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Building a SOHO database business

Get some heavy-duty Microsoft Office training, and take advantage of your local small-business associations. Building a SOHO database business Get some heavy-duty Microsoft Office training, and take advantage of your local small-business associations.

Dear Molly: I am presently working as a legal secretary, but have also been an administrative assistant, office manager, and a sales representative for office equipment. I know basic HTML and have lots of work experience with Microsoft Word and other parts of Office. I really like Access, though, and would love to have a home-based, database-related business using Access. I am unsure, however, about what I could really do from home that would constitute a business. I have good marketing experience and good writing and organizational skills, so if I knew what types of work tasks a home business could perform, I would have a better focus. Any insight on how to focus my “homework”?

Molly says: Welcome to the world of small office, home office (SOHO). Properly equipped with nicely outfitted computers, Web site and phone system, you should be able to do anything in your home office that you could do in a corporate space.

As a solo entrepreneur with a database business, you could teach companies how to create, use, and maintain Access databases. If you get really ambitious, you could become an application service provider (ASP) by setting up database servers (they don’t have to reside in your home) for companies. The companies would dial in, open the databases you created for them, and store their data there, and you could do periodic reports and backups for them.

To do these kinds of things confidently and correctly for a broad range of companies, I suggest you think about getting some heavy-duty Office training. You could become a Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS) or participate in Microsoft Developer training and maybe become a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD). Visit the Microsoft site to learn more about becoming a MOUS or an MCSD.

And since you are a woman (I could tell from the e-mail name, folks), check out the vast resources at the Small Business Association’s Online Women’s Business Center. Also, search the Web for state and local groups that help women get businesses up and running. There many such groups out there, and they can be a really big help. In states with a lot of IT infrastructure, there are often sub-chapters that cater to women running computer-related businesses.

Here are the Web sites of a few of these groups to give you some idea of what’s available: the Women’s Technology Center in San Francisco, the Michigan Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, and the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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