Businesses That Thrive When the Economy Does Not
By Priscilla Y. Huff
Despite continued rises in unemployment in this slow economy, businesses, organizations, and individuals still need ongoing professional support and counseling services, health care, and maintenance and repair services, for example, as well as food and energy-saving products and more. Savvy entrepreneurs assess what markets recessions create and start home-based business to provide the products and services currently in demand. Small business owners with less overhead expenses are more likely to survive these downturns, gaining customers large companies have been forced to leave behind. In lean times, entrepreneurs also tend to support one another, supplying services and/or joining forces to collaborate on projects.
Whether you are forced by your current financial circumstances to find new ways to support yourself or your family, wish to fulfill an entrepreneurial dream, or are determined to only depend on yourself for future earnings, here are twenty-five home-business ideas to consider that have potential growth even in difficult economies:**
**Note: Professional associations are primarily networking organizations and usually do not offer start-up information. Include a business-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope with any “snail” mail correspondence.
1. Auctions, Online Broker/Assistant
People looking for quick cash or getting rid of unwanted items, but lack the time or the know-how sell their items at online marketplaces, will pay commissions to professionals to sell their items on the Internet. Most online brokers specialize in the items they sell.
Success Tips: Know the value of your clients’ items and the best sites to sell them. Use recommended software for tracking online listings, for bookkeeping and billing, and to record your consignor’s information and contracts. Depending on local traffic regulations, decide if you will pick up your clients’ items or have them brought to your home-business location.
Suggested Resources: *Selling Beyond Ebay: Foolproof Ways to Reach More Customers And Make Big Money on Rival Online Marketplaces by Greg Holden.*www.auctionbytes.com/ – online-auction industry news.
2. Barter Network
When money is scarce, people use bartering more often to exchange goods for services or vice versa. Start an exclusive online network, enabling your clients to make their bartering transactions between one another, or arrange periodic meetings at set locations where people purchase tickets for the opportunities to barter in person.
Success Tips: Local barter networks are often more successful as participants prefer to see tradable items and meet the people with whom they are bartering. Work to build trust in your network.
Suggested Resources: *International Reciprocal Trade Association (www.irta.com /) – Standards, information. *National Association of Trade Exchanges (www.nate.org) – Networking; membership benefits.
3. Business Support Professional
Lay offs and cutbacks create an increased demand for independent office support services to perform administrative and operational duties of previous staff. With Internet access, these independent professionals work from home for firms and clients all over the world.
Success Tips: Offer general services, or focus in industries with which you have experience and knowledge. Take time to write a business plan and set up an efficient home office with essential equipment and software. Solicit firms who have announced downsizing plans and professionals whose practices are growing. Seek referrals from clients and other entrepreneurs.
Suggested Resources:*Virtual Assistant, The Series:.. By Diana Ennen, Kelly Poelker.
4. Cost-Analyst Professional
In economic downturns, companies large and small often hire cost-analyst financial experts who evaluate their businesses’s operations to cut expenses and operate more efficiently. Individuals seek similar professionals to assess their finances and set up budgets to eliminate their debts and increase savings.
Success Tips: Financial degrees and experience in cost-cutting in your field will qualify you as the expert to potential clients. Adhere to any regulations and licensing needed. Obtain referrals from accountants, bankers, credit counselors, and satisfied clients.
Suggested Resources: *The Budget Kit: The Common Cents Money Management Workbook by Judy Lawrence. *Modern Cost Management Analysis by Jae K. Shim Ph. D., Joel G. Siegel Ph. D. CPA.
5. Career Counseling
Career counselors offer individuals or groups guidance in finding new vocations or training based on their skills and life goals. Likely clients include individuals who have lost their jobs or wish to go into new careers; and business owners who want to help employees retrain for new positions in their companies or in the job market.
Success Tips: Independent career counselors usually have counseling graduate degrees, plus, experience and knowledge of the job skills required for one or more industries or professions. Check for licensing requirements. Market your services through your web site, referrals, leading workshops, and/or writing articles, book, and e-books.
Suggested Resources: *National Career Development Association – http://ncda.org/.
*The Career Counselor’s Handbook by Howard Figler, Richard Nelson Bolles.
6. Budget Travel Service
Even in economic slumps, people love to travel, so you can start an online budget travel service, offering to customize economy tours and trips for organizations, families, and business owners. Look for travel industry “niches” serving special populations such as individuals with disabilities or pet-owners; plus work with local bus companies and passenger trains; and state tourist agencies for other affordable touring options.
Success Tips: Get the schooling, certification, and experience needed to offer a quality travel service. Use Internet social and web-video sites to feature some of your popular travel destinations; send out periodic e-mails and special discounts to regular customers; and solicit online feedback and testimonials from your satisfied travelers. Conduct local question-answer travel workshops at trade shows and/or on your local cable television stations.
Suggested Resources: *American Society of Travel Agents – www.asta.org/. *How to Start a Home Based Travel Agency Independent Study Course by Tom Ogg and Joanie Ogg.
7. Collection Services
Unfortunately, slow economic times increase the need for collection services. Despite the bad reputation resulting from unethical practices of some debt collectors, the industry promotes professionalism and ethical practices as its professionals strive to help individuals and businesses collect money owed to them and stay solvent. Some collection businesses also offer their clients invoicing and billing, and other related services.
Success Tips: Extensive training, experience in this industry and knowledge of The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and other laws, are essential for your success. Utilize the industry software and technology to track your operations. Be aware of legal consequences of any unfair practices on your part, and be ready to work with both parties to get payment agreements.
Suggested Resources: *ACA International – www.acainternational.org/. The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.
8. Consultant, Professional (in Your Industry)
If you have recently lost your job or have been thinking of going out on your own, and have the experience, qualifications, and the recognition of being an expert in your field or industry, consider becoming a professional consultant. In bad economies, business owners and individuals who need consultants’ money-saving expertise are good potential first customers.
Success Tips: Successful consultants are skilled at problem-solving and communicate well with their clients. Write a strategic business and marketing plan. As it takes time to build a consultant practice, start part-time if you still have a job, or moonlight in other endeavors until your business’s profits can support you. Network with other consultants in business organizations and industry associations for tips and referrals.
Suggested Resources: *Million Dollar Consulting (TM) Toolkit: Step-By-Step Guidance, Checklists, Templates and Samples from “The Million Dollar Consultant” by Alan Weiss.
9. Grant Writer, Professional
Donations and grant money become difficult to acquire in economic slumps, so nonprofit organizations will seek the services of experienced grant writing professionals with proven track records in acquiring grant awards for their clients. Skilled grant writers know the different types of writing formats and when to use them.
Success Tips: In addition to having substantial experience, successful grant writers are good at communicating, research, planning, as well as writing in an organized, logical, and compelling manner that clearly conveys the goals of how clients’ grants will be used. Volunteer with nonprofit organizations to assist in grant proposals and enroll in related courses.
Suggested Resources: *U. S. Government Grants online grant-writing course:
10. Information Broker
Information brokers are skilled in accessing information from specialized databases, the Internet, and other sources for their clients’ business, professional, and organizational needs. Their expertise is often focused in medical, education, manufacturing, telecommunications, and other industries. They also often set up libraries, write documents, and summarize market analysis data for clients.
Success Tips: Many information brokers have backgrounds in library science or research experience in their industries. In recessions, offer to provide customers with market research and competitor analysis data to discover sideline ventures and services to reach new customers and increase profits. Market your services with referrals, trade shows, a web site, direct letters, and personal appointments.
Suggested Resources: *Association of Independent Information Professionals – www.aiip.org – networking; membership referrals.
11. Internet Business Start-Up Consultant
Surprisingly, fewer than half of all small businesses still do not have web sites; but with recent dramatic drops in sales, many of these owners now want to have web sites to reach new customers and increase their profits. Internet business professionals guide their clients through the entire process, providing them with the information, resources, and experts they need to start up and/or expand a web site business.
Success Tips: Additional potential customers include the increasing number of women and baby boomers who are starting businesses; plus a rising number of existing businesses with web sites who wish to expand into exporting to global markets. Market your expertise with referrals, articles in business publications and e-zines, leading seminars at local business expos, and through your own web site and blog.
Suggested Resources: *How to Use the Internet to Advertise, Promote and Market Your Business or Website with Little or No Money by Bruce C. Brown. *http://sbdcnet.org/SBIC/e-com.php – Small Business Development Center Information Clearinghouse – free “E-Commerce Guide.”
12. Online Marketing Expert
Small business owners, independent professionals, and artists are often so busy producing their products or services that they do not have the time to maximize affordable Internet marketing strategies. You can instruct them how to utilize the latest tactics, or get paid to do it for them.
Success Tips: Clients will expect you to have extensive marketing education, training, and experience; the technological knowledge; and the ability to teach them to execute the latest in online marketing methods. These include as blogging, offering teleseminars, podcasts, webinars, and utilizing social web and video web sites to feature your clients and their businesses.
Suggested Resources: *Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online by Warren Whitlock, Deborah Micek. *http://wdfm.com/ – Web Digest for Marketers – free weekly e-newsletter.
13. Professional Life Coach
People “burned out” in their present occupations or who have lost their jobs due to an economic downturn need job/career-selection guidance. Professional life coaches help clients assess their present situations, interests, and needs, and suggest career choices; along with specific actions and steps their clients can take to achieve their life goals.
Success Tips: Professional coaches have education and experience in human resources, psychology, business, and other human interest professions. Hold community seminars, write columns or articles in local papers or industry-related publications and online sites, and offer free initial consultations to attract new customers. Send e-mails, e-newsletters, and tips to stay in touch with paying clients.
Suggested Resources: *International Coaching Federation – www.coachfederation.org/ICF/ – training, certification.
14. Résumé Writing Service
Professional résumé writers provide clients with attention-grabbing cover letters and well-written résumés, in both print and electronic formats, that convince employers the value of hiring their clients. Interview coaching, posting clients’ résumés to specific online job sites that match clients’ skills, and pre-screening services to businesses are additional services you might offer.
Success Tips: Potential customers include those who have been laid off, recent graduates, workers re-entering the work force, those discharged from military service, and those seeking new careers. Market your services with community workshops, and join forces with related professionals like career counselors or employment agencies.
Suggested Resources:*Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches – www.parw.com – industry information; certification.
15. Small Manufacturing – Your Own Product/Invention
In times when money is scarce or materials are unavailable, ingenious people invent substitute items or devise new operational methods. If you have created a new product, software program, or new designs/methods that can save buyers time or money or appeal to industries not affected by recessions, consider making it yourself or approaching a manufacturer for mass productions, but under your own label. You would handle the distribution and marketing.
Success Tips: From idea to the actual product is a lengthy process, so consult with lawyers and other professionals’ for advice on obtaining patents, licensing, and financing. Network with other innovators for advice and marketing tips. Consider advertising on prime-time radio and television advertising whose rates are lower during recessions.
Suggested Resources: *Local SBDCs, www.sba.gov/ and SCORE chapters, www.score.org, offer invention seminars and advice about product manufacturing and distribution. *Thomas Register of American Manufacturers – www.ThomasRegister.com – Search for model designers and manufacturers.
16. Specialty Farming
Due to an increase in food-related illnesses, higher prices, and the desire for organic foods, more people seek local specialty growers for fresh produce, milks, honey, and meats. Restaurant chefs also seek unique and fresh foods for their recipes and sauces.
Success Tips: Use farmer’s markets to test-market your produce and attract new customers. Set up a simple web site to send e-mail marketing messages to customers, advertising specials, and offering products via mail order. Join local growers’ or farmers’ associations for support.
Suggested Resources: *SBDCs, www.sba.gov; and the USDA’s Extension Services. *www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ – local federal offices offering some business counseling in raising small farming produce and animals.
17. Teaching-Tutoring, Online
Computer and communications technology and Internet access have opened the world of “cyber-school” for students of all ages. Having the qualifications, experience, and recognition in your field and/or profession will enable you to work as an independent educational professional for online institutions or businesses; offer independent classes; or open your own online learning center with workshops and live seminars.
Success Tips: Study current online educational centers and institutions, and apply to the ones that fit your philosophy and style of teaching. Local colleges and universities, homeschooling associations, and companies, organizations, and government agencies are also possible markets.
Suggested Resources:*Make Money Teaching Online:…by Danielle Babb, Jim Mirabella.
18. Temporary Staffing Service
Companies needing extra workers for overflow projects or to do the work of employees that they had to let go, often turn to temporary staffing services. Many independent professionals who have been laid off or prefer to work on an independent contract business, also look to temp agencies for employment. You would match the two.
Success Tips: Have a degree and/or work experience in human resources and business management, and know hiring regulations. Stay current with job market trends, including industries or professions in which your business may specialize in hiring. Find staff through on- and off-line ads. Where permitted, interview workers in your home office or rent/barter space in nearby office buildings.
Suggested Resources: Applied Systems Technology –www.astusa.com/ – Staffing software (search popular search engines for others).
19.Virtual Thrift Shop
Collectibles are not the only items sold online. Many persons profit from selling gently-used, name-brand clothing, especially children’s, and other good used items on marketplace and classified ads web sites. You can start with a wide variety of items or specialize. You are limited only by the sources of the items you sell.
Success Tips: Research the items that sell best. Look for untapped markets. Take time to set up a web site that is easy for buyers to negotiate and purchase. Market your site by listing your link on other sites, or related blogs; or writing articles for on- and off-line publications about the items you sell
Suggested Resources: *How to Start and Run an eBay Consignment Business by Skip McGrath. *Start Your Own High Profit Thrift Store by Donald Ruehs
20. Web Writer
To save money, companies are expanding the online segments of their businesses and hire independent web writers to proofread and write advertising copy for their products and services. They also write blogs, articles, and e-newsletters to help web site owners keep in touch with regular customers and attract new ones.
Success Tips: Successful Web writers keep readers’ interest with concise writing, breaking up text with lists and bullet points. Having a background in marketing, knowing the terminology of industry for which you are writing, and grasping the basic grammar in the language you are writing, are essential.
Suggested Resources: *The National Writer’s Union – www.nwu.org – Writers’ trade union; articles. *Worldwide Freelance Writer – www.worldwidefreelance.com/ – Global writing markets.
Though these hard-time business ideas (ALSO SEE SIDEBAR) are well-suited to operate in a slow economy, it is up to you, the home-business entrepreneur, to be ingenious, creative, and persistent to find the money, time, and resources needed to start up. Beginning now, even part-time, provides you the opportunity to perfect your products and service and gain faithful customers who will sustain your business’s continued growth and success through economic times, both bad and good. HBM
Priscilla Y. Huff, (www.PYHuff.com) is the author of 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women, 3rd ed.