Home-Based Start-Up Ideas
By Priscilla Y. Huff
November is an ideal time for you to start a home-based business, as potential customers are also back to actively seeking products and services to save them time and money and to enhance their lives.
Here are several questions you should ask yourself as you consider any business ideas: Do you have the necessary background, expertise, and/or experience to qualify you to operate your chosen venture? Is there a substantial, existing market of potential customers that will make your business profitable? How much time and money do you actually have to invest in a new venture? How will predicted population trends impact your potential venture?
Keeping these questions in mind, here are fifteen examples of home-based businesses you may consider starting this fall (or later on in the year).**
**Please note: Any listed professional associations are primarily membership-networking organizations and usually do not offer start-up information. Please include a business-sized, self-addressed, first class-stamped envelope with any “snail” mail correspondence.
1. Advertising Specialties
Companies of all sizes use giveaway products printed with their names and logos on them to advertise their businesses. You can choose to be a home-based distributor selling advertising specialties, (also known as promotional products), printed items of large suppliers to businesses; or stay local and coordinate custom printed products for area businesses using your own network of graphic designers and product suppliers.
Success Tips: Join an industry association to keep up with trends; and a local business owners’ organization to network with potential customers. Perfect your presentations, and handout samples to potential customers and at trade shows. Focus on customer satisfaction to encourage word-of-mouth referrals.
*Advertising Specialty Institute – www.asicentral.com/ – industry news and information.
*Promotional Products Assn. International – www.ppai.org/ – seminars, publications, education.
2. Auto Maintenance
Depending on your local ordinances and your home-based auto-care facilities, you can have clients drop off their vehicles at your residence; or travel to your clients’ workplaces or homes to perform a variety of auto-care services. These could include cleaning, waxing, and general detailing; oil changes; dropping off and picking up clients’ vehicles for inspections; changing tires; and winter driving preparation.
Success Tips: Advertise in local online and print want-ads publications and with direct mailings to local companies and auto clubs. Work part-time at an auto dealership or parts-supply store to learn on-the-job skills, tips, and what detail-related products produce the best results.
3. Barbecue-Grill Cleaner
Small restaurants and homeowners welcome professionals who will clean and restore their grills on a regular basis so they can enjoy barbecuing all year. You can also clean and prepare them for storage until the next outdoor cooking season. Offer free demonstrations at home trade shows. Some professionals take training and get licensed to be qualified to repair or replace worn out grill parts.
Success Tips: Research the different types of barbecue grills, both home and commercial, to learn how they operate, and the best ways to clean and restore them. Contact the manufacturers for recommended maintenance guidelines. Offer eco-friendly and nontoxic cleaning services.
*The BBQ Grill Cleaner (business opportunity) – www.thebbqcleaner.com/
4. Business Plan Writer/Packager
Assist new entrepreneurs and existing business owners in drawing-up business plans to evaluate the profit potential of their enterprise ideas or business expansion plans. Instruct clients how to follow step-by-step courses of actions to successfully start or expand their businesses. Know the criteria that lenders use to review plans, as they often require these with business loan applications.
Success Tips: You should have a degree in finance, and experience in market research and writing/evaluating business plans. It helps to have started one or more of your own ventures. Market your services to local business owners’ associations and within industries that you are familiar.
5. Canvas Covers & Repair
Sew custom-fitted canvas covers and repair canvas covers for boats, outdoor furniture, and awnings that require this heavy-duty material. With the “green” movement growing, many persons prefer buying items made of natural, canvas material. Add income by creating and selling originally-designed canvas tote bags, floor cloths, and cushions.
Success Tips: Obtain experience working for a canvas-repair business or offering to repair items for friends and family members. Set-up a home-work area equipped with a good, used or new commercial sewing machine. Advertise with classified ads, exhibit at home trade shows, and distribute fliers at camping and boating supply stores and marinas.
*Canvas Décor by Bunnie Delorie
*The Complete Canvasworker’s Guide… by Jim Grant
6. Costume Designer
If you are a skilled sewer with a flair for period clothing design, you can create costumes for holidays, celebrations, and productions of local dance and theater groups, schools, and colleges. Travel to do on-site fittings, or if your zoning permits, set-up a room with a separate entrance to receive clients.
Success Tips: Take courses in costume design, and invest in heavy-duty sewing machines and related equipment. To gain experience and recognition, volunteer to make costumes for nonprofit productions. Model your costumes at community fairs, parades and fashion shows.
*The Costume Book by Mary Burke Morris
*The United States Institute for Theater Technology – includes a costume and technology commission
7. Employee Sales Trainer
Assist companies in training new employees in sales techniques and current workers who need to upgrade their sales skills due to changing technologies or having to take on duties of laid off staff. In addition to being a sales expert, know your clients’ industries’ current trends and growth predictions to help their companies to be competitive and increase their profits.
Success Tips: Encourage referrals from satisfied clients. Write articles, books, and blogs, and conduct conference workshops and seminars to market your services. Offer both on-site training and online distance learning programs using virtual courses and live webinars.
8. Energy Consultant
Evaluate the energy consumption of consumers’ residences, and the buildings of companies, organizations, government agencies, and institutions. Also assess their structures’ heating-cooling systems, and recommend more efficient and affordable overall energy alternatives and operational methods. Most consultants are qualified and licensed engineers and specialists.
Success Tips: Have a thorough knowledge of the technology and costs to install and operate the energy-saving systems that you are recommending to your clients. Hold presentations to business owner associations. Offer follow-up consultations as part of your services package.
9. Graphic Card Designer
Using your graphic arts training and professional design software, create custom-designed greeting and/or holiday cards and invitations. Collaborate with writers and printers to produce unique cards to fit your clients’ specifications.
Success Tips: Send samples to event planners and business associations. Network with other graphic artists to collaborate on certain projects and for referrals and potential leads. Enter design contests for public recognition. Use your web site to highlight a portfolio of your work. Use a blog and social networking media to highlight your latest offerings and news.
*Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market (annual)
*Graphic Artists Guild – www.graphicartistsguild.org/
10. Health Care Referral Service
Start a fee-based, referral database of case management social workers, physicians, dentists, pharmacies, hospitals, and mental health agencies that you have interviewed and accepted into your network. Refer clients seeking these specific health care services for themselves or for loved ones. Keep current with the changing health care laws so your referrals will best-suit your clients’ needs, finances, and health services available.
Success Tips: Have the qualifications to assess the quality of the health care services you recommend and the knowledge of clients’ payment options including those services that are free or low-cost. Market your service with talks to community groups, a web site, and recommendations from satisfied clients.
*How to Start a Referral Services Business by Lewis & Renn
*Introduction to Health Care Management by Sharon B. Buchfinder, Nancy H. Shanks
11. Indoor/Outdoor Lighting Designer-Decorator
Design and recommend energy-saving and unique indoor and outdoor lighting devices and fixtures for homeowners, builders, architects, electrical engineers, institutions, landscapers, and owners of office buildings. Often these professionals belong to lighting designer associations; are certified; and are also educated and trained in physics, building codes, and the “green” energy issues pertaining to lighting.
Success Tips: Stay current with the latest lighting trends and technologies and their applications in both indoor and outdoor areas. Educate potential clients as to the value of your services that can both save them money and highlight the interiors and exteriors of their projects.
*International Association of Lighting Designers – www.iald.org/
*Indoor & Outdoor Lighting Solutions, Ortho Books
12. Political Campaign Management
Political campaign managers coordinate all the activities involved in their candidates’ runs for public offices. They usually have credentials and previous experiences working in one or more campaigns as volunteers, volunteer coordinators, media contacts, and fund-raisers. They often have political science. Some specialize in campaign areas like using social media to promote their candidates.
Success Tips: You should have a broad marketing and public relations background, plus a high-energy personality to direct and sustain you through any election campaign. The challenge is to communicate your candidate’s primary views to potential voters and the media and how she/he will better serve her/his constituents over political opponents.
*Campaign Craft: The Strategies, Tactics, and Art of Political Campaign Management by Michael John Burton, Daniel M. Shea
*The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections by Catherine Shaw
13. School Assembly Presentations
Share your expertise and experiences with children through your planned educational (and entertaining) presentations. Market your presentations to parent-teacher associations, home-schooling groups, and child care centers that seek quality, age-appropriate programs that will enhance their students’ curriculums.
Success Tips: Offer (contract) packages of one or more assemblies according to the children’s ages-grade levels, including classroom visits. Invest in your own audio-visual technology. Sell CDs, books and e-books with follow-up lesson plans. Look into registering with a school assembly listing site.
*How to Make Money Entertaining in Schools by David Heflick
14. Technical Consulting Service
Offer to assess business owners’ current technical capabilities, and recommend the best new and/or used equipment for their needs. Most consultants specialize in certain industries and types of technology and equipment. This consultancy is among those predicted to be most in demand in future years (www.bls.gov/).
Success Tips: Set-up a professionally-designed web site to highlight your résumé and listing of satisfied clients. Ask clients’ permission to post their endorsements on your site, as well in other marketing materials. Research potential clients in your area of expertise, and mail them brochures. Conduct presentations at business expos, author books, blogs, and e-books, and produce DVDS and CDs.
*Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port
15. Window Painting
Store- and small business owners and institutions hire artists to paint and decorate their windows to advertise sales, for seasonal decorations, and/or to celebrate special upcoming events. Many of these artists start their careers, painting for nonprofit groups for the experience and to perfect their skills.
Success Tips: Experiment to determine the paints and tools best suited for your style of painting and the types of windows you paint. Send direct mail to target customers, following up with personal appointments to show the photo portfolio of your work; and discuss your clients’ advertising goals.
*www.WindowJeannie.com/ – decorative window painting DVD, supplies
After deciding on a home-based business idea, consult with business accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents related to your start-up. They will help you adhere to all tax reporting laws, and ensure you are protected in legal matters and loss coverage. Check also in your telephone directory or online for nearby offices of local, state, and federal agencies that offer free or low-cost business counseling for entrepreneurs. In the United States, search for The Senior Corps of Retired Executives, www.SCORE.org; Small Business Development Centers and/or Women’s Business Development Centers (Search at www.SBA.gov); and Canada Business, www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/.
With financial experts predicting a continued slow economy for the next several years along with rising daily living and fuel costs, starting a home-based business now may not only prove to be a valuable supplemental income for you, it may also be part of the “way back” to a sustainable global economy and a better life for us all. HBM
Priscilla Y. Huff, www.PYHuff.com, is the author of 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women, 3rd ed.; and writes regularly at her blog, “No Thanks. I’ll Work for Myself.” http://nothanksillworkformyself.blogspot.com/.