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How to Become a Self-Employed Caregiver

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Disabled adults and seniors can live alone and be nearly independent with the assistance of a caregiver. Often known as personal care aides, these workers provide in-home support services, companionship and transportation to their clients. Many personal care aides work for an agency, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 6 percent were self-employed in 2012.

Important Characteristics

Your interpersonal skills are very important in this job, as it involves dealing directly with people every day. Emotional stability and compassion are also essential, as your clients may be in pain or under emotional stress. Attention to detail and time-management skills are necessary to follow the care plan or regulations in your daily work, especially if you handle more than one client at a time. You will use these same skills to manage your business. Working as a personal care aide also requires physical stamina, because you may have to help clients sit, stand or walk.

Learn the Basics

Complete a nurse assistant course to learn the basics of caring for elderly and disabled clients. You will learn how to take a person’s pulse or blood pressure, for example, and discuss topics such as infection control, basic safety and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Personal care aides tend to have a high incidence of injuries, as their clients might use wheelchairs or need to be lifted and turned. A nursing assistant course will help you learn how to lift safely. Nurse assistant courses are offered by the American Red Cross, community colleges and technical-vocational schools.

Business Issues

As a self-employed caregiver, you are considered an independent contractor who is running a business. Because you will not receive employee benefits, retirement or worker’s compensation, plan how to handle these issues. If necessary, consult a financial expert. Your state or local laws might require that you obtain a business license, and you must register your business with the state. You will also need a federal tax identification number that identifies you as a business entity, according to the Small Business Association. In addition, consider the mechanics of running a business, such as the need for a dedicated phone line, business cards and supplies.

Taxes and Regulations

Expenses normally taken care of by an employer become your responsibility when you’re self-employed. Among these are income tax, Social Security tax, unemployment, health insurance and worker’s compensation, as well as disability insurance. Research federal and state rules and regulations about self-employment. The Small Business Association is a good resource to determine exactly what steps you must take.

Other Requirements and Job Prospects

Although a high school diploma is sufficient formal education for a personal care aide, the BLS notes most are trained on the job. A few states have training requirements for personal care aides. You do not need a license for this occupation, but you might need to register with a state agency and submit to a background check and drug screening. Prospects for this job are excellent, with a projected growth rate of 49 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. The median salary a year was $19,910 in 2012.


Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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