By Miranda Vande Kuyt

Understanding self-employment is more important than ever. Over 2.5 million Canadians are self-employed, making up over 15% of the Canadian workforce1 and the number keeps growing. As large as those numbers are, very few career practitioners understand what it takes to be successfully self-employed. Most career practitioners work within government-funded programs, 2 and for many, self-employment is not on their radar, for themselves or their clients.

However, we live in transformational times where job security is shaky at best. Self-employment is a very real option that should be considered by everyone facing a career transition. That is not to say that self-employment is the right option for everyone; characteristics such as knowledge and skills are important, as is the right attitude (e.g., passion, drive, vision) and proper preparation.

People enter self-employment for many different reasons. Some are facing lay-offs due to organizational restructuring, others are looking to supplement their current income, and still others are looking for more flexible work options that will support their changing lifestyle (e.g., young parents who want to stay home with their children or those nearing retirement who are interested in transitioning to something less demanding but still meaningful).

Career practitioners are encouraged to have self-employment knowledge and skills to support clients interested in self-employment, but may also wish to explore self-employment as a viable option for themselves. Career practitioners can offer services as self-employed contractors (e.g., facilitating workplace-based career development workshops, developing programs, supporting team-strengthening initiatives and providing outplacement support for organizations laying off some of their workforce). Career practitioners may also help organizations equip their self-employed contractors by offering workshops or coaching on self-employment tips and strategies.

To help career practitioners better understand the realities of self-employment, Life Strategies, with generous funding support from CERIC, created the Look Before You Leap: Self-Employment Survival Strategies suite of tools and resources to educate career practitioners including a two-week course and workbook that introduces 10 strategies that contribute to self-employment success; a dedicated Leap website (, blog (, and Twitter feed (@lookb4leaping) provide regular updates on tips, articles and events to help the self-employed.

All career practitioners will benefit from understanding what it takes to become successfully self-employed – not only for themselves, but for their clients as well. Self-employment may be the answer career practitioners and clients are looking for as they plan next stages on their career/life journeys.


Miranda Vande Kuyt is the facilitator of the Look Before You Leap e-learning course and contributor to the Look Before You Leap blog. She is a self-employed consultant offering services to the career development field in website/social media development and management, project development and freelance writing. You can reach her through her website at

Life Strategies specializes in training for career practitioners. For information on the Look Before You Leap project and its tools, visit their website at


1-Industry Canada Key Small Business Statistics July 2011.

2-Pan Canadian Mapping Study of the Career Development Sector.