RUNNING your own business can offer flexibility plus financial rewards, and if your venture proves successful it can also be a healthy long term investment.
And, it seems Australians are a very entrepreneurial bunch with 15,300 more men and women running their own business today compared to this time last year.
For many people, self-employment is a personal goal, and according to Bankwest's latest Business Trends Report it's something younger Australians are aiming for in droves.
The study found Gen Y workers (aged 25-34) are leading the way in the growth of new businesses, this is followed by workers aged 55-64.
Seniors are certainly no slouches when it comes to running a small business. Over the last ten years there has 75% growth in the number of older workers aged 65 years and over running their own enterprise.
Starting a business of your own doesn't always involve lofty ambitions for growth and expansion. Indeed, the majority (58%) of women who run their own enterprise operate on a part-time basis.
This highlights the way that self-employment can offer opportunities to earn a bit of extra cash at various life stages - including after the arrival of a new baby, when it may not always be convenient or cost-effective to return to work full time.
It's not just younger woman opening the doors of their own business. The last five years has seen impressive growth in the number of so-called 'nanpreneuers' - women aged over 65 establishing a venture of their own, often to supplement retirement income.
No matter what your motivation, if you're thinking about starting a new venture it's important to look for an opportunity that's got genuine long term prospects.
One option is the growing home services sector and other outsourcing industries.
I've come across various estimates that suggest Australians spend up to one-quarter of their after-tax income paying other people to do simple chores we once did ourselves - anything from mowing the lawn and cleaning the home through to exercising the family pooch.
That's fair enough. In our busy lives many people would rather pay someone to do the job and have more personal leisure time. The key point is that this is creating valuable business opportunities. Even better, many of these outsourcing roles don't call for significant upfront capital.
If the idea of starting a business appeals to you, the government's online business portal (at www.business.gov.au) offers lots of tips and links to useful websites.
Be aware though there's a lot more to running a business than having a great idea. It takes a fair amount of discipline to manage the cash flow needs of your business while also setting aside money for tax as well as your future retirement.
A useful source of information here is the government's MoneySmart website (www.moneysmart.gov.su - click on 'Life events & You' followed by 'Self employed people'). Or for more ideas on making the most of a small business, check out my book Making Money.
Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.
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