The COVID-19 pandemic meant millions of people were sent home to work remotely. While businesses are beginning to recall workers to the office, some may not be in any rush to return. If you don’t want to give up the flexibility and comfort that comes with remote work, maybe it’s time to consider a home-based business.
“The pandemic has caused a boom in entrepreneurship as the country experiences a micro business renaissance,” says Ross Buhrdorf, CEO of ZenBusiness, a platform that has helped nearly 200,000 new businesses form since the start of the pandemic.
While some businesses require opening a storefront and selling physical goods, many business owners sell their services or expertise, either as a business entity or as a sole proprietor. “These types of jobs include consultants, freelancers and a growing segment of e-commerce professionals,” Buhrdorf says.
In many cases, successful business owners begin their work by running their business as a side hustle while still holding down their full-time job. This provides an opportunity to ensure a business is a good fit and will make enough money to pay the bills. Regardless of whether you moonlight at first or dive right in, do your research to improve your chances of success.
Here’s a look at seven home-based business ideas to get you started.
- Affiliate marketing.
- Real estate sales.
- Day care provider.
- Selling your skills.
E-commerce is an umbrella term that refers to buying and selling online. Home business owners may create a product – such as jewelry or candles – and sell items through a business website or platform such as Etsy or Amazon.
Another e-commerce option is something called retail arbitrage. This usually involves purchasing discounted items at local retailers and then selling them online for a profit. For example, goods may be found at overstock stores, thrift shops and garage sales and then sold on eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Amazon. Apps such as the Amazon Seller app and Profit Bandit simplify the process of determining whether a particular item is a money-maker.
For those who like the idea of e-commerce but don’t want to hassle with maintaining inventory, dropshipping can be an appealing alternative. This involves having a third party send products to customers. “Once someone buys a product on your e-commerce site, you then buy it from the vendor and have it shipped directly to the buyer,” explains Jared Goetz, founder of Zendrop, a platform designed to help people run successful dropshipping businesses.
Dropshipping isn’t without risk though. Since products are sent directly from vendors to customers, there is little opportunity for quality control. Goetz also notes he once lost $450,000 to a Chinese sourcing agent. Risks can be mitigated, though, by carefully vetting suppliers, and Goetz says connecting business owners to legitimate vendors is a key reason why he created Zendrop.
Once suppliers have been found, the only upfront costs for a dropshipping business are a website domain and an e-commerce platform such as Shopify, which can cost less than $30 a month. Then it’s a question of marketing your site and products effectively to encourage sales.
Another e-commerce option to consider is affiliate marketing. This business model eliminates both inventory and the need to handle payments. “Affiliate marketing is simply exposing your audience to products of value that you believe in,” says Francis Wolff, CEO of Digistore24, a full-service online sales marketplace that connects affiliates to product vendors.
Many companies, including Amazon, run affiliate programs in which they provide personalized links that will result in a commission if someone uses one to make a purchase. This is a common way for bloggers and websites to earn income, and an internet search of “affiliate programs” will reveal dozens of options.
“Find a niche industry with a variety of products,” Wolff suggests. He recommends focusing on an area that is of particular interest to you. Then, promote affiliate links on social media, a business website or via email newsletters. However, be sure not to run afoul of government rules which require people post a disclosure if they will get paid a commission for sales made through an affiliate link.
Real Estate Sales
Creating a home-based business in real estate can take more effort than the options listed above. Real estate agents don’t need a college degree, but they do typically need to complete coursework required for state licensure.
This also isn’t a business that will let you stay home in your pajamas all day. It involves meeting with clients, showing houses and helping finalize paperwork. However, it may be a good choice for those who like social interaction but also want the flexibility to set their own hours.
Day Care Provider
Finding affordable day care has long been a challenge for working parents, even before the pandemic started, and the situation seems to have only gotten worse during the past year. That may mean there could be robust demand for day care providers in your area, and this is one business you can run from your home.
However, like real estate, starting a home day care involves some extra work. While requirements vary from state to state, you may need to be licensed as well as receive local zoning and business permits. Your home may also need to meet certain space and equipment requirements, depending on the number and age of the children you expect to watch.
Caring for children in your home means no commute, but this home-based business doesn’t have the same flexibility as other options since parents expect care on a regular schedule. Still, many people find this to be rewarding work.
Anyone with a computer and a good grasp of language could potentially run a writing business from home. Amy Suto started six years ago by creating a profile on the freelancing website Upwork and taking whatever jobs she could for $20 an hour. “I eventually found memoir ghostwriting, and that ended up being my favorite niche,” Suto says. Now, she travels the world to meet with clients and charges $250 an hour for her work.
While people often think of writers as novelists, there is demand for talented wordsmiths to write everything from blog posts to professional bios, and people can hone their skills by reading as much as possible. “The best way to become a copywriter is to read great copy,” Suto says.
Today, Suto is the CEO and co-founder of Kingdom of Ink, a website that connects the top 1% of freelance ghostwriters and copywriters to quality clients. While new writers may not meet the criteria for her site, other websites such as Upwork, Guru and Freelancer.com are options for finding writing assignments.
Selling Your Skills
Writing isn’t the only business venture that involves selling a skill. A talent for photography, art, tutoring, web design or virtually anything else can be parlayed into a successful home-based business.
“The most successful home businesses I’ve seen are service-based, primarily because the overhead is relatively low,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO of Rank Secure, a Toronto-based business offering search engine optimization services.
As with writing, there are a number of online websites and platforms that allow people to market their services to potential clients. However, Labunski recommends people don’t stop there. Successful businesses should also have a website and social media presence. “You must find ways to engage with your ideal customers and spend time where they are, whether that’s virtual or in person,” he says.
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