Before I got into blogging, I had a habit of trying different business ideas. The thrill of earning extra cash prompted me to try some pretty random things; selling vintage items on Ebay, cleaning houses, glittering cards for a stationery company, doing online questionnaires, selling natural hair products online, selling t-shirts at summer festivals and doing a monthly newsletter for a local business. Some of this work I hated, some I loved. Each experience taught me a little bit more about myself, and what it takes to start a business.
Here is my advice for getting started in home-based work.
1. Start with what you’re interested in, what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Everyone has talents and interest. Can you draw well? Are you stylish? Is your house always neat? Are your finances always in order? Is your hair always beautifully done? Are you funny? Do you mix your own beauty products? Do you make your own jewelry? At the heart, home-based work is about taking something you have an affinity for, and finding a way to earn money off of it.
2. Sometimes it’s just about doing things that others are too tired, unmotivated or busy to do. Can you do someone’s taxes and charge $75? Can you bake a cake for a friend’s party? Can you clean a busy friend’s house? Can you charge neighbors to watch their kids during the day? These ideas aren’t glamorous, but they’re solid and marketable!
3. It helps to be self-motivated and a self-starter. Certain personality types do best with home-based work; individuals who are organized and self-motivated to achieve short-term (keeping your days productive) and long-term (getting your business to profitability) goals.
4. If not, partner up with someone who is driven and organized. If you have a great idea, but need some help — partner up with someone you trust to bring it to fruition. I have found older family members (parents, grandparents, in-laws, aunts) to be a great resource for this. They tend to have more time on their hands, can be trusted with proprietary information and would welcome a chance to work with their child/daughter-in-law/granddaughter/niece.
But please be sure that whoever you partner with is reliable and will do their share of work. I once went into business with a friend who turned out to be unreliable. This destroyed both the business and our friendship.
5. Once you have an idea don’t overthink and procrastinate. Just do it. I know quite a few people who have ‘great ideas’ but are ‘waiting for the right time.’ Look… the right time is now! You’re really not going to know exactly what works as a business until you test it out, so the sooner is the better! The beauty of a home-based business is that it’s not a 9 to 5. There’s no contract to sign. No boss to report to. It’s essentially a project that you can start and stop at any time.
Also keep in mind that, in the 20s and 30s, life tends to get busier over time. If you think you’re busy now, you’ll probably be even busier a year or two from now.
6. Pick business ideas that require low to no overhead costs. Unless you have a wealthy benefactor (and most of us don’t), you’re going to have to scale your business idea down to its simplest form. If, for example, you want to start a daycare, don’t begin with buying signage and paying for a business license. Start by watching a friends’ kids for an afternoon to see what it’s like.
If you want to sell your own beauty products don’t start by buying expensive packaging and paying for marketing to ‘get your name out there.’ Start by mixing up some raw ingredients and selling them to friends and family, at a local farmer’s market (if they don’t require a business license) or at a church event.
Think cheap and think small, and remember that word-of-mouth can be powerful in the early days.
7. Don’t be discouraged at your earnings because, chances are, they’ll start out small. Instead of thinking of your earnings in terms of dollars and cents, think in terms of scale and net profit. Starting out, the priority is to get your business to profitability. Depending on what your business idea is, you might start out in the red, but — with a home based business — you should aim to be in the black within the first 6 months to a year. Once you are in the black, focus on scale. Say you earned $25 in your first profitable month of operation, aim to increase that by 25% from month to month. Identify the elements that are driving your profit growth, and expand on them.
Many businesses don’t become significantly profitable until the first 12 to 15 months. Until then, just focus on getting and/or staying in the black.
8. Your first few business ideas might not work. It’s common — even standard, for entrepreneurs to try and fail at ventures before they hit the right one. Don’t let it discourage you!
Black women and entrepreneurship
Recent studies have shown that black women are the fastest-growing entrepreneurial group in America! My theory is that we are catering to ourselves since so many of our needs are overlooked by mainstream commerce. I find this knowledge to be empowering. Your business idea might seem insignificant — but there’s a good chance that you’re serving a need that many women have!
Are there any home-based business owners/workers out there? Do you have tips to share? How did you start your individual businesses?