Wanting to run your own business from home is one thing; deciding what to do is quite another. Here Claire explores some of the current opportunities for people looking to set up on their own.
If you have spare equity and some savvy (including have done some deep and careful research), this could be the right time to invest in property. Historically property rises at 8% annually, even taking into account normal market fluctuations like the one we're in at the moment. So if you can do it and ride out the recession, you're likely be on to winner. The trick is to find the right property at the right price in the right location, and that means research, research and research again. Since the credit crunch the banks are looking for a minimum of 20% down, and most much more than that, plus the income requirements have become pretty stringent. Visit www.motleyfool.co.uk for up to date guidance.
The internet just keeps getting busier and busier, despite the recession, so set up your shop window and sell your goods. You can do it all yourself and set up a store in a good cms website or a dedicated site for what you are selling, you can use ebay, or there’s always café press, which allows you to create your own customized branded goods for a small percentage on anything sold.
The range of franchisees available is growing every year, and women are the new major force as more and more franchisees look to recruit them for their business. See www.whichfranchise.com for details.
Start a Franchisable Business
Have a good idea or a small business you always thought could be duplicated? Franchise it and help other people make money for you as well as themselves. Find out how at www.how2franchise.com
Be a Party Planner
Lots of companies, such as Barefoot Books, Ann Summers and Virgin Vie, use party selling and are always on the look out for new recruits. Most parties happen in the evenings and you usually have to buy a certain amount of stock in advance.
Become a Flipper
Buy something other people want at cost price (or better still, get it free) and then sell it on at a higher price from your shop, store, site or via eBay. If it’s something that’s sold out fast, such as certain key pieces from Kate Moss’s collection at Top Shop, so much the better, but anything can work if there’s a demand you can supply, whether it’s as good-as-new clothes, designer bags, or wood chips. Once you make a name for yourself, people will keep on returning, so it pays to specialize.
Become an Expert
If you have specialist knowledge already, create yourself a niche website, starting blogging and write an ebook. Make sure the strapline is in your email signature (ie Catherine Hodges, ‘the yellow rose specialist’) and join relevant forums where you can chat about your subject. If you aren’t an expert already, or you’ve seen a niche you want to exploit, then research, research, research, before you do the above.
Become a Guide
Continuing from the above, about.com is always looking for experts and if your expertise fits what they are looking for, then sign up to do the prep course – they say their top guides make $100,000 a year.
Become a Blogger
Got still more expertise to share? Become a blogger and entertain the world while you build your reputation further. Your audience gets it free, of course, but you can moneterise your blog if you add Google ads to your page, plus affiliates if you want to. Check out www.wordpress.com.
People will pay others a lot of money for referrals, via affiliates. The affiliate marketing is a thriving community with the top 10% of affiliates making large amounts of money every week. Check out www.affiliates4u.com for more details.
Sell your Photographs
If you have a good eye, a decent camera and a large collection of photographs (or the determination to create one) then upload your photos to online agencies and get paid when people use them. Even better, check out the gaps and set out to fill them, whether that’s a particular city, a certain flower, or a celebrity. If people need it and you can supply it, you’ll reap the benefits. Check out fotolia.com, shutterstock.com and picturenation.com.
Write for Cash
Writing articles and copy for magazines or agencies is a field that can take years to break into, but if you have specialist knowledge you can speed up the process by writing articles and posting them online with a search link back to your website.
Virtual Assistant/HR/Office Services
Sole traders, freelancers and small companies often need small amounts of additional help or expertise, whether that’s answering the telephone for them, sending out letters or emails, a day’s HR every month, a couple of mornings credit control, or a day’s book keeping a month. Fill that niche and you’ll soon be so in demand you’ll be able to start your own agency.
Turn your Hobby into a Business
Create handmade cards? Make sock monsters for the kids? Love making bespoke picture frames? Whatever your specialty you can turn it into a business with a little know how. All you really need is to create a brand (basically a name, a logo and a strapline), an ecommerce web page (which can be your own site, in an established directory or a store on eBay) and start marketing it online. Offline, you can supply local shops as well as take stalls at church and school fetes – keep an eye on the local paper and parish magazines for details.
Salesperson of the Year
Your average freelancer or creative hates having to sell what they do, and a surprising amount of small businesses have an equally strong block about it, so if you can talk the hindlegs and sell snow, etc, and are fine about picking up the phone to do it, then research your niche and approach companies/freelancers personally. Most will pay you commission on sales, but you might also be able to negotiate a monthly retainer.
Everyone seems to have a home computer these days, and if you work from home, freelance or run your own small business, it’s essential. However, like cars, most people only know how to drive their equipment, not how to maximize its potential, solve expansion problems (ie networking extra computers or adding a server for storage), or mend it when it goes wrong. If you can do that, you’ll hit gold, and some businesses may pay you a small monthly retainer in exchange for peace of mind.
Become a Apprentice
The lack of apprentices over the last 20-30 years has resulted in a lack of essential services, such as electricians, plumbers and carpenters. In addition, the need for these essential skills is getting ever greater with the increase in new homes and the changes to the way we live, so the pay is good and job security high. Many colleges offer evening courses or you can learn the theory with home courses. Search the web for opportunities near you.
Get in to Retail
Some things will always be in demand, whether new or second hand, and if you like being in the shop trade, then consider what you can sell, how and where. One of the most successful stores on my local market is the Olive man, who has carved himself a niche supplying better and nicer olives and related products than are stocked in the supermarkets. He’s been so successful that he now employs lots of people to cover all the markets in his area. You’ll need money to buy the stock, somewhere to sell from (online or offline) and somewhere to store it, but people can and do start successful businesses doing just this from their kitchen tables, so get researching.
Supply Children’s Parties
Source and supply everything a busy mother (or father) could possibly need to create the perfect children’s party, from the entertainers to the bouncy castle to the printed paper plates.
Open a Bed and Breakfast, or Rent your Spare Room
If you live in an area that attracts tourists, a bed and breakfast can bump your income for very little outlay. Register yourself with your local tourist board, and you’re away. Near a large national or international firm? They often need short term/week time only rooms for employees on secondment – ring and ask their HR department. How about a foreign language school? If they haven’t got their own accomodation, they may pay for host families – check out www.oise.co.uk in the UK.
Start a Domestic Agency
The demand for domestic services is high these days as we get busier and busier and the need for mobile/part time cleaning, housekeeping, mobile laundry services, or party catering is increasing apace. If this is your bag, set yourself up and advertise locally – check out your local newspaper and it’s website, remember parish magazines and that many stores and shops have notice boards, or you could do a leaflet drop to homes or offices. Having your car(s) branded with your company name and number is a good way to get the company known, as is a referral card you give all your customers.
People love pets, but they’re often too busy to look after them as well as they would like, which is where you come in by supplying them with all the essential services a pampered pooch could require, such as grooming, clipping, walking, or feeding.
Beauty and Wellbeing Services
The beauty and therapist industries are thriving too, and for the same reason the pet service market is - people are leading very busy lives. See our Funky Spa for advice and courses and spotlights on different therapies, and get creative with it.
Childminding is one of the most well trodden paths for new mums into the world of running their own business. Your local council should run courses - contact them for details. Other options in the field of childcare are setting up your own afterschool club service, holiday play scheme, or nursery. You could also start your own nanny or au pair agency.
Whatever your niche, or the niche you have spotted, consider hiring out the specialist equipment. The initial investment could be quite high, but the returns could well pay for it over and over again. Get creative and think about DJ and disco equipment, sound systems, video editing suites, bikes, children’s play equipment, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, DIY tools, sanders and strippers.
Like a flutter and always fancied being your own stockbroker? It’s never been easier with the advent of the internet, but before you throw yourself in, do your homework first because while there are fortunes to be made, especially buying low in a recession, equally you could lose it all in a short space of time, as one friend of mine did to the tune of two houses and a marriage. Check out www.motleyfool.co.uk - they offer a share dealing service and heaps of good advice.
© Claire Burdett
Claire Burdett is a qualified and experienced business coach, a home business expert and a serial entrepreneur.
She is also divorced and a solo mum.