So it looks like I'm making the switch from full time employee to self-employed contractor due to the job market -- there's just not a lot of work in my area for C++ programmers. I'm working for what's euphemistically called a "body shop" at the moment and while that's paid the bills, it's not a long term solution at the current rates.
I've got the technical chops to succeed as a self-employed contractor. What I'm lacking is the business acumen to do it right. I think a mentor in this area would be great, but I have no idea how to find one.
So, OnStartups users... what's the best way to proceed here, where can I find a mentor that can help me with the business development side here. I want someone that can help me decide if a sole proprietorship is good enough, or if I should be an LLC, or some other 'corporate' entity. Whether I should find a partner, things like that. I'm looking forward to your answers!
EDIT: My thinking about the LLC is to protect my assets (ie my house). As a SP, my understanding is that if someone were to pursue legal action against me for whatever reason, my house, investments, etc are all "up for grabs".
[moved here from stackoverflow.com]
You can often find mentors through various government organizations, such as the local commerce office. You can use a service such as SCORE to locate tons of excellent business resources. Or you can just use your network to find someone.
In answer to your question about defining your entity, it's [almost] irrelevant. You should be thinking more about how you'll find work, what type of work your business will do, what will make you stand out from your competitors, etc. Deciding whether to be a sole-proprietor or a LLC may be something you need to decide, but it's not what you really need in a mentor. You need someone with business sense who can help you make decisions that will grow your business, and help you avoid costly mistakes.
Check out your local tech and business associations (they often have rosters of local business people that are willing to help out). Also your profile says you're on LinkedIn - post a question to LinkedIn, an see who in your network answers.
You're in the Boston area (creepy what LinkedIn tells us, eh?) so perhaps check out these orgs:
Best of luck, let us know how it goes!
Ellie makes a great point about SCORE. I recommend starting there as well. It's a great organization that I happen to be part of, so I am a little bias.
As for the entity, start out as a sole-proprietor until you get some revenue. Forming an LLC costs money and at this point, there is nothing you really need to protect against. If you are just a "job shop", then the liability is low to non-existent. Just make sure you have a good contract in place that protects you.
To really get started with this, you should write a business narrative. That will help you focus on what you want to do. Check out another related Answers OnStartUps question here.