As the economy continues to limp along, now more than ever, people are beginning to explore the idea of starting a home-based, low overhead business. There are a ton of ideas out there for starting home-based businesses. Most home-based businesses are started based upon a skill set that an individual already possesses, often times from skills acquired from years of on-the job experience in the business world. Still others are created out of passions or hobbies that people have that translate into business opportunities.
Home-based business marketing is a hotbed for scam artists and fraud though with charlatans and snake oil salesmen running amuck. Above all, you have to do your homework on any of the “opportunities” you should find (whether they’re home-based or not) and approach each of them with caution and a healthy dose of skepticism. Many of the worst home-based business scams appear on the surface to be legitimate, but end up charging expensive upfront fees for “access” to outdated directories and old lists of still other business opportunity scams, such as envelope stuffing, chain letters, craft assembly and countless other multi-level marketing schemes.
The good news is that there are thousands of legitimate home-based business opportunities that won’t require that you take a “class” or pay a subscription or a fee to get started with. Most of the best home-based businesses are not sexy, hip, slick and cool sounding, but simple, straight-forward and uncomplicated micro businesses that leverage the experience, skill sets and passions of people who are just looking to supplement their income on a part-time basis.
Here’s a list of 8 legitimate and popular home-based business ideas that can be setup quickly and inexpensively:
A consultancy is a great way to take advantage of your experience or passion and getting paid to do it. Depending on your specific set of skills and experiences, you can develop a consultancy business on just about any topic imaginable. You can start at home part-time, in the evenings, with your home computer, phone and internet connection and invest in the business as it grows. Finding a consulting niche that fits in with your skill sets or passions that you can also monetize effectively is key to success. Your geographic location may open more doors or could limit the type of service offering that will be successful. AskMen.com has a great article on becoming a consultant and what it takes to find clients.
If you are skilled at office work, working as a virtual administrative assistant can provide you with steady income and steady work. You can set up an at-home office with the equipment that you need to help clients handle appointments, type correspondence, do transcription work, and other office tasks. There is a growing demand for outsourced administrative services because many start-ups as well as established businesses are finding it difficult to maintain full-time employees and staff but still need assistance with administrative tasks. There’s even an accreditation process for virtual assistants through the International Virtual Assistants Program (IVAA), a trade association for professional virtual assistants. To get certified, prospective virtual assistants can take the Certified Virtual Assistant (CVA) Examination, potentially opening the door to more job opportunities with certification. Here are a few other virtual assistant related websites to check out:
Personal Concierge / Personal Assistant
If you live in one of the larger metropolitan areas in the US and you’re very familiar with the landscape of the city, you can offer a personal assistant or personal concierge service for upper income business owners and executives or recent transplants from outside the area. A personal concierge service for transplants requires a high degree of organization and the ability to keep others organized who are unfamiliar with a new area. A personal concierge service can also market its services to busy executives with time constraints and unable to accomplish routine daily tasks and run errands, such as picking up dry cleaning, planning trips, scheduling appointments, and buying concert/game tickets among other routine daily tasks. Being a personal concierge opens the door to a wide variety of other promotable services and in most cases, the only start-up equipment you need is a reliable vehicle, a computer with an internet connection and a cell phone. Here are some additional resources to check out:
- How to Start a Personal Concierge Service – Guide to starting your own personal concierge business.
- PersonalAssistantPro.com – Resources for the professional personal assistant / concierge.
The pet sitting industry is on fire. There are plenty of consumers willing to pay for reliable pet-sitting/pet-walking services. The first requirement is quite obviously a love for animals. If you don’t have a penchant for cats and dogs, pet-sitting is undoubtedly not the right business opportunity for you. You also have to be committed to tasks associated with taking care of family pets in their own home. Advertising can be as simple as posting a few colorful fliers in your local grocery store, asking friends to spread the word. Pay-per-click advertising campaigns that geotarget your local area are very effective as well.
A pet sitting service can be lucrative pretty quickly as long as your organization skills and attention to detail is up to par. One of the keys to success is having the proper set of forms for your initial consultation with clients that covers every detail of your operation. (You can download many of these forms from one of the pet sitting organizations below.) It is a time-consuming business but can be started very inexpensively. To ensure prospective clients you are properly covered to operate the business, you’ll need pet sitter insurance that will protect you from liability as well as your client’s valuables.
Here are some well-recognized organizations in the pet sitting industry that you can start out with:
- Pet Sitters International – registration with PSI allows access service providers and other members looking for pet sitting services.
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) – provide tools and support to foster the success of members’ pet sitting businesses.
- Professional Pet Sitter Start-Up Kit – Put together by the original founders of Professional United Pet Sitters.
If you have an affinity for numbers, you might consider starting your own freelance bookkeeping business. A bookkeeper’s job is to ensure that all of a business’ financial transactions are properly recorded and that all supporting documentation is present and accurate. A bookkeeper carries out all the daily business calculations for a business in its accounting cycle and reconciles all the bank transactions, typically using computer software that’s commonly available.
Freelance bookkeepers are in high demand right now and earn an average hourly rate of between $25 – $50 an hour. There are literally thousands of small business owners, doctors, lawyers and contractors who do not want to pay or cannot afford a full time bookkeeper. Paying a bookkeeper $25 an hour for 10-20 hours of work a week relieves them of the burden of that full time employee that they cannot afford.
Because many small business owners are so swamped taking care of day-to-day operations, many are typically very eager to off load this responsibility to a third party. You can easily operate a business from a home office with just a computer, internet connection and telephone. Here are a few resources that we recommend to help get you started:
- How to Open Your Own In-Home Bookkeeping Service (Amazon.com)
- Starting a Bookkeeping Business (Entrepreneur.com)
- Bookkeeping Tips Newsletter (aipb.org)
- Quickbooks Pro
Web Designer / Developer
If you are experienced in HTML or other aspects of website design, freelancing as a web design and development consultant might be the answer for you. With so many online and brick-and-mortar businesses being started by individuals with no web design experience at all, you can find potentially lucrative opportunities from both small and large businesses alike. You’ll obviously need web design experience to get started but you can easily work at home in a freelance capacity. You could offer your services to other work-at-home entrepreneurs who are starting their own e-commerce or online businesses. You can help clients with site redesigns, set up shopping cart platforms, address issues of security, and help with a variety of other webmastering essentials for a multitude of business types.
The best place to get started is by getting listed on several of the top freelance job sites catering to web designers. When you sign up at these freelancer job sites, you’ll start by creating a profile with a list of your skills, specific expertise, past jobs and experience as well as any previous client references should you have them.
Here’s a list of the most relevant freelance job sites for web designers and developers as well as some authoritative freelance resources:
- Advice on Freelance Web Development (About.com)
- Road Map to Becoming a Professional Freelance Web Designer (Smashing Magazine)
Consumers need to count on reliable repair services for all kinds of things. From cars to computers, people like to have access to affordable and reliable local repair businesses. Depending on your experience and specific repair expertise, you can easily start your own freelance repair business in your local area. You could operate the business right out of your garage to start out with or you could even serve your customers on-site. Word of mouth advertising and referrals from existing customers will be essential components to help promote your services. You might consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce as another importance resource for generating interest in your new repair business. You can easily create inexpensive flyers to post around the neighborhood to start getting the word out about what you do as well. You’ll also need to look into insurance and licensing requirements for operating your repair business in your local area as well.
If you can write, you might consider freelance writing as a home-based business opportunity. There are many avenues to travel in this kind of business venture and the start up costs are minimal. Opportunities for freelance writing include ghostwriting, editorial services, proofreading, article writing, and web content creation. Both small and large companies often rely on outsourcing their copywriting and content creation to freelancers because many simply cannot afford to keep full-time professional writers on staff. Consequently, the outsourcing of copywriting and freelance writing has exploded over the last few years.
You can utilize the freelance sites previously mentioned to obtain contract writing work including eLance, GetaFreelancer, oDesk as well as a few others listed below: