I am new to the Virtual Assistant world. I have been laid off so many times in the past 11 years that I have just lost faith in employers. I was given this idea back in 2003 to start a Virtual Assistant business, but was too scared. I was laid off again in September 2009 and my idea came back, but this time stronger, so I decided to pursue it and start my business. I am currently on unemployment and would like some advice on how to run a business while on assistance. My state’s Department of Licensing is no help to me and I am hearing that I have to be very careful having a business while getting benefits. As you all probably know, while on unemployment insurance, you must do job searches and this takes all day. Looking for a job IS a job in itself and is very time consuming. I am single and I have no other income so I need my benefits. –GA
This is a great question and I’ll bet there are lots of folks in the same boat so hopefully my answer will help guide them as well.
Unless they are from your state or local Employment Insurance office, it would be irresponsible for anyone to give you any advice regarding your unemployment benefits. Your state’s Department of Licensing is naturally not going to be any help because it’s not their place. You have to direct those questions to your local/state unemployment agency. Only they can tell you what the rules and guidelines are when it comes to collecting unemployment insurance benefits. Find out whether you are allowed to work on starting a business while collecting benefits. You should also ask how it works if you do happen to get a client and they pay monies to you. Are you expected to report that income? Will it affect your benefit amounts?
Many years ago, I had a friend who started a hair salon after getting laid off. She was able to collect unemployment benefits while still running the business and receiving payments from customers. This was because she was not personally collecting a paycheck and put everything back into the business. This was allowable under our state’s employment insurance rules at that time.
Who knows. Your state agency might have similar allowances. But again, I want to emphasize that you MUST talk with your own UI agency to get the facts pertinent to your state and your particular situation since different states may have different rules.
Starting a business in any circumstance is going to have daunting aspects. At the same time, someone who starts her business under more optimal conditions (like having savings and capital set aside or some other source of income to live on and run the business until money starts coming in) is naturally going to have an easier time of things than someone who just lost her job and has no other money to live on. It can be done, but it’s going to be a more difficult road.
If you get clearance from your UI agency, this will be a great time to really work on setting up your Virtual Assistant business foundations (policies, contracts, going through the business planning process, writing your marketing message, getting your website up, etc.). You’ll of course always be honing, tweaking and improving upon things as you go along, but getting the basics in place now will instill greater chances of success for your business once you are ready to start accepting clients. Once you know from your UI agency how to report client monies should you receive any and how that affects your benefits, that will help you decide how to proceed from there.
Either way, you’ll still need to comply with whatever job seeking requirements they have for you, but as they say, “One day at a time.” Plus, with today’s technology, people can also hunt for work electronically instead of wasting gas and literally spending hours beating the pavement. Find out what qualifies as job-seeking. How many contacts are you required to have each week? Do phone calls to employers and emailing resumes count? And who knows, depending on what you find out from your UI agency, they may allow your business start-up work to meet some of your job-seeking obligations. They may even have some further resources and programs to help you in that effort.
One last thought… I do want to tell folks to keep in mind that while employer paid, unemployment insurance is a benefit you earned by working. It’s not welfare so never feel ashamed about that. I mention this only because I know there are lots of folks who think unemployment is a handout. Those who didn’t work for a living are not eligible for UI, which means those who get it, get it because they were contributing members of society in the workforce. Plus, the goal of UI agencies is to get people back to work. I’m sure there are some backwards agencies out there with their heads up their bureaucratic butts, but I know there are just as many that offer a great deal of assistance and programs to help you in your business starting efforts, not hold you back. I know it might be a lot of work, but keep fighting to get the info and help you need. Good luck!