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Just because you’re staying at home watching a little one doesn’t mean that you can’t find a lucrative gig. If you find the right small business idea, you can earn a comfortable living from your own home.
There are great stay-at-home business opportunities that you can do full-time, from offering social media management or web development services to getting into real estate with platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo.
If you’re looking for a new way to make money, but your lifestyle keeps you out of an office, here are 20 businesses with low upfront costs that you can start from home. All you need is a great business idea, some hard work, and a strategy.
College Application/Financial Aid Planning Consulting Business
A financial aid planner helps parents get the lowest possible price for their child’s college education, thus saving them money. Tapping into financial aid resources is not just about being smart. It is about being aware of the resources that are available. This business involves advising parents and high school students on selecting a college, filling out the application and financial aid forms, providing tips for writing the college essay, advising parents about tax implications on college savings plans, and negotiating the best possible financial aid package when a college offer is received. A sound knowledge about higher education institutions and a thorough understanding of financial aid options are important. Market your services in high schools, libraries, private tutorial centers and universities.
Tip: Have a good understanding of different financial programs like Byrd Scholarships, Stafford Loans, private and federal grants, and PLUS Loans. Also be current with college savings plans including 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, the Uniform Gift to Minors Act, and Charitable Remainder Unitrusts.
Talking about wearing “pre-owned” clothing has never been a popular coffee table discussion. Times may be changing, though. Recycled clothes are back. The recession has led consumers to save their bucks by buying “gently used” items. Consignment items also work will as an online business.
As a consignment shop owner, you don’t pay anything for your inventory until it is sold, which makes this business ideal for the startup entrepreneur. Take clean, well-cared-for items and display and merchandise them online or at a physical location for the owners, splitting the profits when you make a sale. Many times, the profit split is either 50/50 or 60/40, with the higher percentage going to the consignment shops.
Tip: The key to a successful consignment shop is a pleasant atmosphere. Make it clean, fresh and fashionable.
Gently-used items are not the only thing you can sell online. Here are a few types of eCommerce businesses you can start from home as a parent:
A type of retail fulfillment where the store doesn’t keep products in stock. Instead, when a customer places an order, the store purchases the item from a third-party vendor and has it shipped directly to the customer. This eliminates the need to invest time and money into stocking inventory or storing goods.
Online Subscription Boxes
With subscription boxes, customers can subscribe to receive a box of pre-chosen items each month. This is an ideal business for parents interested in curating unique products and building relationships with their customers.
Selling digital products such as ebooks, videos, audio files, and more is an excellent way for parents to use their knowledge and skills to make money. You can create your own business dedicated to writing content for influencers or ghostwriting for bloggers.
This business model can even allow you to transition into digital marketing — with some luck (and high-quality hard work), you could even become a business owner of a successful digital marketing firm.
A niche product caters to an incredibly specific customer base and solves their problem. If you have a unique idea that solves a real-world problem, this could be the perfect type of business.
Related: How to Start a Business Online
Freelance writers can write articles on any topic, from horse training to buying an RV. A good way to start is by writing about subjects in which you are already an expert. The Writer’s Market lists guidelines for thousands of publications.
Ghost writing is a good pursuit for freelancers looking for money and willing to forgo a byline. Websites are always on the lookout for quality freelancers, too. Create a website to promote your freelance writing business.
Either way, freelance writing can be a great home business idea and evolve into various work-from-home career paths. For instance, a client may want to bring you on as a virtual assistant to help with bookkeeping and memo-writing as a result of great copy.
Additionally, you could start your own blog and transition into the influencer market, getting income from affiliate marketing programs, starting a podcast, and running an online store using Shopify integrations or low-cost sites like eBay or Etsy.
There are many ways freelancing can turn into a full-time job, making it one of the best small business ideas. Since the pandemic, more homeowners than ever have broken into freelancing. As long as you have an internet connection, you can start freelancing today.
Tip: Your initial queries are likely to get rejected many times. Cultivate a stoic resilience to rejection.
Herb farms are one of the fastest-growing industries. Medicinal herbs, herbal teas, culinary herbs, and herbs for candles and aromatherapy are just the tip of the iceberg. A solid working knowledge of growing herbs is essential.
Flowers used to scent potpourri, soap, candles and fragrant concoctions require just a few square feet of growing space. Most of your product preparation can easily take place in an average-size kitchen equipped with no more than a shelf, stove and counter work space.
Becoming a gardening teacher is a creative way to make money from your green thumb. Offer gardening seminars in your backyard, community colleges, recreation centers and local nurseries. Offer a class each month on a different aspect of gardening, including planning flower beds, learning about perennials, preparing the soil, creating an English garden, bulb planting, and the like.
Growing orchids can be a lucrative business if you are willing to spend time and considerable effort. Although they are typically grown in tropical areas, orchids can also be grown as houseplants or in greenhouses.
Tip: Through gardening, you can branch off to floral arrangements and market your products to local inns, hotels, wedding planners, churches, roadside flower sales and florists.
Gift Basket-Making Business
From corporate parties to baby showers, holidays and birthdays, gift baskets can be tailored to suit the taste of anyone. Gift basket entrepreneurs need a flair for the creative and the design ability to buy gifts and tuck them into baskets, decorative tins, boxes or bags. Attractive packaging is an important part of the gift basket business. You can’t just throw some objects together and stick on a bow.
Market your gift baskets by taking photos of them. Prepare a brochure listing the contents of each basket and its price. You can sell your baskets online, to corporate offices, through mail order and in local shops.
Tip: There is a large, untapped market for merchandise with university and sports team logos on them. You will first need to get approval from the university’s licensing department to make gift baskets that have merchandise with their logo.
Duties of a graphic designer include designing flyers, informational pamphlets, product catalogs and advertisements. Graphic designers also consult with printers or publishers to identify the best choice of paper, cover stocks and printing processes for any given assignment.
Market your services to ad agencies, publishing companies, small magazines, corporations, product manufacturers and individual entrepreneurs.
Tip: Good listening skills are essential to running a successful graphic designing business. You need to understand completely what your clients want.
Grant Writing Business
The grant writer is the vital link between a funder and a grant seeker. Grant writers work as independent contractors, full- or part-time development officers, and freelancers. Nonprofit organizations account for the largest percentage of grant seekers.
Grant writers can apply for a myriad of categories of funding, including project grants, general operating grants, endowment grants, restricted grants, startup funding, matching grants, and challenge grants. Some websites that will help you start researching funders are www.fdncenter.org, www.tgci.com and www.fundsnetservices.com.
Tip: This is a field that you can learn on your own and offer your services for a handsome fee. Very few nonprofits require certification from their grant writers.
Home Health-Care Agency
An 80-year-old wants to live in his own home but has trouble bathing, fixing meals and cleaning the house. As a home health-care business, your responsibility is to send an employee to assist with the daily tasks of living.
Home health care is a rapidly growing business with today’s skyrocketing costs of assisted living facilities and live-in nurses. Find out the legal requirements to run a home health-care agency in your area. Always be up to date on the laws for administering any kind of medication. Advertise your services at local community centers, rehabilitation centers, doctors’ offices and hospitals.
Tip: You need top-notch people skills and an instinct for determining which caregiver to pair with which client. Most importantly, you must have a knack for hiring employees with monumental patience.
As long as dirt and grime exist, there will be a need for house-cleaning services. In many homes and apartments, people want to enjoy the luxury of not having to scrub floors and dust furniture.
Tip: With each new client, find out exactly what they need and expect from you. Catering to the wishes of your clients is as important as a good cleaning job and will earn you loyal and returning customers.
Medical Billing Business
Medical billing is the process by which doctors and hospitals receive payment from health insurance companies. It also involves resolving any disputes and following up on claims that have been delayed or rejected. Medical billing services provide coding, invoicing and collection services to different types of health-care facilities. Individuals can get certified by enrolling in schools that have medicalbilling programs, or via online courses.
Tip: Working in a doctor’s office can be helpful in understanding how patients are billed.
Mobile Spa Business
Bring the spa experience to your clients via a mobile day spa. Mobile spa treatments can be offered in homes, offices or hotels. A mobile spa offers facials, massages, bridal hair and makeup, body treatments, manicures and pedicures. Mobile spas have low startup costs. There are no ongoing costs like those involved in operating a storefront operation such as rent, utilities, maintenance and insurance. Massage therapists, manicurists and hairdressers can run a successful mobile spa business.
Market your business to clients who are working from home and do not have time to go to a spa, older folks who cannot leave their homes, working professionals who want a break during a high-stress period, and clients who are not physically able to get themselves out of the house due to illness.
Tip: Carry a mobile retail shop with skin-care products and accessories such as herbal neck wraps, spa slippers and ointments for your clients.
Check with the medical board in your state to determine its position on medical spa treatments. Opening a medical spa can be a sensitive issue in certain areas of the industry because there is controversy in the field. Next, determine which type of medical spa you want to start. Popular medical spa treatments include Botox, laser hair removal and anti-aging skin-care services.
Tip: Always have an attorney review documents before signing any contracts.
Music for Kids
Music is an important part of early childhood development. Market your musical skills at day cares, kindergartens and preschools. Call day-care directors, school principals and teachers. Sometimes you may have to schedule a free first performance to get paid for ensuing performances. They like to see how the kids interact with your music before scheduling you on a regular basis.
Tip: Make your performance interactive and not a mere display. Get the kids involved.
Paper Shredding and Recycling Business
Many businesses — such as banks, financial institutions and medical facilities — are required by law to protect the confidentiality and security of patrons. Many businesses have an overload of documents that, for security reasons, cannot be thrown in the trash. Hiring a papershredding service is an investment for them. A mobile document shredding service goes to its clients and shreds their documents on-site, then removes the shredded paper and takes it to a recycling center.
Tip: Aside from shredding paper documents, a paper shredding service can offer the ability to destroy hard drives as well, along with other media such as CDs and DVDs.
There’s nothing like satisfying a hungry stomach with a hearty meal and getting paid for it. Personal chefs can market their business to just about anybody who likes to eat well and is willing to pay for it.
In addition to cooking skills, personal chefs also need a working knowledge of nutrition and excellent organizational skills. A sound understanding of safe food handling practices, health regulations and product liability laws are also essential.
Tip: Be ready to adapt to working in different kitchens. Some clients will have good, workable pots and pans and utensils; others won’t. Investing in a travel set of cooking utensils and pots and pans may be a wise idea.
Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business
This is a great job for animal lovers who enjoy getting paid for caring for and playing with other people’s pets. Dogs and cats are the most common pets that need care when owners are away, but you will occasionally be asked to take care of rabbits, hamsters, birds and tropical fish.
Dog walking can bring in good cash, especially if you market your services in retirement communities, where many residents may lack the energy and motivation to take their pets for their daily walks.
Tip: If you are an animal lover, a mobile dog and cat grooming business can bring consistent income.
Custom curtain making is a profitable business if you have an interest in interior design. You can specialize in designing, sewing and installing window treatments. By providing multiple services, you can charge a great deal more than if you just stitch together basic curtains for customers.
If you enjoy embroidery and hand sewing, a quilt designing business is for you. Monogrammed baby quilts are particularly popular since they make wonderful gifts.
Doll dress designing is trendy. Ask as many little girls as you can what kinds of doll clothes they like. If you are not in touch with what the kids like, your clothes won’t sell. Offering such accessories as doll hair ribbons, hats, socks, tights and slippers can be good for your business.
Tip: Making custom bridal veils is a great way to make money using your sewing skills. It is also a good way to enter the lucrative bridal market. Provide a distinctive service by crafting one-of-a-kind veils and headpieces. The ability to choose a headpiece that is most flattering to a particular bride’s facial structure is important. You can branch out by making First Communion veils.
A bar of soap may cost 10 cents to make and can be sold from $1 to $4, and there is a growing market of green buyers in this market. Many people are going back to basics and buying all-natural soaps. By adding special herbs, fragrances and colors, you can make gourmet and specialty soaps right in your own kitchen.
Tip: Packaging is everything.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry wants a website these days, but they don’t know how to do it themselves. If you are running any kind of business today, a website is just as important as naming your business.
From hosting domain names to managing web content, a website consultant builds and maintains websites. Having an understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a plus. As a website consultant, you will need experience in links, banners and affiliate programs, and a talent for graphics and copywriting.
Tip: Branch off your business into website maintenance, where you charge a monthly fee to make small changes and additions to a client’s website.
Web design is the process of creating websites. A web designer will start by choosing a template and then they will begin to customize the website by adding content and images. They will also choose the fonts and colors that will be used on the website.
To become a successful web designer, you’ll need to learn how to use various design software programs, such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver. You can also learn about web design by taking online courses or reading books about the subject.
Here are some other common requirements for freelance web designers:
- Understanding of user experience (UX) design principles.
- SEO savviness.
- Ability to collaborate with clients and colleagues.
- A portfolio that showcases your work.
- Experience with web hosting services and content management systems (CMS).
Lastly, you’ll need to be able to market yourself as a web designer and promote your services. You can do this by networking with other freelancers on LinkedIn and creating an online portfolio of your work.
You’ll also want to remain current on industry trends to keep up with the competition. Knowing which successful businesses are thriving and which new businesses are pursuing interesting work will help both beginners and experienced web designers. Having a sense of the industry can also help you ensure your side hustle could develop into a good business in time.
Unlike web design, which focuses on the aesthetic elements of a website, web development is more concerned with the functionality and technical aspects of a website. This includes things like coding, programming, and database management.
While online courses and books are great resources for learning web development, it’s best to gain experience by working on projects for other clients. Experience with a great business is an excellent way to support your skill set on a resume.
Here are a few tips for finding your first clients and getting your feet wet:
- Reach out to people in your network, such as friends or family members, who may need your web development services.
- Join online forums for web developers to network and find paying opportunities.
- Look for job postings on sites like Upwork or Freelancer.
- Sign up for web development gigs on platforms like Fiverr or Toptal.
- Offer free web development services to small organizations in exchange for a portfolio-building experience.
As with other stay-at-home jobs, web development requires you to stay up to date on the industry trends, tools, and technologies. With so much new information coming out every day, make it a priority to remain informed and continue to hone your skills.
A related small business idea would be becoming a social media manager. Having web development skills can be helpful when using your social media skills to take advantage of this home-based business opportunity.
Wedding Planner or Bridal Consultant
Couples are marrying later than ever, after having spent years as working singles, getting advanced degrees or living together. They have the funds to splurge on lavish weddings. This means great earning potential for wedding planners. You will need a working knowledge of what goes into planning a wedding, including resources and price ranges for everything from invitations to musicians.
Tip: This is a business where you have to be extremely organized and detail-oriented. Forgetting to put down the deposit for the ballroom or to order the yellow roses can be disastrous.
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