If you’re looking for greater freedom and flexibility at work, then you may have thought about becoming self-employed. Self-employment is a great way to take control of your own schedule and can offer you the opportunity to explore an area that you’re particularly passionate about.

You might also be surprised to hear that our analysis of ONS data from 2019 found that people over 50 made up nearly half (46%) of the entire self-employed workforce. In 2019 in the UK, there were nearly 2.27 million self-employed people over the age of 50, so if you’re considering becoming self-employed, you can safely say you’re not alone!

For many, becoming self-employed is an opportunity to pursue their passion, however, we know that others can find themselves self-employed out of necessity, rather than choice. Whatever your reasons for heading out on your own, there’ll be plenty of things to consider before you get started – so it’s worth examining each area of interest carefully before diving straight in.

With that said, here’s our bumper guide to 20 of the most popular self-employment ideas, with tips on how to take those first steps.

1. Gardening

Do you love being outside? Are you ready to grow a career that you’ll love? If so, then it could be the right thyme to become a Gardener! People enjoy gardening for all sorts of reasons – some enjoy creating beautiful spaces, others use it for escapism, while some just enjoy being out in the fresh air surrounded by nature. Whatever you enjoy about it, the good news is that it’s a great activity to turn into a self-employment opportunity.

As long as you have the correct tools, a working knowledge of different plant species and the right insurance, then there’s no reason why you can’t get started. Self-employed Gardeners are typically contracted by businesses or members of the public. They usually grow a client base who need regular garden maintenance, but can also do one-off gardening jobs, such as clearing areas, landscaping, or making over gardens entirely.

The job can be hard work and people will often expect you to tend to their garden come rain or shine, so you should be prepared to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in, whatever the weather. While regular clients will still expect you to come during the dark winter months, overall demand for your services can be much lower, so it’s important to factor that in when budgeting your earnings.

Before you get started as a Gardener, it’s best to have a look at areas near you that are currently underserved by Gardeners, so that you can look to fill the gap. It also helps if you know who your target market is so you can decide what service you want to offer, for instance, domestic, commercial, or ground maintenance services. This will also help you to decide what equipment you need.

2. Cleaning

If cleaning is something that you’re good at and you enjoy, then it could become a business opportunity. Research from the British Cleaning Council estimates that the cleaning industry contributes nearly £24 billion to the UK economy and provides work for over 700,000 people. It’s likely that wherever you live, they’ll be someone who needs something cleaned – whether it be a home, office, or even a local school.

The first thing you’ll need to do is work out what kind of Cleaner you’re going to be – e.g. domestic, commercial, or specialist. You generally don’t need any qualifications to work as a Cleaner, but you may do if you decide to set up a specialist cleaning business – such as one that specialises in cleaning escalators or graffiti.

Start-up costs for cleaning businesses are usually relatively low – as you’ll usually only need insurance, cleaning supplies, and your own vehicle to get started. Again, it may cost a bit more if you go down the specialist cleaning route and need to buy specialist cleaning tools and/or equipment.

3. Counselling

If you’re a great listener who loves helping people with their problems, then you could consider retraining as a Counsellor. Counsellors work with people either one-to-one or in groups – offering them a safe space to speak and work through any issues that they may be facing – for example, family-related problems, trauma over a particular incident or problems at work. People often go to counselling because they benefit from speaking to someone impartial and non-judgemental.

While counselling can be an incredibly rewarding career path, it can also prove challenging trying not to get caught up in others’ circumstances – which is where having those extra years of life experience under your belt can be a real bonus. Experienced individuals who have lived through life’s ups and downs can often find it easier to empathise with others who are going through similar circumstances.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) tends to set their own standards for people wanting to enter the profession. This means you don’t need a degree, but you will need a qualification that is widely recognised if you want to prove your credibility and attract clients. The BACP recommends that you undertake a three-stage process – over a three-year period – that will give you plenty of opportunities to put your counselling skills into real-life practice and get feedback from supervisors and tutors along the way.

Stage 1 – Introduction to Counselling – an 8 to 12-week course designed to introduce you to the basics of counselling.

Stage 2 – Certificate in Counselling – a part-time one year course designed to give you a deeper understanding of counselling theories, ethics, and self-awareness.

For these stages, it’s best to check with your local colleges, universities, and adult education centres to see which courses are running, when and what the associated costs are.

Stage 3 – Core Practitioner Training – at this stage, many people take a Diploma in counselling (lasting at least one year full-time or two years part-time), which consists of in-depth training based on internationally recognised standards.

For a full list of BACP-accredited diplomas, you can visit their website.

After becoming a fully qualified Counsellor, you’ll be free to set up your own private practice and start advertising your services. One way you can do this is by joining BACP’s online therapist directory.

4. Handyperson services

Do you do all your own DIY? Do your friends and family often ask you for help with theirs? If so, then chances are you already are a Handyperson! So you could consider building up a client base and charging for your services.

A Handyperson is someone who’s skilled in a wide range of repairs and “odd jobs” – usually around the home. This could include painting and decorating, tiling, flooring, putting up fences, and the list goes on. Sometimes, they may already be working in a particular trade and will take on work as a Handyperson in their spare time, or will transition to working full-time on a self-employed basis. Other times, they may be self-taught – having picked up skills from working on their own homes and the homes of friends and family over the years.

If you’re interested in setting yourself up as a self-employed Handyperson, then the first and most important thing is to make sure that you have insurance – to protect you against any accidents that could cause damage to you, someone else, or their property.

A Handyperson will offer a wide range of services, so it’s also important that you have a wide range of tools – plus your own vehicle to get yourself and your equipment to and from jobs.

5. Mobile hair or beauty

If you’re keen to work in the hair and beauty industry, then you’ll likely understand what a huge confidence boost freshly waxed eyebrows or a new hairstyle can give a person!

Roles in hair and beauty are ideal for people who love to meet and socialise with new people. This is because clients will often see their hairdresser or beauty therapist as someone who not only helps them look and feel great aesthetically but as someone they can have a good chat to at the same time.

Depending on what your interests are, you could choose to be anything from a Make-up Artist and a Nail Technician to a Hairdresser. If you want to work on a self-employed basis, then you’ll need to build up some expertise in your area of interest.

Hairdressers and Beauty Therapists are professionals in their field and the trust of their clients by providing a consistent, high-quality service every time. To be able to deliver this standard of service, most people either take a course and set themselves up on a self-employed basis, or apply for a job as a trainee employee at a hair or beauty salon until they have built up enough skills to feel confident going it alone.

When you’re ready to go it alone, it’ll be a case of making sure that you have all the right equipment and that you’re covered by public liability insurance (which usually includes product liability insurance) to cover you against any claims which arise from any of your services, or from any products that you’ve sold to or used on clients.

Mobile hair and beauty professionals often have relatively low start-up costs because they don’t need to open their own salon or hire additional staff. They tend to work independently and will provide services in a clients’ own home – taking their equipment with them.

Fancy giving it a try? Browse the health and beauty courses below, or why not see if your local hair and beauty salons have any trainee vacancies?

6. Bookkeeping

Are you an organised individual who enjoys working with numbers? If so, then you could find success in a career as a Bookkeeper. Bookkeepers help companies track their finances by keeping records of incoming and outcoming payments. It’s not uncommon for people to get Bookkeepers confused with Accountants – but to put it simply, bookkeeping mainly deals with the accurate recording of financial information, whereas accountancy involves analysing and interpreting that data. Some people start off as Bookkeepers and then decide to move into accountancy later as their experience builds.

You don’t need a degree to become a Bookkeeper, but you will need some training. If you’re looking to become your own boss and don’t wish to gain experience through an employment opportunity first, then you could take a course.

You’ll usually need to gain the AAT Level 2 and Level 3 Bookkeeping qualifications before you can start landing clients. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to apply to become an AAT Bookkeeping member (AATQB). Your membership will allow you to add AATQB letters after your name and apply to run your own business as an AAT Licensed Bookkeeper.

Apply for my AAT Bookkeeping licence

Once you’re a licenced AAT Bookkeeper, you’ll then need to find a way to advertise your services, which is easiest to do by creating your own professional website (which gives information about you and what makes your services different), applying to postings on job boards (some employers offer, or would consider, part-time and/or remote working), or building up a client base using sites like Upwork and/or People Per Hour. A handful of satisfied customers is often all it takes to get the flow of business going!

7. Consulting

Want to make the most of the knowledge and experience you’ve built up throughout the course of your career? Consulting can be an appealing option for retired professionals who want to share their wealth of knowledge with others in exchange for a fee.

Businesses often work with consultants to gain access to specialist knowledge and advice that’ll help them to make improvements and increase their success. For example, a local company or an individual might need help implementing new procedures or training every few months. You might well be surprised at how valuable your skills are to others.

Consultants usually work on building up a reliable client base who will then call on their skills as and when they need them. Networking is usually the main way of building up a client base in this space, so it’s important to have your LinkedIn profile polished and to spend time each week meeting people from your network and beyond.

It can also be helpful to create a professional-looking website that provides information about your skills and experience, details of the services you offer, and any testimonials from satisfied clients. Many people then promote their website on their social channels. You can also try using sites like Guru and Upwork – where you can list yourself as a Consultant and apply for regular or one-off consultancy opportunities.

8. Antiques dealing

If you can appreciate the beauty of vintage items and have a good head for business, then keep reading to find out how you could become an Antiques Dealer…

An Antiques Dealer’s role is to buy and sell all kinds of second-hand items, such as furniture, pottery or memorabilia that – although old – are of exceptional quality and have grown in value over time.

Most dealers work on a self-employed basis, which means that the rate of pay can vary considerably, depending on how you choose to sell items e.g. internet sales, auctions, or market stalls, which antiques you choose to buy and sell and how much time you dedicate to your trade. The most successful Antiques Dealers have specialist knowledge of market prices and are always on the lookout for good opportunities to make a profit. So naturally, it also helps if you’re passionate about the vintage market!

Anyone can become an Antiques Dealer as long as they have an understanding of how the marketplace works and what items are considered valuable, but some people find it helpful to brush up their knowledge by taking a short course. This could be in topics such as antiques or the history of art. A few large auction houses in London such as Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Christie’s Education offer learning opportunities like these.

To start selling your antiques you could try signing up to sites like eBay and Etsy. Etsy has a reputation for selling beautiful, sentimental items that are a bit out of the ordinary, while eBay is great for auctioning off all kinds of vintage items from furniture through to jewellery.

9. Taxi driving

Why not cruise towards self-employment in a role as a Taxi Driver? For a people person who enjoys being behind the wheel, this could be a great option. Taxi Drivers will pick up passengers and take them to their destination. On a typical day or night, a taxi driver could come into contact with a wide array of different people from all walks of life – some with interesting stories to tell.

Taxi Driving is ideal for people who are able to drive for several hours at a time, not knowing where they’ll end up next or who they’ll next meet! Each and every journey could lead to a new adventure and no two days will ever be the same.

Most Taxi Drivers are self-employed, which gives them the chance to be in full control of their own hours and use your their vehicles. The first step in your journey to becoming a Taxi Driver will be to apply for a taxi or private hire vehicle licence – the conditions of which vary, depending on whether you live inside or outside of London. With your licence in tow, it’s easy to get registered and out on the road as a self-employed Taxi Driver with companies such as Uber. So why not get started? The open road awaits…

10. House sitting

If you consider yourself an adventurous person, then house sitting can offer you the opportunity to work for yourself, explore new places, and meet new people!

House sitting is a fast-growing trend among people looking to travel on a shoestring and/or escape a monotonous daily routine, because a stranger essentially lends you their home for a few days, weeks, or months in exchange for you looking after it. Some opportunities (mainly those based in the UK) are paid, while opportunities to travel abroad may not pay but will give you the chance to stay in free accommodation and see a new country.

Interestingly, Bark.com recently revealed that 57% of their professional house sitters don’t have another job – they’re able to get by doing House Sitting alone. The pay is variable, with House Sitters earning anywhere from £50 to £200+ a day for their services – the rates are usually set by you!

The responsibilities of a House Sitter will depend on the requests of the house owner, but they could include things like looking after pets, cleaning, setting TV programmes to record and keeping a close eye on the property’s CCTV. You’ll nearly always be fully vetted before being allowed to be left unattended in someone’s home – so you can expect a full background check!

Companies like Bark.com offer House Sitters the opportunity to meet clients looking for their services. It’s free to sign up and you’ll only pay to contact people you’re interested in house sitting for. Then, once you’ve obtained their details, there’s nothing more to pay.

Note: Before committing to a house sitting opportunity, it’s a good idea to be clear on who’s responsible if anything goes wrong with the house or a pet – you or the owner. There can be blurred lines over whether your freelance status makes you responsible for the service you’re providing or whether you’re seen as more of an employee by the person paying for the service.

If they view you as more of an employee, they may have their own insurance that protects you, the house, and even your partner if they’re joining you. If they don’t, then it can be a good idea to purchase your own house sitter’s insurance.

Sign up to Bark.com and start house sitting in the UK

If you’re interested in using house sitting as a way to travel the world on a budget, then you could consider using a website like Trusted Housesitters. When you register, you’ll start paying an annual subscription that will give you access to people worldwide who are looking for house sitters. You won’t get paid, but you’ll essentially get to explore the world whilst paying almost nothing for your accommodation.

11. Buy into a franchise

If you’re keen to work for yourself but you’re struggling to come up with a business idea, then you could consider franchising. This is where an existing company (known as a franchisor) grants you (the franchise) the right to use its trademark, systems, and business model in exchange for upfront payments and a percentage of your revenue.

Popular franchise businesses in the UK include Costa Coffee, Home Instead, RED Driving School, and many more. The type of work you do will depend on what type of franchise you decide to buy into. For example, as a Driving Instructor who has bought into a franchise, you’ll usually work independently and will be given pupils to teach (and often a car too!) by the company that the franchise opportunity is with. Whereas if you decide to buy into a Costa Coffee franchise, a great deal of your time may be spent hiring staff and overseeing the everyday running of the coffee shop.

The main benefit of buying into a franchise is that you’ll have the independence associated with running a small business while having the support of a big business network with an established reputation and image.

The best way to choose a franchise if you’re unsure about the type of work you’d like to do is to consider which franchises are available and, out of these, which ones would attract the most customers in your local area.

It’s also unlikely that franchisers will allow multiple franchises to crop up in the same area – so it’s always best to check what’s already out there to avoid disappointment. If you decide that you’d like to become a franchise owner, then it’s worth looking into two or three that you’re interested in buying into. You can then contact the companies and find out more about the terms they offer alongside the initial upfront costs.

Franchising isn’t often a cheap option when it comes to setting up your own business as, on top of these initial investment costs, you may also have to put money into hiring staff and equipment. With that being said, many people still find franchising an attractive prospect because of the peace of mind that comes with buying into an already successful brand.

On this note, make sure that you always stick to franchises that are able to provide evidence of their success if you want to avoid getting involved in any scams. It’s really important to conduct thorough research before you consider parting with any cash!

12. Photography

Are you always on the lookout for your next winning shot? Do you have excellent attention to detail and a creative flair? Photography is something that many people do as a hobby in their spare time, but it does have the potential to earn you a living with a little time and effort.

Some people are content with capturing the beauty of everyday life, while others prefer to specialise in areas such as weddings, travel, wildlife, or portraits. So, it’s totally up to you to choose where you’re most at ease – taking into account what’s most likely to sell.

The great news is that if photography is already something that you do regularly, then you may already have a selection of great quality photos that you can add to a portfolio (it’s best to have both a hard copy and online version) to show potential employers or clients. However, you may want to enhance your credibility and develop your skills further by taking a short photography course – either one that’s relatively general or something more specialised such as a wildlife photography course.

A good way to start finding work as a self-employed Photographer is to take photos for friends and family, and ask them to recommend you to people they know. You can also set up your own website and social media pages where you can showcase your work, promote your services and set your rates. WordPress can be a good place to start because it has a lot of templates and themes that’ll help you lay out your photos nicely.

Networking within the industry can also help you to get the ball rolling. You may be able to get a few tips on freelancing from photographers in your local area. It’s always worth having industry contacts because you may be able to make mutual referrals for different photographic specialties or either of you might simply have too much work to take on any more, and then can refer clients to the other.

You could also try joining a trade association like the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) or The Association of Photographers (AOP). They run awards, competitions, and galleries which could give you the opportunity to showcase your work. They also offer business and legal advice on things like copyright and licencing which can be helpful when you start selling your work.

13. Pet services

pet insurance quote

For an animal lover, becoming your own boss and getting to work alongside animals all day may feel like a dream come true! Whether you decide to start up your own dog walking or pet sitting business, or turn your hand to dog grooming, you could be hanging out with a bunch of furry companions in no time at all.

If you’re someone who enjoys being active and getting outdoors, then dog walking may appeal to you. The best way to start meeting dog owners and get tails wagging is to sign up to a dog walking website like Tailster. They’ll take a small cut of your earnings, but you’ll be covered by their insurance policy, giving you peace of mind.

Get tails wagging with Tailster*

For the keen cuddler, who doesn’t mind having a pet in their company 24/7, pet sitting may offer a great self-employment opportunity. When people go away, they feel reassured knowing that their pet is left in safe, capable hands – and that could be you! As with dog walking, one of the best ways to get started as a Pet Sitter is to join a site like Tailster – which also offers pet sitting opportunities.

Find pet-sitting opportunities of Tailster*

If you’re a creative dog lover, then you could consider becoming a Dog Groomer. There are plenty of courses out there that can teach you the essential skills and knowledge you need to get started, including this Dog Grooming Diploma Course from the Centre for Excellence. While you’re still getting to grips with your new skills, it’s a good idea to practise on your own dog or on the dogs of willing friends and family members. As your confidence builds, you can ask them to recommend you to other people they know.

You may also want to advertise your services on social media or on community notice boards. Some people convert an area of their house (e.g. the garage, into a dog grooming salon), while others consider renting a space in their local area.

The great thing about starting a business in any of these three areas is that start-up costs are usually low as most pet owners will just want to know that you’re reliable and trustworthy with an enthusiasm for their pet.

Even though trust is key, accidents can happen, so it’s important to invest in insurance to protect you and your business from any costs that may result from a pet becoming injured or unwell whilst in your care. The price of which will vary depending on your individual circumstances, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

14. Personal Training/Fitness Instructing

Have you got the fitness bug? Would you like to help give it to others? Personal Trainers and Fitness Instructors often work on a self-employed basis, helping people to transform their lives by adopting a healthier lifestyle. They run group and/or individual fitness sessions and may also create personalised nutrition and exercise plans for people.

The type of training that you’d like to offer people is entirely up to you. You might want to teach a high-intensity aerobics class, something more gentle and relaxed like yoga, or just run one-to-one weight training sessions with people in the gym. Personal Trainers and Fitness Instructors usually take on as little or as many sessions as they want in a week, so you’ll have complete control over your own hours.

Companies like Move it or Lose it offer full training to become a specialist Fitness Instructor for older adults. Or, if you’d prefer to become a Personal Trainer and work with people on a one-to-one basis, then there are qualifications that you can take to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential clients.

Once qualified, many instructors and trainers can work for gyms on a self-employed basis, so it’s worth getting in touch with yours to find out whether they have any opportunities available. Some gyms also recruit trainee Personal Trainers/Fitness Instructors, with the idea being that you can work and study for your qualifications alongside each other, so it’s worth contacting your local gyms to ask if they have any vacancies like this.

15. Event planning

Event Planning can be an extremely satisfying line of work for organised individuals who enjoy seeing a plan come together! If you’re someone who understands not only what makes a great event, but also how to make it happen, then event planning could be for you.

From weddings and birthday parties, to conferences and other corporate events – there are plenty of people and companies out there who’ll pay good money to make sure that their important day goes off without a hitch. Event Planners will typically speak to clients to establish what they’d like the event to be like – some people know this already and just need someone to put it into action, while others will look to their Event Planner to make creative suggestions based on their likes and preferences. 

Event Planners can be responsible for organising details such as decor, catering, entertainment, and transport, and may also be involved with overseeing the smooth running of the event on the day.

The most effective way to start winning clients and build up your experience is to start by helping plan events for friends and family, or for local community groups. This will help you to build up a portfolio and showcase your work to future clients. It can also be helpful to get in touch with local Event Planners to ask if you can shadow them to find out more about how they work.

Qualifications aren’t essential for this role, but it can still be useful to take an Event Management course online to boost your skillset and enhance your credibility. This will also give you more information about setting up your own business.

16. Tutoring

If you’re looking for a rewarding role where you can make a positive difference to people’s lives, then tutoring could be a great fit. As a Tutor, you’ll work with students on a one-to-one basis, either in person or over video-call, teaching them something new or helping them to gain confidence in a particular subject area. Students who work with a Tutor usually get support that’s tailored more specifically to their needs – an experience that they may not get in the classroom.

Private tutors typically earn between £20 and £40 per hour and get the chance to watch their students grow and progress with each tutoring session. It’s completely up to you how many students you decide to tutor, as well as how many sessions a week you want to offer.

Tutoring opportunities are available in most subject areas, so you can also choose what you want to teach and at what level. You may hold relevant qualifications in this area or you may have built up substantial knowledge in a particular subject area through other means.

Websites like TutorChoice and First Tutors are great places to start looking for this type of work and will tell you everything that you need to know to get going. You can also look out for additional opportunities on online job boards. Hours are usually flexible, and you can choose to take on as little or as much work as is convenient for you.

17. Childminding

They say children keep you young, so have you thought about becoming a Childminder? Children can offer us a fresh perspective on life and a welcome escape from the everyday responsibilities of adult life. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend your days and don’t mind drinking from imaginary teacups and building houses out of lego, then you might have just found your next self-employed role. 

As a Childminder, you would typically get paid to look after children in your own home. However, before you can start running and advertising your business, it’s important that you become Ofsted registered – which you can usually do for a small fee. In order to register, you’ll need:

  • A UK criminal record certificate, which you can apply for here.
  • Criminal record certificates for anyone aged 16 or over who also lives in your home.
  • First aid training which is relevant to the age group that you’ll be looking after.
  • Childcare training – which can usually be organised through your local council.
  • A health declaration booklet.
  • Contact details for two references.

The process usually takes around 12 weeks and if successful, you’ll be added to the Ofsted register. The easiest way to start building up a client base is through friends and family, or on websites such as ChildCare.co.uk. Once you have a handful of regular clients who feel they can trust and rely on you, it’s likely that they’ll start recommending you to other people. People won’t usually hand over their kids to just anyone – so building trust is key.

18. Writing

Writing courses

Have you always dreamt about publishing your own book or having people all around the globe read your publications online? It’s never too late to reignite an old passion – especially one that has the potential to earn you some cash!

If you’re interested in writing and publishing short stories in your spare time, then by using Kindle Direct Publishing, you can publish eBook and paperback versions of your stories on Amazon in a matter of minutes – and it’s totally free! Your books could reach millions of readers worldwide and give you the chance to build credibility as an author through reviews and sales. It’ll be up to you to write your own sales copy and choose your own prices.

If you like writing but becoming a novelist isn’t for you, then there are plenty of other freelance opportunities out there which could allow you to work from anywhere. One way you could get started is to sign up to freelance websites like Upwork and take on as many “odd jobs” as you can – this could include anything from writing a 2000 word article on different breeds of dog, to writing horoscopes or reviewing a movie.

Jobs like these can help to increase your reputation and credibility as a writer, and you may be able to collect references and/or testimonials from clients who are particularly happy with your work. It’s worth creating a portfolio and adding pieces of work that you’re particularly proud of (free websites like Issuu or Medium are helpful for creating this). That way, if you decide that you want to start approaching companies directly and offering to write specific material for them, you’ll be able to offer them examples of your work.

In your own time, it can also be helpful to start a blog about a topic you’re passionate about – as this is when your writing will usually be at its best and it’s another great place to showcase your work.

For more information on publishing a book you can read our full guide: How to write a book and get it published.

19. Catering

There are plenty of ways you can be your own boss in the catering world. Perhaps you’re passionate about home baking and would like to sell baked treats to local people. Or maybe, you’d love to set up a food or drink stall in a popular area – selling things like ice cream, coffee, or crepes! Or you could consider going a step further and opening your very own pub or restaurant.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to do as much research and planning as possible to make sure that a) you have all the right licences, equipment, and health and safety procedures in place and b) that you’re starting a business that will cater to the needs of the people in that area.

You should first consider whether you want to operate as a:

  • Home catering business
    This is a common option for bakers and people who run takeaway restaurants. As long as you have the necessary space and equipment, your home can make a great base for your catering operation. You’ll need to get permission to run your baking business at home from your landlord, home insurance provider and/or mortgage lender. You’ll also need to register your food business with your local council.

  • Mobile catering business
    A mobile catering business includes things like street food stalls, vans, and pop-up coffee stands. You’ll be free to take your business wherever there are hungry or thirsty customers, meaning if business dries up in a particular area, you’ll be able to move somewhere new. People will also have the option to book your business for events like weddings or birthdays.

  • Fixed catering business, where customers dine-in
    This includes establishments like pubs, bars, and restaurants, where you’ll typically offer more of a professional dine-in experience for customers. There are many food and drink spaces available for rent across the UK – so it can help to start by looking at what might be available near you.

    Running a pub, bar or restaurant with a team of staff will come with some additional red tape like making sure that you do regular risk assessments. You may also want to consider buying into a franchise because then you’ll have the freedom that comes with running a business, with the backing of a large business network. 

There will be different licences and standards to adhere to depending on the type of catering business you decide to run. You’ll need to do your own research based off the business you are trying to set up, but generally speaking, you will need to do the following things:

  1. Register your food business with your local council at least 28 days before you start selling and check that your kitchen complies with the regulations set out by the Food Standards Agency.

  2. Anyone who wants to run a food business should also have appropriate food hygiene training. It’s strongly recommended by the Food Standards Agency (FDA) that you aim to get a Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate, by taking a short training course.

  3. You’ll need to have public liability insurance, to cover you if anything goes wrong, for example, a customer claims that your service made them ill.

Once you’ve got all the relevant things in place to start your business, you can turn your attention to the fun stuff! Like what kind of baking you’re going to do. For example, will you bake vegan, savoury, or elaborate cakes for special occasions? What kind of theme do you want to have (cosy, modern, 1920s themed, and so on)?

David Prest is one example of someone who recently set up an catering business after being made redundant in his early 50s – you can read his story here.

20. Holiday rentals

Do you ever find yourself wondering what to do with that extra space in your house? Well, that extra space could be the key to your next self-employment opportunity! More and more people are renting out their homes to holiday-makers for short-term stays. The experience is designed to offer a home-away-from-home experience for people on their travels.

Some people decide to simply offer people a room for the night, while others decide to transform their home into a B&B – offering more of a hotel-style experience, where you’ll also serve food and potentially even have on-site staff available to answer questions and show your guests around.

Listing your home on Airbnb

If you’d like to rent out space in your home to others for short stays, but you don’t want the hassle of having to licence your property and run a professional business, then you could be better off listing your space on Airbnb.

Airbnb offers a more casual accommodation set up that’s charged at a cheaper price but makes fewer promises to customers. You’ll not be expected to perform the same housekeeping and catering duties that you otherwise would in a B&B (e.g. room service, a daily cleaning and laundry service, etc) and you can make use of more unusual spaces (e.g. a summer house or sofa bed) – people will still pay to use these at a discounted price.

It’s completely free to list your property and you’ll be in complete control of your availability, prices, house rules and how you choose to interact with those who come to stay. This flexibility is great for those who don’t want a full-time lodger but would be happy to open up their spare room for a few days here or there.

People have also been known to rent out their whole home whilst they themselves are on holiday, to help towards the costs of the trip! The Airbnb website will tell you how to get started and how much you could earn each month, depending on which area you live in.

List my home on Airbnb

Note: Whilst renting out extra space can offer some great earning potential, it’s not without risks – so make sure you know what you’re signing up to before using the service. You are within your right to refuse the service to anyone who you feel poses a risk to you or your home!

Turning your home into a B&B

The process of turning your home into a B&B is fairly straightforward – but there are several considerations and adjustments you’ll need to make before you can make it available to paying customers.

While there are a fair few things to set up before you can get going, once you’re up and running, being a live-in B&B owner is a great way to meet new people and enjoy a healthier work-life balance. The most important legal requirements to be aware of are:

  1. Kitchen hygiene – B&Bs are classed as ‘food businesses’ because you’ll not only be providing customers with a bed but with food during their stay. Before you can start serving food to customers, you’ll need to register with your local council. They’ll pay you a visit to check that your kitchen is safe and hygienic. If you plan to serve alcohol on the premises – even in the form of a welcome drink – then you’ll also need to apply for an alcohol licence.

  2. Fire regulations – you’ll also need to make sure that you inform your local fire service that you’re setting up a B&B. They’ll then come and make sure that your home is as fire-safe as possible.

  3. Planning permission – you may need to apply for planning permission if your home is undergoing a ‘change of use’ even if no structural changes will be made.

  4. Inform your home insurance provider and/or mortgage lender – you’ll need to check they don’t have any special requirements or conditions that you will need to abide by.

  5. Gas safety – a Gas Safe registered engineer will need to do an inspection and then display the certificate somewhere where guests can easily see it.

It’s also important that you have public liability and business insurance to protect you from any claims of wrongdoing whilst someone is staying in your home, and also to ensure that you are covered from any potential guest damage whilst they are staying.

And finally…

If none of the opportunities above are right for you, then don’t lose hope! There are plenty of other self-employment opportunities out there and some may be less obvious than others. It might also be possible to go self-employed in your current role.

The ideas above are intended to be helpful starting points but aren’t exhaustive – it’s really important to thoroughly research all of your ideas, whilst taking into account factors like health and safety, insurance, tax and licences. It’s also important to consider whether self-employment is for you, some people love the freedom it offers – but others find that the lack of routine, as well as the lack of certainty over earnings, come with their own headaches.

If you’re keen on becoming self-employed, while it might feel like there’s a fair amount of red tape to get through before you can get your business up and running, it can help to break the tasks down into simple next steps and stay focused on the benefits that can lie ahead once you do. It can take a lot of courage, hard work, and persistence to start your own business, but for those that manage it, the satisfaction can be immense.

Tips on marketing your business

Often the best way to start building a reputation is to start by offering your services to friends and family who can pass on your details to others and vouch for your skills. You could also try creating a Facebook page to advertise your services in local Facebook groups, posting flyers locally, or providing details of your services on community notice boards. The social network Next Door can also be a low-cost way of advertising your services in the local area.

Once you have a few loyal customers, it’s likely that they will refer you to people they know and over time your client base will grow.

Important things to note…

Health and Safety

Generally, if you’re starting a business where customers are regularly visiting your home, there will need to be certain health and safety regulations in place. To find out more about the legalities of running a business, you can visit the government’s website.


There are certain businesses that may require you to have a licence – again, the government website is a good starting point to check this.


Once you’ve set up your business, you’ll need to register with HMRC as a sole trader or as a limited company. You’ll also need to keep track of your earnings and expenses – keeping any records of receipts and invoices. This is because you’ll need to complete an annual self-assessment tax return to make sure you pay the correct amount of tax each year.


It’s key that you protect yourself and your business by getting the right insurance. Professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance are the two most helpful forms of insurance for protecting you from someone making a claim against your business. Simply Business* specialise in small business insurance and are a great place to start with this.

If you want to set up a business at home, then you’ll need to check that your existing household insurer will still cover you if you do. Most will, but it’ll depend on the type of business that you want to run and can vary from insurer to insurer. You should still notify your insurer in advance whether they’ll cover you or not, to avoid any potential surprises further down the line.

Are you self-employed? Are there any other self-employment ideas that you’d recommend? We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation over on the Rest Less community forum or leave a comment below.

Career and life coaching

Working with a career or life coach can help to give you a fresh perspective and impetus when thinking about making a change in your life. A coach can help to work through what you want from life and support you in plotting a path forward to setting and achieving your goals.

We’ve partnered with a select number of coaches, covering a range of disciplines, and for all budgets. Take a look to see if you can find the perfect coach for you…

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Personal Review Service

If you don’t want to make a commitment to a career or life coach, but you still want help want in advancing in your professional and/or personal life, then you might be interested in PRISM. PRISM is a powerful tool based on neuroscience that’s designed to help you gain a greater awareness of yourself and unlock your hidden potential.

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