Local economies are driven by the strength of small businesses. They generate healthy competition in the marketplace, excel in customer-focused service and deliver unique products not supplied by chain retailers. Small businesses are often conceived in family living rooms or around the dinner table, when everyday people decide to take a chance on their own skills or innovative idea.
Taking that chance is not as risky as you might think. There are financial and personal benefits to working from home and many small businesses require very little start-up capital. In many cases, you can even get things going while you are still employed, until you are ready to take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship. All that is required is some planning and a self-starter personality that keeps you focused on your goal.
Working from home has its advantages, in particular if you are the owner and operator of a business. You may not have a typical 40-hour workweek, but you have a great deal of control of how you choose to structure your day. Especially when things get busy, you have the opportunity to refuse jobs and choose which clients to prioritize. You can make strategic decisions about where to sell your product without a manager telling you what to do.
That independence comes with responsibility, of course, as every entrepreneur must make sound choices in order to prevent the business from failing. But being the final decision-maker is important to every business owner, as it provides a sense of self-determination and empowerment. That’s true even in the case of individuals setting up small businesses in their home. Once you’re at it full time, you control your destiny, and even if that’s a bit scary, the successes hold great personal meaning.
Compared to ventures that require initial start-up investment in research or marketing, many home businesses are a moderate financial risk, especially if you keep your day job while getting started. Even if you sell a product, you can keep your initial inventory low in order to serve the locations you sell out, like small shops, craft fairs or farmers’ markets. You can use that time of growth to research ways to reduce manufacturing costs, so you will be ready when your product is able to scale and sell at a high volume.
Overhead costs are typically low with a home office, as there is no need to sign a long-term lease or splurge on furnishings. If you need to see clients, you can rent out space in business centers, your local library or even coffee shops for pre-arranged meetings. In addition, often a home business can qualify for tax benefits that let you write off part of your utilities and other expenses. Since your overhead is typically lower than a competitor who may rent office space and equipment, you can experiment with pricing in order to drive sales to your business.
Starting a new business is as simple as making a list of what you do well. Perhaps you’re an expert gardener, home organizer, artist or personal coach. Think of your hobbies as well as your professional background. If you worked in the education sector, you could advise prospective college students on the application process. Years spent in a flower shop could qualify you to create a side business of gift basket arranging. The more life experience you have, the more potential for a lucrative and fulfilling home-based business. Start by brainstorming a few ideas. Narrow your list down to two or three you might do well and make a list of the supplies you would need to get started.
Whether your business is about goods or services, it helps to start off with a clear idea of what you are selling. While this may change over time, setting clear boundaries at the outset helps you to establish a niche and ensure that you can satisfy your first customers. From day one, you are developing a reputation with your business, and you want it to be a good one.
If you are selling a service, use a website to display examples of your work and list your offerings. Graphic designers and writers may post samples of published work. This is probably the first potential customers will learn of you and your business, so your website should be of high quality and show off the best of what you offer.
Learning is always important, especially if you are building a name for yourself in an industry that requires knowledge and expertise. While you don’t necessarily have to go back to school to start your business, remain open to weekend workshops and networking events relevant to what you do. This will help enhance your skill set and get you in among the people who can help drive your business forward.
More than anything, it is a great idea to just get started. By getting on the path to entrepreneurship, you’ll learn what you don’t know, and be able to take the next steps to build out your great idea. If you take that first chance, you may discover you are not only a good business owner, but a happy one as well.
Don’t forget when you start to make money with your home-based business to support your local economy. When you choose to patronize your fellow small companies, you are creating a community of entrepreneurs on the way to self-sufficiency and success.