[ self-em-ploid, self- ]
/ ˈsɛlf ɛmˈplɔɪd, ˌsɛlf- /
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earning one's living directly from one's own profession or business, as a freelance writer or artist, rather than as an employee earning salary or commission from another.
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Origin of self-employed

First recorded in 1945–50
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does self-employed mean?

Self-employed means earning one’s main income by getting paid directly for one’s work, such as by owning one’s own business, as opposed to being an employee and getting paid by an employer.

When people describe themselves as self-employed, it typically means that this is their primary way of earning income, and that they do it full-time—as opposed to working as an employee and doing freelance work on the side, for example.

The term self-employed is often used by and applied to people who consider themselves business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.

Self-employed is sometimes used to collectively refer to self-employed people, as in This program is intended to help the self-employed. 

The state of being self-employed is self-employment.

Example: I love being self-employed—my boss is amazing.

Where does self-employed come from?

The first records of the word self-employed come from the late 1700s. Its base word, employ, ultimately derives from the Latin implicāre, meaning “to engage” (the word engage is sometimes used to mean “to hire” or “to employ”). The self part of the word is used in the same way in other words like self-governed and the more recently coined self-partnered.

Most people who are self-employed will tell you that it has its pros and cons. On the positive side, you’re your own boss. But it’s often a lot of responsibility and risk. People who are self-employed don’t get many of the benefits associated with being a full-time employee of a company or organization. Being self-employed doesn’t necessarily mean you work alone—many self-employed business owners employ other people.

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What are some other forms related to self-employed?

What are some words that share a root or word element with self-employed

What are some words that often get used in discussing self-employed?

How is self-employed used in real life?

Self-employed is often used in the context of one’s status as a worker, such as for tax purposes.



Try using self-employed!

Is self-employed used correctly in the following sentence?

Filing taxes when you’re self-employed is tricky—you don’t have an employer keeping track of anything for you.

How to use self-employed in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for self-employed


earning one's living in one's own business or through freelance work, rather than as the employee of another

Derived forms of self-employed

self-employment, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012