Maybe you’re looking to start a side hustle in order to make some extra cash. Or maybe you’re dipping your toe in the water because you’d like to create a fully fledged business for yourself.
Whatever the case, starting a home-based business can be a great way to get a new venture off the ground. First, working from home means you can start your side hustle even while you’re still employed by your full-time job. Plus, working from home lets you spend more time with your family when your company is in its early stages.
Some people find that being self-employed makes them even more financially stable than a traditional 9-to-5.
These days, all you need is a computer, a business plan and a dream.
Some businesses are better suited to being home-based than others. You can’t work as a plumber from your couch, for example. And you’ll want to work in an industry that you’re passionate about, so if you don’t like working with numbers, you probably shouldn’t go into accounting.
Here’s what you should think about if you’re considering starting a side gig.
You’ll probably need to meet certain criteria if you want new customers to take you seriously.
The first serious step to take toward starting a business is writing a business plan. A business plan is a map that takes you from idea, to formation, to long-term success.
Start with an executive summary that outlines your business concept. Your business plan should include a market analysis; plans for developing your product or service, marketing and sales, and your finances; and any other data or charts that will be useful in explaining how your business will be a success.
A website is required for businesses in this day and age, even for the smallest ventures. A website is the cornerstone of every marketing strategy—it’s how you establish your company as a serious business.
Easy website builders like Wix or SquareSpace can help you create a beautiful, mobile-responsive site. From there, you can drive visitors to your products, your social media channels and your third-party selling platforms like Shopify.
Another anchor, or set of anchors, for your business’s marketing strategy is a set of social media accounts on the largest websites. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are good places to start, though depending on what kind of business you start you may want to explore Pinterest, LinkedIn and other sites.
Social media creates alternate channels for you to interact with customers and potential customers. In addition to building credibility (if a company isn’t on Facebook, for example, customers may look askance), social media is a place to field customer service complaints and distribute marketing materials like videos and behind-the-scenes content.
Operating a business out of your living room doesn’t preclude you from needing various business permits and tax licenses. Requirements will depend on your state.
For a home business, you will need:
General business license: This comes from your city or local government and allows you to operate a business in your locality.
Home occupation permit: Many (but not all) cities and counties require home-based businesses to get an HOP. You’ll need to make sure your neighborhood is zoned for your planned home business activity.
Professional or trade licenses: Certain professions, such as childcare, require specific trade licenses.
Sales tax permit: If you plan to sell taxable goods or services, you may need to collect state and local sales taxes from your customers. And if you declare levies and gross receipts or excise tax, you may need to apply for a tax permit.
You may want to discuss everything you might need with your local chamber of commerce, or your accountant or lawyer.
Again, just because you work from home doesn’t mean you're exempt from certain regulations and protections.
You’ll likely need general liability insurance (which protects you from claims due to injury of a third party) and professional liability insurance (which covers you if your business is sued for negligence). You should customize your insurance policies to meet your specific needs.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start your business. There are a number of excellent venture ideas that just about anybody can start from the comfort of home.
Content is king. All kinds of small businesses, media companies, nonprofits and marketing firms need people who can create it. According to Fundera’s 10 Best Freelance Gigs and Side Hustles of 2019 Report, around 6 percent of freelance writers make more than $50 an hour. That means you’ll need elite writing skills, plus an understanding of SEO and marketing tactics to become a good freelancer with a busy schedule.
If you have the eye and the skills for design, it’s easy to get started designing logos, posters and other virtual or physical visual concepts. You can list yourself on sites like Upwork and Fiverr until you have the portfolio to take on larger jobs directly.
A background in coding would obviously be helpful if you want to get into this business. That said, there are enough resources online nowadays that it’s entirely possible to teach yourself how to code for websites or smartphone applications. Start by creating websites for other business owners who don’t have the time to do it themselves, and move up from there.
It’s easier than ever for freelance accountants and bookkeepers to get started from their home. You no longer need a large amount of corporate infrastructure or to work in-house for businesses—just connect to cloud computing software and go. If you have a mind for numbers, account reconciliations and advising on business growth, this is the way to go.
You don’t need a credential or even a college degree to prepare returns, but the IRS encourages people to enroll in a voluntary Annual Filing Season Program to confirm and strengthen their tax knowledge.
There are entire websites, such as Etsy, dedicated to showcasing homemade crafts. Similar websites that either focus on homemade goods or more professional products (such as pocket squares, leggings or matcha powder) include ArtFire, Shopify and IndieMade. Get set up right away and start selling your wares, turning your hobby into your hustle.
As e-commerce explodes, dropshipping is an increasingly competitive but lucrative small business model. As a dropshipper, you find a product you’re passionate about, and then locate a supplier who manufactures and ships the product for you. Use a site like Oberlo or AliExpress to find verified suppliers who agree to hold and ship inventory on your behalf.
Then, your job is to find customers and market to them. Create a platform using a site like Amazon or Shopify where you can sell “your” inventory to customers. Once they purchase your product, you buy from or notify the supplier, who ships to the customers directly. Whatever the difference between what the customer paid you and the wholesale price you paid the supplier is yours to keep.
Virtual assistants handle a variety of tasks for other executives, such as travel arrangements, email management, data entry, transcription, writing and so much more. Upwork and Priority VA are good places to find gigs in this field.
Do you have extensive experience in a field that can use consultants? Do you feel confident that you could provide coaching, executive or otherwise, to those working full-time in a field you used to dominate? Set yourself up as a freelance consultant and dispense advice from your couch.
If you have an eye for how to bring a room together, you can sell your services as a combination personal shopper and home designer. Check out sites like Fiverr or Upwork to create a profile and start designing for people. Eventually, you might join a dedicated interior design platform like Havenly, where you can post your portfolio and receive job offers.
Do you stay fit? Do you want to help others do the same? Personal trainers are in high demand—the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 10 percent growth in the sector from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. To get started, you might visit people at home (or welcome them to your home) or train them at their gym.
Though an at-home trainer requires no legal certifications, those who want to work through a gym—and command higher prices from their customers—will want a certification through an organization like the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Through NASM, you can become certified as a personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, performance enhancement specialist or fitness nutrition specialist.
Starting an Airbnb or HomeAway business is a great way to rent out extra space in your home, or more efficiently use extra real estate you’re not using. You can even contract management services to take care of booking, interfacing and cleaning—so all you have to do is provide space for people to lay their heads (and maybe some coffee in the mornings).
Of course, if you don’t have time to start an entire business on the side, there are still plenty of ways to make a little extra cash. Your level of commitment will depend, at least in part, on what your goals are.
Budgeting can be hard, especially if you're living paycheck to paycheck. It’s easier than ever to make additional money by starting a home business, so what are you waiting for?
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