Taking charge: Becoming your own boss after a career setback

The path to career freedom

Even the hardest-working employee is vulnerable to misfortune at work. Whether you’ve been fired or laid off, losing a job is a devastating experience, especially for people who’ve always been heavily invested, physically and emotionally, in their careers. Getting passed over for a big promotion can also be jarring. You feel betrayed and devalued, like an object that’s suddenly lost all worth. It’s easy to over-indulge in self-pity at a time like that, and a lot of people overlook one very important fact: a career setback is an opportunity to try something new. This is a time to think creatively, to assess your abilities and figure out what you really want to do. There’s no time like the present.

Making your dream a reality

It’s important to keep a level head and think as honestly and objectively as you possibly can. Once you’ve decided to go out on your own, it can be a heady feeling. But be careful not to let exhilaration take over. You’re committing to be your own boss. That means you can expect to be busier than you probably ever were as an employee for someone else, especially in the beginning. Think it through, get as much advice as you can, and remember that it won’t always be a walk in the park. As many as 8 of every 10 new businesses fail within the first 18 months. Bear in mind that there will be setbacks along the way.

Of course, the big decision will be what business you choose. It should be something you feel passionate about. The more you love it, the harder you’ll work to make it a go. Once you know where you’re headed, draw up a business plan. This is a document detailing your objectives and strategies, including your financial plans, sources of funding, and other details. 

Play to your strengths

“Go with what you know” is great advice for anyone starting a business. Your chances at succeeding go up considerably if you have some expertise in that area. For example, if you have an education degree or if you’ve been a teacher, you can find a great outlet for your knowledge by starting a private tutoring service, one of the fastest-growing small business models in the United States.

A new start

Do you have any hobbies or secret passions you’d like to explore? Something you’ve always wished you had more time for? Most people overlook opportunities that are right in front of them. Do you enjoy genealogy? If so, you might consider parlaying your experience as a source of revenue and to help people who want to trace their ancestry. If you become certified, you could earn as much as $70,000 a year doing what you love. Got a green thumb? Think about starting a landscaping or gardening business.

Walkin’ the dog

If you’re a dog lover, you might think about being a dog walker. It’s a great way to combine your fondness for man’s best friend with a little business savvy. Try it out first by walking dogs as a volunteer for your local Humane Society, and be sure to check with people in the know, such as dog groomers and pet stores, to see if there’s sufficient demand for such a venture. Don’t forget to check with your local county clerk’s office to see if they require you to have a business license. If everything checks out, think about how you’ll market your service. In general, it’s a good idea to begin with a business card, a website and a printed flyer advertising your rates.

Stick with it

When you finally decide to make the leap, it’s important to keep your eyes on the prize and not obsess about every problem that comes along. Succeeding as a business owner is a gradual process. Keep an open mind and never be afraid to seek advice or ask for help.

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Larry Mager

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