self-employed / working for oneself

meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, some of the people who run their own business say "I'm self-employed" or "I work for myself" when introducing themselves. Do they really think or feel that they are employed by themselves or working for themselves who need them as a worker? Or is it just a fixed expression that doesn't really mean what it says?

I don't think people running their own business in my country (including myself) consider they are "self-employed" or "working for themselves". That's why in Japanese we only say "I'm running my own business" or "I'm a freelance" (if freelancing).
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    As already established in at least one other thread of yours, self-employed is an official term with a specific meaning in terms of taxation. It’s how the British Government, and possibly others, classifies someone who “works for him- or herself”. These are standard idiomatic expressions, which do not have the same nuance as running your own business (which implies that your business is a limited company) or working freelance (which implies that you do the same job for multiple employers rather than being on the payroll of any of them).
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Yes, "self-employed" simply means you work for yourself and not for an employer. Many tradespeople in the UK are: one of my nephews is a self-employed electrician. "Running your own business" often but not always entails having premises and employing staff.

    It's different from freelancing, which generally entails working on a commission basis where you simply get to pick and choose which jobs or assignments to accept.
     
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    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    So, sole proprietors and freelancers are both "self-employed" because they work for themselves but those who say they "run their own business" are unlikely to describe themselves as "self-employed" because they usually work for the limited company they own, not for themselves?

    Yes, "self-employed" simply means you work for yourself and not for an employer.
    I don't really understand why they say "self-employed" in English. I'm a freelance, and I'm just one person. I'm neither an employer or employee. For the same reason the expression "I work for myself" seems strange to me. I can see why people say "I work for <company name>", because the company is their employer. But you aren't your employer when you are a solo proprietor or freelance. You never hired yourself.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Surely you’re familiar with the concept of “being your own boss”? You can be your own boss / work for yourself in a variety of ways, and you don’t have to only use one expression to describe your situation. The taxman will pigeonhole your status, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Surely you’re familiar with the concept of “being your own boss”?
    I've heard the expression many times in English, but I can't recall ever hearing it in Japanese. Maybe some people think that way, but I've never considered myself my own boss.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I've heard the expression many times in English, but I can't recall ever hearing it in Japanese. Maybe some people think that way, but I've never considered myself my own boss.
    Are you self-employed? Do you report to a boss? Just don't forget that if you are your own boss, you still have one employee to worry about :D
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You never hired yourself.
    Many people in this situation pay themselves. Their personal finances are separate from the finances of the business. Being hired is a fraction of a moment in the long series of payments that is employment. ;)
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    My clients pay to my business bank account (meaning that I'm paid by my clients) and I take money out of the account and put it into my personal bank account or just use it to buy groceries etc. (meaning that I'm probably paid by myself). But I'm NOT employed by myself, because the one who's doing the freelance work is the one who manages the business account, not the one who's buying groceries etc.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s just a different way of looking at things. That’s exactly how most self-employed one-man bands operate. They have a personal bank account into which they transfer funds from their separate business account — in effect paying themselves (although of course all income paid into the business account by clients would be taxable, whether withdrawn or not).
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    They have a personal bank account into which they transfer funds from their separate business account — in effect paying themselves
    Yes, so "self-paid" makes sense to me, but "self-employed" doesn't (for the reason I stated in my last post). But I'll accept the term. :)
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    The idea is that you don’t have a boss to report to. You didn’t hire yourself, but nobody else hired you, either. And yet you’re working — you can work and make money without having been hired. Think of “employed” here as meaning “working for money.” You are working for money, and you yourself made this possible. So you are self-employed. You owe your gainfully employed status to no one.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Think of “employed” here as meaning “working for money.” You are working for money, and you yourself made this possible.
    Yes, I'm working for money (rather than for myself). And if "employed" here means "working for money", I think I can understand the term "self-employed".
     
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