Self employment

Date last updated: 22 March 2022

Becoming self-employed

Starting your own business is an exciting opportunity. You might want to become self-employed so that you can spend more time with your family, or so that you can focus on a project you’re passionate about. Becoming self-employed is a lot to take on, but by taking things step-by-step and getting advice and support when you need it, you can make your new business work for your family.

Lots of single parents successfully combine raising their family with running their own business. The information below will help you to find the resources you need and work out the steps you need to take.


Single parent Natasha is mum to three boys, and has been self-employed as a Travel Counsellor for twelve years. She chatted to us about the ways self-employment has enabled her to do what she loves while working flexibly around her family.

There is plenty of advice and support available to help you launch your business. Here are our top links:

  1. Gingerbread’s chatbot on getting started as self-employed runs through the practical steps you’ll need to take once you’re self-employed. Click on the speech bubble in the bottom right corner of this page to start.
  2. Websites such as, offer support and guidance and are a great place to get in touch with other entrepreneurs.
  3. You may find the information on starting your own business useful – there are links to local support networks as well as information on how to research your marketdevelop a business plan, and secure funding. There are also business support helplines where you can get tailored advice from experts.
  4. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) also offers a free e-learning course which will help you to understand the formalities of running a business and give you the confidence to get started.
  5. If you’re looking to secure funding for your business, the website also has a free search tool that lists grants, loans and other sources of financial support.
  6. If you’re currently dealing with the jobcentre, your Jobcentre Plus adviser can give you advice on how to get your business started.

Once you’ve got your business up and running you’ll need to register as self-employed with HMRC. If you’re self-employed you are responsible for your tax and national insurance contributions. It may seem daunting at first but there is information available from HMRC as well as an online calculator to help you budget for your tax and national insurance. HMRC have lots of useful videos to help you with your self-assessment, including a guide to completing your self-employed tax return.

Financial support

Our guide to self-employment and benefits below will help you work out what you are entitled to while you build your business. If you’ve been receiving a benefit from the jobcentre, you’ll need to let them know that you’re now self-employed. Your entitlement to some benefits will end, such as jobseeker’s allowance, but you may be entitled to other benefits. We have more information on benefits and tax credits if you work 16 hours or more and you can use the Turn2us online benefit calculator to check what benefits and tax credits you’ll be entitled to.

You’ll need to let the tax credits helpline know that you’re self-employed, and if  you want to claim for childcare costs. You need to do this within a month of starting, but the sooner the better as you could be entitled to more money than you were before you were self-employed. See our advice on benefits and tax credits when you work 16 hours or more and tax credits when your circumstances changefor more information on how your tax credits will be affected.

  • If you’re claiming housing benefit you’ll need to inform your local council that you’re now self-employed, and also the details of any childcare costs you are paying. Lots of single parents are still entitled to housing benefit if they’re self-employed and renting, and your local council can calculate this for you.
  • Similarly, if you’re receiving help with your mortgage interest payments, you’ll need to inform the jobcentre of your change in circumstances.
  • If you’re self-employed for more than 16 hours a week, support may carry on for 4 weeks after starting self-employment.
  • If you’re self-employed for less than 16 hours week, support may continue.If you’re receiving a council tax reduction this could be affected, so you’ll need to inform your local council of the change.

Depending on your income, you could be entitled to help with health costs. If you’re claiming tax credits you could automatically be entitled to full cover of your health costs – you can check on the flowchart available here. If you’re not automatically entitled to help, you could still get support through the NHS low income scheme.

If you aren’t currently getting any child maintenance from your child’s other parent then this could make a big difference to your budget. All parents have a legal responsibility to support their child financially. Our chatbot guide to arranging child maintenance can help you decide on the best arrangement for your family.


Sorting out childcare arrangements when you change your work can be a big challenge, especially if you need to use formal childcare for the first time. Sometimes it’s possible to get some help from your child’s other parent, family members and friends, but often it means paying for childcare. Choosing childcare is a big decision -The Family and Childcare Trust has lots of useful information on how to find childcare in your local area, and on how to choose a childcare provider. There is also information on childcare options for working parents.

You may already be receiving some free childcare which is provided by the government. Some two year-olds, and all three and four year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare, for 38 weeks a year. It may be that you can increase the number of hours with your childcare provider, and could possibly claim tax credits for the cost of the additional childcare. For more information on claiming tax credits for childcare costs see our advice on benefits and tax credits when you work 16 hours or more, or for a more in-depth guide see HMRC’s advice on working tax credit – help with the cost of childcare.

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Getting support from others

You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents who have been through similar changes. Joining a group, like a Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents in our online forums can be helpful and supportive. There are forum threads on both full-time and part-time work.

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