Five ideas for businesses you can start at home
So, you’ve decided that you want to start a business from home. The problem is, you’ve got no idea what to do! While you have years of valuable work experience, you’re not quite sure how to translate your skills into a profitable and enjoyable home enterprise.
To help turn your frustration into inspiration, we’ve put together five suggestions for potential home businesses for ambitious mums.
1) Become a freelancer
The first – and often easiest – option is to use your existing skills and set yourself up as a freelancer. While freelancing has its pros and cons, it offers much more flexibility than a full or part time job (which is a real plus when you have babies or children to fit your career around), and can be started with little or no budget.
Many freelancers get their first break by approaching companies they used to work for to see if they could benefit from their services on a freelance basis. Then, once they’ve built up their confidence and reputation, they extend beyond people they know. There are plenty of ways to find freelance work, including freelance job sites, face-to-face networking and through social media.
If you’re not confident your current abilities are enough to establish yourself as a freelancer, or are suffering a confidence crisis, you can always consider training to give you more marketable skills. Adding a copywriting or social media qualification to your existing work experience can help you build a really rewarding (and well paid) home freelance business.
If you do decide to become a freelancer, it’s important to set your business up properly and think about what kind of accountancy system you need. Other considerations you’ll need to take into account as a freelancer include:
- How much to charge
- How to quote for freelance work
- How to recognise difficult freelance clients
- How to manage difficult clients effectively
2) Become a virtual assistant
Starting a virtual assistant (VA) business is a growing career choice for many career mums who want to balance their need for work and stimulation, with the restrictions of needing to be in or close to their home for their children.
And as technology continually improves, and businesses look for ways to outsource more and more functions, it’s an increasingly easy role to move into. But just like many careers, there’s much more to being a virtual assistant than simply answering the telephone. If you have social media, marketing or copywriting experience you can offer those skills as part of your package for a higher rate.
In fact, today’s VAs take on a wide range of interesting and vital roles for businesses – and the best VAs are well-trained and often highly skilled (earning from £25/hour).
If you’d like to learn more about the potential of starting a virtual assistant business, it’s worth looking into quality training. There are a number of virtual assistant training programmes available that offer a broad range of skills, including establishing a successful business, and finding and retaining high value clients.
3) Become a professional blogger
If you enjoy writing and have a basic grasp of technology, you may want to consider starting your own professional blog. Todays top bloggers (like Slummy Single Mummy Jo Middleton) earn a good income from their blog – usually through affiliate marketing and advertising, or from being paid to review or blog about products for brands.
A warning though – blogging isn’t going to make you rich quick. In order to earn good money from a blog you need to have a high number of regular readers, and these take time and hard work to earn. You also need to consider carefully what you’re going to blog about – your niche, as it were – and who you think will read it.
Once you’ve identified your niche and audience, you need to ensure that everything you do on your blog fits your niche and will be interesting and useful to your audience. You also need to have the staying power (and ideas) to update it regularly once you start. Sporadically blogging when you feel like it won’t earn you many fans quickly.
And updating your blog is just part of the job. Just like any business, your blog will need clever and consistent marketing to get it the exposure you need to attract readers – there’s no point spending hours a day writing the best blog in the world if no one knows it exists!
4) Tap into your creative talents
Most of us have some untapped creative talents or dreams – and starting your own business is the perfect opportunity to dust off your creative ambitions and turn them into paid work.
Whether you have a passion for dressmaking, flower arranging, furniture design or baking, there are plenty of opportunities to build a successful business if you have the drive and acumen.
If you’re doubtful, just read some of our inspiring (and very real) stories of mums who have taken the leap to start their own successful businesses using their creative talents:
- Jane Foster gave up a teaching career to become a renowned designer.
- Sharon Hockenhull left behind the office to become an award-winning garden designer.
- Vicki Palmer abandoned her career as an estate agent to train as an artist.
- Lisa Coles said goodbye to banking to become a jewellery designer.
- Lucy Ames swapped her job as a business analyst to become an artist.
- Camilla Stephens turned her back on a corporate career to launch the phenomenally successful Higgidy.
Still not convinced? As Lucy Ames pointed out in her interview with us, someone has to make the products we love – the creative and crafty gifts we buy our children, and the artisan chocolates and pies we eat. So think seriously about what you love to create – and what others genuinely compliment you on. Do friends always beg for your brownie recipe? Ask where you bought your beautiful handcrafted jewellery from? Adore the retro furniture you source and renovate for your home? Admire your lovingly tended garden?
With a bit of thought, most of us can find some creative pursuit we’re good at and that gives us pleasure – even if we haven’t had the time to enjoy it for a while. Miranda Law once taught herself how to make a lampshade to use up some beautiful Japanese paper she’d discovered. A few years later, recalling how much she’d enjoyed it, she ordered more paper and had another go. Today she’s building a reputation as a coveted handmade lampshade designer.
5) Open your own online shop
You don’t need to harness your own creative talents to make money from selling items. If you’re business savvy, you can make a good living by sourcing products to sell on online.
From scouring junk shops and sale bargains to list on ebay, to establishing your own online marketplace, you can invest as little or much time and money in online trading as you want or are able.
To get started, you need to consider what kind of items you want to sell, and to whom. Also think about your skill set, and what you can draw from that to get your business started. Did your former role involve negotiation skills? These will be useful if you want to purchase goods from a wholesaler to sell on. Were you involved in marketing? This can help to attract buyers to your online store or products and convince them to buy.
Thorough research will tell you what competition there is for your chosen products – and whether there are enough potential buyers to make a business viable. You also need to be confident that you have located a reliable supply of goods at a reasonable cost.
If you don’t have the funds or technical experience to invest in your own dedicated online store right now, you can always start selling on ebay or sites like Etsy, Folksy or notonthehighstreet.com. Once you’ve built up a regular clientele and have more confidence and experience, you may then consider establishing your own dedicated site for your products, and selling directly through that. (And when you are, here are nine quick tips to help you get the website you want.)
Start preparing for home business success
Whatever business you decide to embark on, there are several basics that you can’t avoid.
Even if you don’t need to approach a bank or lender for a financial loan, writing a business plan is a brilliant business exercise – helping you test out the viability of your idea, and spot any holes you may have missed (make sure you don’t make these 10 common business plan mistakes though). It’s also important to be realistic about working from home – and to be clear about how much time you have to work on your business (and whether it’s enough).
With the right preparations you can avoid some of the most common reasons why mums’ businesses fail – and look forward to a successful and fulfilling career.