I'm leaving my job (embedded systems) for some travel, personal development and career pivoting. In that time, I can survive off my savings for about half a year, before I have to start making money freelancing (or engaging in some kind of part-time employment). I have a bunch of ideas for personal projects which I want to investigate and which could (but not necessarily will) turn into business venture.

I was wondering if normally that could be considered as being self-employed? I mean, technically it is the same as having a start-up with a product still in the R&D (so no revenue) but the investment comes from myself except an external party.

"Why do I care?" - I hear you ask. Well, there is a several cases where this matters (to me) and I suspect the answer to my question might be different for each of those reasons:

  • Tax - if I'm self-employed I would be accruing years counting towards my state retirement here in the UK;
  • Immigration - as an EU citizen I would have far greater chances of being allowed to stay in post-Brexit Britain if I was self-employed rather than 'bumming around writing own code'. Also, should I decide to emigrate elsewhere, countries with point-based immigration systems (like Canada or New Zealand) are likely to consider periods of self-employment as counting towards their employment time thresholds.
  • Employability - should I decide to return into full-time employment, being 'self-employed' would likely look better on a CV. This obviously matters only during the very initial stages of recruitment and the full story is likely to come out in any interviews.
  • @JoeStrazzere - Travel time will count as travel time and not working. My question is about the work I will be doing in that time, not the travel. There is a fair number of digital nomads out there working part-time freelance who are considered self-employed. I was wondering how my status would compare to theirs.
    – SaladButt
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 13:40
  • 5
    Agree with @JoeStrazzere - you need legal/tax advice. If, for example, you want this period to count for UK tax purposes, I imagine you will need to file taxes during this period - and HMRC will decide what counts as self-employed and what counts as unemployed; not the posters on here. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 13:47
  • 1
    VTC because the essence of this question is a legal matter in the UK.
    – Kent A.
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:03
  • You would need to set up a company to do this and pay your NI other wise those years wont count (unless you are a carer) Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 21:06
  • It's very simple. Start a company (costs £14 at the companies house website) with yourself as the director. The company hires you, pays your taxes, NI contributions, and so on. Now you are employed; costs you about £800 to £1,000 a month. Is it a good idea? Not that way. However, if your company first finds itself some well paying contracting jobs, and builds up some capital, then you can take time off while paying yourself a minimal salary, as long as the company's money lasts.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:43

1 Answer 1


Self employed actually doesn't look that great on a CV, many employers are wary of hiring entrepreneurs. And a self-employed person looking for a full time job sometimes comes across as a failure.

In saying that you can get as creative as you want in a CV, I've seen much more unlikely and downright dishonest CV's over the years. It's up to you how you rationalise it. One drawback of being self-employed without an actual product or service history to reference is you cannot easily show what you were doing if anyone starts digging.

So, while you can get creative, I wouldn't class living off my savings as self employed unless I had something to show for it such as a product or service. I'd class it as a holiday.

  • 1
    Fair enough. I suppose for the purposes of employability it would be good to have a concrete portfolio of the things I worked on - e.g. a github repository demonstrating a furious avalanche of code of a full-time personal-projecter.
    – SaladButt
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:18
  • 2
    Successfully self-employed can look good. But you need to be able to demonstrate that success, and convince them that you can also work under someone else's direction.
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:43
  • @SaladButt no you would need a good track record of contracts eg 6 months with company Y 9 months with company X Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 16:43

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