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Advantages of Self-Employment

Employment Advice For Persons With Developmental Disabilities

drawing of a person thinking about their career

Artwork provided by an individual supported by Reena.

Dear Joanna,

I’m struggling with getting a job offer even though I’m a qualified customer service specialist and it’s my strength and passion. Because of my disability, I am unable to pass the interview and secure a job in the traditional competitive labour market, especially with the increase in minimum wage. I’ve been encouraged by my family to be self-employed and work on projects as a consultant. Any feedback regarding the advantages of having my own business would be helpful.

Signed: Exploring Self-Employment

Dear ESE,

I’ve consulted with Sally Wilkie, Lending Program Manager of Rise Asset Development,  to respond to your inquiry. Rise provides low interest small business loans, free small business training and mentorship to individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities or other similar barriers.  Thanks to the growth of technology, especially the internet, self-employment  for persons with disabilities has become a viable option for those who want to be economically self-sufficient, suggests Wilkie. She presents the following advantages of self-employment in today’s labour market:

  1. Internet digital marketing. With the growth of technology, online shopping is bigger than ever; and so is the selling of products and services using the internet as a marketing tool.  The traditional ways of marketing with the retail stores or radio and TV are no longer the only way to do business! The costs of starting a website, with a domain name and other online marketing features are modest. In fact, some businesses don’t require a website. Many Rise clients promote and sell their products or services online.
  2. Flexibility. Self-employment allows owners to have the flexibility in their schedule and work on his or her own terms.  Unlike working at a job, when starting your own business you can set the schedule, the hours, and the location.  And you can organize your work life around your accommodations.  You are operating on your own, and this alleviates issues regarding your disability in both the job search as well as the workplace. For example, often full time work is not for everyone. You can chose how much or how little time you want to spend on the business. Rise supports clients operating both full and part time businesses.
  3. Turning a hobby, passion and/or interest into a business. Being able to turn your passion, hobby, strengths and/or interests into a business and actually work in this is the best part of self-employment. Often jobs available for persons with disabilities are low wages, low level skills requirements and entry level with few opportunities for career advancement (Prince, 2016).  In self-employment, most people start their own business because they love what they do. The challenge is the marketing and selling of the products or services as well as learning and understanding how to build and keep a customer base. This is requirement for anyone starting a business.  For example, Rise has helped many artisans to develop the business skills they need to turn their art into a successful income generating business.
  4. Builds character and confidence. With self-employment, Wilkie points out how learning the skills of business are important not just for being self-employed but also for working in the general labour market. Persistence, sales techniques, preparing and implementing a business plan and other strategies help build stamina and perseverance. There will always be road blocks and challenges along the way. Having to problem solve and figure out how to find help and support to get past the barriers is part of the learning curve. This builds confidence and character in addition to having the help and advice from mentors, teachers, trainers and the program’s support staff that are available to help you. “Keep your eye on the goal, be willing to learn and be open to new ideas” is part of the recipe Wilkie suggests.
  5. Learn innovative ways to connect and network. One of challenges of a start- up small business is that it’s isolating. When you go to work for someone else, you have your colleagues. When you start a business it’s just you. This is an opportunity for you to find creative ways to connect with other people and professionals who are also self-employed (and even potential customers!). For example, join networks on social media and/or in the industry associations and clubs.

Regards: Joanna

To submit your questions and comments to this column in confidence, please email Joanna Samuels, Employment Resource Specialist at Reena. 

Prince, M. (2016). Inclusive employment for Canadians with disabilities. IRPP Study, (20), Sourced on February 15, 2018 from

Wilkie, S. (2017). Rise Asset Development.’s Peer Supported Start-Up Program.