Self-employment and entrepreneurship

For many people, starting and running a business is an alternative pathway to employment or an opportunity for a career change.

An entrepreneur is anyone who starts and builds a business. There are people who are able to turn their hobby into a business and make money as a sole trader, people who start a new business but remain small (with just a few employees) and there are high-growth start-ups which focus on scale and export from the outset.

All new businesses are unique in their approach, planning and trajectory.

Self-employment can benefit individuals and the economy

Self-employment has many potential benefits for business owners, including the flexibility to work when and how they choose, the opportunity to learn new skills, and the ability to generate income. More than half of Australians think that there are good opportunities to start a business and almost half believe they possess the skills to do so. Self-employment and entrepreneurship gives people the freedom to do things differently and to come up with new ideas. Small businesses are more likely to be innovative and bring new goods and services to a market than large businesses.

In addition to the potential benefits to individuals, small businesses are valuable to the Australian economy. In 2019, there were around 2.3 million small businesses (employing fewer than 20 workers) in Australia that employed around 4.9 million Australians (44% of the workforce) and accounted for 35% of Australia’s gross domestic profit. 

Self-employment considerations

Starting and running a business can be a rewarding but challenging experience, and not all small businesses survive. While there were just over 2 million small businesses operating in June 2014, only 1.3 million (or 65%) were still in business in June 2018. In addition, small business owners often have net income below the average Australian wage. Of those who think there are good opportunities to start a business, more than 40% state that fear of failure would prevent them from doing so.

Starting your own business may require start-up funding, an idea, long hours, resourcefulness, and hard work. Exploring your idea, thinking about the skills and funding you need, and undertaking business planning are good first steps if you are thinking about starting your own business. It is also important to have support and guidance throughout your journey to becoming a small business owner.

Where to go for support?

There are a number of government resources available to assist people who want to start their own business and show what self-employment may look like for them.

SelfStart Online Hub

The SelfStart Online Hub is a starting point for people who wish to explore and develop their ideas into a successful business. SelfStart aims to connect people to existing services and programs, as well as provide information that will assist them to start a business. For more information, go to

New Business Assistance with NEIS

New Business Assistance with NEIS helps people start their own business. The program provides accredited business training, assistance to develop a business plan and mentoring and advice in the first year of a new business. Since the program was introduced in 1985, it has helped more than 180,000 people start their own business.

New Business Assistance with NEIS is delivered by a national network of NEIS providers. You can find your nearest NEIS provider and more information at

Entrepreneurship Facilitators

Entrepreneurship Facilitators are located in 23 locations across Australia to provide practical assistance to support and encourage people looking to start a business. Facilitators provide information and advice through workshops, networking events and one-on-one mentoring providing tailored advice. They also help people connect with other appropriate services that are available to help start and run a business, for example, New Business Assistance with NEIS or business support services.

Contact details for Entrepreneurship Facilitators are available from

The Australian Government provides information to help people plan, start or run their own business. The ‘Starting a Business Guide’ provides step-by-step information to help new business owners understand what's ahead when starting a new business in Australia, and is available at

Sources: Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Small Business Counts 2019; Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: GEM Australia – 2017/18 National Report; ABS, Counts of Australian Businesses.