’s easily overlooked when you’re busy working for clients or customers is your own professional development. Whether it’s learning new skills to manage your business, or ensuring you’re offering services which are up-to-date and meeting professional standards, planning regular time for learning, and investing in quality courses will help you continue to grow your business.

Along with regular IPSE webinars, we also offer the IPSE Incubator for anyone in the early stages of self-employment

And finally, you’ll want to know how to start marketing your new business to attract clients or customers outside of your existing network, along with the common mistakes many new self-employed professionals make, so you can avoid them!

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If you’re looking for more dedicated support and the chance to meet other new self-employed professionals, why not look at signing up for the IPSE Incubator, which provides a 12-month programme for new starters.

As you become settled into working for yourself, why not start preparing for the next stage of growing your self-employed career and business? And if you need more detailed information on a specific area of self-employment, from finances and tax to supporting your mental and physical wellbeing, or working with family members, then why not look through the IPSE Advice section, which covers a wide range of topics. And if you can’t find exactly what you need, contact us and we may add it to the resources available.

Looking for more?

We have dedicated advice pages to help your physical and mental wellbeing whilst working from home but also on areas such as winning work or navigating the tax system. And to help and support you through all the challenges that can come with becoming self-employed, from chasing late payments to being able to work through power cuts and other emergencies.

View all advice pages



Physical wellbeing advice

Running a business, or freelancing and contracting for clients, can be busy, stressful and all-consuming, but Ignoring your health and wellbeing can have serious implications for you, and your business.


Mental wellbeing advice

We've put together a set of resources and guides to support positive mental wellbeing for the self-employed, combing our business knowledge with tips and advice from mental health and wellbeing experts.


Winning Work advice

Tips and advice to help you grow your business no matter what industry or sector you work in.