The benefits of starting a side business

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?

More about...Side Hustles

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
83 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Damsel
Damsel
11 years ago

I would add that you can take a class or two at a local community college for pretty cheap, especially if they’re online classes. These can help you sharpen your skills at whatever you want to do, as well as teach you some things about managing a business. I only say this because it’s what I’m getting ready to do!

Morah Mary
Morah Mary
11 years ago

I opened my own business two years ago. As a supplemental (religious) school director, I was frustrated by the amount of time I was spending personnel and facilities issues compared to educational issues. Due to a family member’s illness, I also needed to establish more flexible hours. As a transition move, I worked with a career counselor to explore some of the options available to me. Two years later, my consulting business is going well – I’m making more money each year. It’s not as much as I was making before, but my expenses are much lower. We’ve also been… Read more »

Chickybeth
Chickybeth
11 years ago

I would love to start my own business, but I am afraid to lose a paycheck right now. Maybe someday.

I liked this post a lot because it was encouraging. Yes, you can! 😀

Chiot's Run
Chiot's Run
11 years ago

Mr Chiots and I started our own business 6 years ago and we never want to go back to the regular job world. I agree that you work more with your own business, although it’s much more rewarding. We work 2x as much as we used to, but we’re rewarded for that work. One think I like about working for myself is having a more flexible schedule and working from home. One thing I would recommend is to really take up a business that’s something you’re already familiar with and really enjoy. Also I would recommend spending some time planning… Read more »

Jason D Barr
Jason D Barr
11 years ago

Great job, Neal. For me, I’ve found that the business wasn’t even the important thing. It’s the ability to create something of value for other people. Granted, this is a personal finance website, so money probably should be involved! However, finding the proverbial thing that you would do for free, and actually doing it, is what seems to make other areas of life click along, as well.

Anne
Anne
11 years ago

The first time my husband and I started our own business, we had a passion for what we were doing, but not a lot of business sense. We discovered that our ideas were labor intensive which required either our time or that we hire people to do it. Since there’s only 24 hours in a day, we hired people. Then there was the people management and dealing with problems there. Bottom line – it didn’t end well. Take 2 – we have now started another business and this time around we’ve found something that still fits with our passions (actually… Read more »

Felipe Lopes
Felipe Lopes
11 years ago

Well, I want to start my own business, I did it twice, but my main error in both times was that I wasn’t passionated for it. I know that the third time I will be passionated, and it will go better then the other times. I am 21, and I’m feel tired of working for other people, but I want to start with a part-time own business.

RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40
RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40
11 years ago

The best time to start a side-business is when you are employed already and don’t need the income. The pressure is off, and you are doing it for the pure enjoyment. I had previously sworn off going to school ever again due to the homework and pressure of getting good grades. However, when I went to get my MBA part-time at Berkeley, I had the educational time of my life! I was learning simply for the sake of learning. It’s the same with starting my own blog. It is so refreshing to write freely and I never knew people could… Read more »

Tyler@FrugallyGreen
11 years ago

Neal, I think your advice is excellent, but not for everyone. I know we’ve had this discussion here before. If you’re the type of person who craves autonomy and revels in personal responsibility and seeing rewards match your efforts, then starting a side business is probably for you. If you can find something you love and spend 12 or more hours a day at it without thinking of it as “work,” then a side business is probably for you. However, not everyone possesses this mindset. And that’s ok, because we need people on both sides of the equation for society… Read more »

Eric Burdo
Eric Burdo
11 years ago

For good, all-around tax info for those who are “indies”. Meaning… you are an independent. (aka self employed), check out June Walker.

Her website is: http://www.junewalkeronline.com/

She has a book that is good for figuring out how to classify your business, how to handle taxes, what you can claim, etc. A great resource.

Pizzaforadream
Pizzaforadream
11 years ago

@chickybeth No need to lose your paycheck now, just start on the side. Due to concern for my job status, I started a business on the side and in 3 years it has doubled my full-time income. By the way, I’m still working my full-time job and plan to make a smooth transition when I’m ready. You can do it.

Foxie@CarsxGirl
11 years ago

Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂 I started blogging for the fun of it, now I write about what I’m passionate about and hope to use it to capture a freelance gig or two writing in automotive journalism. Likewise, I’d like to do freelance photography in the same industry… But I’m studying something entirely different. Of course, the degree I picked (Finance, emphasis on Personal Finance) will allow me to either get a corporate job, join an association of planners, or work for myself. I like my options! I can always work part-time in my industry and work part-time doing what… Read more »

Hogan
Hogan
11 years ago

Excellent post. I agree, there are ups and downs to self-employment and paid employment. Personally, I have found the “hybrid model” to work best for me: a part-time “day job,” that gives me access to a steady income, an existing infrastructure of co-workers, equipment, and the ability to specialize, and self-employment. The self-employment work lets me be creative, flexible, not overly stressed about money, work at the business at my own pace, and learn from the ground up. Freedom from paid employment is not always the rosy picture America likes to paint. To me, it means more responsibility, not less.… Read more »

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
11 years ago

“They didn’t do it for the money. They opened their business because they wanted freedom.”

Is there a difference? 🙂

Excellent tips, by the way. I’m a big believer in dipping your toes into entrepreneurship before making the leap.

Wendy H
Wendy H
11 years ago

Great article. Thanks.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

“I believe a great way for you to express your true self is to open your own business too … you’ll still have a lot more life.” This theory is essentially the thesis of your post, but you offer absolutely no evidence for it at all in the rest of the article (nor do you explain the benefit of “expressing your true self”). “You should do it even if you don’t need the money.” This article certainly didn’t convince me of this. Would you still advise me to tart a side business if my job title was “CEO, Volkswagen Auto… Read more »

Frugal Bachelor
Frugal Bachelor
11 years ago

Neal,

If you love being self-employed, then why are you auditioning for the position of Staff Writer, hoping to be working for the owner of Get Rich Slowly, Inc.?

Ann
Ann
11 years ago

If you love being self-employed, then why are you auditioning for the position of Staff Writer, hoping to be working for the owner of Get Rich Slowly, Inc.?

While I don’t agree with Neal’s assertion that everyone should start a side business (even though I have one myself), perhaps he just wants to share his knowledge with and help a wider audience.

QQ
QQ
11 years ago

This is dangerous advice. As a 3-time entrepreneur, I can tell you that starting a business is not just some fun hobby you can pick up on the side, and it’s not for everyone…and we (as a people, country, community, whatever) certainly shouldn’t be trying to sell that dream to everyone. The real advice that you can take from this column is to substitute “business” with “passion”. In that if you have a passion, pursue it in whatever way makes sense for you, and use it as a vehicle to express yourself and find enjoyment. That is a truly accessible… Read more »

B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
11 years ago

Neal – Great post. I agree with much of what you say. I would like to point out that the very thing you say you love about being on your own is freedom: the freedom to do business in accordance with your beliefs, the freedom from painful bosses, etc… One common thread I see from the post and comments is the concern (and in some cases reality) that running your own business is a 12+ hour per day job. And that is exactly the problem for many small businesses. Instead of building a business that leverages business systems and labor… Read more »

Bear
Bear
11 years ago

Nice article Neal. I’d like to see more specifics, but this is a good starter post for someone who is just starting to think about that direction. As someone who has successfully started and then sold several businesses I think your point about moonlighting is excellent. I’ve seen too many folks have impractical dreams about the reality of starting, running and actually making money at their business idea. By moonlighting you can minimize the startup risk, build up your knowledge base, increase your support network, iron out technical details like incorporating, partnerships, LLC’s, taxes, etc. And hey, if you discover… Read more »

Martine Syms
Martine Syms
11 years ago

My partner and I started a business straight out of college… art school! Needless to say, we’ve had to learn a lot, mentors and the library have been invaluable. We kept our day jobs for the first year, but we’ve been living solely off the business for the past 10 months, and it has been amazing. Sure we work twice as much as we did before, but we also see results immediately, and feel very rewarded. We’ve learned to be incredibly frugal, increasingly resourceful, and to think creatively. I feel happy and grateful every day, which is more than I… Read more »

krom
krom
11 years ago

The sticking point for me is the whole dependency on having a singletary interest. I would find such a life extremely boring. I don’t have singletary passion, I have many. If I must pick only one to focus on, I will spend the entire time regretting that I didn’t pick another.

AP
AP
11 years ago

I agree with the comments about starting something small while you still have a steady paycheck and a safety net. Building up a decent savings account is beneficial too – helps you get through the starting up stage without panicking. 🙂 The business we’re doing now aligns with our desire to help people who help others, is something the two of us can do on our own (don’t need staff), and has minimal overhead. Our future goals are to limit our “work” to those things that pass the “RV test” – it must be something that is not constrained to… Read more »

Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas
Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas
11 years ago

Great post, full of concrete advice and examples. Well done.

Pat with Smart Passive Income
Pat with Smart Passive Income
11 years ago

I run my own business from home. I have been for almost a year now ever since I was laid off, which was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I too, was afraid – most people are, but luckily I was laid off which pushed me to succeed, and now I’ve already earned well over 100k in 2009 already. @ Chickybeth #3 – I think feeling afraid of losing a paycheck is what is holding most people back from succeeding and starting their own businesses. You may be comfortable with what you have, and there is obviously risk… Read more »

Emily
Emily
11 years ago

I started a non-profit instead. It’s hugely freeing not to have to worry about the money, aside from staying in the black. So, I teach people to can and pickle and bake. It makes me happy, my participants learn things they want to know, and we’re slowly building a community.

Andrea
Andrea
11 years ago

I read this column with interest. I tried my hand at running my own business a few years ago with limited success. As it turns out, it’s a fine side business, but not lucrative enough and too time consuming to be a full-blown, one-woman business venture. I’ve recently been looking into other potential business ventures, and there are so many factors to consider that I worry I’ll overlook something. Neal’s column gave me more food for thought in an easily understood format. I’d enjoy seeing more columns in this vein.

Neal@Wealth Pilgrim
11 years ago

Damsel……great idea -re: community college. Wish I’d thought of that. Mora Mary – Another great idea – speak to a career counselor. Should of considered that too! Chiot’s Run – Having enough cash….so important. Thanks for putting the emphasis on that issue. Jason/Felipe/Ann, – Agreed. The passion is the most critical ingrediant. RB, Sounds like you’re really enjoying your journey. That’s where it starts and ends for me. Tyler, I love that you made this comment. You are clearly correct. It’s not for everyone…but I think it is for some people that stay away from this because of their fear.… Read more »

Neal@Wealth Pilgrim
11 years ago
Emily,

That’s another idea I hadn’t considered. I really learn much more from the comments than from any other singular thing I do. Thanks,

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

Neal: Your talk of “true self” implies that I’m currently living in some state of “false self”. Not just me, either — you assume that’s the default modus operandi for your whole audience. That we’re all shrouded in some giant lie imposed upon us by “the man”, and if only we could break free from the oppression of employment, we’d all be better off. This is insulting and remarkably presumptuous. The world is not filled entirely with Orwellian drones enslaved to Big Brother with no sense of freedom outside of the option of a second job. Even if it *were*… Read more »

Neal@Wealth Pilgrim
11 years ago

Tyler, “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.” What’s unclear about this? The premise of this article is that you can easily open a business and there are benefits which go beyond the financial arena. I never said you… Read more »

Tan
Tan
11 years ago

This is the article I was looking for. I have a full time job right now that pays ok. Seven days on and seven day off. On my off days I wanted to do something more productive instead of playing golf all week long. I love the article and also love reading the comments. Thanks alot guys and gals. Have a good one.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

Nothing is unclear about that paragraph — it just doesn’t address any of the things you talk about. Namely, it doesn’t say anything about how opening your own business has helped you to be able to express your true self. Sure, you didn’t like your old job. You felt stifled. That’s all that paragraph says. I know what the premise of the article is, that’s obvious. What’s lacking is supporting evidence for that premise. You say “there are benefits which go beyond the financial arena”, but then fail to list any. You list potential possible side businesses — photography, music,… Read more »

Laura
Laura
11 years ago

I loved this post! I work to support my hobby, and sometimes my hobby puts a little bit of $$ in the pot as well to support itself. It is indeed an area where I feel free to make the decisions and it is indeed an area where I have to work my butt off if I want to really succeed. There is a freedom there and a satisfaction in the achieving in the area of my hobby that feeds my soul in a way that my “day job” really does not. I very much enjoyed Neal’s writing style and… Read more »

friend
friend
11 years ago

Tyler, don’t you have your own blog?

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
11 years ago

Neal, regarding money as freedom (or not), you say that “If your main goal is to be a blogger (for argument sake) you might reduce your standard of living so you could afford to live your dream…right?”

Absolutely. And to me, that’s exactly what I’m saying. When you reduce your standard of living, you’re increasing your net available cash flow (your money) so that you can do other things with it. Money = available choices = freedom.

Though as you mentioned, once you reach a certain point, that may not always be a good thing.

Anyway, great discussion. 🙂

Neal@Wealth Pilgrim
11 years ago
Mike,

Sorry…..hey thanks. I agree with you. I may have misunderstood your original point. When you wrote that money = freedom and asked, aren’t they the same….I thought you meant having MORE money meant having MORE freedom. Clearly, that wasn’t what you were saying.

Thanks,

Mrs. White
Mrs. White
11 years ago

Neal, this is an interesting article. It opens up a lot to discuss and is beneficial. I enjoyed it. Thanks for the ideas. I am sure you inspired a lot of people and really got them thinking. You’ve done an excellent job!

Jennifer
Jennifer
11 years ago

It’s hard to imagine a much better life than mine: being a stay-at-home mom who also works from home part-time. I had intended to go back to work full time after my first son was born, but I had negotiated with my boss that I would bring the baby to work with me. By the time my maternity leave was over, I had a new boss, who did not feel obligated by the arrangement, since he hadn’t agreed to it. So, I negotiated a part-time compromise while I figured out what to do. 6 months later I had enough clients… Read more »

Christine
Christine
11 years ago

Relax Tyler. Don’t like the article, MOVE ON. From the comments, there have been many people (myself included) who liked the article and clearly felt they got something from it.

MLR
MLR
11 years ago

Neal —

I think Tyler has made a lot of points that you have *not* addressed.

MLR

MLR
MLR
11 years ago

Tyler —

To be quite honest, you are reading a blog post way too critically.

Obviously other commenters understood his point and answered accordingly. You don’t? Sorry. But it seems you are expecting a dissertation, not a blog post.

I guess I understand why your blog doesn’t have any posts… it must be impossible to meet your criterion.

I think Neal sold his point to his audience. You just happen to not be in that audience. And that is fine! Click next! 🙂

MLR

Four Pillars
Four Pillars
11 years ago

Neal – great post. I like your comment that the business (ie clients) still dictate a lot of things like hours/tasks etc. Some people get carried away with the “set your own hours” myth of being self-employed. I completely agree about dipping your toes into entrepreneurship – I don’t understand people who quit a good job to start a new business which might never make any money. I suppose it depends on the business but some businesses can be very part time and you can decide exactly how much effort to put into it. Of course less effort means less… Read more »

Kevin@OutOfYourRut
11 years ago

I think Neal is onto something with a side business as a form of self-expression. Can we be honest about something? Most people work in the jobs they do in order to pay the bills, and not for any other reason. There’s a nobility to that as well–we all have to make a living doing something. It’s called responsibility. But more often than not, while we’re doing that something, there’s something else we’d rather be doing. I know, some people will argue til the cows come in about how they love their work, and that’s great, but it’s also not… Read more »

Frugal Dad
Frugal Dad
11 years ago

This was a great post, Neal…thanks for sharing! Anyone who has read my blog knows my passion for encouraging people to find a “side hustle,” if for no other reason than to hedge against a lay off in unpredictable times. I started writing as a side hustle two years ago now, and it sure beats other things I’ve done (lawn care, retail, a failed small home-biz opportunity, etc.). While there is great risk in starting something on your own, I believe there is greater risk of never fulfilling a dream many of us share to make a contribution larger than… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
11 years ago

I feel that this article resonates with me in particular because I too became (the term I believe Neal was searching for) a Micro-Business CEO. Micro-Businesses are small, self-contained, self-run occupations that usually tend to require little to no initial capital, can be run in an informal environment (say from home) and usually consist of three employees maximum including yourself. I too, even at 23, became disenchated with the occupational rat race, the anonimity of “the system”, and realized that starting a small business would compliment my personality, lifestyle, and provide me with time to tend to other important things… Read more »

Neal@Wealth Pilgrim
11 years ago

Four Pillars, I agree. The “toe dip” method makes this concept available to all of us. Thanks for putting the spot light on that. Kevin, That has absolutely been my experience and I appreciate you chiming in. I don’t meet many people who are absolutely thrilled with their employment but I meet a great many who love being self-employed. I think it has more to do with the freedom of expression than the actual work. Frugal Dad, Since you are my hero, these words are especially meaningful and touching. Someone said something about most people living lives of quiet desperation.… Read more »

Matt Jabs
Matt Jabs
11 years ago

@Tyler #16, 31, 34: You actually raise great points assuming the purpose of the article is to persuade readers. Looking back over it, do you think the author was trying to persuade or encourage?

Dave @ Debt Black Hole
Dave @ Debt Black Hole
11 years ago

I absolutely agree that a side business can be a good move for some! The ‘cost’ of the enterprise is usually some combination of time and money. If you have a passion for something and REALLY want to do it, have you ever noticed you always find the time? The same is true, in most cases, with money. If you REALLY want to do it- somehow the money seems to become available. Starting a side business can also be an incredible learning experience! Even if, at some point, the venture fails or you decide to STOP doing it- you will… Read more »

shares