Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Occupation: Small Business Owner
Overview: A character who is a small business owner may choose a number of structures (Sole Proprietorship, C Corp or S Corp, Limited Liability Company, etc.) and concentrate in any number of areas. Businesses are product or service-focused, and may target individual consumers (a convenience store, a bakery, a mechanic’s shop, a pottery studio, a fast food franchise, etc.) or corporations (a safety training company servicing oil companies, an art supplier, a canning company, etc.), or both.
Small business owners wear many hats and need to excel at managing all aspects of the business, or be able to afford qualified help (outsourcing to other companies or hiring employees). Aside from ensuring the highest standards of the product or service the company specializes in, the owner must concentrate on business development, customer retention (through excellent service, quality products, and competitive pricing), be able to navigate market changes, gain financing, understand and navigate any legal aspects (securing sensitive information appropriately, obtain insurance, keep certificates, licenses, and permits up-to-date, adhere to any codes and regulations in one’s industry, ensure employees have required training, and pay one’s taxes to name a few). They also need to pay bills, do payroll and other accounting tasks, manage their cash flow, understand their assets, investments, and make decisions on reinvestment (things like buying new equipment, hiring more employees, moving to a better location, updating one’s branding or doing a website overhaul). Owners also concentrate on building good relationships with suppliers and other local businesses, they need to be proficient at marketing (and maintain a website and social media presence), and create and follow a business plan. Over the long term, owners must master scaling up to grow, and if they are struggling, scale down as needed to stay afloat.
Small business owners, although time- and cash-stretched, often give back to the community through personal involvement, sponsorship of events, charitable donations, or a mix of these.
Necessary Training: Training will vary depending on the type of business, the expertise needed, and the appropriate certifications one may need to operate. Generally speaking, having a background in business management, marketing, and/or accounting will greatly help a small business owner better understand how to run a business successfully, and navigate the many challenges that come with market fluctuation, and changes to regulations that can affect one’s operations. Another beneficial background to have is past experience in the area of one’s business. Working for someone else (perhaps as an apprentice) and understand the business from the inside will help one start and manage a company successfully, or even having managerial experience (payroll duties, scheduling, balancing books, ordering, shipping, etc.) at a different sort of business will give one a leg up when it comes to administrative duties.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, charm, empathy, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, haggling, hospitality, making people laugh, mechanically inclined, multitasking, promotion, reading people, repurposing, strategic thinking, writing
POSITIVE: Adaptable, ambitious, analytical, bold, calm, confident, cooperative, courteous, creative, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, efficient, focused, friendly, funny, honest, honorable, hospitable, humble, idealistic, imaginative, independent, industrious, intelligent, loyal, meticulous, observant, optimistic, organized, passionate, patient, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional, protective, resourceful, responsible, sensible, simple, supportive, talented, thrifty, wise
NEGATIVE: controlling, obsessive, perfectionist, stubborn, workaholic
Sources of Friction: changes in the market (or new regulations, higher transport costs, escalating taxes, or other factors that make it more expensive to do business), high maintenance employees, money going missing from the till, money being skimmed (by the accountant, a business partner, a spouse who has access etc.), robberies, an expensive insurance claim (after a fire, vandalism, theft, sewers backing up, an electrical issue, etc.), being “shaken down” by local thugs demanding protection payments, new competition entering the marketplace, enemies in a position of power using their influence or power to make life miserable (in order to push one out of the market, force a business deal to go through, kill a business deal, ruin a reputation, etc.), having difficulty paying bills and employees, skirting bankruptcy, a divorce that requires one to sell the company, harassment complaints from employees against someone in the company, never being able to take time off work, problems at home due to long hours and work stress, being asked to contribute by the community when one can barely stay afloat or one has no time, a sudden injury or illness that takes one out of commission, problems obtaining product (due to strikes at a factory, a distributor going out of business, etc.)
People They Might Interact With: customers, accountants, delivery drivers, reporters, other business owners, inspectors, product reps, employees, bank employees, couriers, non-profit representatives or community organizers looking for corporate sponsorship, candidates dropping off resumes or coming in for interviews, tradespeople (electricians, plumbers, construction workers)
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: Being a small business owner may not be one’s first choice, especially in the case of a family-run business. A character working out of duty may feel they are giving up a dream or a chance to take their life in a new direction in favor of keeping with tradition.
- Esteem and Recognition: A character who fails to see the level of growth they always dreamed of when they first started the business may start to feel that they don’t have what it takes, resulting in lower self-worth.
- Love and Belonging: Long hours and situations where often the business comes first can easily create rocky relationships, both in one’s marriage and with one’s children.
- Safety and Security: Having a business in a high crime area of a city can increase the chance of robberies and break-ins, endangering the character and the people who work there.
Common Work-Related Settings: airplane, airport, alley, bank, basement, big city street, boardroom, break room, coffeehouse, custodial supply room, elevator, office cubicle, parking garage, parking lot, small town street, taxi, trade show
Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.