Want to start your own small business? Organizations offer free help to get you started

small business

Construction will be one of the fastest growing fields for self-employed workers in the years ahead.

Since this week, May 5-11, is National Small Business Week, it might be a time to think about the possibility of starting a business of your own.

And you won’t be alone. More than half of the people in this country either own or work for a small business. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit and a criminal record may find it easier to create their own employment rather than work for someone else.

It could be anything from painting houses or starting a food truck to dog walking or taking care of elderly people, but there are certain fields that are expected to grow faster than others. And they offer the types of jobs that are often done by those who are self-employed.

According to numbers published by the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics last year, there were about 9.6 million self-employed workers in 2016, and that number is expected to increase to 10.3 million by 2026.

Fastest growing job categories for the self-employed

Among the fastest growing categories for self-employed people between 2016 and 2026 are:

  • Personal care and service: 135,000 new jobs for self-employed workers
  • Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance: 83,000 new jobs for self-employed workers
  • Construction and extraction: 78,300 new jobs for self-employed workers
  • Transportation and material moving: 60,200 new jobs for self-employed workers

While that may give you an idea where some of the opportunities will be, you may have some thoughts of your own. Maybe you have a special skill or interest – like handyman repairs, fixing cars, cooking, housekeeping or helping people with mobility issues – that you can convert to employment.

Learning how to start a business

Whatever your interest or skill, you’ll still need to decide if having a business is the right path for you. And if it is, there are a few things to learn about creating your own employment.

Fortunately, there’s free help available.

One of the best resources around is your local Small Business Development Center. There are more than 1,000 of these across the U.S., and you can search for the one nearest you in the organization’s online database. The centers are sponsored by state economic development agencies, colleges and universities and private partners and are funded in part through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and offer free consulting and at-cost training.

If you’re a woman, you may want to look into the SBA Women’s Business Centers, a national network of more than 100 centers nationwide that cater to women entrepreneurs. The SBA added six more of these centers last year and maintains an online directory that is searchable by Zip Code.

Online education

Not sure whether your own business is the way to go? You can get a better idea of whether entrepreneurship is right for you by checking out the My Own Business Institute at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. The institute offers free online education for entrepreneurs with two courses in both English and Spanish: Starting a Business and Business Expansion.

Starting a Business is the course that is relevant for those thinking about doing just that. The course is divided into 15 sessions and covers such things as

  • Deciding whether a business is for you
  • Creating a business plan
  • Home based businesses
  • How much money is needed and how manage financing
  • Dealing with licenses and permits

You may take the course at your own pace and after completion get certified for free.

The SBA also offers online education through its Small Business Learning Center.

Decided that your own business is for you?

After doing the research, you’ve decided that you’d like to be your own boss, the SBA supplies a free online tool to help put a business plan together.

With that in hand, you’ll be ready to meet with a volunteer mentor or counselor who can provide advice on the next steps to take. You can find one of these people through your local Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center or SCORE, a nonprofit organization that pairs people who want to start businesses with one of its 10,000 volunteer mentors who have experience to share.

SBA Small Business Learning Center provides resources for starting a small business

SBA Small Business Learning CenterWhile working for oneself may provide viable employment for those in reentry, there are a lot of things to learn in order to successfully do so.

And an excellent way to come up to speed on the various aspects of establishing a small business is through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SBA Small Business Learning Center.

On the center’s website, you will find an online classroom that provides access to advice and guidance that will help you get started in your efforts. And, once your business is established, there’s information on how to help it grow.

The material is presented in a series of short – mainly 30-minute – online courses on subjects that include:

  • Understanding your customer
  • Buying a business
  • Creating a competitive advantage
  • Customer service
  • Cybersecurity for small businesses
  • Establishing values for your business
  • Financing options for small businesses
  • Finding and attracting investors
  • How to prepare a loan package
  • How to write a business plan
  • Introduction to crowdfunding for entrepreneurs
  • Social media marketing

In order to take any of the courses, you just have to click on the icon next to the course description, fill out a registration form, and you’re ready to go.

Need more help?

The site also includes a Local Assistance interactive map where you can search for the nearest Small Business Administration District Office and other organizations that provide training, mentoring and counseling to those who want to start their own businesses. Many services are free of charge. Others have reasonable fees.

If you’ve done the research and decided that starting a small business is what you’d like to do, there’s a Business Plan Tool that provides a step-by-step process to help you put one together.

Then you might want to contact SCORE, a nonprofit organization that pairs people who want to start small businesses with one of its 10,000 volunteer mentors who have experience to share.

And if you’re looking for funding for starting your business, here are some resources that may be able to help you.