Being your own boss often means working from wherever you want, setting your own hours, taking random days off, and making all the decisions without needing permission from a higher-up. But while self-employment might be the dream for many people, very few are living it.
A study by Dartmouth found that 71 percent of Americans want to be self-employed, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 7 percent of full-time American workers are. Perhaps this is because self-employment might be intimidating to most people—they're afraid it'll require a lofty time commitment and monetary investment upfront.
In reality, you can become self-employed relatively quickly and easily, thanks to freelance platforms, online surveys, job boards, and other internet tools. So, if you're ready to make the jump from “employee” to “boss,” here are five of the best self-employed careers out there.
1. Freelance writer
In a world where marketing is more digital than ever, freelance writers are in high demand. Freelance writers not only fill websites with attractive and engaging content but also drive organic site traffic, generate leads, support customers through sales funnels, and more. In other words, freelance writers bring companies valuable results, from industry authority online to more sales.
To be successful in this career, you'll need to learn SEO—which includes skills like blog post optimization and link building. You'll also need to choose a niche—such as B2B marketing, science, technology, women's health, mental health, diversity and inclusion, or law. Then, market to the businesses in your niche. And when you pitch your services, make sure to be able to answer questions like: What results are you going to provide (more traffic, more leads)? Which services do you perform and specialize in? Which types of companies do you work with?
Starting a freelance writing business comes with multiple benefits. For one, finding clients is relatively simple thanks to job boards like ProBlogger and Contena. Second, you can choose to write in whatever niche you want. Finally, you don't need a specific degree or background to reach success.
2. Social media manager or content manager
Do you like creative work but prefer not to be in front of a camera or type thousands of words on a keyboard? If so, then becoming a social media or content manager might be a suitable path for you.
Social media managers are typically responsible for running and managing the social media accounts of their clients. Depending on the client, it could also include creating the content. A similar career would be social media consultant. Meanwhile, content managers oversee and manage their clients' blogs—such as SEO, keyword research, editing, publishing, and planning. Like most other digital marketing professions, these careers don't require specific degrees but instead require sharp research and communication skills.
Also, thanks to the e-learning industry, there are hundreds of social media marketing and content marketing courses (both free and paid) that teach you everything you need to know, and even certify you. Taking courses like these are effective ways to not just become a master of your craft but also build credibility and gain new clients.
In addition to learning the skills necessary, you should also build a portfolio. Practice managing and growing your own social media accounts, or those that belong to businesses, freelancers, or just regular people you know. Be sure to document the results you bring them and display them in your portfolio. For aspiring content managers, you can do the same exercise when it comes to blogging. Create your own blog, or offer to manage someone else's for free in return for a testimonial and agreement to let you use their site in your portfolio.
3. Web designer or developer
While there are differences between web developing and designing, both are creative and profitable freelance careers. Whether you already have experience in the field or not doesn't matter, as there are countless online courses that teach you everything you need to know—from coding to design elements.
To get started as a web developer or designer, practice building and creating websites on your own or for people you know. Then, add them to your website or design portfolio to show potential clients. You can also do free work in exchange for testimonials.
When it comes to finding clients, you can employ marketing techniques like cold emailing and launching your own website, or create a profile on sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
4. Virtual assistant
If you enjoy performing office work, administrative tasks, and have strong communication skills, then becoming a virtual assistant might be a career path to consider. Virtual assistants usually perform multiple services for their clients—such as responding to emails, invoicing, answering phone calls, email marketing, and even creative tasks like writing blogs and social media content. You could also be in charge of managing the other employees in your employer's remote business.
Similar to the freelancing writing world, there are tons of job boards available for virtual assistants to scout out new clients. To get started, check out VirtualAssistants, Upwork, VANetworking, and PeoplePerHour, where you can begin looking for work. A few tools you'll need as a virtual assistant include software like Microsoft, keyword research tools, productivity tools, project management software (like Asana), and a VPN for keeping all of your data and passwords safe.
5. Interior designer
To become an interior designer, you ideally need a relevant degree (such as in architecture or interior Design), two years of work experience, and certification. You receive certification by taking an exam—the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam (also known as the NCIDQ exam). The exam ensures you know the basics of design and safety, such as building codes, inspection regulations, construction standards, project coordination, design application, and more. As an interior designer, you can choose to work for a firm or—if you want to be self-employed—start your own small business.
Freya Kuka is the founder of the personal finance blog CollectingCents, which teaches readers how to grow their passive income, save money, improve their credit score, and manage debt. She has been featured in publications like Business Insider, Fox Business, the Huffington Post, and GoBankingRates.