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 to 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 make any adjustments you might need.
Gingerbread can help you stay on track as your business grows – you can sign up to our email reminders to receive further information on:
- Managing your budget
- Registering as self-employed
- Your benefit and tax credit entitlement
- Getting a work-life balance.
We'll also send you a checklist of key things to remember.
Seven tools to help you start your own business
There is plenty of advice and support available to help you launch your business. Here are our top seven links:
1. Gingerbread's online guide to getting started as self-employed
is a great place to start. Our clickable infographic runs through the practical steps you'll need to take once you're self-employed.
2. Citizens Advice has a handy checklist of things to think about before you get started.
3. Online forums and websites, such as smallbusiness.co.uk offer support and guidance and are a great place to get in touch with other entrepreneurs.
4. You may find the gov.uk information on starting your own business useful - there are links to local support networks as well as information on how to research your market, develop a business plan and secure funding. There are also business support helplines where you can get tailored advice from experts.
5. 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.
6. If you're looking to secure funding for your business, the gov.uk website also has a free search tool that lists grants, loans and other sources of financial support.
7. If you're currently dealing with the jobcentre, your Jobcentre Plus adviser can give you advice on how to get your business started, as well as providing information on government schemes and allowances like the New Enterprise Allowance to help people start their businesses.
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.
Our guide to self-employment and benefits 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 that 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 change for 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 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 a week, support may continue. If you’re receiving a council tax reduction this could be affected, so you’ll need to inform them of the change.
Depending on your income, you could be entitled to help with health costs. If you’re claiming tax credits you could be automatically entitled to full cover of your health costs – you can check on this flowchart. 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 interactive guide on 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.
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 Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents in the Gingerbread online forums can be helpful. There is even a forum thread on self-employment. You can also keep up to date with the latest information from Gingerbread by liking our Facebook page and following us on Twitter.
It can be motivating to read through stories from other single parents who are self-employed. Helen and Nicola have shared their experiences of raising a family while being self-employed on our website.
Looking for more information and useful tips on starting self-employment? Sign up for our email reminder service to receive advice on key milestones over the coming weeks.