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Self employment can be wonderful if you have the personality to survive a fluctuating income and uncertain future. Realistically, however, no job is ever guaranteed.
If you want to experiment a bit with the feeling of self employment, try picking up some side business that you can do after work or on your off days. Unless your company specifically prohibits it, this gives you a way to ease into self employment. Once you have steady business, you can decide whether or not to take the leap and start a home based business full-time.
There are several government and non-government agencies set up to help you learn how to start a small business. The SBA (Small Business Administration) has programs and hundreds of documents online to help you start your own business. They will also guarantee a small business loan if you qualify, which will help you get funded by a bank. See if there is a SCORE organization near you. This is a group of retired executives who volunteer their time to help small businesses. You can get online assistance if you don't live near a SCORE office or you can have a free consultation with a counselor.
When you start your own business, you assume a lot of control and you get a lot of freedom. However, many folks are surprised at how much work it actually entails to start your own business. You are the one responsible for everything. And, if you're a one-person-show (as is often the case for consultants), you're responsible for sales and marketing as well as the actual work you for which you are paid. Most people find themselves working longer hours than they did before. But, having once enjoyed self employment, many entrepreneurs cannot imagine going back to working for someone else.
Before you can start a home based business, you should research the requirements for your local area. Many towns and counties require you to have a business license. Some even require you to have a special permit to work out of your home (which is probably zoned as a residential area rather than commercial). You should also create a business plan even if you're planning on self employment. Treat yourself like a business and set goals and define a budget. However, don't go overboard on buying fancy equipment until you have the income to justify it. Start out small and keep your expenses to a minimum in case your income starts out small as well.
Starting a business is very exciting but also very nerve-wracking. No matter how much you plan in advance on how to start a small business, there are sure to be a few things that don't go according to plan. You should have some contingency plans and ideas for how you will fare if sales do not go as well as intended or something costs more than you had anticipated. Try to find other people who are also starting a business (maybe you can share some expenses--or at least ideas). Networking with your peers can bring you new customers and help you survive the sometimes rocky beginnings of self employment.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|