Maybe you're an independent just starting out, or maybe you're still thinking about going solo. If you're not sure how to take that first step, click on over to www.score.org.

SCORE is short for The Service Corps of Retired Executives, and it's a nonprofit association “dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth, and success of small business nationwide.” The association is a resource partner with the Small Business Association.

What do you get from SCORE? The chance to consult with working and retired executives and business owners. These execs are volunteer business counselors, and they'll dish out confidential advice and mentoring for free.

On SCORE's site, you'll find links to free how-to articles, success stories, and helpful hints. You can also find the closest SCORE chapter (there are 389 throughout the country). If there isn't a chapter near you, take advantage of free e-mail counseling.

And if you're an independent and want to help other independents, you can find out how to volunteer your time.

There's often nothing better than giving back to the industry that has given so much to you.