And no, it’s not too risky or too complicated or too costly. Here’s how to get started.

Every employer is looking for people with a can-do attitude who have a track record with solid marketable skills. Well, maybe not every employer. Some hiring managers just care about finding a warm body. But those aren’t the kind of jobs you’re interested in.

You want a decent job at a good company. As the saying goes, employers hire for attitude and train for aptitude. So, if you’ve already got a great attitude, fantastic – you’re halfway there!

But what if you don’t have much job experience or don’t have a demonstrated record of specific, in-demand job skills?

No experience? No problem!

Don’t worry! You can develop just about any skill an employer is looking for – and make some extra cash while getting that real-world experience.

What skills can you learn?

  • Accounting
  • project management
  • marketing
  • strategy
  • product development
  • expense management
  • logistics
  • business planning
  • management
  • web development
  • the list goes on.

There’s a little secret here too: if you do really well getting that real-world experience, you may never need a “real” job again.

So what’s the secret? How do you get such great experience in virtually any skill? Do you need to go back to school, spend months or years in classes, and fork over thousands of dollars that you don’t have or can’t spare?


Start your own business

Wait. Did you feel it? That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you read “start your own business?” That’s because you think business is risky, right?

Well, it can be – if you do it wrong. But every good entrepreneur manages risk, and you’ll do what you can to lower that risk. Nobody wants to spend years of their life and thousands or millions of dollars to fail.

How can starting your own business not be risky?

Here’s secret #2: You start a business on the side, test your ideas and assumptions quickly and cheaply, learn from your results, and incrementally move toward greater success. (That’s the formula I follow, and it’s also a popular entrepreneurial movement called the Lean Start-up Model).

That’s a very different way to start a business than most people think. Most people think they need a pile of cash, have the “perfect” idea and quit their job to start a business. A pile of cash might be nice, but it’s not necessary. And the “perfect” idea? It doesn’t exist.

What about quitting your job? Definitely a bad idea. Without a job, you’ll be so stressed about paying your bills – or going into debt – that you’ll doom yourself to fail. Instead, use your day job to fund your fledgling business.

I know, I know. You think starting a business is unrealistic. Or that it’s complicated. Or costly.



And nope.

You can start a business. It’s not terribly complicated. And you can do it on the cheap.

You’ll need to do some basic planning, but don’t waste too much time on this phase. You only need a back-of-the-envelope plan, just a handful of bullet points to get started. Figure out what value you’ll provide, why you’re the best person to do it and who your ideal customers are.

To figure out the value you’ll provide, think of the benefits to your customer. For example, car companies don’t sell cars; they sell status, speed, comfort, image, etc. That’s their value. Figure out your value, and what benefits you’ll give customers.

Test your idea quickly and cheaply

Next, you’ll want to test your ideas to see if they work and whether there’s a market (aka paying customers). The testing part is where the details come in, but fear not. There are plenty of ways to test your ideas quickly and on the cheap – or even free – so you can see whether people will pay for what you’re offering, and you can do this testing whether you’re offering a physical or digital product or a service.

For example, Google’s Keyword tool lets you analyze a market to determine how many potential customers you might have, and both how competitive and profitable the market is. Cost? Free. Time needed? A couple hours, tops.

Once you’ve researched your market niche, you can get a domain name, set up a website using WordPress and start marketing to potential customers to see if they’re willing to pay for what you’re offering. Cost? Less than $100. And, yes, you can do this in an evening, even if you’re not a techie.

One of the easiest and cheapest kinds of businesses to start is a freelance or consulting business. Freelancing/consulting is a great business model – either as a side business or with the intent of building it into your full-time endeavor – because it has:

  • low start-up costs
  • flexible hours
  • a high hourly pay rate

And best of all, you likely already have the expertise to get started.

But even if you end up starting another kind of business, you’ll still get tons of real-world experience that will have potential employers drooling. Maybe 1 in 100 other job hunters have experience running their own business. Some applicants have hands-on experience in one or a few skills, like accounting, marketing, product development, project management, or any of the other things you’ll learn while starting and growing your business. But you’ll get real-world experience in ALL those areas. How’s that for standing out from the crowd?

Plus, if you do really well, you’ll never have to look for a “real” job again.

Greg Miliates started his consulting business in January 2007, grew it through the recession, ditched his day job and quadrupled is former salary along the way. His blog gives specific tips, tricks, techniques and tools for starting and running a successful consulting business on the cheap.


  1. Joyce Akiko Hayden

    I started an HR consulting company last month. I am fresh out of graduate school. I found the job market really tough to tap into, plus my qualifications didn’t line up with my lack of experience. Fortunately there is a real need for outsourced HR expertise in the startup and small business arena, so I thought I’d dive in the deep end. And deep it is.

    I learn something new every single day. Last week feels like a year ago because so much has changed in a mere few days. I can’t imagine where I’ll be in a month. I don’t have clients yet, I don’t have any income, and often self doubt and fear consume my brain. However I am gaining experiences, strengths, and skills unlike I ever thought possible. I am also meeting incredible people and pushing my boundaries. It was a wonderful decision and I hope it pays off in the future.

    I was really excited to read this article and I look forward to reading Greg’s blog. For other readers, if you are interested in starting your own company I recommend checking out some books by Alan Weiss and Peter Block.

    Thanks, Greg!

    Joyce Akiko, HR Consultant

  2. Website Maintenance

    I couldn’t agree with the post more. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. The amount of knowledge you gain and skills you master from starting anything is priceless. I always tell people starting out to just go for it and figure it out as you go. You have to start somewhere and you can drive yourself nuts planning and talking and never doing. Just do it already. Good luck.

  3. Ben Winters

    Awesome post, nice and easy ways to get into starting a business, plus who knows one day it might turn into something bigger than you ever imagined!

    Ben Winters CEO
    Teaching you awesome..1 day at a time

  4. shivam ahuja

    after reading this, i am going to give a hand on it…

    Kim johnson

  5. Lamar Morgan

    Excellent advice. I wish I had done what this writer recommended when I first got out of college. Then, I wish I had done it when I was pushed out of a job I had held for nearly 16 years. Then, I wish I had done it when I got terminated for revealing my employer had violated California State Law. Alas, I went looking for a normal employer for two plus years.

    Well, I have had enough of this insanity. I found a friend who is providing me with the funds to put me in business for myself. I should be doing what this article recommends…starting tomorrow! Yes, sometimes “better late than never” really is a good idea.

    Lamar Morgan

  6. Peter W Fast

    Great Post. Starting a business online is usually low-risk. I recently started using WordPress and it was a pain at first – trying to figure out what goes where and what the plugins are about – but now after only 2 weeks its getting a lot easier. You could pay someone to do the leg work for you, but its better to learn the basics before getting a big following.

    That said, I see a lot of younger people starting to be self-employed but I notice that most have parents that are/ were self-employed. Do you think that becoming an entrepreneur is an easier step to take if your parents did the same? ie I tend to see a lot of kids of government employees become teachers etc. Are some of us just socialized to think that the only way to earn money is with a steady, guaranteed paycheck?


    • Anonymous

      I think that it’s definitely easier to become self-employed if your parents are. Most people don’t even consider creating their own job rather than finding a job.

      My parents weren’t self-employed, but my best friend’s dad was and it’s inspired me to try to create something for myself rather than take the path that’s travelled the most.

      P.S. I’m a pretty new investor, What do you think about the idea of efficient markets?

  7. Jrandom42

    And the first thing an enterprenuer learns (part or ful time), or should learn is:

    “If you aren’t making money with your business, as in profit, all you have is an expensive hobby.”

  8. Cay Rush

    This is great. I have been working for optometrists for years now, just feeling lost in what I wanted to do with my life. At my current place of employment I had gotten into the online marketing aspect with SEO and social media, I discovered I was really interested in it. I have been independently studying and learning how to code HTML, which you can find all online such great information how to do all of this stuff. My boyfriend is into graphic design, and branched off as a freelancer two years ago. We are planning on setting up a collaboration together in the online world. The nice thing is that you don’t have all the over head costs to rent out a space and purchase the inventory, just have to have a desire to learn.

    Thanks for the added inspiration!!

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