If you've developed valuable skill sets or certifications within your industry over the years, consider putting your skills to use in your free time by offering your consulting services to local business owners as a potentially lucrative side business idea. Whether you're an expert marketer, business strategist, or manufacturing aficionado, there's likely a local business owner who's willing to pay you to help them solve an issue with their company—if you can craft an effective cold email that convinces them to hire you. Start with this 18-step checklist to becoming a local business consultant as a side business idea, from Karyn Greenstreet. When you're ready to get serious about becoming a consultant, check out all of my picks for the best online business courses to keep building your skills and learning how to land your first consulting clients. Personally, I think this is one of the best business ideas you can get started with today.
If you have an eye for quirky stuff, maybe running a mystery object shop could help you combine the thirst for curious things with a steady source of income. TheSomethingStore and Muddy Creatures are nailing the concept of a surprise purchase that taps into the explorer instinct many of us possess. There’s no exact science or skill fueling this business idea – let your imagination go wild…
You can use desktop publishing software to create newsletters, magazines, books or even marketing materials. You can create the content for your desktop publications, or you can pay a writer to create the content for you. Alternatively, you can advertise your desktop publishing services to design and create newsletters and books for others with their content.
This is a great time for a concierge business or errand business startup. In many areas where there is significant development in the luxury market (residential and commercial), you will find increasing opportunity for concierge service providers. I remember my first job as a residential concierge, which helped me start a concierge business from home. The knowledge I acquired while employed by an established concierge business set the groundwork for my long-term career as a concierge business entrepreneur and author.
The real estate market is on the rebound (for today) and people are buying and selling properties in many locations across the U.S. That means a lot of opportunities for professionals who know how to navigate the legal, financial, and commercial aspect of real estate to build up a stable of clients as a side business idea, especially if you begin to scale your sales hiring and build a team of reps working to help you close more deals. If you consider yourself an expert in the subject, it won't be a walk in the park (hehe), but you can earn significant additional side income as a home-based real estate consultant—especially if you employ one of the best CRMs for small business and know how to work magic over the phone.
Are you ready to start your own successful home-based business? Whether you’re doing business at home or away from home, it helps to set up an LLC or other business structure to protect yourself from liabilities and boost your business’s credibility. When you’re ready to form your business entity, Incfile can help you for as low as $49 + state fees.
Another starting point is to have an idea that very few people other than the founders can actually build. These technical feats provide a natural defense against competition. Remember, every hard problem you solve drops a massive obstacle in front of anyone who’d want to replicate you. Certain problems haven’t been solved because none of the few people smart enough to do so have made it happen. Look at something like Google, which co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were technically capable of building at a time when not many people were. Back then, there were very few people smart enough to build their own search engine let alone imbue it with software that could crawl and rank the entire World Wide Web. 

A cash shortage is a challenge for every business owner. Particularly during the early days of the business, it will be hard to predict where and when the money will come and from where. As you continue to operate, you will become more aware as to the cash flow patterns – what time of the month your bills need to get paid; and what months are your peaks and lows in terms of sales. You must then begin to anticipate the cash requirements.
15. Know what you’re signing up for. “Too many people want to work from home and expect the assignments to just flow in—so not the case,” says Kristen Fischer, author of Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs. “Solid skills in business development, lead generation, sales, and marketing are vital to ensure success.”
Another starting point is to have an idea that very few people other than the founders can actually build. These technical feats provide a natural defense against competition. Remember, every hard problem you solve drops a massive obstacle in front of anyone who’d want to replicate you. Certain problems haven’t been solved because none of the few people smart enough to do so have made it happen. Look at something like Google, which co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were technically capable of building at a time when not many people were. Back then, there were very few people smart enough to build their own search engine let alone imbue it with software that could crawl and rank the entire World Wide Web.
It’s possible to set up a website yourself, but unless you’re a designer or Web developer, you can expect a pretty steep learning curve. If you have the budget, consider hiring a professional to help you with some or all of the following: configuring the site to look the way you want and include the features you need; creating and inserting a logo; optimizing the site for search engines; and creating text and images.
A lot of car owners simply don’t have time to personally care for their vehicles, much less make them sparkle. With simple equipment such as car shampoo, polishing wax, tire black, sponges, a pail and a sturdy hose, you can start earning a decent side income by making cars look fresh in your free time after work and on weekends. Not bad for an easy business idea that'll keep you outdoors and moving your body on the weekends.

Check your local authority’s zoning and permit regulations pertaining to home-based businesses. These can vary widely from area to area. Most are concerned how your business will impact your neighborhood such as customer parking or shipping traffic. Check, too, with state or federal agencies for required licenses or requirements your business may need.
As a home-based business owner, perhaps even more challenging than time management is successfully balancing your business life with your personal life. Lori Quaranta struggled with this after starting her business, Consetta Web Solutions, in 2006. “When you work from home, you are always at work,” says Quaranta, who is also a mother. “Keeping a work/life balance is harder than you think.” Here are her top five tips for maintaining that balance:
Who needs a nasty commute when you can make a decent buck but a few feet from your kitchen? Over half of all U.S. businesses are now based out of an owner's home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With the economy shedding jobs, the ranks of the self-employed may well keep swelling. Plenty more entrepreneurs may look to eliminate rent and fuel costs to pinch pennies.
Earning money on GigWalk is similar to working on Task Rabbit—not a bad side business idea if you've got the free time. You get to choose from an amusingly diverse range of jobs from taking snapshots of restaurant menus to counting the items arrayed on supermarket racks. It won’t make you rich though, with payouts tending to congregate in the lower half of their $3-to-$100 range. But, if you're looking for a steady little side business idea, it can't hurt doing a strange but fun errand and getting a tip at the end. When you’re bored or a little short on cash, you can access GigWalk anytime, anywhere via their mobile app. Meanwhile, all the jobs specifically vetted for you will be within reach (ideally, just a brisk walk away).

The key to success in this business is being very disciplined in buying. Limit your car buying to popular models that you can turn over quickly, models that you have a strong understanding of current local pricing on, cars that you can buy at a significant discount to the price you believe you can fairly sell them for, and cars that are highly unlikely to need major work.
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