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Can you really start a successful business out of your home?
Yes you certainly can!
Here are the 42 best home business ideas:
I decided to start a book publishing business while still a full time student at business school. I had no prior experience in book publishing but I had started a number of other small home based businesses.
I began this business in my basement apartment with just a $1500 investment. The first book I created was a guide to local companies for job seekers, called The Boston Job Bank.
Local bookstores were willing to carry my book and it did begin to sell. But initial sales were slower than I expected. So I needed to get the word out!
I booked guest appearances for myself on local radio and television talk shows, giving job hunting advice and talking up my book. I also used some of my favorite “guerilla” marketing techniques such as putting up posters at local colleges. Bingo! My first book quickly became the #1 local nonfiction bestseller.
I went on to publish many other books. My profit margins reached 25% – much higher than even the larger more established companies. I finally sold my business for $40 million.
Today if you are starting a book publishing business you might want to initially limit yourself to ebooks. It’s easy to get a book published – places like Amazon will list almost any book. What’s more of a challenge is to achieve high sales levels. To do that you’ll need to choose your topics carefully and put some significant effort into promotion.
If you want to learn how to start a book publishing business – or any other business – check out Start-a-Business 101.
It seems like everyone is setting up an Amazon store! And they are making sales – a whopping 200,000 entrepreneurs are achieving revenue of over $100,000 a year.
It’s fairly easy to get started on Amazon. You can get going with even a single product. You can also create your own storefront with your own look and feel. You can pack and ship your orders yourself or you can have Amazon do it for you.
The cost structure changes from time to time and varies by country and by product. You will be charged a “referral fee” that is typically 15% of your selling price, plus additional small fees depending upon the services that you select.
You could very quickly set up a store on Amazon and begin selling products. But it is more challenging to build your Amazon store into a highly profitable and sustainable business.
Selling products online – including on Amazon – is extremely competitive. So don’t be tempted to casually throw together a few products and put up your store. Instead you should carefully develop a well thought out plan.
To create a plan for your store, evaluate your market, your prospective customers and your competition. Then consider how you can meet the needs of customers better than existing competitors. How can you be different? How can you develop a competitive advantage? What are your best opportunities? Then put your thoughts together in a business plan.
You should also consider building your own online presence beyond Amazon such as with your own website, with social media, by developing your own email list and perhaps through online advertising.
This is a classic very simple business that you can start part time with one dog and grow as big as you want. I have a niece who quickly built this into a lucrative full time business.
I also met a woman who had to hire several employees to keep up with demand. And I have heard of several people who have sold their dog walking businesses for over a million dollars.
What makes dog walking a good business? Most of all you have regular repeat customers. Plus the service involves a personal touch – if customers like you, then not only will they keep you forever, but they will also recommend you to their friends.
The key to making good money at dog walking is finding customers. Fortunately there are all kinds of ways to land customers for this business. You can start with low cost guerilla marketing, such as handing out flyers at dog parks, and putting up posters or business cards on local bulletin boards, such as at coffee shops and libraries.
Dog walking is also great for digital marketing because you can zero right in on your target audience. You can build a website and optimize it to show up at the top of local Google search results. And you can target social media and other online advertising directly at dog owners in your hometown.
This is one of the most popular businesses for beginning entrepreneurs. And no wonder – it’s easy to get going and it’s a lot of fun. Plus there are all kinds of places you can sell your crafts!
Perhaps the most obvious place to sell your crafts today is online particularly at marketplace websites like Etsy. You could also set up your own online website. Art and craft fairs are another great outlet to sell your goods.
Don’t overlook selling your crafts through existing retail outlets. Retailers are always looking for new and interesting crafts to sell. You can approach local retailers directly at their place of business.
You can also get a booth at trade shows for the craft trade. And once you have a good product line put together, you can even hire commission based independent sales firms to sell your products – you can find them at the larger trade shows.
My Great Aunt Betty had a thriving craft business. For years she sold items out of her house – which was located on a busy street. Later she made and sold highly decorated wicker pocketbooks through one of Boston’s finest ladies boutiques.
After a failed race for the governorship of California in 2003, Ariana Huffington started a blog with her friend Ken Lerer. They filled their blog by aggregating news stories and providing political commentary. Named The Huffington Post, the blog was wildly successful. Eight years later they sold it for $315 million.
You too can start your own blog. You can begin small and grow it at your own pace. Most successful bloggers are known for one specific topic. Successful blog subjects include food, fashion, travel, music, sports, hobbies and many others. Be authentic with your audience and let your personality shine!
My experience with blogs is that to build a really large audience you will need to give it some marketing effort. For example you should learn the basics of SEO (search engine optimization) so that your blog posts will show up at the top of Google search results.
You’ll also want to consider using email and social media to keep in front of your audience. Be creative. For example my daughter put together a Facebook post featuring a video of soldiers returning from overseas and surprising their children. It was viewed over 100 million times.
The most basic option to monetize a blog is to sign up with an advertising network such as Facebook, Google or Outbrain and let them sell and manage your advertising for you. But to make much money with advertising you are going to need a big audience reading your blog.
Another option to consider is affiliate marketing. This involves placing links on your blog to other businesses that will pay you a commission for selling their products or services. You can deal with affiliate marketers directly or through services such as ShareASale or ClickBank.
Still another option is to sell your own products or services. You could sell just about anything with a blog including consulting or coaching services, ebooks, homemade products and more.
It is possible to succeed with a blog business but you are going to have to run it like a serious business not a hobby. Years ago I did meet Ariana Huffington and I can tell you that she was overflowing with energy and worked incredibly hard to build her blog business.
The only thing better than the smell of grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe baking in the oven is watching cash roll in as customers order those delectable treats. Home baking is an approachable business idea in that it involves doing what you’re probably doing a lot of, anyway, if you love to bake. You probably have all the equipment and expertise you need to get started.
Depending upon the type of food that you are making you may be able to sell it through local food stores, through restaurants or even to consumers online by using delivery services such as UPS.
You’ll have to check the regulations on commercial kitchens in your locality – restrictions vary significantly. If you are not allowed to set up a commercial bakery in your home consider renting cheap space at a commercial location or even sharing space at an existing commercial kitchen.
I’m a big believer in starting a food business – or just about any business – with a few exceptional offerings. It’s better to have just one or two food treats that are truly awesome than a full line of food that is nothing special.
You can start a successful home bakery without a lot of money. However you really need to plan it out extremely carefully in advance because if you get your first food product into stores and it doesn’t sell well, it will be difficult to sell your second product.
You want to analyze the market, your target customers and your competition really carefully to find opportunities. Then you need to develop foods that not only taste great but are also well packaged and distinctive.
I have a smart friend who had a great food product but it did not succeed at retail. In hindsight if she had launched her product more slowly and carefully, and priced and packaged it more competitively, I think it could have worked fine. Once again it’s one thing to have a great product – it’s another thing to turn it into a great business. So take your time and do both really well!
In my course Start-a-Business 101 take a careful look at the section called “Customers, Competitors and Positioning.” Also I recommend you take the time to put together a carefully thought out business plan. See my course How to Create a Business Plan which includes a fill-in-the-blanks template and sample plans to help you along.
Landscaping is a perfect business in many ways. You can start small and grow it at your own pace. You have repeat customers which means steady income. And there is a terrific opportunity for making more money by selling add-on services.
You could start out part time offering just a simple lawn mowing service. All you need is a lawn mower which you can buy second hand. You don’t need to go buy a fancy truck to cart it around either. I have a friend whose landscaper transports his lawn mower in the trunk of his sedan.
If you are feeling ambitious you can add to the services you offer. Basic add-on services include edging, weeding, fertilizer application, and leaf collection. You could also offer bush, flower and tree planting services. In the winter you could offer snowplowing.
You can make some serious money with a landscaping business. Last year my landscaping service charged me almost $14,000 – and that’s for just one residence. Furthermore that was just for basic services such as grass cutting, yard cleanup and snow removal. For other work such as fertilizer application and lawn irrigation I hired still other service providers.
The subscription box business is booming and there are plenty of big success stories with millions of customers including Ipsy, Dollar Shave and Birchbox. You too can have your own subscription box business!
This business has been around for a long time even before the Internet took off. I remember years ago for example that a friend subscribed to a monthly service sending her assorted chocolate candies. But digital marketing is what really helped these businesses reach the big time.
It can be a great business. You can choose a product space that you enjoy working in. Then you can add your own personal touch with the products that you choose to include, the design of your box, and your marketing. Plus you can skip the hassle of creating the actual products yourself – you can include items made by other companies inside your box.
A subscription box business is by nature a repeat customer, steady income business. Each month you ship out the product and the customer sends you money. Not only does it have great income potential but if you should get tired of the business you can sell it for even more money. In fact you may be able to sell a growing subscription box business for a healthy multiple, not just of profits, but of sales.
What can you offer in your subscription box? Just about anything! Some common choices include soaps, puzzles, makeup, socks, games, perfume, wines, cookies, candles, clothing and more. One of my friends offers a selection of coffees from around the world.
A cool option with this business is to work with a variety of product companies to get them to provide small amounts of their product as samples. They might even provide you these samples at no cost or very low cost. In addition you can make extra money by offering your customers larger amounts of these sample products.
So how do you succeed in this business? You need to totally nail down your marketing including defining your market niche, your product selection, your offer, your marketing message and your marketing channels. You’ll have to test a lot of options to find out what works best.
This is another business that I started on a summer vacation from college. I named it College Painters. It is a very easy-to-start business that can be immediately profitable.
When I lined up my first painting job I asked the customer to advance me enough money to pay for the paint and other supplies. By getting this advance payment I was effectively able to start this business with no money.
I found some old ladders and carried them to jobs on the roof of my car. One side of my car was all smashed in after being hit by a large Coca Cola delivery truck. So I had to be careful to park the car so that prospective customers did not see the damage.
I had no experience painting houses. The closest experience I had was painting my model trains and a couple of old rowboats. But it’s not that hard. I quickly discovered the key to a good painting job was good prep – carefully sanding off any old, loose paint.
Like any business it’s easier to be successful if you first learn the basics of starting a business.
It’s easier than ever to have your own clothing brand. You can sell it online and you can contract out the production work. You can sell through your own website or established platforms such as Amazon and eBay.
With a clothing brand you can begin very small and grow it over time. Take Phil Knight for example. He continued to work his day time accounting job while he started Nike on the side. Ralph Lauren started his namesake business by personally selling his first few neckties to department stores in Manhattan.
Like many businesses you don’t need related experience to be successful. My friend Rudy Glocker switched from a career in finance to begin his own clothing brand, Burgeon Outdoor.
Just as you would with any business, carefully plan out your clothing brand before launching it. I suggest you start with a very few, truly outstanding items. And find a dependable manufacturer that will consistently deliver good quality. You’ll also need a comprehensive marketing plan. Selling online is competitive. You don’t need a large or complex website to get started but it must be visually stunning.
Build up a regular following through social media and email. Publicity can also help promote this business.
This business is a terrific way to earn money in a product business without taking on all the work of creating the products yourself. Historically in this business you would need to travel all over the world to source your products. But today you can also do that on the Internet.
You can also sell your products online through your own website, through your own store on a website like Amazon, or by putting up listings on websites like eBay and Etsy. Another possibility is reaching out to storefront retailers to carry your products.
You could try sourcing your products on large online marketplaces like Alibaba. Or why not have a little fun and travel overseas to find some cool products? I have a friend Suzanne Watzman who loves to travel and has a passion for traditional textiles and related goods. She sells her products on her website Tamaryn Design, as well as through a few select retailers, and at art and craft fairs.
A classmate of mine from business school began an import business after college. He purchased goods from local artisans in South America. His business grew to the point where he was filling up the entire cargo holds on several international airline routes.
To get going in this business get a feel for the products you could import or export, then come up with a cohesive plan. Don’t start by just buying some cool looking products that don’t fit well together.
Can you really make good money writing resumes or profiles? Richard Lambert was teaching English full time when he started writing resumes on the side. He landed his first clients on Fiverr offering a resume and cover package for one low rate.
As his business picked up he increased his prices and also added other services including writing LinkedIn profiles. Within 2 years he went full time. And a few years after that his net income reached $2 million a year.
The demand for resume writing and LinkedIn profile writing is huge! Many otherwise talented professionals are not great at writing their own resume or profile. I know because my book publishing company became one of the leading publishers of resume books.
It’s really pretty easy to write excellent resumes and profiles for your clients. The key is that most resumes and profiles sound like attendance records. In other words they primarily emphasize the positions that were held and the job responsibilities.
Instead a good resume or profile should highlight what the individual accomplished, what they changed and how they distinguished themselves. They also need to include plenty of search engine friendly keywords.
My very first business was Bob’s Rent-A-Bike. I arranged to rent bicycles through a motel, a gas station and a sporting goods shop in a tourist area on Cape Cod. They weren’t the best locations – the existing bicycle rental companies had already tied up the best locations.
And all I could afford was used bicycles whereas the competition had brand new ones. So I couldn’t get people to rent my bicycles.
Then I changed my business model to be different from the existing competitors. I did this by offering free delivery of bicycles directly to customers at their campsites, and motels. My business immediately took off and became a big success.
This example shows why it’s so important not just to start with a good business idea, but also to carefully develop it into a competitive business concept. To do this you need to evaluate your market, your target customers and your competition and seek out opportunities.
Then you design your business around a true competitive advantage.
Another good solid related business is bicycle repair. The demand is huge and steady. You could start just by doing simple repairs yourself – you can teach yourself how to do them. You can send out the more complex repairs to other repair shops and take a percentage of the repair cost for yourself.
By the way, I did try to sell brand new bicycles out of my house and it proved very difficult. Instead, as still another alternative, you may want to consider buying and selling used bicycles. In my bike rental business I found that I could often sell my used bicycles for more than I paid for them.
If you know how to make jewelry, there’s no reason not to sell it. I’ve seen several people build a successful jewelry business out of their home.
Like so many other small businesses, the biggest challenge to setting up a jewelry business might be running the business itself – just making beautiful things won’t be enough to sustain the operation. But with a little time you can quickly master the business aspects of the jewelry business.
A great place to start selling your jewelry is online with websites like Etsy and eBay. You can also sell your jewelry at flea markets and craft fairs. Local jewelry shops may be willing to sell your jewelry but initially they may only take your items on consignment – meaning they don’t pay you until the jewelry actually sells.
You can also set up your own website and do your own online marketing including building an email list, social media following and more. The big advantage of doing this is that you can develop a loyal audience, add more customers by word of mouth, and build repeat customer business.
Holly Christensen left her real estate job and started her jewelry business making items on her kitchen table and selling them through art and craft shows. Her idea was to make jewelry using sand from beaches.
People thought it was a crazy concept. But she has been highly successful and now has loyal customers, over 20 employees and sells jewelry in stores throughout the world.
Holly explains how she started her jewelry business in the course How to Succeed as a Woman Entrepreneur.
You don’t have to be a genius to tutor – you just have to know more than your students. So if your educational skills are a little rusty, you may want to stick to tutoring first and second graders.
If your skills are more advanced you can tutor at higher levels. But even if you can tutor almost any subject or level you will be better off emphasizing a specialty to be more credible and to catch people’s attention.
You can help out students by tutoring in your own home, at their home, at a local library or at a coffee shop. You can also tutor online via a video service such as Zoom. As you are getting started you may want to test marketing different tutoring specialties to see what gets the best response.
Home tutoring is another example of a very simple business that you can start. But like any simple business you are going to be much more successful if you start and plan it carefully. You should write up a business plan including what you will specialize in, who is your target market, what will be your marketing message and how you will reach your audience.
You may want to take a look at the courses Start-a-Business 101, Developing Your Marketing Message, and How to Create a Business Plan (which includes a sample one page business plan for a tutoring business).
Dropshipping is a very simple business. In this business model you feature a product usually on your own website or an online marketplace. You accept an order and payment for the product. Then you forward the order to a third party who fills the order and ships it to the customer. The third party that fills the order may be the product manufacturer, a wholesaler, or another retailer.
As with many home based businesses, you don’t need related experience to get started with a dropshipping business. And you can start part time.
Nick Peroni decided to start his dropshipping business part time, after serving in the US Army, according to an interview with CNBC. After a couple years he focused on his business full time, testing a variety of products. He’s had a number of hit products including a garden tool that he sold $1.9 million of in six months.
So it certainly is possible to make a lot of money in dropshipping. But while it is a simple business, it is not necessarily an easy business. Like any business you first need to do your homework including learning the basics of running a business. You need to choose your products carefully and come up with a business plan.
Peroni warns that a lot of people who try this business are “lazy” and they don’t approach it “like a business.” And in my experience this is an issue with a lot of new entrepreneurs who start any type of business. Furthermore any product business, including dropshipping is going to be riskier and take more work to succeed at than many of the simple service businesses on this list. But at the same time the upside can be huge.
So how do you succeed at dropshipping? Beyond learning and planning you need to test. Test everything! Test different products, different prices, and different ad copy. You’ve also got to be patient and not spend a lot of money until you hit upon a formula that works.
Finally when your dropshipping business begins to gain some traction I suggest you consider shifting your model to stocking and shipping the goods yourself. It’s not that hard – we always did our own shipping in my book publishing business. And you also may want to consider creating your own products.
This is perhaps the cheapest business to start in terms of overhead. If you’re reading this on a computer, you’ve got what you need to become a freelance writer—at least in terms of equipment. Expertise is another matter, but remember that writing can take many forms – from resumes to news articles to marketing materials and even thank you notes.
There’s probably some form of writing you’re qualified to do. Plus, if you’re good enough with grammar and punctuation, companies will pay you to be a freelance editor. One friend made good money editing posts on a popular travel site.
The key to freelance writing is to never stop selling yourself. Don’t get complacent once a project comes in – always look for the next one. Network like crazy online and in person. Ask for press passes to events in the field of your choice. Attend writing workshops and writer meet-ups; they happen everywhere.
There are loads of job listings for freelancers on major job boards, and you can always advertise your services (and look for work) on craigslist or LinkedIn. Once the jobs start rolling in, don’t be afraid to go to previous clients and ask for more work. Steady work is the best work for freelancers. If all else fails at first, just write. Start a blog. Build clips. Get writing!
Content marketing is writing designed to help businesses market themselves online such as through websites, blogs, emails and social media. The more you know about content marketing, the more marketable your writing services will be. So consider spending some time to study about SEO – that means “search engine optimization” or what you need to do to make content appear prominently in search engine results. And learn what makes for good blog posts, email messages and social media posts.
I have a wealthy friend who is crazy about his cars. He had a six car garage built onto his house. On Saturdays he loves to wash, wax and then take one of his fancy cars for a ride. I did this with him once but at the high speed he took his Ferrari on the back country roads, I don’t need to do it again!
His older son also loves cars and worked at an auto dealership while in high school. He started washing cars, then later learned how to detail them. Next while still in high school he started his own car detailing business, servicing his customers’ cars at their homes on weekends.
This is a great niche business. Some people pamper their pets. Other people pamper their cars. Owners of high end cars are willing to pay good money to have their cars detailed. But they are a meticulous bunch. They are going to want the work done just so. So you’ve got to try hard to please your customers. But if they like you, they will have you detail their car regularly. And they will recommend you to their friends.
I’ve learned that with this kind of business it’s “OK” to start out with little or no experience. But you don’t want to hide that from your first customers. Give them a discount and keep their expectations realistic when you are getting started.
This is a great business for digital marketing because it’s easy to target your most likely customers – the owners of high end cars. You can also do some “guerilla” marketing such as putting a simple brochure or business card on the windshield of luxury vehicles you see in parking lots.
An enterprising friend of mine, Jeff Jacober, started a custom T-shirt business after college. Starting from just about nothing he reached an annual sale rate of $20 million dollars.
Then as he turned 40 years old he sold the business and bought an airplane, and a yacht to cruise around the Caribbean. A year later he was back starting several other businesses – he didn’t need the money – but he loved starting new businesses.
Custom T-shirts is a great online business. People email you their logo or artwork and you print up the shirts. It’s easy to print T-shirts. In college I made T-shirts for my softball team.
To get customers you’ll want to do the usual digital marketing including creating a website optimized for local searches on Google. I would also do email outreach to youth groups, sports teams and local business owners.
The flip side of this business is that instead of doing custom T-shirts you sell your own designs. I met Bert and John Jacobs who started their T-shirt business with just $78 and 48 T-shirts.
They tried to sell their T-shirts on college campuses but initially made little progress. Then they came up with the slogan “Life Is Good” and their business took off like a rocket, with their sales reaching over $100 million annually.
One of the more obvious ideas for starting a new business is still one of the best. Cleaning houses is hard work, but people who do it well can pick up desperate new clients at a rapid pace.
You just need to make sure that your cleaning skills are up to snuff, which means some cleaning practice at friends’ houses might not be a bad thing to do before launching the business.
Cleaning can be very lucrative. Most house cleaners charge a flat rate to clean a house. I notice that some house cleaners however spend less and less time at each job after they think that the customer is comfortable with their work. Don’t do that – you can lose customers and you will get less referrals for new customers. Instead don’t be afraid to raise your prices if your customer is happy with your work.
Another option is cleaning offices. One friend in Boston built a highly successful cleaning business focusing on small businesses. They trusted him with access to their businesses at night and were willing to pay him a hefty premium. He worked just 4 or 5 hours a night and made a very healthy living.
You can make lots of money in this business if you know the basics of how to run a business and how to attract new customers.
Most school kids enter a music program at some point, whether it involves singing or playing an instrument. Aside from that, plenty of adults decide at some point that they’d like to be more musical.
There is a big market for teaching music and your instrument is your specialty. The key is to develop reasonable but firm policies on pricing and cancellations and, if possible, make your home the venue for providing lessons, rather than traveling to visit students.
Another great home teaching gig is art lessons. When I was growing up there was a woman not too far from me who gave art lessons in her home to young kids after school. Not just kids but adults too are interested in art lessons.
You don’t have to be a highly skilled artist to give art lessons if you are teaching at an entry level. Almost anyone for example can teach young elementary age students.
For teaching younger students and adults at the entry level you’ll probably do best teaching a variety of different art skills in one course – a “survey” course. Plan out the course so that the students will have some exciting finished art projects to take home and show off to their friends.
Both music and art lessons lend themselves well for digital marketing. For music lessons you can show off videos of students playing their instruments on your website and on social media. For art lessons you can show off the students’ artwork. For both music and art you can feature interviews with your students talking about what they are working on.
When my son was at Stanford University one of his fraternity brothers, Evan Spiegel, came up with an idea for his kid sister to send digital messages in her high school classes that would instantly disappear. He called it SnapChat. He became the youngest billionaire in the world in 2015.
You probably aren’t going to create a new social media platform, but if you enjoy using social media, social media management could be a fun and easy business for you! Plus it’s a great business – because you have repeat customers so you’ll get a nice steady income stream.
Almost any business that sells anything wants to be on social media, so the market is huge! Many business owners don’t know how to use social media. And many more don’t want to be bothered to regularly update their social media content. They need your help.
How can you break into this field? Learn and practice. Build an audience for yourself before offering your services to others. Keep cranking out content and get comfortable with it. And like any business, come up with a solid plan. Evaluate the competition and potential target markets, then come up with your business plan.
Used car salespeople unfortunately have some nasty stereotypes to live down, but you don’t need a tacky blazer or a fast talking sales pitch to make money buying and reselling cars. People trade away perfectly good (or certainly good enough) cars all the time for all sorts of trivial issues.
Especially if you like cars and can make one shine for a Craigslist ad, you could take advantage of massive opportunities to buy used cars and resell them for major profit. Ideally you’d want to have about $10,000 to get started in this business. That way you could buy a few decent used cars without using any financing. But it could be possible to start this business with just about nothing by getting financing for your inventory. The new auto dealers usually finance their inventory – so why shouldn’t you?
The key to success in this business is being very disciplined in buying. Limit your car buying to popular models that you can turn over quickly. Focus on models that you have a strong understanding of current local pricing on. Only buy cars that you can buy at a significant discount to the price you believe you can fairly sell them for. And avoid cars that are likely to need major work.
Get a permit or certificate to attend local car auctions where new car dealers get rid of their older used cars that they don’t want to be bothered with. A friend in Georgia has been doing this successfully for more than 20 years.
I never traded cars, but I did trade used boats from my house one summer and quickly made good money at it. I discovered the key was to focus on the most popular, fastest selling products such as brand name outboard powerboats and avoid the slowest selling products such as sailboats. It was a really fun business! I even sold a boat to the famous novelist Norman Mailer.
Today even if you are trading cars or boats part time, you want to have at least a simple website. It will not only help attract customers, but it will make your business seem more credible.
If you’re passionate about working out or playing sports, then this could be a great business opportunity for you. The key is to specialize—on a sport, a category of clientele or both—and to look the part.
I have seen all kinds of success stories in sports coaching and training. One soccer coach I know earned $50,000 a year just for coaching one high school student a few hours a week. I have seen other coaches successfully expand their businesses into sports camps, sports schools and in one case, his own indoor soccer league.
For this business the biggest success stories come from those who aren’t necessarily the very best coaches, but from those who are very good at marketing themselves. So spend a little time to create a kick ass website and learn how to do digital marketing.
Believe it or not, eBay is now more than two decades old, but it’s still a highly viable platform for setting up a home based business online. Big success stories have been around for years now, but there is an enormous amount of competition on the site.
There are basically two alternative business models and each one has very different characteristics. One option is to run a trading business where you buy items and then sell them for higher prices.
The key to success in this business is to specialize and get to know the pricing and the salability of a particular niche really well. One of my friends’ sons paid for his entire college education with the money he made trading on eBay during high school.
The other option is to provide a service selling and fulfilling orders for other people. This business model can be a good route to repeat customers and more or less steady income.
These are not enterprises for the lazy. eBay sellers need to respond to customers quickly and politely, and ship items promptly. A seller’s success is in eBay users’ hands after all; a negative seller rating can sink an eBay business before it even gets started.
Sellers also need to familiarize themselves with eBay’s return policies, which tend to focus on making the overall experience better for buyers but not necessarily for sellers.
Most importantly, to successfully sell products on eBay (or anywhere else) you need to develop a unique and compelling business model. You should carefully evaluate your market, your target customers, and your competition. Then design your business model around a true competitive advantage. You should also develop a well thought out business plan.
You might think you need to be a gourmet chef to run a catering business – but that’s not so! One of my friend’s sons started his own catering business when he was just 12 years old and successfully ran it until he went away to college.
He started by serving simple foods for friends of his parents. Then over time he expanded his offerings and his customer base. What’s the takeaway? You too can start with limited food offerings of just your most fabulous foods. If I was starting this business I think I would focus on cooking hot dogs – one of the few foods I can cook well!
Like starting a home bakery, developing a catering service comes with a unique set of food oriented challenges. You may want to check the regulations in your state and municipality on using your home kitchen for commercial cooking. And you want to make sure that you are following food safety regulations and practices.
Catering is a low overhead way to create a food business without all of the hassles and costs of a restaurant. It’s a lot of work but it can be very lucrative and fulfilling. To get started with minimal investment, you could first cook in your customers’ homes and use their dishes.
Historically, successful catering businesses have grown over time, fueled by word of mouth. Today you can rapidly accelerate your growth with digital marketing. While for many businesses a very simple website may be enough, I would recommend that you go all out on your website for this business – including coming up with some incredibly beautiful pictures of your best food dishes.
It’s a big decision for someone to hire a catering firm so make sure that your website gives a potential customer all the information that they need to be comfortable hiring you. I would show off great pictures of every food possible, dig up every testimonial you can find starting with your friends, and post suggested menus, in addition to all your possible food choices. I would further try to ramp up word of mouth by building an email list and using social media.
Do you love dogs? Are you good at taking care of them? Then a doggie bed and breakfast may be the perfect business for you! With a little bit of planning it’s a very doable business!
Check out the local zoning laws to find out if your town allows a business at your location. If they don’t you can apply for a variance. Or you could take a chance and operate your business quietly in violation of the zoning ordinance. A lot of people do that without getting noticed, but realize that you are taking a risk.
To attract customers for your doggie bed and breakfast let the veterinarians, pet shop owners, groomers and other providers of pet services know that you’re in business. Try to hook up with a large local employer—a hospital, perhaps, or a university—and see if you can pick up multiple clients there at once. A friend in Oregon followed those steps and now runs a successful dog boarding operation.
Don’t forget to set up a good website and make sure that you will be found in local search engine results.
You might want to ease into the doggie b&b business by first offering a pet sitting service. What could be an easier business – you mostly sit on the couch, watching Rover chase his tail!
So what exactly is this business? As an affiliate marketer you provide links from your website or blog to another company that sells products or services. You then receive reimbursement from the selling company. The reimbursement is usually a percentage of the sale price but sometimes it is a flat fee.
As an affiliate marketer you may directly contract with the selling firm. For example, Amazon is currently the largest user of affiliate marketing. Their commissions are typically in the 4% range but they can vary by product, by region and change over time. Thousands of other companies, large and small, also offer affiliate marketing programs.
Alternatively you can contract with an affiliate marketing service such as ShareASale and ClickBank. These firms offer thousands of products and services to choose from. Commission rates will vary widely but some are as high as 70%.
You can make money selling just about any type of product or service through affiliate marketing. Some particularly popular product categories include clothing, health products, cosmetics, computer accessories, household items and cooking utensils.
It may sound like an easy gold mine but in my experience it takes a lot of traffic on your website and a lot of tinkering to make good money offering affiliate marketing. I have noticed that the websites that are most successful at this business plan out their pages specifically to build traffic for lucrative affiliate marketing links.
Candles are a huge business with all kinds of opportunities for both making candles and selling candles.
Michael Kittredge initially created a scented candle by melting crayons as a special gift for his mother. People he gave his candles to loved them, so he started to sell them, naming his business Yankee candle. He eventually sold this business for $500 million.
However Kittredge missed the business, so he soon started a new company making premium candles. This is a reminder of how rewarding running your own business can be – even if you don’t need the money!
You can make your candles at home and you can sell them online. You can also approach established retailers to sell them for you. Or you could experiment with selling other people’s candles.
Candles are a competitive business. I once bought a large warehouse complex from a Japanese entrepreneur who had built the largest candle business in his country. He helped his son-in-law start a candle business in the US but it didn’t succeed. He told me his son-in-law was not a great business person.
So like any business you want to start your candle business right. That means first learning about business. And then planning it out very carefully.
My father reached the point in time where his driving ability had deteriorated to the degree where it was best for public safety to keep his car in the garage. But he still wanted to get out around town so my brother and I hired a driver to take him out several afternoons each week.
It was a tremendous solution! My father was happy. His wife got a little quiet time to herself. The senior companion service made money. And the driver not only made money but also got to hear all of my father’s stories – most of them more than once.
Later when we moved my father into assisted living, we discovered he didn’t get a lot of attention for himself there. So we hired a couple of women to keep him company, encourage him to exercise and make sure he was eating well.
What a great business. You’re providing an extremely valuable service. And once you find a companion for a senior the money just keeps coming in – week after week. To get started, find out what the licensing rules are in your state. And do very careful background checks on your service providers.
To find out more about how to get your business going see my course Start-a-Business 101.
As a virtual assistant you’ll help busy entrepreneurs, freelancers and business executives get caught up with all of the little chores they don’t have time to do. Most work is fairly basic and routine. You should be comfortable with common computer applications such as word documents and spreadsheets.
There is a huge demand for virtual assistants. Most assignments are part time and many customers will give you the flexibility to do the work on your own schedule.
The issue with this business is that it is highly competitive, especially for simpler, entry level work. So ideally you should develop a specialty, or strong relationships with your clients, that will allow you to charge higher rates over time.
You’ll need a website, a service niche of some sort and a willingness to network, but opportunities to become a virtual assistant do exist for those who are organized and willing to help others. And it’s a relatively easy home based business to start and succeed at.
You could create a map for tourists or you could create a map that highlights local businesses. You could print a physical map or you could do it completely online.
I created a street map of Cape Cod which I sold copies of. I also sold advertising on the rear of the map, promoting local businesses. And I created a map of Nantucket which featured a street map on one side and a guide to historical attractions on the other side.
To create the street portion of the maps I went to the state highway department, copied their maps, which are in the public domain, and then recreated them on a smaller scale. To create pictures for the historical part of the map, I hired a college art student for very little money.
Each of these businesses I was able to get up and running in just a few weeks with almost no expenses. They were immediately profitable. And then I made even more money by selling each map off as a separate business.
Today you are unlikely to sell copies of your map, so I would focus on selling advertising to local businesses. Then you can ask local businesses to pass out the maps as a favor for their customers. Now you may be thinking “I can’t possibly sell advertising!” Well I once felt I could never sell advertising – but if I can learn how to do it – you can learn how to do it too!
If you choose to create your tourist map or local business guide online, the challenge becomes driving lots of traffic to the website. This is doable but will take a little effort and some expertise in search engine optimization.
One day when I was a teenager I was fixing something on my boat in my front yard. A middle-aged woman stopped by and asked “Are you a carpenter?” I hesitated for a second. Then, I rephrased the question in my mind to “Do you want to make money?” So I responded with a confident sounding “Sure!”
It turned out she owned a few rental cottages that needed some repairs including fixing broken windows. “Can you fix windows?” she asked me. “No problem I responded.” Needless to say, I had no clue how to fix a window pane. But I was sure I could figure it out – and that’s one of the key things to remember in business. Just because you haven’t done something before doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
At the local hardware store I asked the clerk how to fix a broken window pane. Three minutes later I left the store with both the knowledge and the supplies I needed to fix the broken windows. So that’s how my little handyperson service began.
Today I am the one hiring handypersons to fix things around my house to save me time to do more important things – like run my model trains. Living in a larger older house I often have handypersons doing work.
A handyperson is the classic “jack of all trades but master of none.” Customers should not expect you to be super expert at any particular skill or particularly fast at your work. And they will pay you by the hour. But as a handyperson you should be willing to do a large variety of work and be willing to do small jobs. However it’s also fine as a handyperson to say that you are not comfortable doing some work that is over your head.
Then of course you can run a handy person business without doing any work yourself at all. You simply contract out all the work. That way you can hire the best person for each job.
The demand for handypersons is strong and you will get repeat work. But the jobs tend to be small so you’ll need a number of clients to fill up your schedule.
When my son was at Stanford one of his friends was creating apps like he was a one person assembly line. Every week he created a new app that typically generated hundreds of dollars or more in revenue.
Today the app business is more competitive and I wouldn’t recommend this approach of just whipping up lots and lots of apps. But there is still lots of potential in creating apps if you do it carefully. My son’s friend meanwhile has moved on to a management job at Google.
So how do you approach building apps as a business? First don’t jump ahead and think about what the app can do. Instead begin thinking about the potential customer. Are you going to focus on individuals? Business executives? Entrepreneurs?
Next consider how your app might be able to help your target customer. How might it benefit them so much that they would pay for it? Take a look at the competition. How can you be different from them? You should put all of this together in a business plan.
Then come up with a plan to sell your app. Create an awesome landing page including reviews from users and screenshots. If you don’t have reviews from paying customers yet then ask your friends to write some. Next use your best SEO techniques so that your landing page will show up at the top of Google search results.
You might also want to build an audience, which might take a while. Social media can be especially useful for building and connecting with your audience and creating interest in your apps.
I’ve started many of my home businesses part time and been very successful at them. But the key thing to remember is that you need to plan and start a part time business just as carefully as a full time business. That means first learning about how to start a business and also writing up a good business plan.
You can start your daycare business small with just one child for a few hours a week. Or you can grow it into a giant enterprise. For example, Bright Horizons based near me has grown into a $1 billion business with over 1,000 locations.
Daycare is a gigantic industry. In the US there are over 77,000 daycare locations providing revenue of over 40 billion dollars a year. But even if you have big growth plans there is nothing wrong with starting out by providing daycare in your home.
This is another solid repeat customer, steady income business. Plus if you have any of your own kids to take care of you can save the cost of hiring daycare for them.
To start out you’ll need to check the local regulations and get licensed. You’ll need insurance for liability and for worker’s comp for any employees. Then even for a small operation you will want to have written policies for issues such as sick children and late pickups. You’ll want to be up-to-date on CPR, first aid and other emergency procedures.
It might seem like a lot of little things to get in order to start this business, but it is very doable. Plenty of other entrepreneurs are starting daycare businesses every single day.
The human equivalent of a doggie bed and breakfast is Airbnb, the home sharing web site that has put a dent in the traditional hotel business. This is the ultimate home based business, as you literally rent all or part of your home to guests.
Succeeding on Airbnb is all about selling an experience, not just providing a room. The first key to Airbnb is making your property look great online, with high quality pictures that make your offering stand out. Combine that with reasonable pricing and friendly customer service, and Airbnb can become a goldmine.
Make even more money by renting directly and cutting out Airbnb.
I couldn’t believe it when I learned how expensive the window treatments that my wife wanted to get for our first house would be! However as time went by I slowly began to appreciate the substantial appeal attractive window treatments can add to a home. Furthermore they can save a lot of money on utilities.
This is one of those great businesses combining both sales and service – in this case mostly installation. People also like to see the colors and the textures – ideally in their own home. In this business you can start your interaction with customers on your website and by phone or email. Then you can continue the sales process with an appointment at the client’s home.
Digital marketing is also important here. Make sure you have a gorgeous website that really shows off your products. Social media such as Instagram will also be a great venue for displaying some of your beautiful window treatments.
Some people are making very good money podcasting. Let’s take Joe Rogan for example. He licensed his podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience, in a multi year deal to Spotify for a cool 100 million dollars.
What’s also interesting is that Joe doesn’t just focus on one specialized topic but covers a broad range of subjects including neuroscience, comedy, culture and wealth or whatever else he feels like talking about.
But let me be clear. While it’s possible to make a ton of money podcasting, it’s not easy. There are lots of Podcasts online, and if you think you can start podcasting today and sell a few ads tomorrow and quickly bring in enough income to live off of, you’re very likely mistaken. But just like with a blog, there are lots of options for driving revenue through Podcasting that go way beyond simple sponsorship.
The key to successful Podcasting isn’t just racking up listeners in big numbers. It’s getting listeners to engage. A small group of engaged listeners is more valuable than a large but passive audience. Specialize in an area of your expertise or area that you are passionate about.
To really engage your listeners you’re going to want to be authentic, vulnerable, deep, and super distinctive. You should also try to keep connected with them via social media and/or email, as well as your podcast.
There is free software online for Podcasting. You can use your home computer or laptop to start your Podcast. I do recommend that you get a high quality external microphone. To make a go of your Podcast you are going to have to promote the daylights out of it!
The popular myth these days is that anybody with a smartphone can be a photographer. The truth, however, is that professional photography can be a cutthroat business, with demanding clients and fierce competition. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing as a profession for those who have a passion for it.
Of course, photography can take many forms, from photojournalism to portrait photography to general interest stock photography. You’ll most likely go for either setting up a studio in your home or taking pictures for use as stock photos, as true photojournalism requires years of experience and almost never involves actually working from home.
Keep in mind that stock photo sites work on a revenue sharing model, so simply selling pictures to one is unusual.
Even the portrait and general interest options, though, aren’t really for beginners. Photography businesses can be complex operations, with lots of equipment required and years of portfolio and relationship building necessary to really get steady income flowing.
Still, if you’re a hobbyist already, starting a photography business as a side gig is a good way to make some extra money and possibly begin a career change.
Consulting and coaching are both great businesses. If you don’t want to leave your house at all coaching is probably the better option. For example one of my friends is coached virtually over Zoom by his business coach every other week.
Another friend has not one – but two business coaches. One helps him with his business strategy and general direction. The other helps him with his sales skills. Interestingly both of my friends are extremely bright and savvy entrepreneurs. But then it’s not that surprising – because very bright entrepreneurs know that the way to get ahead is to always be learning.
I have a number of friends who offer consulting services and they do really well at it. One friend does organizational consulting for small to medium sized companies. Charging as much as $1,000 an hour he likes to work only 15-20 hours each month, saving the rest of his time for nonprofit work and for his outdoor pursuits.
If you have almost any business skill you can work as a consultant. Executive coaching, business strategy, digital marketing, social media, sales, international business, accounting and logistics are just a few of the specialties that people offer.
So how do you turn your skills into a consulting business? Historically people have only gone into consulting after years of experience and connection building in a particular industry. But today with digital marketing you can jumpstart your consulting business.
You’ll want to put together an awesome LinkedIn profile and an impressive looking website. You’ll want to optimize it to show up in Google searches. Some of my consultant friends also send out short newsletters and informative emails. I would suggest getting publicity on industry websites. Then you should reach out with email, on LinkedIn, and by phone.
*Denotes businesses that were sold. Does not include businesses that I began from commercial locations.
Convert one of the rooms in your home into a yoga studio and you’re ready to offer yoga classes. I have also seen yoga entrepreneurs rent space or even use a room in a client’s house in exchange for a discounted price for the class. And of course you can also teach online. So there are several options for starting this business with little money.
This is another great repeat customer, steady income business. Because your yoga class participants are likely to stay with you for a long time, it is worthwhile to spend time and effort to attract them. It’s also a business that can really benefit from positive word of mouth – which you can further fuel on social media.
To get started, create a compelling website and start building an email list and a social media presence. I would encourage you to personally contact prospective clients on social media, by email or by phone to warm them up to the idea of taking your yoga classes. You might also want to offer a first class for free.
I watched my sister-in-law quickly become successful with a home staging business. What is it exactly? Basically you work for a person selling their home to make it look more appealing to potential buyers.
You might be surprised at how lucrative this business can be. For high end residences, home staging fees can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
One of the more prominent home staging entrepreneurs is Meredith Baer who began her business after selling her own house, following a divorce at the age of 50. She then focused on home staging for luxury homes in the Los Angeles area. Over time she built her company into a $100 million annual revenue business.
In its simplest form you may set up some furniture and some art or other objects to make a house look complete and appealing. These items you would usually get from a furniture rental firm.
However as your business grows you may decide you can make even more money by buying and renting out some of the more commonly used items yourself. You might also decide to offer or arrange for other ancillary services such as landscaping, cleaning or a bit of simple repair work.
To get started, work with real estate agents to obtain referrals. Also, build up an online presence. Be sure to take plenty of pictures of your work. And when you are just getting going, get some pictures of rooms you have put together in your own house or for friends.
To see my all-time favorite ideas, check out the popular article, 1001 Best Small Business Ideas. Most of the business ideas in this extremely comprehensive article can be run from your home.
The era of the home entrepreneur has arrived!
About Bob Adams
Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.