Why punch a clock, when you can pursue your passions at your own pace from home?

From the time we express a desire to open our first lemonade stand as a child, we’re taught that chasing the “American Dream” means taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by a free democracy to live up to our full potential. For many, that includes ambitions of starting a small business.

While unemployment rates have dropped recently, many Americans remain “underemployed” only working part time, not making wages that make ends meet, or are not working at jobs that fully utilize their skills and education.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased by about one-half million to 5.1 million in January, according to the Federal Bureau of labor statistics.

Some see a state of underemployment as an opportunity to use their spare time to establish their own business endeavors, others do so as a necessity of seeking additional income — turning to what is more popularly known as a “side hustle.”

In 2017, there were 38 million home-based businesses in the U.S., according to available census data, and estimates for 2019 are trending higher, as a new at-home business is created every 12 seconds.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics identified the following fields as most likely supporters of workers in a “gig” or “freelance” economy: Arts and Design (musicians, graphic designers, craft and fine artists); Computer and Information Technology (web and software developers, computer programmers); Construction (carpenters, painters); Media and Communications (technical writers, translators, photographers; and Transportation (delivery drivers).

Recently, smartphone based services like ride-sharing and grocery delivery have contributed to the booming gig economy.

“I usually hold 2-3 jobs, now that I work full time at one, I drive just for the heck of it,” said a local Uber driver when the service launched in the Hornell area in the summer of 2017.

It may be easy to have a vision for a new business, but making it come to life can leave people asking where to start.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends beginning with researching your market, developing a business plan that details structure, goals, identifies products, funding and financial projections.

A business plan is often the first step in finding funding for your business. Most banks require one for a loan under federal guidelines.

Starting a business from home can also present legal obstacles. Depending on its structure, an at home business may require registration with federal, state or local authorities, be required to pay taxes, apply for licenses and permits, or to carry insurance for the business.

Those looking to branch out and start a new endeavor also have to be wary of the the many scams that involve offers to help start an at-home business or to work at home.

Business offers that involve internet based work, envelope stuffing, at home assembly work, rebate processing and medical billing should be highly scrutinized before accepting.

To tell whether or not an at-home work or business offer is fake, the Federal Trade Commission has devised a “Business Opportunity Rule” where sellers have to provide a disclosure document stating the following: Seller identity, pending lawsuits or legal actions against the entity, outline its refund policy, earnings claims, as well as a list of references.

Most scams can also be identified with a simple internet search, or getting in contact with a consumer protection agency, or the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

Complaints can be filed with the FTC by visiting ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).