The following is a guest post by Betsy Fallwell. If interested in submitting a guest post, please read my guest posting policy and then contact me.

Are you satisfied with your job? A 2012 survey found just 19 percent of workers – that’s less than one in five – are happy with their career path. What do the remaining 81 percent of us have in common? According to another study, the majority of us dream of working for ourselves.

I was one of those people. Three years ago, I was an active – if unwilling – participant in the rat race, working 50 hours a week at a desk job that netted me barely enough to pay my mortgage and student loans. I thought I was trapped in my job; I certainly felt trapped. But as I began to explore ways I could work for myself, I started to realize that the only things holding me back were my own preconceptions.

Today, I’m happy to say I’ve been my own boss for the past two years. It’s a line of work, as well as a lifestyle, I adore. Here’s how you can make it happen for you.

Identify Your Niche

One of the most successful ways many budding entrepreneurs end up working for themselves is through business franchising. Franchise opportunities abound; there are literally options in almost every industry, at every price point, for every interest. For example:

  • Mortgage broking: this typically entitles very little up-front capital, as many existing franchises allow you to work out of your own home; however, you may be subject to a royalty fee to your parent company on every transaction
  • Fitness: Curves is one of the best-known business ideas around, but there are also fitness chains that cater to men, both genders, and age groups from teenagers to seniors
  • Restaurant: this is an option that typically requires large amounts of capital to buy-in to the franchise model; you’ll also have more success if you have previous hands-on experience in the food services industry
  • Home cleaning and janitorial services: most companies no longer employ an in-house janitorial staff; instead, they contract out the work to individuals and companies. This is an option that requires minimal overhead, as cleaning supplies are relatively inexpensive, and you’ll always be working in someone else’s space – eliminating the need to rent a pricy office
  • Direct sales: Thirty-One, Silpada, Pampered Chef – these are all examples of direct sales franchise opportunities that require just a few hundred dollars up front; after that, you can sell as little or as much as you want

Picking the Right Franchise

Say you’ve decided that buying in to an existing restaurant franchise is the right path for you. Now, you’ve got to figure out which parent company to sign on with.

Perhaps you’ve narrowed the franchise opportunities down to two options: a well-known restaurant chain with a pricy buy-in up front, or a less-established chain that requires little to no financial commitment to launch. While the second of the two business ideas may be enticing, it could also be more of a risk. As with everything else in this world, you get what you pay for; when you work with an established company that has a strong track record of success and a positive reputation with consumers, expect to pay a little extra – after all, the company needs to ensure you have the chops (and financial capital) to continue the company’s success, and you’re paying for their strong reputation.

That’s not to say signing on with a less well-known franchise model is always a bad move; every franchise has to start somewhere, and it can ultimately pay to take a risk by joining on the bottom floor. But be sure to do your research to make sure the company has a strong reputation with consumers, otherwise you may have a tough time reversing negative preconceptions.

Secrets to Success

Once you’ve settled on these business ideas and started putting them into place, it’ll largely rest on your shoulders to bring in new customers and keep them satisfied. Anyone who’s ever worked for herself knows that self-employed individuals share many of the same characteristics:

  • Motivated – There won’t be anyone looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re getting the job done. If you’re not a self-starter, this career path is going to be a difficult one
  • Perseverance – Even the best business owners encounter bumps along the road; if you can’t muddle through the tough times, you’ll never be able to rejoice in the good ones
  • Thinking out of the box – There’s more than one way to solve a problem, sell a product, or attract new customers; the best business owners bring creativity to the table

In exchange for all the hard work, you’ll be able to reap the rewards – not just financial perks, but positive changes to your lifestyle as well. Today, I’m in complete control of when and where I work. Some days, I may put in 12 hours at my desk; others, I may be able to take the impromptu afternoon off. There’s no more office politics to get in the way of focusing on work, and I don’t have to bother with doing my hair or makeup before rushing out the door every morning.

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