Interested in a progressive career change?

4 Ways Corporate Refugees Can Become Their Own Bosses

Interested in a progressive career change? Create success on your own terms with these methods.

The U.S. Labor Department revealed that the unemployment rate fell in every state in 2015 for the first time in 30 years. The improving economy is making life for the job seeker a bit easier, but returning to the daily grind of a corporate 9 to 5 isn’t necessarily the right career move for every professional.

For many highly-qualified individuals who have been downsized from their previous place of employment, the recovering economy may be the perfect opportunity to begin again as a small business owner.

If you are a corporate refugee and want to explore the option of being your own boss, here are four viable ways to start your career as a small business owner.

1. Become a Consultant

Consultants serve as “hired guns” that bring a fresh set of eyes to a business and help them solve problems. This profession offers specialists, technical experts and executives ways to leverage their professional networks and utilize their industry experience for practical and lucrative purposes.

As the economy is in the process of recovery, businesses are currently seeking restructuring advice from consultants. The U.S. market for management consulting grew $39.3 billion last year according to a report from Source Information Services. The industry is expected to further grow at an annual rate of 5.2 percent.

Some great perks consultants have include the power to choose who they want to work with and freedom to set their own rates for their services. However, the greatest feature of this profession is the low barrier for entry– perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to be confined to a standard 40-hour business week.

If you enjoy traveling and do not mind a competitive work environment, consultancy may be your next career step. One downside to remember is that consultants often have to spend more time finding clients than they do helping them.

2. Launch your own business

For people who want the freedom to make their own decisions, design their own business model, and enjoy a flexible schedule, starting a small business may be your best bet.

However, there are a lot of risks responsibilities to bear on your own. Starting a business involves a lot of research and analysis to get your business plan and marketing strategy right. Plus, you have [SH3] a team to establish, technologies to learn and apply, and customers to win over. Some people may be inspired by that challenge, but many professionals who are used to being an employee may find the complete accountability a bit daunting.

3. Buy an existing business

When purchasing an established business, everything is already in place. You have a proven idea, established methods of conducting business and existing employees and customers. This route has considerably less startup headaches, and if the business already has positive overhead, you can forgo the period of not making profit for the first few years that small business owners typically encounter.

If you’re thinking about buying a business, be prepared for the purchase costs to be much higher than launching the same kind of business on your own. There also may be hidden problems associated with the business, such as debts to service or uncollectible receivables, unaccounted for equipment or facility renovation costs and the risk of losing key employees, vendors or customers with a change in management.

4. Open a Franchise

Think of franchising as a cross between starting your own business and buying an existing one. With a franchise, you get to be your own boss and have a proven business model to work with, but you’ll still have to abide by the principles and guidelines of the corporation. Franchises benefit from brand awareness, operational support, marketing, established clientele and so on. As McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc described franchising, it’s being “in business for yourself, but not by yourself.”

While franchises have a higher cost of entry than starting a business from scratch, they have a significantly higher success rate compared to independent businesses. You will have to pay a franchise fee and ongoing royalties in exchange for the corporation’s proven model of success. If reducing your financial risk or scaling a business are important considerations in owning a business, then heading a franchise might be the perfect role for you.

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No matter which path you take to small business ownership, be sure to select an entrepreneurial venture that allows you to leverage your strengths and spend the majority of your time on activities you enjoy. Before going into business, confirm that you have enough capital and financing capability to both launch the business and keep your household going before the venture generates a positive cash flow. And of course, be sure that the investment of your time, skills and money pays off not only financially, but also when it comes to your work/life balance.