Self-employment can be a wonderful experience with many benefits, but is not to be entered into lightly. Much consideration and preparation must be done before opening your doors to customers. Once you have concluded that you have what it takes to be your own boss (read The First Step To Self Employment), the next step is to decide exactly what your business will be. Since most individuals do not have significant funds to start a new business, it’s important to draw on what you already have available. Turning a skill, talent, or hobby into a profitable business is often your best bet since you likely already have all the knowledge and equipment necessary to get started.
Ten Home Based Business requiring little or no start up costs:
1. Lawn Care – Not to be confused with full blown landscaping, simple lawn care usually includes grass cutting, edging, and sweeping or blowing clippings off sidewalks and driveways. If you cut your own yard, you already have all the equipment and know-how necessary. The best market for this service is usually established neighborhoods of single-family homes. There you will often find older folks who are no longer able to tend to their yards themselves.
2. Garden Care – This does not mean planting small farms or even tending vegetable gardens (unless that’s what you want to do). Simple garden care should include regular weeding and watering of flowerbeds that typically compliment a residential lawn. This may also include seasonal planting of annual flowers and plants each spring and fall. The best market for this service is also often established neighborhoods of single-family homes. Many older homeowners still take pride in their yards but are no longer able to do the bending and stooping to keep up their flowerbeds.
3. Childcare – Most localities allow you to watch up to four children in your home before a license is required (be sure to verify this before getting started!). This can be a good solution for parents with young children who need to provide an income but would like to still be home and available to their own children. It’s not all hugs and snuggles though, read Should I Open A Home Daycare to learn a little more about the ups and downs of this profession.
4. Specialized Caterer – Is there a family recipe you’ve perfected with your special touch? A dish or desert always requested at family gatherings or potluck lunches? If so, you already have a consumer base (those who eat and enjoy it) to help with the best marketing possible – word of mouth. Spread the word that you are available to make the dish for events, parties, and potlucks. There are tons of occasions non-cookers need to contribute a homemade cover dish or desert, and would gladly pay to have you cook it for them! You do need the start up cash to buy the groceries to make the first several dishes, but after that, you will reinvest a portion of your income to cover supplies (overhead) and pocket the remainder (profit). Your target market for this service would be busy working adults everywhere. Tell everyone you know to spread the word.
5. House Cleaner – Believe it or not, when it’s not your house, it can actually be enjoyable. You likely already have a vacuum and other needed supplies, although maybe not in sufficient quantities. Cleaning products are relatively inexpensive though, so shouldn’t stop you. You have choices on target market for this service. You could again lean toward older homeowners, or perhaps market to busy young adults in hip condo communities. Other options are move in-move out service, providing thorough cleaning of apartments between renters; or new construction, giving newly built properties a good once over before they are turned over to their new owners.
6. Typing – Hang flyers in laundry mat, coffee houses, or businesses near colleges or frequented by students. Many kids would gladly shell out good money to have someone else type a final draft of term papers and other projects.
7. Pooper Scooper – Laugh if you want, but people really will pay you to remove the dog pooh from their yards. All you need is a small shovel, a supply of rubber gloves, and some plastic bags. Your target for this service is pretty wide. Upscale neighborhoods with large yards and condo communities that allow dogs but have small yards usually are eager for the service. Another idea is to post flyers (if allowed) or pass out by hand at your local dog park.
8. Unique baby clothes/blankets – Do you now how to sew, knit, or crochet? Every new mother is thrilled to receive a handmade baby blanket, quilt, sweater, or booties. Start up costs will include the needed yarn, fabric, and other sewing supplies to make the first few projects, but you should already have the needed equipment. It would be wise to distribute flyers (if allowed) at local craft stores, consignment or second hand baby stores, as well as spreading the word by mouth. Your best form of advertising may be to gift a few of your completed items to friends or family with babies and ask them to show them off and spread the word.
9. Home School Tutor/Assistant – Many parents choose to home school their children, but either are not available to oversee the process every day, or lack knowledge in a particular subject. Market yourself by contacting any of the home school groups listed in your local phone book or inquire with the local school board.
10. Music teacher /Vocal Coach – Do you play an instrument or sing (well)? Share your talent by providing music lessons. Schools, community centers, and local music stores are great places to advertise this service. Overhead is nearly non-existent since you should already have an instrument, and the students taking lessons would be responsible to provide their own.
These are just a few suggestions of hobbies that could be turned into profitable careers. The possibilities are endless. Once you are sure self-employment is for you and have determined the service or product you will offer, you are well on your way to the freedom of self-employment!
From my personal experience as a small business owner, I will offer an additional word of caution: Direct marketing (speaking with or putting flyer in the hand of potential clients) and word of mouth are usually the very best ways to start and grow your business. Use extreme caution when listing yourself on sites such as Craigslist, and be sure to never give personal information or home contact information. No potential customer is worth risking your personal safety.