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12/03/2013

(Part I of a two-part series)

Dissatisfied with Your Job? Man Up and Create Your Own

You have a respectable, steady job. You provide for your family. You do home improvement projects on the weekends and even find the time to coach your son's Little League team. But as you slog away at your 9-to-5 job and go through the motions of daily life, in your own mind, you feel that true success is still eluding you. You tell yourself that you should be grateful just to have a way to pay the bills (especially in the wake of the Great Recession). Yet you can't quite stifle that little voice that whispers, "there ought to be something more."

The truth is, you want to be your own boss — and to own your own business. But, you think the risks involved in becoming an entrepreneur are just too great. After all, you can't gamble your current steady income, your credit, and your family's comfort on a venture that may or may not succeed.

And that, claims Sean C. Castrina, is where you're wrong.

"You don't have to gamble any of those things in order to start your own business," assures Castrina, author of 8 Unbreakable Rules for Business Start-Up Success (www.newbizcoach.org). "The solution is to become a part-time entrepreneur. And if you follow a specific set of rules, there's less risk involved than you may think."

Castrina speaks from extensive experience. He has started over 15 companies in industries including direct mail, home services, property management and retail — the first while he was working a full-time job. He emphasizes that you don't need an MBA or a college degree, to become a successful entrepreneur.

"Look at my group of poker buddies, many of whom are self-made millionaires," he says. "Only a few made it past high school. One, who was introduced to roofing as a teenager, now commands the field and has a multimillion-dollar company reflecting his expertise. Two others own specialty retail outlets, and are flourishing in spite of superstore and online competitors. Another owns the area's most popular restaurant, when so many other food establishments nearby have gone belly-up."

So, what sets Castrina and his poker buddies apart? "We all started with what we believed was a good idea, deciding to take action on it," Castrina answers. "We didn't wait for ideal conditions. For the most part, we began building our companies in our free time while we still worked for other bosses." And he promises, you can do the same.

According to Castrina, it's easier than ever to become a part-time entrepreneur. With 20 hours a week (or less) of organized and focused time, you can build a solid foundation for small-business success. Thanks to internet-based tools, virtual secretaries and answering services, you can reach and service many potential customers without ever leaving your house. Plus, you have 24/7 access to educational tools and the ability to instantly search for answers to a huge variety of questions.

If you're ready to create a more rewarding experience than slaving away at a 9-to-5 job that offers little to no security, has disappointing retirement savings and doesn't come close to paying for your children's college tuition, then try Castrina's top-10 rules for being a part-time entrepreneur:

Figure out your game.

Perhaps you already have a clearly defined vision for your business: You'd like to use your background in accountancy to start your own tax service, for instance. However, it's very possible that you have no idea which field to go into. (Anything that allows me to be my own man! you think.) In that case, Castrina recommends starting a service business (anything from home cleaning to tutoring to adult care) for the following reasons:

  They require minimal money to start. "I've never started a service business with more than $10k, and many with less than $3k — including businesses that have made me millions," he comments.

  Many service businesses don't require a prior work history in the field or particular qualifications.

  In most cases, they can't be outsourced or performed by computers so you'll always have work.

  Since you can hire others to perform the actual work while you handle the key behind-the-scenes management tasks (like hiring, supervising, taking client calls, marketing, etc.), service businesses are a great source of passive income. "For instance, I started a mobile car detailing business in my 20s," Castrina shares. "I hired an employee to do the work, charged $95 for a full detail inside and out, and gave my worker 50-percent. All I did was make the phone ring and schedule the jobs. I didn't get rich, but I did make an extra $25k a year. Not bad for three to five hours of work a week during my down time."

"Entrepreneur.com has a great list of service businesses to start you thinking," Castrina shares. "Or you might also want to take a look at www.newbizcoach.org for more resources."

However, make sure you understand the rules before you start playing. Once you've familiarized yourself with the possibilities and identified a few types of businesses that might be needed in your area, try to poll at least 50 people — to not only determine which services they would use in the next six months, but also if they'd pay the price you would charge. Their answers will give you a good idea of which field you should go into.

"Before pulling the trigger on your business, take time to research the licenses, permits, and certifications you may need for the industry you're entering. Then make sure that obtaining them won’t be prohibitive," he adds. "You can usually find the information you need at your local business tax office or by contacting your Chamber of Commerce.  And take it from the voice of experience: Start filling out that paperwork early, as government bureaucracies can be painfully slow."

Do business from anywhere other than your current job.

Odds are, you'll be starting your new business from home — a place that's full of distractions ranging from the television to your wife's "honey-do" list. That's why setting up a dedicated workspace is crucial for productivity. Depending on your home's layout and your personal preferences, you might be able to use a spare bedroom, a basement, a detached garage, or even a nook in the living room as your office. And if you already have a dedicated man-cave, even better.

"Personally, I converted our dining room into an incredible home office," Castrina shares. "I was able to do this on a dime because the room was already equipped with a large but seldom-used table. If you go this route, you might want to add a file cabinet and swap the chandelier for recessed or track lighting. As I found out, it's hard to tap into your entrepreneur mojo when you're constantly ducking a chandelier.

"Also, if you set up a home office, don't forget to capitalize on tax deduction advantages," he adds. "For example, if you set aside a separate room of your house in which to conduct your business and/or store products, you may be able to take a home office deduction. You can also write off transportation expenses to and from your home to your business appointments and, in some cases, expenses related to car maintenance and repair."



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