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For people with a criminal record, sometimes being self-employed is a good route to earning a living. Whilst it might seem like a daunting task, there is support available for you and many useful resources to help you on your journey. Many people with a conviction have become successfully self-employed.

If you are looking for work as an employee working for an organisation, you may find our page on Friendly Employers helpful.

As someone with a criminal record, why might you consider self-employment?

  • Your conviction might mean that you are unable to return to your former career.
  • You might have struggled to secure interviews for a job with an employer.
  • You might have struggled with stigma from colleagues. 

And, as with the general public at large:

  • You might have a passion or hobby that you want to turn into an income stream.
  • You might want a work-life balance that allows you more time with your family. 
  • You might not enjoy working in close contact with colleagues.
  • You might enjoy the independence that comes with being your own boss.
  • You can choose who you work with and when.


Securing insurance can be a barrier for some people when they first set up as self-employed.  Not all insurers will insure people with a criminal record.  However, there are specialist insurers who can help you to find appropriate insurance.

Please visit our Insurance page for more information.

Can I become self-employed if I am claiming state benefits?

In short, yes. It is possible to become self-employed whilst claiming state benefits and, indeed, to start claiming state benefits whilst self-employed, but there are some things you need to be aware of.  You can find more information on the turn2US website.

You can find help and advice on the UK Government website: Starting a business. Topics covered include:

  • Setting Up
  • Tax and Registering
  • Marketing your Business
  • Intellectual Property
  • Further Help to Start a Business 

Business Support Resources

Business Gateway is a publicly funded service in Scotland that provides information, resources, webinars, events, advice and support to Scottish businesses.

Firstport is a charity that supports individuals across Scotland to start, develop and grow their ideas into businesses with social impact at their core (social enterprises).


There is funding available to assist with starting up your business. Funding will depend upon you meeting certain criteria, and funding streams can change frequently so it is always worth re-checking resources over time:

Grant funding for businesses in Scotland

Funding - Firstport

Business grants in Scotland

A table with examples of appropriate language use
A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
March 5, 2024


The following organisations offer support on this topic.

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