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A flavorful life doesn’t have to cost a fortune. People who enjoy cooking and baking can often feel overwhelmed by the cost of groceries. Millennials get a lot of flak for their love of pricey avocado toast and other expensive culinary habits. However, the reality is that even just buying groceries for simple meals can add up quickly if you don’t pay attention to what you’re grabbing in the store aisles.

How to Save Money on Groceries

The good news is that there are some very simple tips you can follow to bring down the cost of groceries. Thinking outside the box can help you to put more food in your grocery bag without going broke. Take a look at four unconventional and creative ways to cut your grocery budget without skimping when it comes to flavor or quality.

Install a Calculator App on Your Phone

Do you hate being surprised by your grocery bill once you get to the register? You can add up your spending as you go if you download a simple calculator app to your phone and start tallying your bill while you shop. This will give you a good idea of how much is left in your budget to splurge on some extras while you’re shopping.

It will also give you the opportunity to put things back or shop for bargains while you’re at the store if you discover that you’re filling up your cart beyond your budget. This may help you to get creative with putting items in your cart that can make some tasty, satisfying meals that don’t cost a small fortune per plate.

Coupons Still Have their Place

Couponing is still in, and some shoppers can pay almost nothing for a cart full of groceries. If you buy the Sunday paper, you can clip your way to hundreds of dollars of savings. But remember, you should only clip coupons based off your shopping list, and don’t buy items just because you found a coupon. If you don’t want to buy the Sunday paper and clip coupons all day, you now have a high-tech option. There are plenty of coupon apps available for iPhone and Android users.

With coupon apps, you will never forget your coupons at home, and you can organize them with ease. One such app available with Android and iPhone devices is Coupon Sherpa. Available for Android devices, Grocery Smarts Coupon Shopper allows you to cross-reference all available coupons with current circulars, which allows you to get the best deal.

One popular app for Android, Shop Calc, allows you to create a pre-set budget and generate a realistic shopping list. iPhone owners should check out the Our Groceries Shopping List. The app allows shoppers to easily share shopping lists with others in the household, and organize items by category.

Avoid the Middle Section of the Grocery Store

The path you take through the aisles of your grocery store can actually determine how much you spend and how much you eat. The perimeter of a grocery store is where you’ll find fruits, vegetables, dairy products and freshly baked goods. These are the areas you’ll want to focus on if you need to purchase foods that will give you the biggest benefits for your bucks.

The middle of the store tends to contain more processed foods. It’s also where you’re likely to stock up on some sweets and impulse purchases that might not contribute to your plan to eat well on a budget. Only dip into the middle section if you need specific dry goods.

Knowing how to navigate your way through the interior aisles of a grocery store once you do step foot in them can also help you to save money. For instance, spices are often less expensive if you grab them from the ethnic food aisle of a grocery store instead of from the actual spice aisle.

Shop for Batch Cooking

Focusing on buying ingredients for making just two or three really good meals per week could help you save money. Batch cooking involves making big batches of meals you like and enjoying them throughout the week. You will typically make all of your meals at the start of the week and slip them into the freezer to be available throughout the week.

For instance, you could purchase ingredients to make lasagna that will stretch for two or three days. This often ends up costing much less than trying to invent a new meal for everyday of the week. What’s more, you’ll save so much time because you’ll be cooking all your meals at once.

How long one meal will last will depend on how many people you need to feed in your household. You can expect to save money whether you’re cooking for one or feeding a large family when you shop for batch cooking.

Go to the Store Less Frequently

You can’t be tempted by impulse purchases at the grocery store if you’re not at the grocery store every day. While the idea of stopping at the store every day to pick up fresh ingredients for meals sounds good, the reality is that it can easily lead to overspending.

It might be a good idea to change your habits if you’re the type of person who always pops into the grocery store after work to pick up ingredients for dinner. It’s hard to actually get a grasp of what your total weekly or monthly grocery budget is if you’re constantly making small purchases here and there.

Try to get in the habit of setting aside one day per week for grocery shopping for a little while to see if it becomes easier to manage your food spending. You can even make a habit of stockpiling specific ingredients when they go on sale to ensure that you always have what you need to make meals.

Use the Right Credit Card

Using the right cash back credit card can also help you save. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, pays up to 6% cash back on groceries. If you shop at Costco or Sam’s Club, they both offer cards with excellent cash back on purchases at their stores. You can find a complete list of the best cash back cards here.

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A reader recently wrote in asking about part-time, work from home jobs. After all, wouldn’t it be great to bring some extra money in without worrying about a commute, needing to find childcare, or having it interfere with your other job(s)? So we put together this list of some of the best work from jobs that are legitimate.

work from home jobs

The good news is that these jobs are easier than ever to find. The bad news is that they may also be more competitive than ever.

Telecommuting is becoming easier, as technology advances and businesses see the advantages of hiring a remote workforce. In fact, a Gallup poll showed that telecommuting is up 37%. While many workers telecommute only some of their full-time work days, plenty of companies are also offering part-time jobs that are exclusively telecommute.

Whether you’re looking for a side gig to fill out your income or a job you can do while staying home with the kids, here are some part-time, work from home jobs and where to find them.

General Work From Home Jobs

First, let’s talk about general work from home jobs.

Many of these can be turned into part-time jobs, if needed, or ramped up to full-time. You typically have some flexibility. These include positions like writer, editor, translator, web designer or developer, software developer, marketing or PR professional, virtual assistant, social media consultant, and more.

The pay for these jobs varies greatly, as do the requirements. However, since most can be worked on a contract basis, they can also be turned into part-time jobs. Plus, many companies looking to hire employees in these areas will offer part-time employment options.

If you’re interested in building skills to create a career working from home, check out jobs like these to begin developing your skill set.

Resource: How to Craft a Winning Resume

Companies Often Hiring Part-Time Telecommuters

Specific job listings will, of course, vary from day to day. However, many companies today work exclusively with work from home employees, often part-time or with flexible hours. These companies may be looking for specific expertise, but many will hire you without much experience.

The Best Work From Home Jobs

1. Sykes Home

As with many of the companies on this list, Sykes Home hires individuals to work in customer care jobs at home. Most of their positions are full-time, but they do offer part-time options, as well. Even the full-time options often come with flexible hours that allow you to set your own schedule.

2. Alorica @ Home

This communications company offers call center-type jobs that you can work at home. Jobs are both full-time and part-time, but agents are able to set their own hours.

3. TeleTech

This employer offers jobs in a variety of areas, including technology, customer care, technical support, and sales & marketing. Many of the jobs are full-time, but some are part-time.

4. VipDesk Connect

This company specializes in providing customer support for other larger companies, and it offers many at-home jobs for at-home customer service representatives. Again, some of the jobs are full-time, and others are part-time.

5. iQor

Yet another company that manages customer service for other enterprise-level companies, iQor is known for promoting from within. Some positions are part-time, and many are work from home.

6. Edmentum

This company offers educational software and solutions to school districts around the country. It hires many flex professionals, including part-time telecommute teachers for those with credentials.

7. Appen

This language and technology company hires part-time telecommuters from all over the world. Many of its current listings are for web search and social media evaluators, though many of these positions are freelance rather than employment.

8. Connections Education

A K-12 education company, Connections Education provides online schooling in a variety of areas. It hires full-time and part-time licensed teachers who telecommute and teach exclusively online.

9. Chamberlain College of Nursing

Have nursing credentials, but don’t want to work a 12-hour shift away from home? Chamberlain College of Nursing hires many full-time and part-time online nursing instructors, as well as instructors in other areas.

10. Expert Global Solutions

This customer service and financial care company provides finance services, healthcare reviews, logistics services, and more for enterprise-level companies. They hire full-time and part-time telecommute jobs for a huge variety of skill sets.

11. Brigham Young University Idaho

BYU offers a variety of online courses and hires telecommute adjunct faculty to teach these courses. Many of these jobs are part-time, and BYU hires in certain states. The University does give hiring preference to those who align with its statement of faith.

12. Grand Canyon University

This regionally-accredited private university offers mainly online degree programs. They hire professors and adjuncts in a variety of areas for part-time, work from home positions.

13. DVMelite

This company provides web design and marketing consultations to veterinary clinics around the world. It offers a variety of development, marketing, and customer service positions on a part-time, work from home basis.

14. AbilTo

A behavioral health company, AbilTo offers patients telephone or video conferencing therapy sessions. This is a great company for licensed therapists and social workers looking to work part-time from home.

15. Sitel

This outsourcing company offers a variety of work from home positions in collections, customer care, and technical support. Many of their offerings are part-time, though some are full-time.

16. Walden University

Got a Ph.D. but want to stay home with the kids? Consider working for Walden University, another online university hiring part-time, telecommuting faculty in a variety of subject areas.

17. Rosetta Stone

You probably know Rosetta Stone for its language-learning software. However, it also offers personalized services, including video conferencing lessons for language learners. Many of its jobs for fluent bi-lingual speakers are part-time and work from home.

18. Worldwide 101

This company provides services in transcription, web development, project management, marketing, and more. With such broad offerings, it also hires individuals from a variety of backgrounds for telecommuting positions.

19. Maritz CX

This company focuses on market research and hires individuals to conduct phone research, as well as higher-level marketing directors for telecommute jobs.

20. LanguageLine Solutions

Offering phone and face-to-face interpretation services, this company hires mainly bilingual interpreters. It offers positions in many different language areas with part-time and full-time offerings.

21. LiveOps

LiveOps hires customer service representatives in a variety of areas, including technical support, sales, and roadside service scheduling. Many of these jobs are work from home and involve flexible hours with full- and part-time options.

22. Study.com

Want to help students, but don’t want to teach full-time? Study.com offers telecommute positions for lesson writers, as well as instructors.

23. Hilton Worldwide

The famous hotel management company offers a variety of telecommuting positions for booking and reservations.

24. Xerox

Not just for copy machines anymore, Xerox offers a number of part-time telecommute positions, including customer service specialist options.

25. Elevate K-12

This tutoring company allows you to tutor students online in a variety of areas, including math and English. Most of its positions are work from home and allow you to set your own schedule.

26. Social Career Page, LLC

This social media company hires industry professionals to run social media channels for large companies. If you have experience in content marketing and social media, consider a part-time telecommute position with this company.

27. VoiceLog

This company hires work from home individuals to verify calls for telephone companies and service industries. It offers flexible shift options and a minimum hourly rate.

28. Reasoning Mind

If numbers are your passion, consider a work from home position with Reasoning Mind, an online tutoring company that specializes in math.

29. VirtualBee

Have mad typing skills? VirtualBee specializes in data entry jobs, which are work from home and can be part-time.

30. ClickWorker

This company hires people on a contract basis for translation, data tagging and categorization, editing, and web research positions.You can decide when you want to work and which tasks you want to complete.

31. Rev

Rev hires transcriptionists, captioners, and translators with some experience. You can choose your own projects and schedule, so this can be a part-time position.

32. Learnlight

This online learning company offers positions for trainers in a variety of areas, including language learning. If you’re bilingual but don’t have teaching experience, they also offer conversational positions.

33. U-haul

This moving company hires many sales and customer service positions on a work from home basis. These jobs pay minimum wage, but can include bonuses, and are highly competitive.

Where to Find the Best Work From Home Gigs

While the above companies are known for hiring part-time work from home employees, they’re certainly not the only ones. So where can you find a part-time work from home job, whether a contract-based freelance gig or actual hourly employment? Try these places:

1. FlexJobs.com

This website is known for providing leads for all sorts of flexible jobs, from full-time telecommute positions to onsite seasonal options. It lists a variety of part-time telecommute jobs and also allows you to search by your job requirements.

You do need to pay for a subscription to FlexJobs.com, but if you find a job within two or three months of paying for the service, it’ll be worth your money. An annual membership may be worthwhile if you’re looking at shorter-term gigs or freelance jobs to fill out your schedule.

2. Other Job Search Sites

More and more traditional online job portals are allowing users to search for part-time and telecommute job offerings. Companies such as Monster, CareerBuilder, and other popular online job sites may offer listings for part-time, work from home jobs, as well.

3. Company Websites

And, of course, you can go straight to the source by keeping an eye on the job listings at the companies listed above. Or compile your own list of potential work from home employers, especially companies that specialize in outsourcing jobs that are within your skill set.

When shopping around for work from home jobs, be sure to check company reviews online to ensure that the company is legitimate. You also want to be sure that it pays its employees and contractors well, and on time. Avoid jobs that require hefty fees and setup before you actually start working, as well.

Have you worked from home on a part-time basis? What was your job?

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Next to a love of country, a major draw to joining the military is the education benefits. The Servicemember’s Readjustment Act of 1944 expanded the American middle class by offering returning World War II veterans a chance to get a college education.
Education benefits for the military

Today, service members are still using those same education benefits they’ve earned through service. They aspire to be the first member of their family to attend college, earn an advanced degree, or learn a skilled trade.

This article will discuss some of the basic military education benefits available to veterans and those who are in uniform today, while informing the next generation of American service members.

The Montgomery and Post 9-11 GI Bill

The most recognized military education benefit is the Montgomery GI Bill and its successor, the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Beginning in 1944, the GI Bill offered service members the financial aid they needed to attend institutes of higher learning. There have been some changes to the original GI Bill. Today, however, veterans can pursue a trade degree, bachelors, or masters degree. They can even learn to fly by using their GI Bill education benefits.

The Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill are for active duty members. Reservists and National Guard members can use the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR).

The primary difference between the Montgomery and Post-9/11 bill is cost. Service members must pay into the Montgomery bill to receive education benefits. Soldiers pay $100 a month for 12 months. Then they are eligible to receive education funds under the Montgomery GI Bill.

After 9/11, Congress passed a new GI Bill that did not require military members to pay into the system. Rather, after an initial qualifying period, they became eligible for more financial aid with each passing year of service.

Check out this great chart from Military.com comparing the benefits of the Post-9/11, Montgomery, and the MGIB-SR. I will focus on the Post-9/11 GI Bill as it applies to all active duty veterans and current service members who joined the military after September 11, 2001.

Eligibility

To qualify for the full Post-9/11 GI Bill I will need to serve an aggregate of 36 months on active duty. I am also eligible if I receive a service-injury related discharge after serving at least 30 days on active duty. Active duty service members can use the GI Bill, but they will not receive the housing and book stipend offered to those out of uniform.

Financial Benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Tuition

The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers 100% of in-state tuition at any public university if I served at least 36 months on active duty or meet the alternate eligibility requirements. If I want to attend a private university, the federal cap on the academic year is $22,805.34. Non-resident, public university students have the same cap. If I serve less than 36 months, my benefits start to decrease.

I have illustrated this in the chart below. If I serve 18 months on active duty, the GI Bill will cover 70% of my public university tuition, and $15,963 of private college tuition, each academic year, for up to 36 months of benefits.

If annual tuition exceeds the annual cap, the Yellow Ribbon program can reduce or cover out-of-pocket fees for non-resident students and those attending private institutions. Yellow Ribbon schools offer added education dollars to students in exchange for more financial aid from the Department of Veteran’s affairs. Click here to see all Yellow Ribbon Program schools for the 2017-2018 school year.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits (Private Institution or Non-resident Public Institution)
Service Period Percentage of 2017 Annual Cap Dollar Amount
36 Months 100% $22,805.34
30 – 35 Months 90% $20,524.80
24 – 29 Months 80% $18,244.27
18 – 23 Months 70% $15,963.74
12 – 17 Months 60% $13,683.20
6 – 11 Months 50% $11,402.67
90 Days – 5 Months 40% $9,122.14

Remember, the GI Bill will cover up to 100% of in-state tuition at public universities. For active duty Montgomery GI Bill rates, go here.

Benefit Time Caps

The GI Bill gives everyone 36 months of tuition and housing benefits. As you can see above, the time you serve affects how much you will receive, but not how long you are eligible to receive them. For all three forms of the GI Bill, each one will max out at 36 months of benefits. This means I can attend school for three uninterrupted years, or spread out my education benefit over a longer period. I need not use all my GI Bill within the 36-month period once I start; this simply means I have 36 cumulative months of paid benefits to pursue higher education.

Post-9/11 Covers Housing Costs and Books

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers veterans pays the user a monthly housing stipend. The Basic Allowance for Housing stipend or Monthly Housing Allowance, is an active duty benefit. Service members the benefit receive each month to offset the cost of housing in an and around military installations. Students using the 9/11 GI Bill receive a monthly BAH payment for their resident zip code (the exact amount varies across the USA) while they are attending school. This means veterans can worry less about working a full-time job and going to school full time. Instead, it is more feasible to work part time and attend school full time with little to no debt at the end of their college career.

The BAH is equivalent to that of an E-5 in the military – a sergeant. I have linked to the military’s locality BAH calculator here. Enter your residence zip code and E-5 to get an exact picture of what your monthly housing stipend will be while you are using your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The book stipend tops out at $1,000 a year. If you enroll full time, you will receive the full amount, and only a part if you enroll with a part time course load.

Forever GI Bill

As of this writing, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Forever GI Bill on July 24, 2017, and it is likely that both the Senate and President of the United States will sign the bill into law this summer.

The Forever GI Bill ends the 15-year time limit for using your educational benefits. As a Post 9-11 GI bill recipient, I had to use my education benefit within 15 years of leaving the service. Under the Forever bill, anyone who leaves the military after January 1, 2013, is eligible to keep their unused education benefit forever.

Under the new bill, all Purple Heart recipients are at once eligible to receive the GI education benefit, regardless of time in service. Previously, recipients would still need to serve a full three years to receive 100% of the GI Bill even if they were wounded in the line of duty prior to that three-year period. You can find the full house resolution here.

GI Bill Summary

I get 36 months of education benefits – tuition, housing, and book stipend – when I use the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Active duty, veteran, reservists, and guardsmen are all eligible to use this amazing benefit with certain exceptions. The time I serve affects how much financial aid I am eligible for, and I can cover all tuition at a public school versus a private university.

Financial Aid Outside the GI Bill

Tuition Assistance

Tuition Assistance (TA) is for those who still wear the uniform. Each branch of the military – Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard – offers TA benefits that max out at $4,500 each fiscal year. The maximum allowable tuition rate is $250 per credit hour for up to 16 semester hours.

I personally have used TA and consider it a great benefit. As a reservist, it reduced my out of pocket cost for tuition at a public university, allowing me to focus more on my studies while serving the country.

Tuition Assistance Service Obligations, Restrictions, and Rules

There may be service obligations tied to using the Tuition Assistance Program, depending on your individual situation and military branch. Active duty Army officers will incur a two-year additional service obligation (ADSO), and reserve officers will incur a four-year ADSO after using TA.

Service members can use TA to advance as far as a master’s degree, but no PhD’s allowed – if it is your first time pursuing a “professional degree”.

See Also:

Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)

The Reserve Educational Assistance Program ended in November of 2015. However, some reservists are still eligible to receive education benefits through this program, and it applied to those members who mobilized for war or a national emergency. If you previously applied for REAP and want to learn how you can switch over to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, go here.

College Credits for Military Training

There are several options for veterans and service members who want to turn their military experience, education, and training into college credits and trade certifications. Many schools offer credit hours for professional military education that count toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The American Council on Education works with over 2,300 schools that accept the Joint Services Transcript (JST), and all branches of the military use the JST to record military training and education. The Joint Services Transcript lets you receive occupational related credit for the work you’ve done in service to your country.

If you are interested in a school or degree program, you may be able to transfer credits. Contact the institution’s veteran student affairs representative to discuss your options. Many schools near military installations have degree programs that accept over 12 hours (one full-time semester) of transfer credit in exchange for completion of an accredited military school, such as basic combat training, a captain’s career course, or intermediate level education for senior leaders.

These are all examples of professional military education that can count towards elective credits or degree requirements. These college credits equate to more education dollars for the service member, on top of the GI Bill and Tuition Assistance.

Additional Resources

Resources like the GI Bill Comparison tool are a terrific way to explore my benefits. I can enter the name of any university and find out exactly how much the GI Bill will cover. It also shows me an estimate of how much I will pay to attend a non-resident or private school. It is important to confirm whether the institution will cover some costs via the Yellow Ribbon program or other scholarships.

The military scholarship databases at Scholarships.com, FastWeb, and the Fisher House search engine (link below) are a great place to find financial aid, above and beyond the GI Bill and Tuition Assistance.

Family Members

The Fisher House offers scholarships to military children, and they have an excellent search engine with links to hundreds of military and veteran organizations across the United States. These organizations offer scholarships and grants that can help military families attend an institute of higher learning.

There are hundreds of clubs and associations that offer scholarships to service members and their families, like the Army Aviation Association of America and the Air Force Sergeants Association Corporation. These are just two examples of many, as seen here in this list of over 100 military scholarship opportunities.

Transferring your GI Bill benefits to Family Members

It is possible to pay for my child’s college costs with my Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Transferring my Post-9/11 benefits to a family member – spouses and children are eligible – will cause me to incur an additional service obligation of four years. When I transfer my GI Bill to a family member, I must serve four more years on active duty. If I only have one child when I transfer my benefits, and later have another, I can split the bill between them. There are caveats and rules for transferring your Post-9/11 GI Bill to a family member; you can read them here.

For Gold Star Families: The John David Fry Scholarship and Dependent’s Educational Assistance Program

I want to make special mention of the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Memorial scholarship. This education benefit is available to surviving spouses and children of service members who died in the line of duty after September 11, 2001. It is named in honor of John Fry, an active duty Marine who died while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Children are eligible from age 18 to 33, and spouses have 15 years after the death of their loved one to use this scholarship. It works much like the GI Bill; a child or spouse will receive tuition, a housing allowance, and a book stipend while attending school. I have linked to the VA fact sheet here.

There is another VA education benefit for family members of fallen and severely injured service members, the Dependent’s Educational Assistance Program (DEA). Like the John Fry Scholarship, it offers monetary aid to family members wanting to attend school. This webpage has a chart that compares the two. The John Fry Scholarship offers a greater financial benefit. The DEA offers aid to those families whose service member becomes permanently and totally disabled because of their service. The John Fry scholarship is not available to families in this situation.

Endless Opportunities

The creation of the first GI Bill in 1944 gave an incredible opportunity to millions of World War II veterans. Those opportunities exist today through the Montgomery, Post 9-11, and now the Freedom GI Bill. Organizations across the country offer veterans and their families’ scholarships, grants, and opportunities to pursue a higher education during and after their service to the United States. With these benefits and scholarships, it is possible for service members and their families to graduate college with little to no student loan debt. This is an essential milestone on the road to financial freedom. Let us know how you’ve used your military education benefits in the comments below!

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Many people dream about running their own business. You know, working for themselves, not having to answer to someone else’s rules, not having to rely on someone else for income, making their own hours, and not getting this hated retort: “You should just be happy to have a job.”

The dreamer who wishes for an existence free from these shackles is someone who wants to be his or her own boss. And no matter your skill set, interests, or career, there’s no reason you can’t reach that goal.

Here are six basic steps toward starting your own business and becoming your own boss, and what each one entails.

Step 1: Get Some Experience

Those who follow a vision with an entrepreneurial spirit are often eager to get started. They are willing to assume risk, and rarely want to listen to anyone who seeks to ground them in reality. However, one of the biggest building blocks toward your career independence is sometimes being, well, dependent.

Gaining experience by working for someone else is a foundational step that will benefit you throughout your working life. Not only will it teach you to appreciate what it’s like being at the bottom, but you can also gain firsthand knowledge and basic experience in the field.

These could really come in handy later on when you have your own business. You’ll be able to relate to all of your future employees, no matter how entry-level they may be. You’ll also have intimate knowledge of the problems that arise, and can brainstorm ways to fix them.

If you’ve never done the grunt work, how can you solve the grunt work-related problems?

Even Gates and Dell Did It

Let’s look at one type of budding entrepreneur: meet the young aspirants.

Perhaps they are fresh out of high school or college, or still in the midst of their studies. There’s an itch to start a business and make money, and they can’t ignore it.

Bill Gates and Michael Dell fit this description when they were starting out. Unsatisfied with the opportunities that were available to them, they had talent and saw a need for what they would eventually create.

But here’s the thing: they gained experience before venturing out on their own.

BASIC for AltairGates began programming computers when he was thirteen. His earliest programming jobs including writing calendaring software for for his high school principal. Another job earned him and a friend $20,000 — at age fourteen — for creating traffic-counting software.

He adapted the BASIC programming language for the newly developed personal computer while studying at Harvard. His skills set him apart at the time, but he developed his experience working on jobs for other people.

Here is what MSN had to say about gaining experience before stepping out on your own:

If you’ve never clocked a day of work in your life, you might consider taking a job before striking out on your own — even if the thought of doing time in a cubicle makes you shudder. Work experience in the field you want to break into may be the most productive use of your energy. Think of it as a paid research position.

Not Doing It Could Actually Hurt You

Learning about the real world is important. You’ll be at a serious disadvantage if you try to learn about the nuances of the business while also trying to run a company or function on your own. Grinning and bearing it for a few years before going out on your own is a way to mitigate the risk of a quick and painful failure.

Also, keep in mind that those who fund you want to see some experience.

If you’re lucky and can fund yourself, you don’t have to worry about this. However, most people who start a business will need to take out a loan or receive upfront investment. Those who can give money to you will want to ensure that their risk is minimized, and one thing they will look for is experience in the field you are entering.

In fact, the number one reason why new small business fails, according to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), is lack of experience.

So, the first step to being your own boss is to work for someone else first.

Get some experience in the niche in which you want to work independently. Network. Build on your basic skills while learning the ins and outs of the industry.

Resource: Should I Quit My Job? Ask These 8 Questions First

Step 2: Build A Winning Team

Sure, you can go out and found your own company without any else’s help. However, just remember that you are only one man (or woman), and going at it alone is a surefire way to stunt your business’ growth and set yourself up for failure.

Building and growing a strong team in the early stages should be a very important business goal.

You should find people whose skills complement yours — in other words, they fill in the gaps in your own skills and experience.

Let’s say you want to design a new shopping app. You have all of the programming experience in the world, and know that it will translate well to your app’s success. However, you have zero knowledge of marketing.

You know that marketing is going to be a big aspect of your business model. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your app is if no one knows it exists. So, you bring on your friend Mike.

Now, Mike doesn’t know anything whatsoever about programming. However, he is a whiz at social media and product marketing. The two of you make a great team, dividing and conquering the things that are imperative to your business’ success.

You Might Not Be the Best On the Team

In regards to the team that you build, I want to add the following thoughts.

Try to find people who are as passionate about your idea and your particular business niche as you are. Their passion will translate into their work, and the fact that they’re invested in your company means that they will be truly rooting for its success.

You should also surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. After all,”if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Being the smartest person in the group ensures that you aren’t learning from those around you. Also, you may not get any fresh ideas to allow you, and the company, to grow. Your success would be more secure if you have the ability to learn as much as you can from others… and this means bringing on those that know more than you.

Don’t be afraid to work with people who will disagree with you, either. Conflict is a good thing, but it’s important to manage it wisely. That doesn’t mean avoiding it and ceding your position to another, but it also doesn’t mean allowing a combative environment where everyone feels stressed and under attack.

Inc. Magazine agrees, as per this quote from their article, The Joy of Conflict:

Is it considered a “good meeting” when everyone agrees? That’s the worst. I’ve been in dozens of “good meetings” at which the important issues weren’t challenged — until after the meeting officially ended.

Bottom line: if you’re starting a business venture, bring in people who are committed to your vision, smart, and willing to speak up even if they disagree with you.

Step 3: Fight Inexperience With Advice

Step one was to gain experience. However, it will still be difficult for the “young aspirant” to gain experience in all aspects of business quickly.

Step two was to build a supportive team — but the smartest people, with whom you would choose to work, are often too busy to work for you.

So, what can you do?

One solution to this problem is to seek out resources and learn from the advice they give. Start by looking at universities, alumni networks, local organizations, and, of course, the internet.

No matter your field, you’re sure to find groups, message boards, and professional organizations online. These groups are a great resource to chat about industry changes, offer advice, share vendors, etc.

Find Someone Who’s Been There

Another way to seek advice is to work with a mentor.

Every entrepreneur should have a business mentor, according to Scott Allen from About.com. “A mentor is someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you who, serves as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time, usually free of charge.”

In order to find a mentor, you can contact established networks to begin your search. Or, simply get in touch with a business owner you admire and ask if they would be willing to speak once a month. Many successful people will be flattered and happy to tell their story or pass along advice.

If you’re too shy to blindly email someone you admire, you can turn to SCORE. This website can put you in touch with those providing advice on your chosen topic. Simply type in a question on the front page of their website and get an answer from a business professional.

If your prospective business is one that is locally-based, check the Chamber of Commerce website for the town in which you live or do business. There will be a directory of other businesses who you can contact for advice.

The website will also list organization of which you can become a member. Attend meetings and get to know other small business owners in the area. Not only is this great for networking and finding suppliers or clients, but you might find someone who can provide the advice you need.

Step 4: Build a Bulletproof Business Plan

A young entrepreneur should want People Who Matter to take his or her business seriously. The way to do this is to create a complete, documented business plan.

A solid business plan is an invaluable process for your company. It is a forecast of your plans, as well as an acknowledgment of the risks involved. This can play a large role in future business problem-solving.

No, your business plan can’t be simply laid out in your head. Not only is this an incomplete planning tool, but you aren’t going to have much success getting a small business loan (or raising capital from investors) without one.

If you need money to start your business, and most entrepreneurs do, most likely you’re going to ask individual investors or banks for loans. Undoubtedly with banks and definitely with smart investors, you’ll have to present a solid business plan before anyone hands money over to you.

There are tons of business plan-writing resources freely available on the internet. One place to start looking is bplans.com. They have examples for various types of business to inspire your own plan writing. Entrepreneur.com has several articles that may be useful.

The other option is to look at the cost of business plan writing software as an investment that will help grow the value of your business quicker. One highly-regarded software applications is Business Plan Pro. Write the plan and package the presentation well, and it’s guaranteed that not only will your prospective investor be able to understand your business, but you’ll understand it more as well.

Step 5: Raise Money

Now that you have a solid business plan that outlines how much capital you need, it is time to actually find it. A few suggestions:

  • Limit the amount of your own money you put into the business, in order to minimize risk.
  • Steer clear of using credit card debt, because it is expensive.
  • Go to a bank first. If your credit score is around 680 or higher and the loan is for $50,000 or less, your chances of being awarded the loan are good.

How about taking a loan from a friend or relative? Just be careful.

This could be a good idea if you simply don’t have the credit to qualify for a loan or line of credit for your small business. However, you should be sure to treat the loan as formally as possible. Conduct the transaction with a paper trail and contract. Note when the loan will be repaid and on what schedule, as well as any interest accrued.

If you’re afraid of damaging the relationship when the other person feels that a handshake is a sufficient agreement, simply tell them that your accountant needs to ensure everything is documented. When talking about money, even situations with friends and family can go sour, so tread carefully.

Another option is to utilize a peer-to-peer loan. One such website is Prosper.com, which offers ways to borrow money from multiple lenders.

Step 6: Set Goals

The biggest factor in setting financial goals is ensuring that they are actually attainable.

Do some research when establishing the benchmarks that you want your new business to strive for. Is it a particular number of sales in the first year? Building a social media following? Developing a certain number of new products?

Maybe your goals are less measurable and have to do with things like snagging a big blogger’s feature or seeing your company in print. Even different still, your goals may not be tangible at all. Maybe you simply want to replace your income while spending more time with your family.

No matter your goals, be sure to set them. Set benchmarks for the first year, the first 2-3 years, and the first 10 years. Then, post them up somewhere in your workspace, where you can see them daily.

Seeing your plans for your business, and knowing what you need to achieve in order to feel like you’ve reached “success,” can impact how you manage the company on a daily basis. As long as you’re working toward those goals and building a better, stronger business each day, you can rest easy knowing that you built something great.

What are other important factors in starting your own business? What would you tell an aspiring business owner before they start their new company?

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