How to register as self-employed

A step-by-step guide on how to register as self-employed - including all the forms, documents, and links you'll need to get started.

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So, you’re thinking about becoming self-employed?

With the cost of living creeping ever higher, it’s an excellent idea to explore additional sources of income, and perhaps start a new small business venture that may help ease your financial struggles through post-pandemic life.

In this article we’re going to explore everything it takes to register as self-employed in the UK. This can be confusing, but we have years of expertise at jargon busting and can guide you through every stage, step by step.

Do I need to register as self-employed?

You would be considered self employed if you:

  • Sell goods or services for profit
  • Aim to sell goods and services on a regular basis
  • Are responsible for yourself in terms of where, when and how you work
  • Are responsible for the workings, success and/or failure of the business

If any of these things apply, you’ll need to register as self-employed.

This ensures that you get taxed the right amount on your new venture, because where taxes are deducted automatically if you work a job, self-employed people have to keep track of this and report it separately. But don’t worry – it’s not too difficult.

Benefits of registering as self employed

There are benefits to registering as self-employed too, like the opportunity to claim Tax-Free Childcare for example.

If you only occasionally sell items or rent out property, you typically won’t need to register or pay any tax until you exceed your annual personal tax allowance of £12,570. There are a variety of different circumstances so best practice is to always check if you need to tell HMRC about extra income.

When do I need to register as self-employed?

It’s best to register as self-employed as soon as possible so that your profits and tax can be accurately recorded within that year, and you can avoid any penalties. However there are some dates to keep in mind:

  • Within any yearly period, 5 April is the earliest you can newly register (this is the start of the tax year)
  • 5 October is the deadline;
  • And you have until January 31 to pay any taxes or national insurance that may have accrued before the new tax year begins.

Financial Requirements for registering as self-employed

There are a few financial considerations you may have to take into account when registering as self-employed.

While it is free for anyone to become self-employed, and all you will need to do is pay taxes each year via Self Assessment, you might want to consider getting self-employment insurance.

Self-employment insurance is not a legal requirement, but it could be useful for putting you, your employees and your customers’ minds at ease in the case of any emergencies to know that you are protected. This will typically apply if you run your business outside of the home; outdoor activities for example, or premises that will be seeing a lot of customers coming in and out each day.

What is the process for registering as self-employed?

Registering online is the quickest and easiest way so we’ll cover this first.

Step 1: Create a “Government Gateway” account.

You can create your account online here using your full name, email and password – then you’ll be sent a user ID to the email address you provided.

Step 2: Log in to your Government Gateway account and select ‘Add a tax’

Using your user ID and password, you can now log in to your Government Gateway account and register. You’ll see an option to “add a tax” to your account.

Step 3: Select ‘Self Assessment’ (for self-employed, partnerships and trusts)

You’ll then need to select a Self-Assessment category from the options: individual or sole trader, and partnership or trust. (Remember, as mentioned above, registering a company is a different process.)

The process of registering as self-employed will be instant online. According to the website, you’ll get your official Unique Taxpayer Reference ( UTR ) by post in 10 working days.

What do I need to do once I’ve registered as self-employed?

Once you’re all set, there are only a few things to remember to become a self-employed person:

  • Keep records: You’ll need your records to fill in your tax return accurately.
  • Tax payments: You will have to make 2 payments on account every year (unless your Self Assessment tax bill is less than £1000), due by midnight on 31 January and 31 July.
  • National Insurance: Voluntary Class 2 National Insurance payments ensure your self-employment contributes to the UK’s 10-35 year work commitment in order to receive a portion of the state pension in old age.

The good news is that we’ve researched and rated some of the best accounting software options available to help you keep on top of running your business.

Other ways to register

Whilst we recommend registering online, there are other options as mentioned above. They are:

  • Phoning HMRC’s Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504
  • Completing a CWF1 form
  • For those with health conditions or personal circumstances that may make registering difficult, you can use the government’s additional needs page

We hope we’ve shown you how quickly and simply you can register, but if you have any queries or concerns, we’d advise seeking professional advice from an accountant or quality accounting software.

Considerations if you’re a sole trader, in a partnership or limited company

While registering as self employed can be a straightforward process, there are some further things to consider depending on the company structure you have chosen, or may be considering.

Do I need to register as a sole trader?

All individuals who work for themselves are self-employed, but only those who also work primarily alone are sole traders. ‘Sole trader’ is a business structure that signifies that you are the highest operator, and there is no other legal structure.

If you were to expand in future, into a partnership or company for example, those terms would replace ‘Sole trader’ as your business model, but typically most people starting out are sole traders. You can hire people as freelancers, contractors or employees, but ultimately as sole trader all profit and loss are yours, you don’t share them or have to answer to anyone else.

You need to set up as a sole trader / self-employed if you earned more than £1,000 from your self-employment within any 12-month period.

What if I’m in a business partnership?

If you would like to form a business partnership or have already formed one with either one or more additional partners, you would have to decide which of you would be considered as the ‘nominated partner’ who would be responsible for sending the partnership tax return – and then have them register using the ‘Register partnership’ form on HMRC.

You would all still have to register separately as self-employed in order to fill out your own personal tax accounts each year.

What if I’m a limited company?

If you know that you want to start a limited company right away, the process is a little different. You will have to register a company name, and the company itself at the HMRC website “Companies House”.

You’ll need at least three pieces of identification for yourself and any shareholders or guarantors, and the registration fee of £12 which can be paid by debit or credit card.

Your company is usually registered within 24 hours. You’ll get a certificate of incorporation with your new company number and the date of formation, which will prove that your company has officially been registered and incorporated.

Again, you would still have to register as a self-employed individual in this case.


Now you should have a clear understanding of what it takes to register as self-employed, the various different ways you can apply, and how cheap and easy it can be to get started with your new business venture.

The words ‘sole trader‘ and ‘self-employed‘ can be used interchangeably, but technically sole trader is a company structure, whereas self-employed is what you are. See: The ultimate guide to becoming a sole trader

Frequently Asked Questions
  • At what point do you need to register as self employed?
    You should register between the 5th April and the 5th October of the year you start your business.
  • Is it worth registering as self employed?
    It is a legal requirement to register as self-employed if you earn more than £1,000 from your self-employment within any 12-month period, but doing so before can have benefits such as tax-free childcare and recording your NI contributions.
  • What paperwork is needed to register as self-employed?
    You can fill in a CWF1 form to register as self-employed if you like, but the most standard way is to register online.
  • How long does it take to register as self-employed?
    The process of registering as self-employed will be instant if you registered online. According to the website, you'll get your official Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) by post in 10 working days.
Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.
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