Understanding The Difference Between Sole Proprietor And Self-Employed

  • John A. Osborne
  • Dec 22, 2022
Small Business Insurance Kentucky

When it comes to working for oneself, many people use the terms “sole proprietor” and “self-employed” interchangeably. However, these two terms have distinct differences. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone who wants to start a business or work for themselves.

While both sole proprietors and self-employed individuals work for themselves, the legal and tax implications of these two types of businesses are different. In this article, we will explore the difference between sole proprietor and self-employed, and what it means for your business.

What is a Sole Proprietor?

A sole proprietor is an individual who owns and operates a business. This type of business is not a separate legal entity from its owner, meaning the owner is personally responsible for all of the business’s debts and liabilities. A sole proprietorship is the most common type of business in the United States and is easy to set up and maintain.

Some key characteristics of a sole proprietorship include:

  • Owned and operated by one person
  • Not a separate legal entity from its owner
  • The owner is personally responsible for all business debts and liabilities
  • Income and losses are reported on the owner’s personal income tax return

What Does It Mean to Be Self-Employed?

Being self-employed means that you work for yourself and are responsible for your own income and expenses. This can include freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners who operate as a limited liability company (LLC) or partnership.

Some key characteristics of self-employment include:

  • Working for oneself instead of an employer
  • Responsible for all business expenses and taxes
  • Can work as a freelancer, independent contractor, or small business owner
  • Can operate as an LLC or partnership

The Differences Between Sole Proprietor and Self-Employed

While there is some overlap between sole proprietor and self-employed, there are distinct differences between the two. The main differences include:

A sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity from its owner, while a self-employed individual can operate as an LLC or partnership. This means that a self-employed individual has more legal protections and can limit their personal liability for business debts and liabilities.

Tax Implications

A sole proprietor reports all business income and losses on their personal income tax return, while a self-employed individual may need to pay self-employment taxes on top of income taxes. A self-employed individual may also be eligible for additional tax deductions and credits.

Business Management

As a sole proprietor, the owner is responsible for all aspects of the business, including management, finances, and marketing. A self-employed individual may have more flexibility in how they manage their business, and may be able to hire employees or outsource certain tasks.


Understanding the difference between sole proprietor and self-employed is important for anyone who is considering working for themselves. While both types of businesses have similarities, they also have distinct differences in legal structure, tax implications, and business management. By understanding these differences, individuals can make informed decisions about which type of business structure is best for their needs.

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