Freedom and constraints of freedom are at the heart of small business motivation and practice. Autonomy (or independence or freedom) motivated small business starters and owners need to balance their autonomy wishes with the demands of the business environment that they face. This study questions the idea that business ownership automatically provides autonomy (as a lived experience), and instead posits that autonomy-motivated small business owners have to work actively to attain and maintain autonomy. The aim of this study is to uncover strategies that small business owners use to navigate autonomy-related challenges. Its second aim is to derive a process model of autonomy.