I currently run two part-time businesses for spare cash in addition to my full-time job. I don't know how to determine whether I really could turn this work into something with which I could support myself.
For those who have started their own business or work from home, what were the first steps you took? Did you just dive in or did you make a slow transition into being your own boss? Do you have one company or do you make income from multiple sources? Can you recommend a resource for someone who's just starting out and wants to explore all of her options? What are the big pitfalls to avoid?
There is a wonderful website and weekly newsletter to sign up for at changingcourse.com. It has information on non-traditional ways to earn a living, and it offers support and encouragement on how to find your "true calling."
There is a great deal of information available to you, for free, from your state government. My state will send a huge book with information on how to set up a business. You can also go to SCORE, which is made up of retired executives who will help you set up your business and help to resolve problems.
Usually there are women's organizations in urban areas that will help you set up a business. You can also go to the Small Business Administration for information, help, and loans. Check out your library for books on how to run a business.
I know of two great sources of information about starting a home business. The first is a book entitled "Small Time Operator." It focuses on the simplest ways to start a small business. This book is available in libraries and through the "Real Goods" catalog (gaiam.com). The second is the Small Business Administration. They have information on their web site (sba.gov/), informational brochures, a consulting service, and grants available for the would-be entrepreneur.
Kay from Ohio
My husband and I have run our marketing consulting and graphic design business since 1998. The best advice I can give you is to hold onto your day job and work nights on your new venture until you think you just can't take it anymore. When you get to the breaking point, it's time to think about going part time or quitting entirely.
If you work at home, set up your business so that it looks professional. Get a real fax machine, separate line, voice mail, Internet account with your businesses URL, computer/printer, etc. Never let kids answer your business phone or use the home line for your business. It's tacky and makes one look unprofessional. When you need to meet, meet at the client's office, or better yet, see if your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Development Center has meeting space for rent. Sometimes it's free or just $10 for a couple of hours.
Good luck to you. Self-employment is the way to go. Once you do it, if you do it right, you'll never look back. Just start off slowly but professionally and you'll be fine.
As you are running two part time businesses in addition to your full-time job, I am assuming you don't really need the extra cash. My advice is to save all that extra cash you are making from your two businesses for the next few months until you have about six months of your normal salary to fall back on. If things do not pick up right away in your business, you'll be okay. Do not save this emergency fund in a normal savings account, as the interest earned is so ridiculously minute that you might as well be saving your money in a coffee can buried in your backyard. Also, don't save your money in a CD, which does not allow easy access to your money. Instead, invest this six months of salary into something like a money market that is both liquid and offers higher returns.
If there is one pitfall in starting your own business, it is spending before you earn. It is common for people to buy a phone system, a great printer, nice office furniture, etc. This creates a debt load for the company and stress. It is better to work with what you have, and buy further items as the profits support the purchase.
It can be appealing to think that purchases for business use are tax deductible. That's great, but that does not mean it's free. When you deduct down to zero income, the government does not start sending you money.
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