People have heard of the big names, such as computer manufacturer Apple, starting out as home-based businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration says that more than half of all U.S. businesses are work-at-home businesses. Although not every business turns into a giant multinational, people have several ideas and opportunities to choose from, including consulting, franchising and working online.
Consulting is the simplest home business idea. The funding requirements are modest, although you will need enough savings to live on until you have secured a few clients and contracts. Marketing, networking and responding to proposal requests are ways of growing a consulting business. Depending on your expertise, you can offer accounting, project management and tax planning consultation services to individuals and small businesses. Event planning for business meetings, conferences and trade shows are other consulting opportunities.
Franchising involves being an affiliate of an established business. Home-based franchises do exist, but ensure that you are getting value for your franchise fee and the royalty payments. For example, assess whether the franchise has instant name recognition in your area or if you have to build brand awareness from scratch. Name recognition draws consumers to your business, which would justify franchise fees and royalties. Options include ServiceMaster Clean, which is a commercial cleaning business, and Apex Payroll, which has a national footprint of licensees providing payroll, human resources and other services to small businesses.
The technological advances since the mid-1990s have opened up multiple opportunities for working from home. High-speed connections to the Internet allow people to create their own business websites, market their services and search for contract opportunities. Organizations often hire employees only on part-time online contracts, essentially as virtual employees, who stay connected through online forums and are paid electronically for their services. Examples of these online opportunities include transcription and editing, writing reports, preparing business plans and providing online tutoring.
Other work-from-home ideas include catering services for birthday parties, small weddings and anniversaries; a babysitting service, which may require licensing from local health and child welfare services; a pet-sitting service, which may require approvals from your landlord and potentially your neighbors; and tutoring services for middle and high-school students.
A home-based business means you can run errands, drop off your kids at school, look after sick family members and work on your projects. The Internal Revenue Service allows certain home expenses to be deducted in proportion to the part of the home being used exclusively for business purposes. However, the disadvantages include various distractions, clients dropping in at all times and space taken up for consulting activities.