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By Darren Johnson

Campus News

You may have read business advice that tells you to quit everything and follow your dreams. But I think it’s the other way around — a carefully planned business can help you attain your dreams.

Go to college and stay at it. Study the courses you love (and some you just have to; but learn to love them for what they are). Get a job in a field you like; though the pay may not be great. Fall in love, start a family if you’d like.

That is better advice. But here’s an added twist. Consider also starting a side business after-hours to really add security. You don’t have to love it.

I’ve met many people who have some cash-cow on the side. For some people, it’s all they need financially. It’s a business that doesn’t require much attention after initial startup — and the added income really can allow you to attain your dreams, whether it is working a 9-to-5 in a career you love (that doesn’t pay great) or having the resources to get added college degrees.

The reality is, you probably can’t quit your 9-to-5 and you shouldn’t quit your college study, but where what was called “moonlighting” was frowned on by past generations, today it’s the norm. People are considered crazy if they don’t have a plan B on the side considering how 9-to-5s aren’t as stable as they once were.

So, here is what to know:
* The average sole-proprietorship (a one-person or one-family business) just makes about $12,000 a year, according to the Small Business Administration.
* Most such businesses appear to survive less than five years, so there is risk.

This means, you shouldn’t quit your 9-to-5 or going to college to “be your own boss.”

Let’s create a scenario: Say you do your books and realize you need $50,000 a year to pay all of your bills. Your dream job is available, but only pays $35,000. A job that is a soul-crusher is also available, and pays the $50,000 you need. Which do you take?

(Lousy jobs do usually pay better than more “spiritually enriching” jobs.)

Many advice articles I read say to quit the soul-crushing job and start a business you love.

But I’d say the better alternative is to take the 9-to-5 you actually like, but supplement that with a side business that pays you the additional money you need.

Isn’t it better doing the job you love 40 hours a week, and supplementing that with 10 hours of something else, than to work all day in a soul-crushing job?

Starting a side business doesn’t have to be expensive. It may be labor-intensive the first couple of years, but, after it gets established, you could hire other people to do the dirty work.

I’d certainly suggest not taking out business loans, and don’t pick a side business that you can’t do yourself, as you won’t be able to afford to hire employees right away.

Make a list of bare-bones expenses you will have with the new business and save up at least a few months of money to operate that business. It usually takes a couple of months before the first checks start rolling in.

Don’t sign any long-term leases. If you find that you miscalculated, quit. Dust yourself off. You still have the 9-to-5.

Here are some side businesses you can start with a 9-to-5. (PS: Don’t work both jobs at the same time. You can get a personal cell phone for the business in case someone needs to call you between 9 and 5. Let it go to voicemail, and call back during your lunch break or after 5 p.m.)

Summer Food Stand
This would be great for people who have summers off, such as teachers and students. You can either set up in a place that is growing in popularity or do a tour of county fairs. Some people make enough money doing this to not have to work the rest of the year. Cross your T’s: Be sure to do all the paperwork with the Board of Health.

Exercise/Karate/Dance Studio
You could run early morning aerobics classes before work and a bunch of classes after you leave your day job at 5 p.m. After you build a following, you can hire instructors. Dance studios give free tuition to the older kids to teach the younger kids. Cross your T’s: Insurance may be a stumbling block.

Teach continuing ed courses for local colleges, libraries, etc. You don’t need a degree, just a skill to share, such as the ability to explain Microsoft Office to newbies. Cross your T’s: Insist on at least $50 per hour.

You may not realize it, but your town probably has a little 4000-circulation newspaper. Go to your local deli or corner store and buy a copy. Find the editor’s contact info and offer to write for the paper, say covering weekend sports or a weekly Board of Education meeting. You could establish a “beat” (covering one aspect of government or society regularly). Cross your T’s: You should learn the journalistic style and the rules of language, or else you won’t get a repeating gig.

Build Web Pages
There are tons of small businesses in your area that don’t have web sites. The typical small business just needs a domain and a few pages. Call around to small businesses who don’t have decent sites. Charge $200 to build a simple site, and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of takers; then charge them $100 a year to host the site and establish a fee if changes are required. Cross your T’s: Most businesses want to do such business between 9 to 5; look for clients who can be flexible.

Most people don’t do their own taxes. Buy the high-end tax software and do this for them. You also could get gigs managing the books for small non-profit groups. You may have to attend the occasional Board of Directors meeting. Cross your T’s: Don’t take on shady clients. You won’t be able to hold their hands as they go through audits.

Have an idea for a low impact side business that could rake in lots of cash? Post it below.