Do you enjoy working with your hands and like the idea of being your own boss? In that case, a career as a self-employed labourer could be perfect for you. 

Labourers are often self-employed, and branching out on your own can be an excellent way to earn a living while having more control over your work. 

But where do you get started?

This guide will help you become a self-employed labourer by covering the key steps and information you need to succeed. 

We’ll cover:

  • The jobs of a self-employed labourer
  • How to become a self-employed labourer in four steps

The jobs of a self-employed labourer

In case you’re not clear on what labourers do exactly, here’s a little explanation. 

As a labourer, your duties may vary depending on the project, but it’s important to be familiar with certain techniques and equipment that are common in construction. 

Generally, your responsibilities will include:

  • Setup and cleanup tasks on site
  • Operating heavy machinery like excavators or dump trucks
  • Digging pits, foundations and trenches
  • Erecting panels to support clay
  • Roadwork
  • Directing traffic to ensure the safety of pedestrians
  • Conducting work from high heights
  • General maintenance of construction equipment 

Some labourers also have specific skills, such as carpentry, which can give them a competitive advantage against those that don’t.

How to become a self-employed labourer in four steps

Now that you know exactly what the job entails, let’s look at the steps you need to take to become a self-employed labourer. 

Step 1: Make sure you can do the job

There are no set requirements to be a labourer, but you do need the ability to work with your body and have a high regard for safety. Since you’ll also start your own business, you also need to handle the challenges that come with that. 

To succeed in the job, you’ll should at least:

  • Have good attention to detail
  • Possess basic knowledge of maths
  • Be able to stay calm under pressure
  • Have general knowledge of building and construction practices
  • Have basic marketing knowledge
  • Be able to work in extreme weather conditions
  • Know how to use modern technology
  • Have a basic knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping

Education and training

Labourers don’t need specific education, but most companies will prefer it if you have at least some training that relates to construction work.

For example:

  • Level 1 Certificate in Construction Skills
  • Level 2 Certificate in Construction Operations
  • Groundworker intermediate apprenticeship
  • A specialised apprenticeship in areas like demolition, scaffolding, carpentry, electricity or plumbing


You must have a Construction Skills Certification Scheme card or an equivalent to work and train on any construction site. 

If the job requires you to use excavators or dump trucks, you’ll also need to have a driving licence.

Step 2: Register as self-employed

Next, you’ll need to register yourself as self-employed with HMRC through the UK Government portal.

Self-employed people are responsible for paying their own taxes. To do so, you must complete and submit a Self Assessment tax return every year. 

Self Assessments can be time-consuming, and you might find yourself digging through boxes of old receipts and invoices to find the ones you need to include. 

So it’s important to stay on top of your income and expenses from day one to avoid stress and added work later. 

Pro tip! Use a combined business current account and accounting software like Countingup. This way, you can manage your finances easily from your phone. Countingup also includes a tax estimates feature that’ll alert you on how much to set aside each month.

Remember to claim for your expenses

Self-employed people can claim lots of expenses back by deducting them from their profits. Doing this is an excellent way to save money and maintain a healthy cash flow.

As a labourer, your tax-deductible expenses will likely include things like:

  • Vehicle costs (fuel, insurance, and vehicle tax)
  • Professional clothing
  • Tools
  • Equipment

If you work at a temporary workplace, you can also claim for travel and subsistence costs.

To learn more, check out: Ultimate guide: what are business expenses?

Step 3: Protect yourself with insurance

Next, you’ll need to make sure you and your business are protected if something goes wrong. 

The exact insurance cover you’ll need depends on the nature of your work. For example, you might need a specialist cover if you work at height. 

That said, most labourers will benefit from the following insurance covers:

  • Tools insurance – insures your tools against loss, damage, or theft
  • Public liability insurance covers legal expenses or compensation claims someone suffers injury or property damage because of your work
  • Personal accident insurance – a cash payout in case you get badly hurt in a work accident

Step 4: Get clients

Now that your business is set up, it’s time to start finding jobs. To do that, you need to market yourself to people.

Here are just a couple of tips to get you started:

  • Create a professional website –– use a website builder to create a site where you show off your skills and knowledge and give people a platform to learn more about you. Learn more
  • Online directories for tradespeople –– sites like Checkatrade or Rated People are great for getting your name in front of people already looking for your services
  • Set up a Google My Business profile –– this is the easiest way for customers to find you when looking for labourers in your area. Learn more
  • Use social media to engage with people –– you can market your services on Facebook Marketplace or make video tutorials and post them on YouTube, TikTok or Instagram to show off your knowledge. Learn more

As your business grows and you gain more experience, you might want to speak to construction or architecture companies directly. 

Larger companies are also great sources for repeat business. These companies could ultimately help you expand from a self-employed labourer to a small construction business. 

See also: How to create a marketing strategy for small businesses

Manage your finances with Countingup

As you get your business going and start getting paying jobs, you need a good system to manage your finances.

Countingup is the business current account and accounting software in one app. It automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for thousands of self-employed people across the UK. 

Save yourself hours of accounting admin so you can focus on growing your business. 

Start your three-month free trial today