Here’s How to Build a Career Being Your Own Boss

4 Jan, 2024 | University Preparation

In OxBright’s Career Report, surveying more than 3,000 high schoolers, we discovered that students tended to value both their salary and being their own boss over other professional factors when choosing a career.

The prospect of self-employment and entrepreneurship as a career path is definitely appealing and has many potential benefits, including higher levels of job satisfaction, a healthier work-life balance and a higher potential for earning.

This article will explore the careers that offer the freedom and autonomy to be your own boss, as well as providing some practical tips to overcome their unique challenges.

Why Do Gen Z Want to Be Their Own Bosses?

We’re cautious about making generalisations here at OxBright – you can take our Careers Test yourself to consider whether professional autonomy is something you look for above other factors in a job. For the majority of the Gen Z students who’ve taken the test so far, as the importance of salary increased, so did the desire to be one’s own boss.

Of course, there has to be a reason for this generational appeal, and it likely has to do with the impact of career trends and patterns within their parents’ generations, which they may want to avoid.

What Are the Options for Being Your Own Boss?

It’s all very well being aware of a generational trend towards self-employment, but it can be difficult to know what the reality of being your own boss might look like while you’re still in high school. We’ve covered six of the most common forms of self-employment below, to give you a starting point in your career exploration.

1. Entrepreneurship: Starting your own business

The first, and arguably best-known, example of self-employment is entrepreneurship, which can be defined as setting up your own business and taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

Some of the more famous entrepreneurs of the last 50 years include Apple founder Steve Jobs, who began developing consumer computer devices in his parents’ garage, and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who started out as a co-anchor for evening news.

Students interested in hearing directly from a successful founder might like to watch Bizcon 2023’s Day in the Life session with Sabreen Ahsan.

2. Freelancing: Mastering the gig economy

Freelancing means working on different jobs for different people or companies without being tied to a specific employer, giving you the freedom to choose your projects and schedule.

The “gig economy” can be described as the market that relies on temporary positions filled by these independent freelancers rather than permanent employees. 

Freelancing is popular, and becoming increasingly so, allowing anyone at any stage in their career – no matter how early – to try their hand at a particular profession.

Freelancing tends to be very flexible and can cover fields from consulting to programming to marketing.

Person sitting at a PC, working on graphic design

3) E-commerce: Online retail success

The e-commerce industry has been rising rapidly in the last few years; it’s a very easy platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to create online stores and sell products or services.

Some of the best-known multinational e-commerce businesses include Amazon, Shopify and AliExpress – businesses which were not always the high-level profit-turners we know them as today. E-commerce business can be a savvy and pragmatic way into self-employment as it can run alongside study or other employed work; it can be built up while you work in another job.

4) Creative arts: From passion to profit

Furthermore, careers in the creative arts (such as writing, art, music and photography) often start off as freelance work, and can be developed into profitable ventures.

This could include writing poetry and submitting your work to paid competitions, writing a novel and sending it to agents, or painting and exhibiting your work at local gallery spaces.

Of course, it’s also perfectly okay to enjoy being creative without making it into a profit turner, but it is possible to have it as a business outlet all the same.

Artist painting by their work station, smiling

5) Online content creation: The power of influencers

One avenue we’re sure you’ll all be familiar with is the world of online content creation, which predominantly exists on social media, but also includes blogging and vlogging.

This is arguably one of the most accessible ways of allowing individuals to be their own bosses, professional or otherwise. Many influencers have turned, and continue to turn, their online presence into a full-time career, and examples of this include YouTubers, live-streamers, and lifestyle influencers.

6) Education and tutoring: Shaping the future

Another steadily growing field of freelancing is education and tutoring. Super-curricular and online tuition is in very high in demand, and many educators today can and do start their own tutoring centres, in-person or online courses, or educational platforms.

Furthermore, tutoring is something students can readily start doing alongside their studies, and this might have a positive impact on their own understanding of academic content whilst bolstering their finances and CV with valuable work experience.

Man tutoring or mentoring a student on a laptop

How Can High School Students Work Towards Being Their Own Boss?

For students who’d like to seek out self-employment, it is very important to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset early on and take on traits such as creativity, resilience, problem-solving and risk-taking. There are group opportunities for the development of these skills, such as participating in entrepreneurship clubs or competitions.

Moreover, students can explore part-time ventures or “side hustles” that align with their interests and talents. Even if these ventures are relatively modest and don’t pay much, they’re extremely valuable for gaining practical experience and learning from the professional process.

Seeking mentorship and guidance, and generally building a network with experienced entrepreneurs and professionals, goes a long way beyond simple guidance and advice. For any self-employed person, making connections with local business associations through individuals or networking events can have unprecedented benefits and opportunities.

Lastly, building a strong educational foundation for yourself matters immensely. The role of education is important in entrepreneurship, and students should consider relevant courses or degrees that can provide valuable knowledge and skills based on their employment of interest.

There’s a very diverse set of careers that empower individuals to be their own bosses. Students who’d like to become self-employed have ample opportunities as well as the support available to take the steps toward entrepreneurial independence.


By Ali Sezgin

Ali is currently studying a BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and is particularly interested in Old English and Renaissance world literature. He has experience in school journalism, and enjoys writing articles and doing research.

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