Independent Contractor vs. Self-Employed: Who should you hire?

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Deciding between hiring an independent contractor or someone who's self-employed?

You're not alone.

The dilemma is a common one among business owners when they start hiring.

And with so many search terms floating around like – is self-employed the same as an independent contractor? 1099 vs. self-employed, and more – the waters only get murkier.

The good news?

By the end of this article, those muddy waters will clear up.

You’ll know all about the differences between independent contractors and self-employed. Best of all, you’ll know exactly who should hire.

Let’s get started.

Decoding the Jargon: Independent contractor vs. Self-employed

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First, let's understand what each term means at its core.


An individual who earns income directly from their business, trade, or profession without being employed by another entity.

Independent Contractor

An individual or business entity that provides services or work to another entity under a contract agreement but isn't an employee.

Now, at first glance, it might seem like there’s an overlap. And you’re right. All independent contractors are self-employed, but not all self-employed individuals are independent contractors.

Too confusing? Let's simplify it more.

Is Self-Employed the Same as Independent Contractor?

Think of 'self-employed' as an umbrella term.

Independent contractors fall under this umbrella but so do business owners, freelancers, and solo entrepreneurs.

The primary differentiation is the relationship with the client or hiring entity.

1099 vs. Self-Employed

Business owners, if you've dealt with tax forms, you might have come across the term 1099.

The 1099-MISC form is used to report payments made to independent contractors.

So, while "1099" is often used interchangeably with "independent contractor", it's technically a reference to the tax form used to report the income of someone who isn't an employee.

What does this mean for you?

When considering hiring, it's crucial to understand the implications of each choice.

Advantages of Hiring an Independent Contractor

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Need to hire a remote worker on a project basis? Independent contractors are your go-to. There’s no long-term commitment, which is great for fluctuating workloads.

Cost Efficiency

With independent contractors, you're not shelling out for benefits like health insurance, paid leave, or employer-side taxes.

Specialized Skills

Need a niche skill for a specific project? Contractors, with their varied portfolios, can bring specialized expertise.

Advantages of Hiring Someone Self-Employed

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Broader Scope

While independent contractors are project-specific, other self-employed individuals like consultants can offer broader business strategies and insights.

Build Long-Term Relationships

Given the diverse nature of self-employed roles, there's potential to nurture long-term relationships that benefit both parties.


A self-employed professional might wear multiple hats, offering versatility that can be a boon for growing businesses.

Issues to Consider when Hiring Self-Employed People or Independent Contractors

a. Lack of Control

With both groups, remember they're not your employees. This means less control over how and when they complete tasks.

b. Confidentiality Concerns

External parties might access sensitive data. It’s crucial to have strong contracts in place.

c. Consistency

With project-based roles, there might be a lack of consistency in deliverables. Regular reviews can help bridge this gap.

The Crucial Differences Between Self-Employed Professionals and Independent Contractors

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In today's business landscape, understanding the nuances between self-employed professionals and independent contractors is essential.

It's not just semantics—it's about ensuring that your business hires the right talent for the right job.

Let's unravel these distinctions to better navigate your hiring decisions.

1. Nature of Work

Self-employed individuals often operate across diverse projects, sometimes juggling multiple clients.

Their work spectrum is broad, encompassing various industries and tasks. An independent contractor, however, might be laser-focused on specific, well-defined projects.

For instance, a self-employed consultant could offer business strategy services to various industries over varied timelines.

Conversely, an independent contractor might be dedicated to a three-month project revamping a company's HR system.

2. Hiring Dynamics

Seeking someone who can wear multiple hats? Directly approaching a self-employed individual might be your path. These professionals value autonomy and direct relationships with their clients.

Independent contractors, particularly those associated with larger networks or agencies, often come with the added layer of mediated communication. This could offer businesses an added layer of assurance regarding project outcomes.

3. Operational Patterns

The work rhythm of a self-employed person is often versatile, with the flexibility to pivot based on the project's nature. They might have a varied daily routine.

Independent contractors, given their project-centric approach, may have more standardized hours, particularly if they're aligned with larger, longer-term projects.

4. Financial Compensation

Both self-employed individuals and independent contractors can function on project-based or hourly compensation structures. The key difference?

Self-employed professionals handle all their financial processes, from invoicing to tax submissions.

Independent contractors, especially those linked with agencies, might have a more streamlined payment process, sometimes managed by the agency they’re associated with.

5. Commitments and Contracts

While 'contract' might seem indicative of the nature of an independent contractor's engagement, it's worth noting that many self-employed individuals also operate under contracts, albeit with varying levels of formality.

A self-employed social media manager might work based on mutual understanding and a series of emails. However, an independent contractor, say, involved in a company's rebranding, would likely be bound by a comprehensive contract detailing deliverables, timelines, and penalties.

6. Different Working Environments

The beauty of today's digital world is that it grants immense flexibility. Self-employed professionals often choose where they work—be it from a serene mountainside or a city's heart.

Independent contractors, depending on the project's sensitivity and requirements, might need specific work environments. For instance, a contractor handling sensitive company data might be required to work from secure locations, adhering to the company's IT protocols.

Hiring Checklist: Self-Employed or Independent Contractor?

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  • Scope and Duration of the Project
  • Preferred Communication Channels
  • Budgetary Constraints
  • Operational Hours
  • Team Integration
  • Transition Potential

1. Scope and Duration of the Project

Self-employed professionals thrive in diverse environments. If you're looking for a multifaceted approach, they might be ideal. For longer, more defined projects, consider an independent contractor with niche expertise.

2. Preferred Communication Channels

Enjoy direct, often personal communication? Self-employed professionals might resonate. For structured, sometimes mediated interactions, lean towards independent contractors, especially those linked with agencies.

3. Budgetary Constraints

Both categories come with varied price points. Self-employed individuals might offer flexibility in negotiations. Independent contractors, particularly those under agencies, might present fixed rates. Ensure you're receiving value for your expenditure.

4. Operational Hours

If you require someone to sync with specific operational hours, especially for collaborative projects, independent contractors might be more suited. For flexibility and adaptability, consider self-employed professionals.

5. Team Integration

Gauge how essential it is for your hire to seamlessly integrate with in-house teams. While many self-employed professionals are adept with remote tools, contractors might offer more structured integration, particularly if they're from larger networks or agencies.

6. Transition Potential

Is there a possibility of transitioning the hire to a full-time role in the future? Discuss this early on. Independent contractors, given their project-centric engagements, might be more amenable to such transitions. Self-employed professionals, cherishing their autonomy, might need more persuasion.

By understanding these distinctions, you empower your business to make informed hiring decisions, ensuring that you align with professionals who resonate with your business's ethos and requirements.

Self-Employed vs Independent Contractor: Navigating the Tax Maze

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Ah, taxes... an inescapable headache.

You're probably wondering about this because of the tax implications.

Getting letters from the tax department?

One key distinction in the self-employed vs. independent contractor debate centers on taxation.

Let’s clear the air.

Self-Employment Tax

You may be wondering if a self-employed individual is treated differently than an independent contractor from a tax standpoint.

In tax terms, self-employed individuals are typically expected to pay self-employment tax, encompassing both Social Security and Medicare.

Without employers to share the weight, these individuals bear the entire tax burden.

Take, for example, a self-employed digital marketer with an annual income of $50,000.

Their self-employment taxwould be computed on this entire sum, potentially eating into a substantial part of their revenue.

Independent Contractor Tax

For the IRS, the distinction between a self-employed person and an independent contractor is often minimal.

Like their self-employed counterparts, independent contractors are responsible for the whole sum of their self-employment tax.

Tax Deductions

  • Self-Employed

For the self-employed, the silver lining lies in their ability to deduct business expenses straight from their earnings.

For instance, a self-employed event planner can deduct costs for traveling, promotional materials, or even client meetings, lowering their taxable income.

  • Independent Contractors

Contractors enjoy similar deductions. Those affiliated with larger firms might face variances in allowable deductions, primarily based on agency standards.

Legal Differences: Self-Employed vs. Contractor

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Are self-employed individuals and independent contractors seen as equivalents in the eyes of the law?

The answer requires a detailed dive.

Self-Employed Contracts

Self-employed individuals, while they might not always have robust contracts, would benefit from them. Having well-defined contracts safeguards them against project scope changes, payment delays, or intellectual property disputes.

Consider a self-employed consultant. A sound contract can shield them from clients altering the project's parameters without suitable compensation.

Independent Contractors Contracts

These contractors usually operate with exhaustive legal contracts, making stipulations on deliverables, timelines, and compensation transparent.

Payment Complexities in the Self-Employed vs. Contractor Debate

Navigating payments, be it with a self-employed individual or an independent contractor, can seem intricate.

Hoping to streamline things? Let’s delve in.

a. Invoicing


Self-employed professionals typically handle their invoicing, potentially leading businesses to manage multiple payment methods or platforms.

Independent Contractors

Those connected with agencies might have a uniform invoicing procedure. However, solo contractors might closely mirror the self-employed in this regard.

b. International Payments

For both categories, if you're hiring from abroad, be prepared for currency fluctuations, fees, and potential payment delays.

Say you've engaged a professional from Brazil. Conversion rates and platform charges might affect the payment value, which should be factored into the initial agreement.

c. Tax Withholding

Neither group usually has taxes withheld by the client. They must manage their tax payments. However, businesses must issue an IRS Form 1099-NEC if payments exceed $600 annually.

For instance, should a business engage a self-employed designer for a project costing $1,000, they'd need to provide a 1099-NEC form, ensuring tax compliance.

Hiring Self-Employed vs. Independent Contractors

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The distinctions between self-employed individuals and independent contractors, though subtle, can have significant implications for your business.

From engagement duration and communication modalities to intricate tax intricacies, every aspect demands careful scrutiny.

Yet, in all these complexities, compliance remains key.

Whether you're engaging a self-employed individual or an independent contractor, being cognizant of the legal and tax prerequisites is essential.

And the good news? You have expert support available.

Parallel, a premier EOR and Payroll Platform, stands as your reliable ally.

We're committed to guaranteeing that your hiring endeavors, no matter the type of remote worker, are smooth and compliant.

Eager to streamline your remote hiring processes?

Schedule a free demo with us now!


How do self-employed individuals differ from independent contractors?

Self-employed individuals usually handle diverse, short-term tasks, while independent contractors lean towards longer, more specialized engagements.

Which is more suitable: self-employed or contractor?

It's subjective. Opt for self-employed for brief, distinct projects, and contractors for prolonged, specialized engagements.

Can I transition from being an independent contractor to a full-time position?

Definitely! It's a strategic decision to ensure prolonged collaboration and retain top-tier talent.