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.

Why you might want to consider working for a small business

work for a small businessWith all the challenges facing those in reentry, it’s important to create a job search plan that is realistic, focused and tailored to the type of work you are good at. And you may want to include small businesses in the mix. Or concentrate on them exclusively.

And there’s an excellent reason for this. It’s one that might surprise you. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses provide 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all net new jobs that have been created since the 1970s.

And it’s not just the number of jobs created. The number of small business themselves have increased 49 percent since 1982. Think about these numbers for a while. And then think about the advantages small business might be able to provide.

Benefits of employment at a small business

At a small business you will:

  • Learn a lot about your job and how a business operates very quickly.
  • If you take initiative, you’ll be able to get experience in a variety of areas.
  • You will probably take on more responsibility than you would at a larger company.
  • After you’ve offered value to the employer and learned the business, it may be something you could replicate in the future and become an entrepreneur yourself.

A small business can also offer entry possibilities that big corporations might not. First of all, there may not be the dreaded “box” on the application. Depending on the size, small businesses may not have human resources departments. The owner may do the hiring.

And since the owner is also running a business, they might not have time to wade through a pile of resumes. Be proactive and pick up the phone and call them – or drop by in person. Even better, try to find someone you know who might know them. LinkedIn is good for this. Having a referral is always the best way to approach someone when looking for a job.

Since most small business owners are entrepreneurs and often have to sell themselves and their businesses, they will appreciate your initiative.

Do your homework

Before contacting a small business owner or manager, however, do your homework. Pick out a handful of companies you really want to work for. Local chambers of commerce are excellent resource for this, since most of them have online directories listing the companies of their members.

Once you’ve chosen a handful of companies, learn everything you can about them either from the company website or their Facebook page and by studying up on businesses that might be their competition.

Come up with some ideas about how you could help improve the product they create, the service they provide or the way their business operates. Then, when you meet with the owner, you can share your ideas.

And knowing a lot about the business will help you in the interview. Although human resources personnel are trained to do interviews, many small business owners are neither very good at interviewing nor enjoy doing it. Your knowledge will help them feel at ease and can ensure a steady flow of conversation.

In addition to your elevator pitch, your well thought out list of ways you can help the company and your knowledge of the business, bring along a handful of questions to ask.

Be sure to ask for the job

And at the end of the interview, don’t forget to ask for the job, if you really want it. Say something like:

“I appreciate your time and enjoyed talking to you, I think I can contribute to your company, and I’d really like to work for you.”

If you don’t happen to be hired, follow up telling them that you were disappointed you didn’t get the job but would be interested in other opportunities if any open up. Also ask them to contact you if anyone they know might be looking for someone with your skills, talent and interest.