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Want to Freelance ... or Run Your Own Company? Here's Help You Can Use.
No Job?  Start Your Own Business!

Many Disabled Americans Freelance or Start Their Own Businesses

Illustration: This person saw a need for a service and provides it through his own new business.In today's economy, self-employment and freelancing have become two of the most popular work options for disabled workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 10.3 million U.S. workers (7.4% of the total U.S. workforce) work as independent contractors. In the past three years, companies have increased their outsourcing by 22% on the Internet.

Many workers with disabilities are starting their own companies that specialize in products or services for other people with disabilities, like Don Dalton, president of
Assistive Technologies, Inc.

Dalton founded the company in 1990 to help disabled people find ways to work and contribute to society more effectively. He knows from experience the problems faced in school and work -- he's been paralyzed from the chest down since an accident at age 26.

Dalton formed Assistive Technologies to bring the new technology to others, after he learned how to use speech-recognition software in his own business. Dalton's company provides voice recognition software and hardware to schools around the country.

Unlimited opportunity is still available in America to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit ... regardless of what some might perceive as "disabilities." When contemplating a new career, make a list of the things that you can do, and focus on those things that you can do best! But don't waste time focusing on things that you can't do very well anymore.

If your business enterprise needs to get something done that you are not able to do yourself, you can always hire someone else to do it, or subcontract out those portions of a task you can't handle yourself. Even if you later decide you don't like working for yourself, the experience you gain by running your own business (or being a subcontractor for someone else) can become a powerful addition to your résumé that will be extremely helpful if you should happen to be looking for another job later.

Business Owners With Disabilities

Don Dalton is just one of a growing number of business owners with disabilities. According to the Denver Business Journal, "The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce report the self-employment rate for Americans with disabilities is 15 percent, or nearly twice that of employees who are not disabled." This is a viable new resource for a segment of the population that has largely been ignored by business and industry. An article in Entrepreneur Magazine states, "The non-employment rate of adults with severe disabilities is around 70 percent, according to the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities."

New Frontiers Beyond the "Traditional" Job Market

Many groups now see the viability of preparing disabled workers to work at home in their own businesses. With the many recent technological advances, and new communication protocols via the Internet, new frontiers have opened up for people who might once been thought of as "unemployable" in the traditional job market.

A recent nationwide survey by Harris for the National Organization on Disability (NOD) concluded that 42 percent of disabled people who were not working at the time of the survey believed that attitudinal barriers kept them from working. Clearly, the option of creating one's own home-based business is a much needed (and often more accessible) alternative for people with disabilities who want to work.

The Internet — New Opportunities for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities:

There are many reasons people with disabilities are turning to the Internet for their businesses. Many people have found they can make a lot more money in their own business than they can assembling widgets or saying "would you like fries with that?" They can work from their own computers, and if they use a site like eBay or something similar, they have access to customers around the world with a simple click of their mouse. This interest in entrepreneurship has spread around the world, and support groups in Asia, Africa, North America, and Europe are available to help train and finance people with disabilities so they can work on their own.

Don't Want to Run a Business Yourself? Try Freelancing

Starting a business can be a pretty big task. If you don't want to be employed by a company (or can't find a job), and want to get started working "on your own" on a smaller scale, you might want to consider becoming a freelancer, and work on your own schedule. For those who have job skills that are marketable, freelancing out of the home may be the perfect answer for a person with disabilities who needs to work, earn a living, and create a new and viable career!

Self-Employment Resources

Many excellent resources are now available online that offer help and advice for people who contemplate starting a small business. Here are a few of our favorites:

"Starting a Business" A wealth of tips and advice, from Dun & Bradstreet's "All Business"

"Startup Procedures for a New Entrepreneur" from "Small Biz Advisor"

"Startup Help for a Disabled Vet" from "Small Biz Advisor"

Loan Opportunities for Disabled Entrepreneurs How and where to find business loans.

• Start with the Wikipedia article on Freelancing if you don't know much about it.

Each of these articles includes links to additional related articles, and most search engines can find more information for you, depending on your area of interest. Good luck in your quest!

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