New Article on Career Self-Management among Solo Self-Employed Workers

March 29, 2022

Together with colleagues from Tilburg University, I published an article in the Journal of Vocational Behavior entitled "A qualitative exploration of solo self-employed workers' career sustainability." The article features a qualitative study that explores career self-management behaviors among 102 solo self-employed workers. The findings showed four distinct patterns. First proactive crafters were characterized by their initiative to engage in career planning and career investment frequently. Second, adaptive crafters also engaged in career self-management frequently, yet primarily from an extrinsically motivated and reactive position. Third, the survivors infrequently engaged in career self-management and only did so to a limited degree, only to "survive" short-term tasks and barriers. Finally, passive balancers also infrequently engaged in career self-management, though it is an intrinsically motivated choice for them. The findings point to essential lessons on the career sustainability of solo self-employed workers. Specifically, while their overall happiness was good, their productivity varied across groups, and their health seems to be the most at-risk element.


The article is available open access:

Van den Groenendaal, S., Akkermans, J., Fleisher,C., Kooij, D., Poell, R., & Freese, C. (2022). A qualitative exploration of solo self-employed workers' career sustainability. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 134, 103692.


Contemporary labor markets are characterized by rapidly growing numbers of solo self-employed

workers who have their own businesses without employing employees. However, research on solo

self-employment has almost exclusively focused on the decision to move into self-employment,

thereby failing to consider the long-term career consequences of being solo self-employed. To

complement existing research, we examined patterns of career self-management strategies among

the solo self-employed in light of their career sustainability and enablers and barriers in their

unique work context. We conducted 102 interviews among a heterogeneous sample of Dutch solo

self-employed workers and identified four career self-management patterns: proactive crafters,

adaptive crafters, survivors, and passive balancers. We found differences in their career sustainability

(i.e., happiness, health, and productivity). Specifically, their happiness is overall sufficient

while the level of productivity is mixed, and their health seems to be most problematic. This study

contributes to the nascent scholarly literature on solo self-employment and career sustainability.

Policymakers can use our findings to promote sustainable careers among the solo self-employed.

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