As the unemployment rate surges across the nation, a diverse group of people of various ages and backgrounds are suddenly being faced with the question: What next?

History attests to the fact that economic difficulty often spurs innovation and creativity, and our current economic crisis should be no different. In a recent post, I noted that the rate of small business formation is expected to grow in the coming year as more workers are laid off and a general sense of job security is threatened.

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If you were recently laid off then the very idea of starting your own venture may be overwhelming (and rightfully so), but there is also much to be said about the opportunity that it creates- for you and your potential customers.

Here are some tips on how you can turn this setback into an opportunity to start your own business:

1. First, get some perspective. Try to stay calm and allow a little time for the news to settle. Depending on your financial situation, you may need to start making decisions quickly, and to do that you need to be in a rational state of mind

2. Clarify your financial situation. If you haven’t already done so, you should organize any bills or other outstanding debt, and determine your monthly expenses. There are two main reasons for doing this. First, you need to determine how much money you will need to support yourself in the meantime, and second, you need to prioritize your bills and expenses to see what can be forgone, what can be negotiated, and what can be pushed off outright.

3. Try to minimize the financial strain. Reducing the pressure of earning an income will give you the time and security to plan your business. If you need quick access to money try to avoid relying on credit cards, payday loans, or any other high interest forms of finance. Instead, attempt to negotiate a payment plan with your creditors. They may be willing to reduce your minimum payments or waive the interest until you are working again. You may also want credit counseling. There are a number of organizations that offer this counseling for free or low cost, such as The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, American Consumer Credit Counseling, and Advantage Credit Counseling, Also, find out if you qualify for unemployment benefits and file as soon as possible. Finally, you may want to look for a temporary job to ease the financial strain.

4. Begin preparations. Once you have a handle on your new situation, you can then begin the preparations for starting your business.

But if you lack experience or training in the venture you want to start then your fist priority is to gain that experience. To do this you could take a job in that area. For example, you could work in a restaurant or bakery if you want to open a catering business

On the other hand, if you already have the necessary training and/or expertise then you should check out the various programs offered by organizations designed to help entrepreneurs and new small business owners get the information, training, and even financial assistance they need. Much of this assistance is either free or low-cost. Some sites that are definitely worth checking out include:

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