Self-employment may not be for everyone, but I’ve discovered that it’s also not for as few people as one might think, either!  One of the amazing things that’s taken place over the last decade or two is the explosion of different entrepreneurial avenues that have become available in the marketplace, thanks to the Internet and other game-field-leveling technologies.

Back in the day, it seemed as if only a select few individuals with piles of cash sitting around could afford the luxury of launching their own company or being in business for themselves.  You typically had to rent a brick-and-mortar facility, after all, and plow thousands of dollars into fancy marketing materials, inventory, and support salaries.  Or if you were interested in franchising, your options were pretty much, well, buying a McDonalds outlet for the paltry sum of a million bucks or so.

These days, however, the barriers of entry are so low they’re nearly non-existent.  Service-based companies basically just need a website, a firm grasp of Internet marketing methodology, and a commitment to providing off-the-charts customer service to get their referral network fired up.  Product-based companies also have all sorts of new options they can draw upon, as well, in terms of contract manufacturing and outsourcing.  They also can now raise money through venture capital firms and a variety of other innovative sources that weren’t around a while back, at least in the quantities they are today.  And as for those interested in buying a business or a turnkey franchise opportunity?  These options now come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from part-time businesses you can run out of your house to larger, more mainstream opportunities that cut across virtually every industry niche in existence from cattle farming to catering to child care.

The key development that inspired me to write this post, however, is the fact that the average job search (especially for senior-level positions) is now taking many months longer than usual.  As a result, the “scary” risk/reward curve of self-employment doesn’t seem quite as daunting as it seemed before, at least for many people I’ve encountered.  These folks seem to be making the logical deduction that as opposed to taking their chances on being out of work for a full year or more, they might just as well invest this same amount of time and energy trying to get their own enterprise off the ground, instead, where they’ll likely feel a stronger sense of purpose and a greater sense of control over their own destiny.  Food for thought, at the very least.  And in some cases, the very process of launching a business proves to be a killer networking and job hunting strategy, since it imbues people with a sense of confidence and a concrete “reason” to be out and about, meeting with people each and every day.

As for the role Career Horizons can play in the process, we’re admittedly more of a “midwife” than anything else.  Perhaps the greatest value we can bring to the entrepreneurial exploration step, directly, is to help people conduct a careful analysis of their career wants/needs and decide whether the self-employment or traditional employment route would be the most effective path toward achieving these goals.  We’re also fairly well-equipped to advise people on the tactical steps involved in launching a small service business or consulting firm, since that’s a journey we’ve taken these past six years, ourselves.  Beyond that, we start referring people out like madmen and helping people connect to just the right resources to help them explore — or take — the entrepreneurial plunge.

On that note, we’ll cite a few of our favorite sources of assistance for those who might be interested.  As a starting point, we’d encourage would-be business owners to explore some of the many government-sponsored programs out there such as the Small Business Administration or the Small Business Development Center.  These institutions represent your tax dollars at work, so take advantage of them!  There’s also the fairly new Self-Employment Assistance Program offered through WorkSource, where eligible candidates can apply to take entrepreneurial training classes in lieu of job hunting, while still receiving unemployment benefits all the while.

On the non-governmental front, those interested in learning more about franchising options or entrepreneurship, in general, should definitely get acquainted with our good friend Jeff Levy at The Entrepreneur’s Source.  Jeff is a walking treasure-trove of information about the self-employment world and can offer extremely wise counsel for those considering this option.  In addition to his franchise coaching services, which are largely underwritten by the franchise companies, themselves, his programs include a highly-regarded AIM for Success program (details here) that qualifies for the WorkSource SEPA program mentioned above.  You might also touch base with John Martinka, a locally-based business broker who offers individual consulting, as well as workshops, for those thinking about purchasing an existing enterprise.

How else can we help?  Do you need referrals to some superb accountants, attorneys, graphic designers, or legal professionals who can help get your new business off the ground?  Or folks who can help you write a great business plan?  Or perhaps you’re a current business owner who needs an executive coach to help keep you “sane” or a dynamite marketing consultant, such as Lenora Edwards, who can teach you how to sell and market your services in a highly effective way?  While we don’t offer these types of services, ourselves, we’re in a great position to refer you to experts in the local area who do!

We even just heard from an acquaintance of ours, a former attorney and HR executive, who is offering to coach a few fledgling business owners at a ridiculously lowball rate as part of a formal “executive coaching” program she is currently enrolled in.  Any interested takers?

Again, self-employment may not be for everybody, but if you’ve ever had an inkling to explore the possibility, now is a great time to seriously investigate this potential option — and we’d love to help!