By Steve Strauss, USAToday.com
Q: Hey Steve, I have a friend who has been unemployed for about two years. His unemployment insurance is about to run out and he has this kooky plan now to go the self-employment route. I have tried to explain to him that this is no time to start a business. He won’t listen to me. He likes your column – can you steer him on the right path. Thanks. — Jerry
A: I have a question for you: Let’s say that you have been out of work for almost 99 weeks and your unemployment benefits are about to expire and you have no real prospects of finding a job? What do you do? Or what if you are a single mom and need the flexibility of making your own hours but your boss doesn’t quite see things that way? Or what if you have had it working for someone else and what you really long for is to be your own boss? What do you do?
You join the ranks of the self-employed, that’s what.
It is no secret that the nature of work is changing rapidly right now. More people are working outside of an office and outside the traditional 9 to 5 job. Companies are finding that they can get by hiring freelancers instead of employees. And a whole new generation of workers are similarly discovering that they don’t need that job that they once thought was so indispensable.
It’s a revolution, a self-employment revolution.
There are many things that have coalesced to create this self-employment revolution, and not the least of which has been the challenging economy the past few years which has forced more than a few people to become entrepreneurs — whether they wanted to or not.
And fortunately, technology has made that doable. Not long ago, becoming self-employed may have seemed daunting —where would you find the work, how would you do the work, did you have the resources to do a good job?
All that has changed in the blink of an eye.
Today, it’s all possible. Whether it’s computers and software, smartphones and apps, websites and searches, or what have you, the fact is, being successfully self-employed today is quite possible.
More and more people are headed down this path. Consider: Time Magazine recently said that 2012 just might be “The Year of the Entrepreneur”.
Jobs are in scarce supply, and underemployment is a serious problem. Things look bleak. But, truth be told, there has never been a better time for individuals to start new businesses. Taking up entrepreneurship is a way to overcome unemployment and underemployment, and perhaps even get rich. Where a traditional office or retail space was a necessity less than a decade ago, today, thanks to the rise of virtual office services and co-working spaces, working from home or Starbucks is the new norm.
But this begs the question – how exactly do you do it? When someone goes the self-employment route, they usually know a lot about the sort of business they may want to start (the gardener knows plants, the graphic artist knows how to design a website). But they usually do not know a lot about the other two-thirds of a business: How to get customers, advertising and marketing, law and taxes, how to buy their own health insurance, and on and on.
Fortunately, there are some valuable resources out there to help. The Small Business Administration and its website SBA.gov and SCORE have a vast amount of information and resources available for starting and running a small business.
And, if you would allow me a shameless plug, I would like to suggest that a new site that I have been working on for the past year is a worthy addition to this list: TheSelfEmployed.com is a Web portal for all things self-employed. Working with corporate partners like EHealthInsurance and others to offer special deals and opportunities, the site has a ton of valuable content, ideas, strategies, and tools for the self-employed: articles, how-to videos, podcasts, forums, and more, all intended to make your self-employment journey a fun, successful, and profitable one.
Let me offer you congratulations if you are joining the ranks of the self-employed. You are fueling the new economy, creating a work revolution, and I bet, having a great time in the process. Bravo.