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					   Home-Based and Self-Employment


  A Discussion for People who use the
Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
   Vocational Rehabilitation Services




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Acknowledgement

This guide represents the work of the Statewide Rehabilitation Council’s
TASK FORCE ON HOME-BASED AND SELF-EMPLOYMENT, a working
group of members of the SRC, consumers, service providers and MRC
staff. We gratefully acknowledge the efforts and input of the following task
force members without whom this guide couldn’t have been written.

Owen Doonan – Task Force Chairman, SRC Statutory Member
Zary Amerhosseini, Member
William Corbett, Member
Mark Cowell, Statewide Employment Services
Larry Espling, Statewide Employment Services
Andrew Forman, Member
James Fratolillo, Director, Statewide Employment Services
Gary Hale, Director, Lawrence Area Office
James Hanna, Member
Warren Magee, Member
Edward Mello, Director, Plymouth Area Office
Kathy Mooney, Member
Emeka Nwokeji, Director,
Consumer Involvement
William Parks, Member
Ann Marie Paulson, Member



FOREWORD

This booklet was developed by The Home-Based and Self-Employment
Task Force of the State Rehabilitation Council of the Massachusetts
Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). Our objective is to support and nurture
the development of home-based and self-employment career alternatives
for MRC consumers. State Rehabilitation Council members, appointed by
the Governor, are charged by federal regulation to advocate for the
consumers’ best interest in the vocational rehabilitation process. As such,
the Council provides advice in partnership with the Massachusetts
Rehabilitation Commission on consumer issues. All MRC consumers, their
families and guardians are extended an open invitation to attend State


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Rehabilitation Council general meetings which are held throughout the
state. For further information, contact the Office of Consumer Involvement
at 617-204-3665.

This booklet explores home-based and self-employment (or
entrepreneurship) as career choices for MRC consumers. We hope this
information accurately describes these alternative employment options as
they exist in the real world today. It is not our intention to persuade or
dissuade your decision, but only to present a realistic picture of these
potential career choices. With this information, it is our objective to assist
you in making a satisfactory, well-informed career decision.

Vocational rehabilitation services assist people with significant disabilities
to return to or start a meaningful career. In assessing abilities, experiences
and training, a certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will help you
make an informed choice of career goal. You and your counselor may also
consider training and any assistive technologies needed to support your
chosen career objectives. Your decisions are written into an individualized
plan for employment (IPE.) The IPE forms an agreement between you as a
consumer of vocational rehabilitation services, and the MRC as a provider
of those services.

In formalizing the IPE, the objective is to fully inform you as to the process
and options available for reaching your personal goal of gainful, satisfactory
employment. This booklet explains two of the employment options open to
all consumers, either self-employment or home-based employment. We
hope it provides you with the essential information needed to make such an
informed vocational choice.




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DEFINITIONS

What is the Difference Between Home-Based and Self-Employment?

Home-based employment means working for an employer from your home.
This arrangement takes place upon the mutual agreement of the employer
and employee; and includes provisions typically found in the workplace.
These may include benefits, supervision, time requirements, output
requirements, equipment or procedure requirements, etc. Examples of
home-based employment include “help-desk” staff, call center work, word
processing, reservations agent, computer operator, medical and legal
transcription, programming, and/or professional, advisory and managerial
work, etc.

Self-employment means owning a business and working for oneself. Some
examples of such business opportunities are manufacturing, distribution,
retailing, sales, marketing, advertising, publishing and franchising. Other
options might be providing business services, such as computer work or
consulting as an independent entrepreneur. As a business owner, you may
have the option of working from home, a store or at some other location.
The key difference from home-based employment is that you are not an
employee of someone else. An interesting option is to provide paid services
in your vocational field [professional, managerial, executive] to business
and government agencies with an objective of future employment by
demonstrating your capabilities as a consultant or contractor.

An alternative definition of self-employment is: “To be self-employed means
controlling your own work; To earn ones living by working independently of
an employer, either by freelance or by running a business.”




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MORE ABOUT HOME-BASED EMPLOYMENT

Working at home for an employer is not the same as being self employed.
It is like working in an office, but you need to be your own supervisor and
maintain the same work ethic and schedule. You will not have the same
support system that a traditional office has:

      No secretaries to answer phones, take notes or schedule meetings.
      No file clerks or typists to cover those details.
      No associates to socialize with in an office setting.
      No manager on-site.

A typical home office is set up in a quiet, private area to minimize home
distractions. Usually a computer is connected to the central office of the
employer by a telephone or cable modem. Much thought and planning
needs to go into the design and implementation of a professional home-
based office. Computers are utilized to not only accommodate some
disabilities, but also provide an efficient means of collaborating with your
peers and management. Many employers will insist on an assessment of
your work space for safety, correct furnishings and equipment.

Training may be in order to efficiently work from home. Also, employment
opportunities are not yet abundant for such work. Home-based employment
is just starting to develop as an alternative and most such opportunities are
offered as rewards to trusted long term employees. This being the case, it
may be difficult to find a suitable job working for an employer; yet there
have been some signs of increased use of this by corporations.

There are opportunities other than office services for home-based
employment such as component assembly, skill work that involves artistry,
evaluation and sorting of returned merchandise, mystery shopping,
disability evaluation, shopping, custom mailing services and pack & ship
services for small businesses. These opportunities often require sufficient
room and specialized equipment to work efficiently.


MORE ABOUT SELF-EMPLOYMENT




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Whether working from home, rental property, an office or from a vehicle, an
entrepreneur is his or her own boss. Working from home usually presents
the lowest level of risk simply because expenses are low, less investment
capital is required and less income is needed to break even and make a
profit. Rental of business property usually requires extensive capital to
prepare and outfit the premises. A lot of money is needed to sustain
operations until sufficient sales volume can meet overhead costs.

An alternative is to purchase either a franchise or a successful operating
business. Although these are usually the most expensive methods of
starting a business, they may offer structured financing to reduce your
initial capital needs. A high degree of sophisticated “due diligence” (study
and investigation) must be done before purchasing a franchise or operating
business, but the result in some instances can be substantially better than
starting a new business from the idea stage.

An entrepreneur must decide on a business venture and develop a
business plan for review by the vocational rehabilitation counselor.
However, assistance with the decision making process and/or business
plan writing is available through the MRC. Often, the vocational
rehabilitation counselor will seek assistance from business development
consultants to assist the entrepreneur. Self-employment is a significant
process for both the entrepreneur and the vocational rehabilitation agency.
It takes time, planning, assessment and a good deal of counseling to
develop and launch a business. To succeed, an entrepreneur needs to be
focused, committed and tenacious.

Starting a business requires many varied skill sets. Employees normally
have those components provided for them by the companies they work for.
Ultimately, small business owners strive to grow to the point where they
can afford to hire or engage specialists to fill in the “weak spots” in their
own abilities. It is important to identify and develop supports to address
these weak spots early on, whether or not they are disability related. As
weaknesses are different for everyone, the supports have to be custom
built into a support plan that follows the entrepreneur through all phases
until the business is deemed to be stable and profitable. Areas where
individualized supports may be needed include:

•    Creative development, planning and launch
•    Operations

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•    Finance, Accounting, Legal Services
•    Sales & Marketing
•    Research & Development
•    Quality Control
•    Executive Mentoring
•    Logistics



MORE ABOUT BUSINESS PLANS

If you want to start any business you will have to write a business plan.
This document is vital and can open or close doors in the world of
business. It is necessary for many reasons:
     You will need this plan to apply for loans, including SBA loans and
      micro-loans.
     It is required by the MRC because it helps you develop a sharp focus
      and it helps the MRC make fair, responsible decisions about
      vocational services and supports.
     You will have a constant point of reference as your business moves
      forward that you can use to measure progress, make adjustments
      and stay on target.
     Your business plan can help you become established with trade
      groups, chambers of commerce, state and local business
      development resources and the like.
     A typical business plan usually includes the following parts. However,
      check with your VR Counselor to see what your plan might require:
     An executive summary – This is a one page summary that describes
      your business idea, organization, market niche and start-up and
      growth plan. Although it appears at the beginning of the business
      plan, it is usually written last.
     Research and market analysis – Here is where you convince a reader
      you have done your homework. You have a good idea, facts back-up
      your idea, and you have identified a target market that exists and
      needs what your business has to offer.
     Competition summary – Here you identify all known competitors, who
      they are, what they do and your strategy for competing against them.




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 Financial statement – This segment contains all necessary financial
  assumptions and income and profit plans. It must be presented in a
  specific business/accounting format.
 Operating procedures - This statement provides a comprehensive
  overview of the physical operational needs and procedures
  necessary to successfully assemble, launch and operate your
  business.
 Personnel - This section provides a summary of the personnel who
  will work for the company, and the advisors who will provide
  professional guidance. It includes short, to the point biographic
  resumes and outlines each person’s function and responsibilities.
 Supporting documentation – This part contains important data to back
  up your ideas and plans. Examples might include articles from
  respected business journals, statistical abstracts about your market
  area or target audience, data from trade associations, or documents
  from the chamber of commerce or Small Business Association that
  support your plan. Also include: equipment and inventory lists and
  brochures; personal financial statements and tax returns for all
  principal owners for the last three years; proposed lease or purchase
  agreement for building space, if applicable; licenses and other legal
  documents; resumes of all principals; and letters of intent from
  suppliers, etc.
 For franchised businesses, also supply: a copy of franchise contract
  and any supporting franchise documents. For existing businesses to
  be purchased, provide copies of all historic business documents,
  copy of the purchase and sales contract as well as all supporting
  documentation.
 Many folks are overwhelmed at the thought of writing a business
  plan. Don’t Worry!! The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
  has many resources that can provide you with lots of assistance.
  These might include your counselor, peer groups, private consultants
  who work directly with you, classes or seminars, community colleges
  or adult education, online exploration, or working with the SBA. Just
  remember two important things:
 Your VR counselor is the best resource to get the help you need to
  write your business plan and reach your employment goal.
 If other people or groups help you with the plan, be sure you feel
  comfortable with the final document. Remember, this is your business
  plan.


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An excellent format for a business plan is available from the US Small
Business Administration at
http://www.sba.gov/starting_business/planning/writingplan.html
Another resource has been put online by the Western Mass. Business
Development Center at http://www.msbdc.org/wmass/guidelines.html



WHAT CAN THE MRC DO FOR ME?

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) has a Public
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program for individuals with disabilities who
want to go to work. Self-employment is one of the options for consumers
seeking employment services through the MRC.

The MRC may provide the following as part of its VR service to you:
•    Counseling & Guidance
•    Diagnostic Evaluations
•    Interest and Aptitude Testing
•    College or Vocational Training
•    Skills Training

The MRC also has contracts with outside sources to provide you with other
services, if appropriate such as:

  1)    Professional consultation to assist you to evaluate the feasibility of
        your business idea.
  2)    Professional consultation to help you prepare your Business Plan.
  3)    Specialized training services to help you in developing basic
        entrepreneurial skills.
  4)    Assistance to explore funding sources.
  5)    Financial support, subject to regulations, for equipment and initial
        stocks and supplies.
  6)    Follow-up (post–employment) services to assure the business
        venture stays on track.
  7)    Other appropriate goods and services; for example, developing
        and implementing marketing plans.




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For further information about these and other MRC programs, be sure to
read the MRC Consumer Handbook available free from any area office or
VR counselor.


HOW MUCH MONEY WILL THE MRC PROVIDE, AND FOR WHAT?

All traditional or specialized services pertaining to reaching your goal, that
are identified in your Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) are provided to
you at no cost. In addition, the MRC may pay a maximum allowable
amount of $3000 of "start up costs” to provide you with equipment and
initial stocks and supplies. In the event this is inadequate to cover start-up
costs, you may request a waiver of the maximum allowable amount through
your counselor in order to start your business. Waivers are issued based
on the merit of your request on a case by case basis.

The MRC should not be considered the only source for financial
assistance. The MRC can also help you explore other resources such as
the Small Business Administration, venture capital firms, and micro-loans.
The MRC may encourage, but may not require, an individual being
financially assisted by the Commission to take out a loan to establish self-
employment. Also, the MRC can explore other options by providing you
with benefit counseling services in order to assist you in looking at the
feasibility of establishing a Plan for Achieving Self Support, or utilizing other
Social Security Program work incentives.


HOW DO I GET STARTED?
1. The first thing to think about is the responsibility of owning a business.
Being your own boss may sound good in theory but it involves a lot of hard
work and a considerable investment of time and energy. Are you willing to
assume 100% of the responsibility for the operation of your business? Are
you prepared to be paid based on results rather than on the number of
hours worked?

Successful entrepreneurs tend to be energetic, creative and flexible
individuals who are willing to take risks. Do you possess these same
characteristics? It's important for you to evaluate whether or not the
demands and challenges of business ownership are compatible with your
personal lifestyle.


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2. Inform your VR counselor of your interest in self-employment.
The initial meeting with your counselor may be a good time to bring up your
interest in self-employment or home-based employment, but it can also be
discussed at any time during the development or amendment of your
employment plan. Some people only develop an interest in the self-
employment or home-based options after some counseling sessions, or as
the result of aptitude tests and other career exploration strategies.

3. You will need a business idea.
Such an idea will incorporate your interests, skills and networking potential.
Don't have an idea? Talk to your VR Counselor about resources that are
available to help you evaluate business opportunities that are best suited to
your qualifications.

4. Your business idea will need to be incorporated into a planning
document. Your individual plan for employment (IPE) will show your
business goal and how to reach it. But other documents will also be
needed. These may include an initial feasibility study to determine the
potential profitability of your business. To be considered for financial
assistance from the MRC (and other funding sources) you may also need
to submit a business plan.

Developing planning document(s) is an important and necessary step to
take in preparation for self-employment. Some people may require
assistance with this process. Discuss your concerns and needs with your
VR Counselor to determine what resources may be available to you.


CONCLUSION

The Home-Based and Self-Employment Task Force of the Massachusetts
Rehabilitation Council hopes this brief guide has been a useful tool for you.
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Vocational Rehabilitation
Services Program supports people who want to explore the options of
home-based employment or self-employment. Whether you decide to
pursue these kinds of opportunities, or some other goal, is a matter for
careful, thoughtful consideration. Sometimes, great opportunities are found
where you least expect them. Be assured the MRC has had success and
experience in helping folks like you consider, explore and operate


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successful businesses. Whatever your ultimate choice, we wish you great
success.



Deval L. Patrick, Governor

Timothy P. Murray, Lieutenant Governor

Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Secretary, EOHHS

Charles Carr, Commissioner

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
27 Wormwood Street, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02210-1616
www.mass.gov/mrc




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