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I'm wondering what is the term for the person, that is doing business on his/her own and has tax liability. It's different in each country, I'd like to know how they are called in USA and UK.

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up vote 26 down vote accepted

Sole Proprietor: the person who owns and controls a sole proprietorship.

I am the sole proprietor of this business.


Independent Contractor: A person working independently, under a contract; a self-employed person.

I am an independent contractor.


Self-Employed (or Freelancer): working for yourself.

I am self-employed.
I am a freelancer.

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In the UK, sole trader is perhaps more common than sole proprietor. Associated with that the expression trading as (abbreviated T/A) is used to distinguish the individual (who is the legal entity with liability) from the business name (which is nothing more than a name). For example, you might refer to “Joe Bloggs trading as Acme Widgets”. – Brian Nixon Feb 1 '11 at 1:21
Sole proprietor doesn't necessarily mean they are working alone - they might actually employ a number of people. It just means that they don't share ownership of the business (with a partner or shareholders) – HorusKol Feb 1 '11 at 2:39
Informally, it might be referred to as a "one-man band": en.wiktionary.org/wiki/one-man_band – Steve Melnikoff Feb 1 '11 at 13:02
"Self-employed" and "freelancer" denote both sole owner and one-person operation. Owner-operator does the same and is common in the trucking industry. – MετάEd Dec 28 '11 at 15:43
Also, in the UK, it's possible for a company to have a single owner who is also the only officer of the company. In this instance, the person is not self employed, nor an independent contractor, nor a freelancer, etc,. They are a Director of the company, and usually also an employee of it (the only one). To indicate that there are no other directors, the standard title is "Sole Director" of the company. To indicate that the person is also the owner, you can say "Owner and sole director" or "100% shareholder and sole director". – Karasinsky Jul 25 '15 at 21:05

In Australia, they can be self-employed, freelancers, contractors, sole practitioners (for professional services), sole traders (for other services), and probably a lot more besides... I don't know if I have heard of sole proprietors here.

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Sole proprietorship or simply proprietorship. The owner is called the proprietor.

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Welcome to ELU! Since the OP has asked for this term for both US and UK, can you add for which country your answer is intended? – Kristina Lopez Jan 11 '13 at 9:44

In the UK, a one person business is often referred to as a one-man band.

"My consulting business is actually just me. I'm a bit of a one-man band at the moment"

It comes from the practice of a street entertainer playing multiple instruments at once.

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Sole proprietorship is a person that own and run a business on its own depending on no body. He bears the risk on its own.

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