|Brochures > Employment Issues|
Place in the Workforce
So you want to start your own business? Giving birth to the concept—a product or service you want to sell—is just the tip of an iceberg. You’re contemplating an investment—of time, money, and hope—and there are common factors to consider, whether you want your business profits to be your primary income or your pocket money.
Start with honest self-assessment
Do you have backup in case of serious health problems? Even in the short term: let’s say it’s 3 PM, your body has hit that proverbial wall, and you cannot go on one more minute (and you know what I mean). An angry customer is demanding your attention. Who covers for you?
I’m not trying to discourage you, but rather to encourage you to soul-search and brainstorm. Are you a self-starter, an organizer, a planner? If you are not, can you find someone to help you? What are your weaknesses and strengths?
Get down to business with a business plan
You also need the appropriate legal descriptions. Will your business be a sole proprietorship, a corporation, or a partnership? Is a copyright or patent needed? (The Web site for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is www.uspto.gov/.) Is your location properly zoned for your type of business? Is a license required? Any potential lending institution will require all this information.
Your new best friends for developing your business plan could be your local chamber of commerce and your state vocational rehabilitation office. Look for them in the governmental offices section of your phone directory. Also try the www.entrepreneur.com/.
The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) site at www.sba.gov/ offers a wealth of information in amazingly non-bureaucratic language. Their toll-free number is 800-8-ASK-SBA (800-827-5722). The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) offers their invaluable help through their Web site, www.score.org/, or by phone at 800-634-0245. SCORE gives free counseling plus low-cost workshops on numerous topics. The Small Business & Self-Employment Service (SBSES) is a free service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor, which provides information, counseling, and referrals about self-employment and small business ownership opportunities for people with disabilities. SBSES, located at the Job Accommodation Network, is available through JAN’s toll-free number 800-526-7234 (V) or 877-781-9403 (TTY). SBSES Web site: www.jan.wvu.edu/sbses. (If you don’t have access to a computer with Internet, get online at your library.)
Shop carefully for a loan, and don’t be discouraged. The SBA experts will walk you through their pre-qualification for a loan guarantee program. And they’ll connect you with local experts such as the Small Business Development Center.
I highly recommend starting your business small, and at home. Consider leasing rather than purchasing the equipment you might need. It's far wiser to keep initial costs down, avoid drowning in debt, and focus your energy on growing your new business. For other suggestions on financing, check out magazines such as Home Business www.homebusinessmag.com/ and Small Business Opportunities www.sbomag.com/ and visit www.abilitiesfund.org/
Sales and marketing
Familiarize yourself with your competitors so that you can differentiate your product or service from theirs. Think about what would encourage someone to switch to you for this product or service. Highlight this benefit in your sales pitch!
To simplify things from the very beginning, start a separate bank account for your business. Get a ledger, an accounting journal, and business checks. There are several good programs for computerized bookkeeping, including Quicken, Peachtree, and Microsoft Excel. The SBA, SCORE, the public library, the Internet, and bookstores offer solid help on this topic.
If this sounds like more than you want to handle, you need to outsource. Hire accountant services from an individual or a firm that specializes in bookkeeping for small businesses. Ask for referrals from other small business owners.
Consequences of self-employment
A program called the Ticket to Work or Self-Sufficiency Program, is gradually being implemented state by state. Ask if it has come to your state yet. The Trial Work Period, or TWP, is already in effect everywhere, so for at least nine months, you can continue to receive all your Social Security benefits, no matter how high your earnings might be. Further, if you need to return to the disability rolls because of the same or related impairment within five years of leaving, there is no waiting period for the benefits to begin again. Social Security’s Web site, www.socialsecurity.gov/, has a marvelous comprehensive “Frequently Asked Questions” section.There are lots of folks out there to help you. Listen well, learn all you can, and be absolutely positive that you have the resources to give your venture the best chance to work. Then, plot your course, feeling confident and self-assured.
Cheryl Jewett has worked in the employment services field for over 20 years, most recently for the state of Michigan. She lived with “probable MS” for years before being definitely diagnosed. She has written job search articles and taught employability skills to people with disabilities and many others.She also “tiptoed into the world of entrepreneurship, offering employment services. But,” she writes, “my ongoing health problems kept me from plunging into self-employment. I chose not to borrow the money I would need. At one time, I might have seen living on SSDI as a negative, but now I accept where I am. I keep moving with whatever’s needed to enable me—canes, crutches, a walker, a manual wheelchair, or an electric wheelchair—and I’ve learned adaptation, humor, and flexibility.”
|Last updated March 2007|