Start A Home-Based Business

20 ways to Start A Home-Based Business

20 Low cost start-up opportunities for home workers working from home. This is the natural choice for anyone to develop an independent income. Wherever you happen to live, there's a lucrative home based opportunity here to suit you.

It is not difficult to see why home working is becoming so popular. It is one of the simplest ways to start in business, as you can fit the work in around your family and lifestyle and cut out unnecessary overheads.

'Downshifting' is becoming commonplace, with people swapping dull city jobs for a self sufficient living, often in the countryside, combining an independent income with a more relaxed lifestyle. Others simply find that they can earn far more freelancing from home than they could in any job working for someone else.

Whether you are a country or city dweller, whether you just want some extra part time cash, or you are ready to throw yourself into a new full time business, there is a practical and profitable opportunity here for you.

Don't forget you can offset the costs of heat, light, phone and travel against tax as well as most legitimate business expenses.

1. Vehicle Maintenance and Repair

If you are adept at repairing cars and motorbikes, this is a superb money maker. If your home has no garage attached that can be used as a workshop, you may have to lease one. However, since customers won't always have time to drop their cars off, you can offer a mobile maintenance service, providing on the spot maintenance, servicing and repairs. This will be a real selling point, so mention it in your ads.

As well as a local listing, use flyers and newspaper ads to build up custom. Always hand customers your business card and ask them to recommend you to their friends. Set your charges slightly lower than the competition, but remember to add on a call out fee. There is an absolutely huge demand for a reliable and cheap home-visit repair service. People do not want to take their car to a garage for days and then pay a large bill - they want to call in 'Joe' and have him come around that evening and fix it for £30. That's the plain truth. If you can offer this service you will never be short of work.

2. Fortune Telling and Prediction

If you are fascinated by fortune telling and the occult, then why not set up a home prediction agency? Telling people's fortunes by reading horoscopes, palms, tea leaves, and so on, is no longer a fairground novelty - people pay hefty fees to have their fortunes told and many home-based fortune tellers earn a good living. While you can invite customers into your home for readings, most services can be marketed by post - one reason why this has great potential.

For example, you could offer postal astrological readings via magazine ads. Get customers to send in their date/time of birth and produce a reading based on it. It is possible to obtain computer programs that calculate horoscopes, which help cut down the work involved in preparing a reading. Why not learn all of the main predictive arts, including astrology, palmistry and tarot card reading, plus many lesser known arts such as Chinese astrology and pendulum dowsing? You will also need to learn about setting up a prediction business, how to market each service and how to deal with administration, finance and other business basics, providing an in-depth start up guide to a fortune telling service.

3. Gardening Services

Anyone with a little spare time can make money by weeding, mowing lawns, hedge trimming and generally keeping clients' gardens spick and span. To get customers, place cards in shop windows and other obvious places, and go door to door, posting flyers and introducing yourself in person. Like the home-mechanic idea, people are desperate for gardeners. In the South of England, for example, you simply cannot get a gardener - at any price.

Make sure you look presentable, and explain the service you offer in a courteous and polite manner. So long as you are hard working and reliable, people will recommend you to friends and neighbours, so work hard on developing personal contacts and do a thorough job.

4. Word Processing

If you have WP skills you can get work just about anywhere. You will either need a PC with a quality printer and some form of WP program, or a dedicated word processor - these can be picked up cheaply second-hand, so check classified ads and boot sales. Promote your services to small businesses, who often need letters and reports typing up. You can either do this at your own home or at the firm's premises. It is useful to have experience in taking dictation from a machine or over the phone.

Employment agencies are always looking for people with WP and office skills, so use them as a source of work. For extra income, provide a service typing up CVs, students' theses, and authors' manuscripts.

5. Bookkeeping/Accountancy

Freelance bookkeepers are in constant demand with small businesses, who may lack the time, expertise or willingness to deal with company accounts themselves, but can't afford the fees of large accountancy firms. You'll need experience and/or professional qualifications, although local colleges provide courses in basic accounts and bookkeeping. It'll be to your advantage if you're skilled in using computer packages such as Sage or Pegasus. As well as finding clients yourself, get work by joining an agency for accounts staff.

6. Desktop Publishing

Any DTP experience you have can be put to good use by producing newsletters, magazines, brochures, flyers and so on. Target small firms, community groups and other organisations, who constantly require promotional materials such as these. If you have journalistic and editorial experience, offer to write the copy. It's a good idea to inform advertising and PR agencies of your services and pitch for any freelance work they can offer you.

7. Computer Retail and Consultancy

There's no reason why your home can't be the base for a buying and selling enterprise. Selling computers is one of the most lucrative. Many people start by purchasing used computers from firms who are upgrading their systems, clean them up and sell them on at a profit. You can also buy them direct from the manufacturer and sell them to businesses, schools and individuals locally, along with software, accessories (printer/modem, etc.) and peripherals. If you're knowledgeable about computer systems, offering your services as a business computer consultant will make money in its own right but is also a great way of picking up sales orders.

8. Mail Order

There are masses of profitable home-based mail order operations, each following the same basic formula. First you must source a potentially popular product. This could be anything, and might be something you've imported (see Talking Cents on page 12 for ideas), something you're selling on behalf of another UK firm, or something you've produced yourself, such as a business manual.

You may be acting as an agent, contacting the sales offices of large retailers and wholesalers to attempt to secure bulk orders, or you'll be trying to sell directly to the end customer. Standard marketing methods include 'off the page' selling (placing ads in suitable trade/consumer publications), and direct mail (purchasing the mailing lists of companies selling similar products, mailing to those people, and building up a customer database).

Select the right product, set the right price and promote it in the right way, and you can earn big money. If you want to make a living in mail order, then Medina Limited runs a home study course, "The Golden Mailbox", which covers all you need to know about starting a home based mail order business. Telephone the Medina office on 01189 462606 for further details.

9. Teaching

If you're experienced in any one subject, there's money to be made in home tutoring. Computers, music, language, car mechanics, DIY, photography and gardening are just a few subjects that are in demand. As a home tutor you'll travel to your pupils' houses to give (usually) one to one tuition, charging anything from £5 to £30 per hour for the privilege. To publicise yourself, put up cards and posters in shop windows, on notice boards, and on the walls of community centres. You could also promote your service via a local school or college.

10. Local Classes

Rather than visiting your pupils, let them come to you. Your home could provide the venue for all kinds of classes for local people: aerobics, beauty, slimming, karate... Anything, in fact, provided the demand is there. To hold the interest of pupils, use visual aids such as a white board (available from most stationers) or your VCR. If your lounge isn't big enough you may need to hire a room at a nearby school, church hall or community centre.

11. Mobile Catering

A mobile catering service is the perfect business for someone with culinary talents who loves to meet people. Catering for large corporate events - staff parties, meetings, sales promotions - is where the big money is, although planning and cooking the food in your kitchen beforehand and preparing and serving it on the day can be extremely stressful and labour intensive. You may have to hire kitchen and waiting staff to help out. Those with less spare time could cater for small parties, jumble/car boot sales and other local events, or offer a cake making and decorating service. As well as the usual advertising methods (newspaper ads, flyers, postcards), why not promote your service through nearby shops? They could put up a sign and take orders for you in return for a small commission.

12. Growing Vegetables and Plants

If you have green fingers, use your garden as a source of profit. Make money supplying fruit and vegetables to local greengrocers, or sell them yourself from a market stall or your own front door. There's increasing demand for organically grown produce. House and garden plants are profitable, especially species that are both attractive and rare. Cash in by selling them from your home or from the back of your car at boot sales, by supplying garden centres, or by selling plants to firms to brighten up their offices. Seedlings and small plants can also be sold by mail order. Flowers, dried flowers and herbs are potentially lucrative too.

13. Garden Landscaping

Anyone with a keen interest in gardens should consider offering a landscaping service. In accordance with your client's wishes you'll need to draft an overall design, incorporating plants, bushes, trees, flowers, features (e.g. rockeries, ponds) and furniture (e.g. gazebos, statues). You'll need an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and garden materials (and where to get them from), along with a flair for drawing and design. It's possible to obtain computer graphics packages that enable you to construct garden designs - this will impress clients. Qualifications aren't necessary, but will help you give your service a more professional image. Consult your careers library or ask at your local further education college for details.

14. Domestic Repair Services

If you're handy with a spanner or know your way around a TV's insides, this could be the business for you. Depending on your skills you could offer a service fixing people's plumbing, mending their gas and electrical appliances, or even their televisions. If you charge less than other commercial enterprises you're likely to become the public's first choice, especially if you've gone out of your way to provide a friendly and efficient service. Charge more for immediate and/or night time call out. You could get customers to pay an annual fee to guarantee immediate call out and cover repair costs - similar to the kind of service AA provides with cars. Don't forget to concentrate on those all important personal recommendations!

15. Building

The building market is thriving and there's always room for another firm. It's the perfect business for someone who's into DIY. Formal qualifications aren't required, but ideally you should have some experience. Membership of the Federation of Master Builders and Guild of Master Craftsmen will make your business appear more professional, serving to reassure customers that you'll do a good job.

16. Car Boot Sales

As a way of earning some part time cash, car boot sales are ideal. Start by selling off your unwanted household items and bric-a-brac. When stocks run low, pick up cheap goods from jumble sales and thrift shops, do them up, and sell them as new. Furniture, for example, can be easily cleaned, polished and re-sold. Alternatively, buy job lots of items from wholesalers and sell them at a profit. If the earnings aren't enough, switch to something that sells better. Alternatively, start organising your own car boot sales. These could earn you well over £600 per sale - 40 sellers at £20 each makes £800 gross, minus, say, £120 for promotion and £80 to hire the sale area.

17. Packing Envelopes and Novelties

This is a classic home working opportunity. While it doesn't pay a fantastic amount, it's something you can do while watching the TV or minding the children - you can even get them to help! Beware of ads in shop windows. There are many legitimate operators, but there are a number of con artists around. Your local Chamber of Commerce should be able to inform you of firms looking for home based envelope stuffers and box packers. You may need to collect and deliver the items yourself. If you're working for an agent, cut out the middle man if possible and try to contract from the firm directly. Your earnings will be far larger and you can always pass on extra work to friends.

18. Painting and Photography

Portrait photographs and paintings - of people, pets, places, even people's own homes - are popular and make superb gifts, so this is a great business for anyone with suitable talent and equipment. While you'll normally work at the client's premises or in your studio, they don't necessarily need to be present. You can work from a photograph, meaning this service can be marketed by mail order, which helps to boost revenue.

You can set a high profit margin on commissioned paintings/photographs, and also charge for frames and reprints. When you're not working on a commissioned portrait, paint or photograph local places of interest to sell as a sideline via galleries and art dealers, or sell them yourself by setting up a market stall or street display. Market this service widely, place ads in magazines and newspapers, give out flyers and business cards, do free portraits for local newspapers in exchange for free promotion, set up a stall in busy shopping centres, car boot sales, etc., get your work displayed in shops, libraries and schools, give local painting/photography classes - anything to establish your reputation.

19. Domestic Work

Cleaning, washing and ironing for people too busy to do the work themselves is a reliable money maker. Put up cards in shop windows, ask around, or go door to door and hand out flyers in order to get customers. Offer to do other household chores if required, such as mowing the lawn, cleaning the windows or walking the dog. If you can be a friend to your clients as well as being useful, you'll do well.

20. Playgroup/Childcare Service

If you're good with children then why not set up a playgroup or child minding service at your home? Keep them amused with games, toys, art and craft materials, books and story readings. Unless you're only looking after the children of friends and neighbours, you'll need to comply with Social Services regulations and vetting procedures. Contact your local council for details.

Five Home Business Start-up Tips

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