Working for yourself can be as little as taking on one piece of paid work for someone else, and as large as setting up a company with a plan to become global. In almost any profession or industry, people take on work for themselves, and in some fields it’s the most common way of working.

However, it doesn’t matter whether you are a visual artist, a Chinese Medicine practitioner, a first-year IT student with an app you want to commercialise, or three engineering graduates with an idea for solving water supply issues in remote areas; the decisions you’ll need to make are the same.

You need to work out how you’ll do this thing.

These are two questions that can help clarify or develop your plans:

  • How often will I do this thing, and how much of it do I plan to do? This may help you decide the scale of what you need to set up.  For example, if it’s work you plan to keep doing, you might invest in equipment. If it’s something you’ll do alone, you’ll need to ensure you can deliver the product or service in a timely way etc.
  • The legal structure you choose (this is how the Australian Tax Office differentiates between different kinds of working for yourself in Australia) will also direct some of the tasks you’ll be involved in. This could be anything from setting up a board, employing staff, designing a brand, or applying for an ABN.

At RMIT we talk a lot about ‘Enterprise’ or ‘Enterprise formation’; this just means starting a business, starting a Not-for-Profit, or undertaking some sort of career-oriented project.

Entrepreneurship is the development of business/not-for-profit activities that are often high-concept and high-risk. RMIT has many ways to support entrepreneurial activities, including:



Also known asSole Trader, Contractor, Independent Contractor, Sub-Contractor, Consultant

A freelancer is someone who is sells their work or services to clients, works independently instead of an as employee of an organisation, and may have a number of clients at any given time.

Freelancing can describe once-off or occasional work, right through to a full-time workload. Freelancing always describes an individual with specialist professional skills.

Working with others

Also known as: Small business, Company, Partnership, Social Enterprise, Start-up

Setting up a business, with an intention of it making a profit, or the intention of benefiting the community in the case of Social Enterprise.

A business owner may have particular professional expertise that they are building on – for example, a designer who is beginning a design business – or may have business expertise primarily, and employ staff for the professional knowledge required (for example, someone who has bought a café without having worked in one, with plans to hire staff with café experience).

Note: you can start a business by yourself (it doesn’t have to be as a freelancer, see above!) but more often there’ll be other people involved; if not now, then later on.

Also known as:  Public Company, Company Guided by Guarantee, Cooperative, Unlisted Public Company, Incorporated Association, Social Enterprise

Not-for-profit is an organisation that does not operate for the financial gain or benefit of individual people. In Australia, Not-for-profits can take a number of legal structures, and this will depend on what fits best with your plan. For more advice on the choices of structure, go to: