I have always loved a bargain and enjoy shopping around for the best deals before committing to a purchase. Over the years, I have negotiated with suppliers for the best prices and services for my clients. Now, I had to do it for my own business. As a small start-up, funds were initially low – and at times non-existent – so committing to long-term contracts was not always practical.
Like birthdays, marriages happen all the time. Which means you can treat weddings as a recurring fountain of business opportunities: wedding dresses and coats, jewelers, food caterers, venue providers, photographers and videographers, performers, flower shops, travel agencies, souvenir crafts, and a host of other ventures. Now imagine if you can form a network of these service providers so you can offer engaged couples a range of hassle-free wedding packages as a turnkey business idea. The process is certainly fun (and time-consuming), but as a side business idea, the pay can be pretty great.
The home office deduction may become even easier to use in the near future. Colleen DeBaise wrote, in an early 2006 article entitled "Locking In The Home-Office Deduction," about efforts being made to simplify this tax deduction. She wrote, "The National Association for the Self-Employed, a small-business group in Washington, D.C., supports a simplified, standard deduction to ease the burden on home-based businesses. And perhaps someday, sweet relief will be granted: Two bills introduced in 2005 contain language for a standard home-office deduction, although neither has passed. One of the bills, the Small Employer Tax Relief Act of 2005, specifically calls for a standard home-office deduction of $2,500'¦. In the meantime, small-business owners have little choice other than to muddle through the form—or hire a tax adviser for help."
Keep your clients well informed: When clients spend their money on you, they want to be kept apprised of your progress, not only to stay in touch with the project, but also to keep a watchful eye out for problems before they get out of hand. Do your clients a favor, and keep them informed about your project’s progress. Whether the news is good or bad, your clients and customers will appreciate your forthrightness and candor.
Taxes become significantly more complicated with a home-based business. Self-employed persons are allowed to deduct business-related expenses—such as wages paid to others, the cost of professional services, shipping and postage charges, advertising costs, the cost of office supplies and equipment, professional dues and publications, insurance premiums, automobile expenses, and some entertainment and travel costs—from their income taxes, but are also required to pay self-employment taxes. People who work from their homes may be eligible for another tax deduction known as a home office deduction. The home office deduction allows individuals who meet certain criteria to deduct a portion of mortgage interest or rent, depreciation of the space used as an office, utility bills, home insurance costs, and cleaning, repairs, and security costs from their federal income taxes. Although the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has set strict regulations about who qualifies for the deduction, about 1.6 million people claim the deduction each year. According to Gloria Gibbs Marullo in an article for Nation's Business, the savings can be considerable: a sole proprietor living in a $150,000 home stands to save about $2,500 in actual taxes annually.
Your goal in conducting preliminary market research is to choose a product or service that will be in demand by potential customers; and to size-up your competitors so you will know how to make your business standout from theirs. Look especially for those people whose needs are not being met by larger companies. Business experts label these “niche markets,” and fulfilling their wants are making many solo entrepreneurs rich.
76. Create a sustainable routine that signals the beginning and the end of the work day. “One of my earliest clients was a software coder, and he would go to the local diner early in the morning to look at the paper, eat breakfast, and [hang out] with locals. Then he would code for seven hours, and when his wife came home from her job they would take a walk, and that was the end of the workday—no more coding until the next morning,” says McGraw.