Video 3 of 7: How to choose the right kind of business to start...
How to Choose a Home Business That Suits Your Lifestyle
If you’re looking for a way to spend more time with your family or you just want to be your own boss, starting a home-based business may be a good choice for you. You can choose to continue your career in some form by working from home. Or, you might consider starting something brand new. Begin by deciding if a home business is right for you and your family. Generate ideas for your business by examining your passions and talents and researching customer demand. Finally, adjust your lifestyle so you can balance the needs of your business and your family.
Deciding if a Home-Based Business is Right for You
Evaluate your personality.Many people want to work from home because they think it will be easier to balance work and family needs. For example, mothers of your children may think working from home will make it easier to take care of their kids. However, this is not necessarily true. Working from home is very challenging, especially if you have young children competing for your attention. It’s not for everybody. Decide if you have the personality traits to make it work.
- You must be a self-starter. Without a supervisor to keep you on task, you must be able to motivate yourself to focus on getting your work done.
- You need critical thinking skills. You have to be able to handle all of your responsibilities without direction or guidance from someone else.
- You have to be organized and a good planner. You need to be able to plan ahead to meet all of your work and home responsibilities.
- You need to be comfortable with being alone. You will not have your co-workers around for social interaction. Decide how important this is to you.
Consider your business skills.To make your home business successful, you need basic business know-how. The categories of business skills you need include financial, marketing, communication and technology. You need to be willing to develop these skills in order to run your business.
- Financial skills include managing your accounts payable, collecting money from customers, managing your inventory and determining your profit margins. Spend time playing around with your accounting software. Many programs generate different kinds of reports that allow you to learn about your profit and loss and analyze your income streams and spending patterns.
- Marketing skills include performing market research to identify the right product or service to sell, determining the right price for your product or service and promoting and selling your product or service.
- Communication skills include keeping an open line of communication with your clients or customers. You can do this through e-mail marketing and social media communication.
- You need more than just a telephone and rudimentary computer skills to make your home business work. The technology skills you need include being able to use Excel to create financial spreadsheets and being able to do basic HTML coding and use Word Press to build your website. Also, you need to be familiar with SEO and know how to use Google Analytics to evaluate your customers’ behavior on your website. If you’re going to accept credit cards, you’ll need to know how to use mobile payment processing systems. Finally, learn how to use cloud-based telecommunications systems.
Weigh the advantages and disadvantages.Operating a home-based business has positives and negatives. Evaluate the impact of this lifestyle change on your family and home life. Decide if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
- The advantages include flexible working hours, no commuting, free child care, and the satisfaction of being your own boss.
- The disadvantages include stress from trying to balance work and family needs, limited space in your home, disruptions to your family’s schedule and lack of social interactions from co-workers.
Generating Ideas for a Home-Based Business
Discover your passions.Ask yourself what you would do if you could do anything and money were no object. Don’t make money your primary consideration. The first things that come to mind are likely your passions. Also, think about what you’re curious about. This may lead you to uncover an interest that could turn into a business idea.
Remember what activities you enjoyed as a child.These activities might provide insight into a good business idea for you. For example, suppose you liked to do outdoor activities. You might think of ideas that allow you to be outside, such as selling things from your garden. If you liked arts and crafts, you might think about selling home-made crafts.
Identify your personal and professional goals.Decide if you want your business to be a continuation of your previous career. If so, you might be able to build your home business off of the skills and contacts you already have. However, it’s not uncommon for people to want to change careers and do something different. In fact, the Department of Labor and Statistics says that a growing percentage of Americans are switching careers throughout their lives.
Browse published lists of ideas.Chances are the exercises described above have encouraged you to generate a few ideas for your home-based business. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Lots of people have started successful home-based businesses before you. If you do an internet search for “home-based business ideas,” you will find lists of hundreds of ideas. Some are categorized by industry, others by income-generating potential or start-up costs needed.
Consider ideas for stay-at-home moms.Many stay-at-home moms (and dads) are somewhat homebound because they need to be available to their children. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you need a business that lets you work from your house. Also, you need flexible hours so you can work around your family’s schedule.
- Freelancing offers a great deal of flexibility and freedom. Many freelancers work in a field in which they already have skills. Also, they rely on connections with former coworkers to find work. Consider freelancing as a writer, web designer, marketing specialist or tax advisor.
- Work as a virtual assistant. This means you provide administrative, marketing and technical support to other business professionals from your home office. This is a good option for someone with an administrative background.
- Become a blogger. If you like to write and have a passion about a hobby or issue, start a blog. You can make money from your blog with affiliate marketing and advertising.
- Make money from your creative talents. People love homemade crafts. If you have a talent for crafting and the space to create your products, you can sell them online or at craft fairs.
- Run a home-based child care service. This can be a lucrative business because people are always looking for trustworthy, safe places to leave their children while they work. This is a regulated business with rules about meals, space requirements and number of children per adults. Research the regulations in your state and community before starting a child care service.
Evaluate ideas for retirees.People who are retired may be looking for a source of extra income and a challenge. If you are retired, you can convert your hobby or past experience into a home-based business. Some people build on the work they did in their careers. Others start a business based on a new passion.
- Sell your crafts online, at craft shows or at flea markets. Think about selling in online marketplaces like Etsy.
- Become a project-based consultant. Businesses need people with expertise to help them with business initiatives. People with experience in finance, management and information technology can contact past colleagues to find work.
- Work as a patient advocate. This is someone who helps patients navigate the complicated medical system. People with experience in nursing, social work and insurance are in high demand.
Opt for a pet business.If you are an animal lover, think about starting a business that caters to pets. People treat their pets as members of the family. This means that people will want to purchase goods and services for their pets, and you can make money offering them. Choose from a variety of options.
- Start a pooper-scooper service. Advertise in local newspapers, on bulletin boards in the supermarket and the library, and through dog-related businesses in your community. You can choose to do the scooping yourself, or you can hire employees to do it for you.
- Open a pet photography business. All you need is a good camera and the ability to use it. Take pictures in a studio, in pet stores, outdoors or in people’s homes. Make it fun for the pets and their owners to generate repeat business.
- Make pet clothing and accessories. People spend a lot of money every year on sweaters, rain boots, scarves, collars, hats, goggles and even Halloween costumes.
- Offer pet sitting services. Lots of people dislike the idea of leaving their pets at home for extended periods of time.
- Become a dog walker. Many people who leave their dogs at home while they work will pay someone to stop by their house and take their dog for a walk.
- Make gourmet pet treats. People love being able to give their pets organic, healthy, gourmet and tasty treats.
Assessing Your Business Idea
Decide how your idea matches up to your skills.Ask yourself if you possess the required technical, social, personal and manual skills to do the job. For example, suppose you have an idea to be a wedding planner, but you’re not really up to date on wedding fads, dress styles and color trends. Then, this idea doesn’t match up with your skills. But, suppose you do have a passion for photography, and you have lots of equipment and expertise to take beautiful pictures. Being a wedding photographer might be a better match to your skills.
Evaluate the availability of resources.Resources include financial resources, human resources and raw materials. Some businesses require start-up funds and working capital. Determine if you have the resources to make your ideas work.
- Financial resources include purchasing equipment and start-up expenses. For example, if you are going to sell a product, you may need to purchase inventory to get started. Figure out if you can pay for start-up expenses from your savings or if you would need a small-business loan.
- Human resources means people. Assess whether you will need help to get the job done. See if you have family members who can do the work or if you will have to hire someone. Find out how difficult it would be to find the right person to do the job. If you need someone with specific skills, you might have a hard time finding someone. Also, determine if you will have the financial resources to pay that person.
- Raw materials are the things you would need to produce a product. For example, if you are going to start a jewelry-making business, you need to have all of the materials on hand to make your earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Figure out if you have the financial resources to stock all of the raw materials you need. Also, find out how readily available these materials are. If you want to make a product from materials that are difficult to find, you might have a hard time keeping enough product in stock.
Research demand for the product or service.The demand for a product or service means how much customers want it. Determine if your idea offers something in a new or unique way that stands out from the competition. You can do basic market research without spending a lot of money.
- Learn as much as you can about what your competitors are selling, who their target customers are and how well their businesses are doing. You can do this by browsing their company websites, visiting brick-and-mortar stores that sell similar products, communicating with industry trade associations and reading trade journals.
- Figure out if people will buy the product or service you are selling. Don’t bother asking friends and family for advice, because they will likely tell you what they think you want to hear. Instead, get objective data from talking to customers at shows and expos, participating in focus groups and talking with other business owners.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Dedicate space in your home to the business.Whether you need to meet with clients, store materials or products or find a quiet place to think, you need a dedicated space in your home for your business. Your business space should be separate from the living areas where your family spends time. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself getting interrupted by your children, spouse, pets, laundry and other distractions. Also, your work will infringe on their activities. Keep out of each other’s way by keeping your work and family life separate.
Make yourself look professional.Invest in professional-looking brochures, business cards and stationery. Instead of printing them yourself on your home computer, have a professional service print them for you. Set up a dedicated phone line for your business. Answer the phone professionally, and don’t allow your children to answer your business line. When speaking with clients or customers, close the door if possible so household noises don’t interrupt the conversation.
Find a reason to leave the house every day.Being in one room or staring at your computer screen all day diminishes your creativity and dulls your mental sharpness. Plan to meet friends or business contacts for lunch. Attend seminars to learn something new. Meet clients in person.
Video: How to Choose The Perfect Business Idea
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