This is a guest post from Neal Frankle, a Certified Financial Planner and the blogger at The Wealth Pilgrim. Neal is a potential Staff Writer for Get Rich Slowly. For background on Neal’s personal story, check out his recent article about how he went from homeless to homeowner.

You can start a business even if you don’t have any money. You should do it even if you don’t need to earn more money.

I was blog-surfing this morning and visited the forums at Get Rich Slowly. I saw one particular post that really intrigued me. It was one person’s journey about leaving the rat race and starting her own business.

What was particularly fascinating about her experience and every person who left a comment was that they didn’t do it for the money. They opened their business because they wanted freedom.

In truth, when I opened my business I wanted more freedom too. But like most other small-business owners, I found I had less freedom — at least when it came to my time.

I work more hours as a self-employed person than when I was an employee. My business (instead of my boss) dictate what I have to do everyday. I don’t get to decide if I want to go to the office or go bowling instead. If I want my business to survive, I have to respond to the needs of my business — and that means the needs of my clients.

No, self-employment is not about having more freedom — at least as far as I can see.

Why do I love being self-employed?
Because it allows me to express myself freely. At the end of the day, I believe this is the real pay-off for most small business owners who love what they do.

I left the corporate world in 1993 because I was tired of my boss making arbitrary decisions about what was good for my clients. I was tired of my life being subjected to the whims of some corporate executive who didn’t even know my name. As an employee, I couldn’t do what I really felt was right either for my clients or for myself — so I left.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I believe a great way for you to express your true self is to open your own business too — even if it’s not full-time.

Again, even if you don’t need the money, you should consider doing this. Having your own business will give you a new vantage point from which to live.
Sure you’ll have less free time. But if my experience is typical — and I believe it is — you’ll still have a lot more life.

What steps should you take if you want to open a business?
Decide what business you want to start by finding your passion. To be frank, I started my career in 1984 for the money. But over time I grew to love it. I love getting to know people, hearing their stories and trying to help.

What is it that you love about what you do now? Can you express that in a side business? My advice is to start by looking in your heart. What are you passionate about? Do you love photography? Is it music? Art? Dance? Cooking? Helping kids with autism? Golfing? Blogging? What work would be the best expression of who you really are?

Get help. It might be that your passion provides clarity about what kind of business to open. In my example, I couldn’t keep my job at the bank and have a side consulting business at the same time so the decision was made for me. If you don’t have any legal or moral conflicts, you can open up a side business without burning any bridges.

If you are clear about what field you are passionate about but don’t know how to turn that into a business, I have two suggestions for you:

Connect with mentors. Identify people who are working in the field and ask them for help. Most people are only too happy to help — especially successful people. (That’s why they are successful by the way.) Don’t be deterred.

Let’s say you want to get involved in the dance field but don’t have the money to open your own studio. Who cares? Call up a successful studio owner. Tell them you are passionate about dance, you want to open a side business in the field and have no idea what to do. Just because you don’t have the resources they do doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful.

You may not be able to open a dance studio….but by meeting with these people, you might get fantastic ideas on what dance studios need. You might be able to open a business to service those studios.

Moonlight at a business that is in your “passion field”. The best way to learn is to do. Go to work a few hours each week and don’t worry about how much you get paid. You are there for the experience. You might learn that you don’t have the passion you thought you did for the business. On the other hand, you might uncover ways to get involved with the industry in ways you never thought of before.

Even if you don’t have any money, you can start a business.

You’ll have to invest time. Everything has a price. If you can’t devote time to this, don’t start. But personally, I hope you do it. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make because it’s an investment in yourself.

Have you ever opened your own business? Did you hesitate? What finally pushed you over the edge? What was your experience?