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Self employed contractor

Self-employed, self-employed operative, contractor

A self-employed contractor works for themselves, either sourcing and undertaking their own projects or finding work through an agency. As a self-employed contractor, you may work on your own or as part of a construction gang , or you may employ other people within your own company. It’s possible to become self-employed in many lines of work, whether you have a skilled trade, such as carpentry or painting and decorating, or can offer your services as a consultant engineer or architect.

Average salary*




How to become a self-employed contractor

To become a self-employed contractor you will require experience within a particular trade or profession, and the ability to manage your own finances and workload. Depending on the job required, you may need to hold specific qualifications, to prove your competency in plumbing, heating, gas or electrical work, for instance.. The more qualifications you hold, the wider your skillset and therefore the more likely you are to get new business.

You could become a self-employed contractor after completing a university degree, college courses, an apprenticeship, or after gaining workplace experience.

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.


You may need a relevant undergraduate or postgraduate degree to help you gain the necessary skills, if you plan to work in certain areas of construction, such as:

  • Engineering
  • Surveying
  • Construction management
  • Architecture
  • Property and planning
  • Building design
  • Landscape architecture.

You'll need:

  • 2 - 3 A Levels, or equivalent (undergraduate degree)
  • An undergraduate degree in a relevant subject (postgraduate degree).

> Equivalent entry requirements explained

> Find a university course

> Funding advice

College/training provider

You may study on a college course to help you gain the skills required to work in a particular area of construction. Colleges and training providers offer courses in many subjects, including, but not limited to:

  • Tiling
  • Plastering
  • Painting and decorating
  • Bricklaying
  • Engineering
  • General construction
  • Business and administration.

Each course will have different entry requirements, but GCSEs in English and Maths may help prepare you for a construction training course.

> Equivalent entry requirements explained

> Find a course near you

> Funding advice


You could complete an apprenticeship to gain the skills you need to work as a self-employed contractor in the construction industry.

It’s possible to become an apprentice in many lines of work, whether you aim to become a shopfitter, plant mechanic, site manager, engineer, or pursue another role within the industry.

Each course will have different entry requirements, but GCSEs in English and Maths may help prepare you for a construction apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you’ll be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.

> Find an apprenticeship near you

> Guide to apprenticeships


If you have worked within the construction industry for a number of years, you may decide to venture into self-employment. It may be helpful to seek guidance around managing your own tax and finances.


Additional skills which may benefit anyone considering a job as a self-employed contractor include:

  • Knowledge and experience of building and construction
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Basic understanding of finance
  • Ability to work well with others, or own your own
  • Good attention to detail
  • Ambition and a desire to succeed
  • Ability to be flexible and open to change.

What does a self-employed contractor do?

As a self-employed contractor in the construction industry, you could be responsible for any number of different tasks, depending on your profession.

The job role of a self-employed contractor may involve the following duties:

  • Generating new business opportunities
  • Visiting customers and clients to discuss or appraise jobs
  • Negotiating with customers and suppliers to achieve the best price and profit margins
  • Managing people on and offsite to make sure they’re working in the right way
  • Completing paperwork and financial documents, such as VAT and tax returns
  • Planning the future of the business and dealing with any issues with customers, suppliers and employees
  • Undertaking training to improve employment opportunities.

How much could you earn as a self-employed contractor?

As a self-employed contractor you will be able to set your own pay rates.

Depending on the jobs you take, and your skillset, you could earn anywhere in the region of £19,000 - £50,000.*

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources


As the role is self-employed, you can find out more information on becoming self-employed by visiting the gov.uk website.

Career path and progression

As a self-employed contractor, you could expand your business to employ more staff and offer further services.

As your business grows you may decide to take on the role of construction director.

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