Define your product or service. Starting an online business gives you the benefit of having access to millions of customers, but you also have a lot more competition. No matter what you're trying to sell, you can bet that hundreds more online retailers have a similar idea. What differentiates your product from other similar products? To help your product stand apart from the rest, you'll need to find a niche.
In my experience, one of the greatest challenges people face is deciding why they are starting a business, what they hope to accomplish and what they really want to do. Starting a business, particularly from home, sounds glamorous and free but, in reality, it can put a strain on home life if not done right. People I talk to often need help decision-making which is an essential quality in running a business.
In general, a home office deduction is allowed if the home office meets at least one of three criteria: 1) the home office is the principal place of business; 2) the home office is the place where the business owner meets with clients and customers as part of the normal business day; or 3) the place of business is a separate structure on the property, but is not attached to the house or residence. The deduction is figured on the size of the home office as a percentage of the total house or residence. For example, if the total house size is 2,400 square feet and the home office is 240 square feet, 10 percent of the total house is considered used for business. That would allow the business owner to deduct 10 percent of the household's costs for electricity, real estate taxes, mortgage interest, insurance, repairs, etc. as business expenses.
To improve your chances of success in business, it’s essential that you do your homework and research your business idea. Identify your target market and analyze the competition. To find a profitable niche for your home-based internet business, you have to find the crossroads between what people want and what you’re passionate about. John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing said it best: “Bring the best of your authentic self to every opportunity.”
The whole “building an audience” is challenging for me. I’m not much of a blog subscriber myself, and so I’m really not quite sure what makes a blog tasty enough for someone to subscribe to. I solve more of a technical business problem… one of those things that if you need it, you REALLY need it now. And if you don’t need it, then you’re not really interested in getting weekly updates talking about it (I would imagine).
Your business is only going to come to life if you do the things you need to do to bring it to fruition. If you continue to put off the things you need to do to get your business started until tomorrow--you're too busy at work, or your kids need you to pick them up at the mall, your spouse wants you to watch a popular new television show--then when will you ever get around to doing them?
The most important distinction when it comes to doing business online versus in person is online business law. These laws regard the distribution of your customer’s personal information, as well as other privacy and intellectual property regulations. The SBA gives a thorough rundown of the specifics of online business law, so make sure to brush up on them before you start your online business.
But be wary. Food service—even a delivery service, which is the most likely scenario for home bakers, as opposed to setting up a storefront—comes with built-in risks. Prepare yourself, and read up on your local insurance requirements. And don’t be afraid to start out by making just one or two really great treats. Consistency is more important than variety in the baking business.
Busy schedules can stress people out. It can also disrupt family life to the point that busy parents and homework-laden kids barely have time to prepare decent dinners and weekend meals. Hence, the surprising demand for part-time family chefs as a business idea. If cooking healthy and delicious meals is your thing, then this lucrative side business idea can supplement your regular income by helping feed busy homes. Hear Gaby Dalkin's story of going from side business idea to full-time blogger while she was a part-time personal chef right here on my podcast.
Once the home-based business gets off the ground, many entrepreneurs tend to go to the opposite extreme and overcommit themselves. In their need to attract clients, they become uncomfortable turning down work. But unlike people who work for a large employer in an outside office, home-based business owners cannot leave their work behind and go home, because home is where their work is. As a result, some entrepreneurs work too many hours and abandon their personal lives, resulting in stress and burnout. Instead, experts recommend that home-based business owners set up realistic work schedules in order to reinforce the boundaries between their personal and business lives. It may be helpful to establish the following day's schedule the previous afternoon and prioritize the activities. The schedule should be realistic and allow for inevitable interruptions. Some experts claim that an important factor in successful time management for home-based business owners is arising early in the morning to get a jump start on work. Others stress the importance of dressing comfortably yet professionally in order to establish a positive psychological state for working. Although these methods do not apply to everyone, it is important for home-based business people to find a pattern that maximizes their productivity and stick with it.
I have a friend that is the city manager of a town of about 25,000 where his main task is processing requests for building permits. Actually a volunteer-type job, no salary. But he makes a bunch of contacts every day, and his address book is huge. So he is busy all year except the Holidays. To fill in this time he started a Christmas tree lighting service (houses, lawn ornaments, etc.). In this 3-month period he makes enough to keep him going the rest of the year.
While the barriers to entry for a retail shop can be very high, one way to keep costs down and limit your time investment while you keep your full-time job, is to set up a weekend popup shop as a side business idea. More of whatever it is you’re selling—donuts, clothing, antique baseball cards, or anything else—will stay in your pockets instead of going to pay for operating expenses such as rent or utilities by choosing to pursue retail as a side business idea with a short-term rental. This guide from Shopify will give you a step-by-step process for getting your popup shop off the ground.
College counsellors come in all shapes and sizes. Their primary duty is to help guide students through an important period in their lives. Some counselors focus on admissions, career advice, financial aid, athletics, extracurricular activities, and other concerns. There are institutions looking out for part-time college counselors, making this a fantastic side business idea, or you can even start your own practice and charge anywhere from $25-$100+ per hour for your consultative services if you're well-versed on the subject.
Counted amongst the most valuable tech giants, Amazon is also a massive global market where virtually anyone can cash in on the rising tide of eCommerce if you have the right business idea. But, like everything else that involves money, you have to do quite a bit of work to earn it. In this case, you need to do tons of research (looking for generic products such as clocks, key chains and mugs to attach your brand to) as well as developing a sensible inside sales strategy that'll help you generate profits from your private label side business idea. For an incredible deep dive on how to launch this kind of business idea, check out how digital marketer Neil Patel recently did this as a public experiment right here on his blog.
Your business structure will have a big impact on your startup, including taxes, liability, and other facets of your business. Possible business structures include: sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), partnership, and corporation. Business structure decisions can be complicated, so consult with a tax professional, attorney, or other qualified expert to explore the pros and cons of each structure. For whichever structure you choose, you will have to meet your state’s filing and registration requirements.
Do you need to build from scratch? Also keep in mind that depending on your particular business, it may or may not be necessary to build (or pay someone to build) a site from scratch. Especially when you’re in the early stages, options like Squarespace and Shopify simplify the process of setting up an ecommerce site by providing templates that don’t require much if any knowledge of HTML or coding.
While having a formal background in graphic design is absolutely going to be helpful, it’s also relatively easy to learn the foundations of graphic design on your own. An increasingly easy-to-use Adobe Illustrator and even more easily accessible tools like Stencil and Visme are making it so that just about anyone with two opposable thumbs, a bit of creativity, and motivation can earn a side income doing things like designing (and selling) images like these motivational quotes that can be printed onto posters and sold on platforms like Etsy. Or you can find a local startup, small business owner, or photographer who could benefit from some extra help designing or altering images.
Market your talents to building contractors. People purchasing new homes can often be overwhelmed with the choices and possibilities in home decorating. Design some questionnaires for each major element and each major room in the house. Find out how the homeowner will use the home--are there children? Pets? Does the woman of the house wear high heels? Do the home's residents neglect to remove shoes? How will each room be used? Where might task lighting and ambient lighting be most appropriate?