Can Social Workers Be Entrepreneurs?

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It’s been just over a year since I took the fear-inducing, life-altering, terrifyingly amazing leap from working as a social worker to entrepreneur. To say this ‘required some adjusting’ would be a massive understatement. To say “having breakdowns and meltdowns and feel crazy and wonder what the hell you’re doing with yourself and your whole life and why do you even exist in the first place?!” would be much more accurate.

For starters, my background and education in social work did not prepare my mind to think like that of an entrepreneur. Here’s why:

-Most social workers have been conditioned to believe we will work for a non-profit, the government or organization (but rarely actually run them). Not a bad thing just the reality of the need and the work available.

-We have been conditioned and then accepted the reality that we will barely make enough money to cover our basic needs (even if we spend another $35,000+ on getting our master’s degree)

-We take great pride in referring to ourselves and identifying as ‘social workers’ (at least I sure as heck did/do). When we no longer are in that field, it’s a very disconcerting and feels like a chunk of our identity has disappeared.

These presented challenges from the shift of being an employee to being self-employed as well as my new reality of working for myself.

Downside of Entrepreneurism:

  • There is no schedule
  • No consistent paycheck
  • You pay (A LOT) for your own insurance
  • No one is required to guide you or give you tangible tasks to do
  • You must motivate yourself to do the work (and watching reruns of the ‘West Wing’ doesn’t count as work)
  • It can be lonely without coworkers
  • The new world of entrepreneurism is unknown, scary and overwhelming

There is, of course, a positive side to this career change as well.


  • You get to create your own schedule, which 98% of the time is way more grueling than working for an organization but you are able to go for a run at 10:23am and stop for an ice cream break at 3:30pm should you feel so inclined
  • While there is no consistent paycheck, there is also no limit on how much income you can generate-that is fully up to you and clients you bring in (scary and empowering at the same time)
  • There is no upside to paying for your own insurance but if I find one, I’ll be sure to let you know
  • You can create your own way to accomplish the work that needs to be done
  • Work with your husband who is also a motivational speaker/person in general and he will help with this
  • You can get a lot more done without the drama of workplace gossip and politics (plus, that’s what happy hour is for to catch up with past co-workers to get the scoop)
  • Everyone who makes this transition experiences this. You aren’t supposed to know how to do this but you can learn it.

So yes, I do think social workers can make excellent entrepreneurs because we are smart, more socially aware of injustices and know what it’s like to work hard and make minimal amounts of money initially. It just might take some of us a little more time to retrain our brain and create a new mindset.

Stay tuned for Part Deux on Wednesday as I shed some light on the soul-shattering things being an entrepreneur has taught me.

If you are a social worker and/or entrepreneur, please share this article with your network!

If you are an entrepreneur, what was one of the hardest things for you to adjust to?
If you are a social worker, what is one of the best things about the work you do?
If your career is in another field, feel free to share any thoughts or comments about the topic!


  1. Charnia

    July 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Chelsea
    Perhaps an upside to paying for your own insurance is getting to pick your provider or coverage level.

    • chelsea

      July 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      hi charnia! there ya go finding the semi-good in it-thank you! still rough when it’s bare-minimum coverage at a very high cost but you are correct that we get to pick it! thanks for your comment!

  2. Gary

    July 8, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I guess I could answer this question myself if I went to your blog, but since I haven’t done that, just what are you now doing as an entrepreneur? Congratulations on your leap. I’ve known social workers who’ve gone into completely un-related fields and done quite well as entrepreneurs.

    As for me, I don’t believe that one necessarily has to work for one’s self in order to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to your work. In my case, I went into social services management after several years doing direct service. I always carried the entrepreneurial spirit with me even when I worked as a department head in a government organization. When at one point I did a turn as a non-profit agency director, I really got to exercise every bit of marketing, fund development, and budget management skill that I had. And, oh yeah, I have been a real estate agent part time a couple of times during my career as a social worker. I now work for an MSW program and try to bring that same attitude to my work with community agencies, my students, and the school.

    In short, I guess my point is that one can be an entrepreneur as a social worker without having to leave the field. I do hope that those who chose to leave the field temporarily or permanently will still hold dear our profession’s values and code of ethics!


    • chelsea

      July 9, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Gary! Currently most of my entrepreneurial skills are being spent on running a business with my husband who is a professional speaker about communication and leadership-should have included that so thanks for asking that!

      Great point about not having to work for yourself to bring in the entrepreneurial spirit-sounds like you’ve done a lot of great things both within social work and outside of it. I appreciate what you said about being both without leaving the field. I am trying to tie in social work with this blog in terms of women’s rights and helping people have healthy relationships. As mentioned, at first it was very hard for me not to be working at a non-profit and directly identifying as a social worker in the field so I need to start creating my own way of feeling connected to that community still. Thanks for your thoughts Gary!

    • Boogah

      June 13, 2015 at 4:07 am

      Hi Gary looking at your comment what is an MSW programme are you working with Master Degree social work students? I’m a social worker and interested in entreprenualship and combining my social work ideally being independent or going into practice teaching is that what you do?


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  4. stanley

    May 30, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Good article, pretty rare topic and unique leap. Could You give some more details about: What was the reason behind your move into entrepreneurship? What are you doing now? See, I am a person of risk, a natural gambler, I thrive on competition and rewarding challenge. I feel like social work surrounding isn’t really for me if you know what I mean. Please give me answers for above questions. Thank You. Stanley, 24.

    • chelsea

      May 30, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      thanks for your comment stanley! the reason for the move into entrepreneurship is because an opportunity presented itself for my husband and i travel around the world and speak after he won the world championship of public speaking while i coached him through that process. we are now traveling around sharing our story, teaching people how to enhance their communication skills. it has definitely been an intense change and i’m still learning how to feel as though i can utilize my social work skills through entrepreneurship!

      • stanley

        May 31, 2015 at 1:09 am

        I see. Thank You a lot for interest and very fast response, although the article was written year ago. I do think social workers have skills that can be implemented into business. Hard-working, stress-resistant, creative, great observers, service-minded. If you like at those traits, these are characteristics of many great entrepreneurs and world leaders. Wish You luck and many insights on Your journey.

  5. Aisha Brothers

    June 3, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    This was an absolute right on time find! I am a social worker trying to make the transition to entrepreneur. You are absolutely right about our identity being so tied into social work. What will I say about myself if I leave the “traditional” world of social work?

    As of now, I don’t know. Just hoping I can use what I have leaned and just channel it in a different way as an entrepreneur! I’m still figuring out my plan, but it’s exciting to find like minded helping professionals who understand!!

    • chelsea

      June 3, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      i’m so glad you can relate, aisha! is definitely been an interesting transition and i’m slowing turning the corner of realizing that all that we’ve learned through social work can influence our business. you can definitely channel what you’ve learned in many ways and good luck with it all!

    • Boogah

      June 13, 2015 at 4:11 am

      Hi Chelsea and Aisha I am in the same boat as you and found this at the right time!!

      In a social worker and want to start my own thing ideally using what I have from social work if possible.

      Aisha- are you based in the UK?
      Chelsea – thanks for the tips do you have any other tips/advice for what we should really think about when making a start in business?