So You Want to Be Your Own Boss?

Tips for venturing out on your own

"I can control my own destiny."
"I can work flexible hours."
"I don't have to listen to someone telling me what to do."
"I can write my own paycheck."

Self EmployedIf you know someone who has taken the plunge into owning their own business, chances are you've heard them talk about some of the advantages of self-employment. There are certainly some great ones — flexibility, freedom, fulfillment. However, there are some disadvantages to venturing out on your own. One of the most significant is that it involves a great deal of risk as you will have to forgo some of the benefits that make working for a company so attractive, such as a steady paycheck, group health benefits, matching 401(k) plans, even sick days and paid vacations. But, if you're looking for freedom and the ability to control your own financial destiny, going out on your own may very well be worth it.

The road to self-employment.

Before you order your "Business Owner" business cards, there are some important things you need to do to minimize your risk and maximize your chance of success.

Pick your employment spot. The first step in becoming your own boss is to determine what type of business you will establish. One option is for you to pick a business that is in line with your current work experience and skills. Another option is to pursue a business from a passion you have. For example, if you are good at woodworking, you may want to consider turning your skill into a business. Another business option is to identify areas where there is an unmet need. For example, if your city or town does not have a breakfast place, you may want to consider opening one. You may also want to look into operating a franchise.

Make a plan. Once you determine your business, you should formalize your ideas in a written plan. Your plan should answer a number of questions, such as what products or services will you offer? How will you deliver your product or service? What's the competitive marketplace like? How will you differentiate your product or service from those of similar businesses? How much money will you need to make? Take the time to do your research and to study similar businesses.

Determine your finances. Having a great business idea is only half the assignment; you also must know how much money you will need as well as the source for your funds. Will you use your savings? Tap into your home equity line? Or will you require a business loan? If you choose the latter, you must prepare a formalized business plan to submit to the bank.

Build your network. As a business owner, networking will be one of your most valuable tools. You must forge relationships with potential customers, vendors, and your future employees. You may also need good professional advisors, such as an attorney or an accountant.

Spread the word. Networking will also allow you to do something that's extremely important — get the word out about your business. You should also take to social media and other marketing efforts to let people know you're in business.

The decision to go it alone is one that should never be taken lightly. Proceed cautiously so that you can enjoy all those great benefits of self-employment. With a lot of hard work and planning, and a little luck, you could be the best boss you've ever had.