The following is a guest post by Darla Nicole. If you would like to write for this blog, please check out the guidelines here.
Do you want to take ownership in your financial destiny? Chances are you, like every other American, have thought about being their own boss at one time or another. But most folks abandon their dream of starting their own business because they don’t know where to begin, think they don’t have the money needed to fund their venture, and they don’t know where to go for help. And while you might think that now isn’t the best time to start a small business, with the economy being what it is, keep reading.
In spite of unemployment figures hovering just above 14%, our basic needs remain constant. Did you catch that? Needs; not wants. These two facts make starting a small business (and being successful doing so) attractive on two levels:
- Starting your own business can replace the job/income you lost.
- Starting your own business can often provide necessary goods and services for less money to those who have less to spend.
No matter what type of business you are thinking about starting, there are plenty of free government resources out there to help you get started. By visiting www.sba.gov or www.grants.gov, you can review and apply for free money or low interest rate loans to get you well on your way. This is especially beneficial to women and minorities – the government is more than happy to help women and minorities with business funding. In addition to the money available to you, there are resources to help you in areas of bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, and other important business needs – all for free.
Other sources of free money are available, as well. You just have to know where to look. Many are restricted to certain types of businesses, so keep that in mind before you ask.
- SARE (sustainable agriculture research & education) Grants are available to those whose business or project centers around agriculture. No, that doesn’t mean you have to milk cows, shear sheep, or combine wheat. SARE grant recipients have developed farmer’s market co-ops and/or markets, opened ‘schools’ to teach healthy food preservation (canning/freezing) and nutrition, and developed agri-tourism businesses.
- If you are interested in agriculture, your state’s department of agriculture will have details for state and federal programs for grants and low interest rate loans for female and first-time farmers.
- If you’re an out of work educator, your church many be more than willing to talk to you about spear heading a day-care and/or pre-school. Using their facilities, you will be able to fall under the guidelines and regulations for non-profit childcare providers. A church considers such a venture a great way to serve the community, and as an evangelistic tool. You will be paid to use your skills and basically be your own boss, without investing anything more than your time and talents.
- Colleges and universities often have research programs available to qualified individuals at no cost to those doing the research.
Many small business ventures require little or no investment, and believe it or not, online mba degree
programs aren’t required either. Anyone with any level of education can start their own small business. Let’s look at a few of those and how they can work for you. In the interest of not being repetitive, don’t forget that no matter what small business venture you choose, you have the ability to reach millions through Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace at no cost. Most communities offer free or low cost classifieds in the newspaper, radio, or internet. Take advantage of them. Another wonderful tool at your disposal is to develop your own website. Webstarts.com allows you to build your own website (they provide the tools) for absolutely no charge. They also offer upgrade packages for as little as $5 a month, but even if you don’t want to spend the money, the site is easy to use, and updating the text and pictures on your site is as easy as it gets.
- Whether it’s your full time job or just a side line to make up for the rise in gas, heating, and grocery prices, there are tens of thousands of people making a pretty decent income by selling their hobby. If you can sew, knit, crochet, bake, make unusual jewelry, sites like Etsy.com allow you to create your own virtual store that reaches across the world. Etsy charges 3.5% per sale plus a fee of $0.20 per item listed for sale. Other sites like E-bay and handmadecatalog.com are two other popular sites to help you market your goods.
- Are you known for throwing the best parties ever? Does every kid in town want to be on your child’s guest list? Sit down and map out a plan for pricing a variety of party plan packages to organize, set up, supervise, and clean up the party at either a public place or the client’s home. Then using Publisher or a similar program, put together some fliers and mail or hand deliver them throughout the neighborhood, child care facilities, schools, youth clubs and organizations, and your family and friends.
- Parents will do just about anything to keep their financial woes from affecting their children’s activities. If you are qualified to tutor or give music lessons, chances are you can do so for a lot less than actual learning centers such as Sylvan, which charges more than most parents can pay.
- Secretarial, IT, writing, graphic design, and marketing jobs are being outsourced more and more every day. Freelancers save companies money by eliminating the need to pay benefits, employee taxes and salaries, and provide office space for performing these duties. Elance.com is an excellent source to gain employment in your area of expertise for little or no cost. Job seekers set up a free profile, and bid on jobs using ‘connects.’ There are different levels of membership ranging from free to $40 per month. You can also network with other small businesses that want and need to budget their money wisely.
- Elder care or sitting is one of the fastest growing needs in our society. Check with your state’s social and senior services agency to see what regulations you need to follow to offer such services. Elder care will most likely require you to become a CNA (certified nurses assistant). Classes are usually offered at a low cost through your community’s adult education center. For elder sitting, nothing quite that detailed is required, but it would be advisable to be competent in the areas of CPR and general first aid. Once again, a simple flier telling potential clients who you are, what your qualifications are, and what you have to offer, is an inexpensive way to advertise in senior centers, retirement homes, medical offices, and hospitals.
- Do you understand the ins and outs of tax forms, the health care system, insurance, or the rights of battered women, children, or the elderly? Advocacy is an honorable service to offer and, for the most part, can be performed from the comfort of your home office.
- Any service or product that promotes ‘living green’ will be well received, as will those that offer fresh produce, home grown agricultural products, and organic products. Local markets, co-ops, and virtual stores like localharvest.org will allow you to advertise and sell your products for a small fee.
Starting a small business can be an exciting adventure that brings both profit and personal fulfillment without spending a lot of money. The key is to find what you can do best, and offer it in such a way that will make it beneficial and cost-effective to those you wish to do business with.
About the Author: This is a guest post from Darla Nicole, contributing writer at CreditDonkey.com. She searches the internet looking for the best credit cards to recommend her friends. Darla reminds you that “financial literacy begins at home.”