Feb 242011

Start small

A new home business is exciting venture. But if you’ve never started a home business before (or even if you have), there is a way to save yourself lots of headaches. Start small.

Building your business one step at a time has lots of advantages.

Test your market

Big corporations market test their new products. Home businesses can do the same thing. By starting small, you can discover if there is a demand for your product or service? Are you targeting the right market? Are you selling through the right venue? Are you charging enough or too much? Is your marketing effective?

Minimize upfront cost

Most of us don’t have piles of money to pour into a business or a venture capitalist on hand, ready to supply funds. Instead we bootstrap our business. We can use our initial profits to build the next stage of the business.

Start part-time

You can start your new business while working at your current job. You job will provide the funding for your new business and the necessary cash for living expenses while your business grows. Starting part-time also gives you a chance to find the right balance for work, home and family.

Make mistakes on a small scale

You are going to make mistakes in new business. Lots of them. We all do. But by starting small, your initial mistakes will be less costly and you’ll have a smaller audience.

Master new skills

A business involves many different skills: If you sell a produce, you need to learn how to buy in-demand merchandise at a good price and track inventory. If you provide a service, you need to do that skillfully. All businesses require planning, marketing, selling, customer service, paperwork and bookkeeping. If your business is on the Internet or uses social marketing, you need do be able to do various tasks there too.

By starting small, you can build your skills at a pace that won’t be overwhelming. You can also learn when it’s best to outsource work to someone else.

Learn from feedback.


As your business grows, you will be able to see what products or services sell well. If your business is online, you can use your web host’s statistics to see which pages have the most visitors and perform the best. You can test your marketing methods and see what brings in sales. Then you can build your business, your web site and your marketing on what works.

Dec 062010

6 Ways to Find Home Business Ideas

Do you want to start a home business, but don’t know where to begin? No problem. Get out a few sheets of paper. Let’s brainstorm some business ideas.

1. What do you enjoy doing?

It isn’t essential that you like what you do for a living. And if you do what you love, the money won’t necessarily follow. Still it will make working more fun. And that will make it easier for you to motivate yourself.

As a bonus, if you plan a business around you already enjoy, you will be knowledgeable about your subject. Plus it will be easier for you to do research and marketing.

Write down the things you enjoy doing. This is brainstorming, so don’t worry now if there aren’t obvious businesses you can create from your ideas.

2. What are the causes that interest you?

Do you have any special causes that are important to you? Again we are brainstorming. So just write down ideas that occur to you—faith, politics, assisting people with disabilities, helping the elderly, caring for children, protecting the environment, and so on.

3. What are your skills?

What are the skills that you use in your current job? How about skills from your past jobs? Don’t write down job titles. Write the various tasks you performed and the computer skills that you have.

Include your non-job-related skills too, like gardening, taking care of children, making candy and running errands. One local woman created a business doing errands such as picking up dry cleaning and shopping for presents.

4. What do you know?

Do you know a lot about any subjects? Have you done work or school projects in a special area? How about your life experiences? Have you coped with a chronic illness? Have you discovered educational resources to help students with learning problems?

5. Who are your customers?

Do you want to sell to businesses or to the general public? If you want to sell to the public, what groups are you most interested in serving? Are you planning to sell to young mothers, seniors, teens, artists, fitness fans or fashion lovers?

6. What do people need or want?

This is the essential question.  If there aren’t people who want to buy your product or service, you don’t have a business.

What problem can you solve? Have you noticed that people are having trouble finding daycare? Do they need help from a handyman (or handywoman)? Are local seniors having trouble finding the resources they need?

What are people spending money on during this tight economy? Have you noticed what sort of “must haves” that you, your family member, your friends and your children’s friends are purchasing?

Look at Amazon’s best sellers and eBay’s pulse to see what’s selling. If you are interested in selling arts and crafts, check out the “Just Sold” link of Etsy’s Time Machine. And try out some of your ideas on Google’s trends search.

But don’t just look for what’s hot.  Fads come and go. Ask yourself if there is a lasting business in this area.

The more people want or need your services or products, the easier it will be for you to make money.  See if any of the needs you’ve identified match your interests, skills and knowledge. And when you finish brainstorming business ideas, eliminate any that customers won’t want or need.

Oct 082010

Seven questions to ask before you start a home business

A small home business can be a great asset for your family’s financial life. It can give you financial stability if you or your spouse is laid off. It can provide extra income to pay off debts or increase savings. It might even be the doorway to a new career.

In this series, we’ll cover some basics to help you plan your home business. Let’s begin by looking at some basic questions.

1. Is your family supportive?

Having a home business will affect the whole family. If you are replacing a job with a home business, usually there will be a period of lower earnings. If you are a stay-at-home parent, your new business may leave you with less free time for children’s projects. On the other hand, your business will set a powerful entrepreneurial example for your children.

If your family doesn’t want you to start your business, try to find the reason why. Then see if you work out a compromise that will address their concerns?

A home business is much easier if you have cheerleaders. It may take some negotiations, but try to get your family on board with your plans.

2. How much time do you have to work on your business?

Do you want to work full time or part time? Is your time flexible or do you need to work around an existing schedule; such as your job or your children’s school day or a baby who needs care?

3. How will your new business fit into your life?

Will your new business require much traveling? Do you have a place in your home where you can work? Will your business require storage space for inventory and shipping supplies?

4. Do you have any special needs to consider?

Do you or a family member have a health problem or disability that you need to consider while planning a business?

5. How much money does your business need to make?

Do you need to make a professional income or do you want just some extra cash? How soon do you need the income? Is there time to let your business grow?

6. What type of business do you want to run?

Do you want to sell a product or a service or both?

When you are selling a service, you are selling your time and your skill. However you are limited by the hours each day you and any employees can work.

If you want to sell products, you can sell something that someone else has made. For example, you can buy an item wholesale or at an estate sale and resell it. Or you can create a product to sell, such as candles or a craft pattern.

You might choose to combine a service business with selling products. For example you can sell knitted products and teach knitting classes. Or you could create e-books to sell on your website and also do copywriting for businesses.

7. What is allowed?

What are the laws concerning home businesses in your state and town? Will you need a license? Does your homeowners’ association have any rules about home businesses?

Next, its time to brainstorm some business ideas

Jul 212010

Plan B

What would you do if you are or your spouse were unable to find work? More and more families are being forced to face that question. Whether or not you currently have a job, now is a good time to consider creating some options. One way to do that is to start a home business.

Your business can provide many benefits:

  • A source of income in case of layoffs
  • Extra money to pay off debts, build savings and fund special projects
  • New skills that can help you in your current job
  • Tax deductions
  • Retirement income
  • A tool to teach your children entrepreneurial skills.

It takes time to build a home business. So why not start one before you need it? Your current job will provide income, so you can grow your business without risking your family’s livelihood.

However, even if you or your spouse have lost your job, it’s not too late to create a home business. You can job hunt for part of the day and work on your new business for the rest of the day. The job market still is very tough. A home business gives you another option if you have trouble finding work.

Take some time to think about what kind of home business you would like to start. Explore, dream a bit, research and plan. What can you provide that customers want? Can you spot some unfilled needs? What are your interests, skills, work experiences and passions?

Start small so your home business will fit in with your existing work and life without overwhelming you. Then build your business one manageable step at a time. Look for business ideas that can be started with little cash. Then use the profits to grow your business.

If the idea of a home business is scary, remember that a century ago, working for yourself was a normal part of many people’s lives. Think of it as the ultimate do-it-yourself project.