Businesses

15 Home-Based Service Businesses

    At-Your-Service Ventures That Utilize Your Unique Skills and Interests
    By Priscilla Y. Huff

    If you are looking to start a low-cost, home-based business in a relatively short time, consider one in a service industry. Consulting, cleaning, delivery, business support, and many other types of services continue to be in demand no matter where you live or what the current economic status. In 2008, business services accounted for 78.3% of US private sector GDP or $9.72 trillion. (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis & U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Service-type businesses are generally more affordable to start and maintain.

    You can basically start one, with just the essentials of equipment and your skills and knowledge. With product-based businesses, however, you must purchase materials; produce and build inventory; and plan your products’ distribution methods. On the downside of a service-type business, you are the main component in a service-type business, and therefore responsible for the delivery and the quality of service. If you are ill or unable to deliver your service, your business will falter.
         Still, service provider businesses make up the largest sector of home-based businesses and continue to do so. Why? Their owners have the flexibility to adapt their businesses faster to fluctuating economic conditions than their larger competitors. Their quality of service is often higher and more personal that also helps these businesses to have a higher percentage of customer loyalty than bigger companies.

         If you are ready to explore the possibilities of profiting from your experiences, training, and acquired skills, here are 15 timely, service business ideas you can operate in or from your home-based office.**
    **Please note: that industry associations are primarily for networking purpose and do not necessarily provide startup information. Please include a self-addressed, first-class stamped envelope with any snail mail correspondence.

    1. Catering – Specialized
    Business owners, individuals, hotels, conference managers, event planners, and others who are holding special events all seek caterers to supply their meals. Have a standard price with add-on extras. Only a couple U. S. states permit commercial cooking from home, so be sure to adhere to all licensing and food preparation regulations. Many food entrepreneurs plan from home, but rent commercial kitchen space for the actual food preparation.
    Success Tips: Formal chef training and work experience in the industry will hone your skills and establish your expertise. Stand out from competitors by offering specialized menus such as low-carb, low-sugar, vegetarian, ethnic, or other specialized foods to your clientele.
    Suggested Resources:
    How to Start a Home-Based Catering Business, 5th ed. by Denise Vivaldo
    National Association of Catering Executives - www.nace.net/

    2. Computer Cybersecurity Specialist
    These computer specialists help clients prevent cybersecurity attacks on their systems by hackers and the infiltration of computer viruses. They also install security software, train employees, collect data for cyber crimes, and perform other related services. They usually hold a degree(s) in computer science, information systems, and-or special security certificate programs.
    Success Tips: With the predicted increased demand for this service, it is important to stay current with the latest cyber attack prevention trends and technology skills. Consider expanding your service to include global customers, because international companies are increasing their exchange of data.
    Suggested Resources:
    The Cybersecurity Assn. - www.cybersecurity.org/
    Computer Network Security and Cyber Ethics, 2d ed. by Joseph Migga Kizza

    3. Customer Service Representative (Independent)
    With the recession forcing staff layoffs, many companies seek independent customer service representatives for virtual assistant duties, marketing, and other business support tasks and services for short or long-term projects. A dedicated (and quiet) workspace, a phone ground line, and fast Internet connection are essential for your home operations.
    Success Tips: Experience and-or a degree in the related customer-related business tasks you will be performing will give you an edge over your competition. Join a local business owners’ organization for networking, leads, and referrals.
    Suggested Resources:
    International Virtual Assistants Assn. - www.ivaa.org/
    Start Your Own Office and Administrative Support Service: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Success by Courtney Thurman

    4. Editorial Services
    The expertise of English and journalism degree graduates, freelance writers and copywriters, medical and technical writers, and bi-lingual individuals are in increasing demand. Business owners, self-published authors, professionals, and small publishers all use their editing services for varied commercial and marketing writing projects. Editorial jobs can include fact-checking and proofreading to developmental editing and ghostwriting.
    Success Tips: Contact paper and digital editors-publishers who publish topics with which you are knowledgeable. Make contacts by attending industry trade shows; and writing and publishing conferences and workshops. Follow industry-standards for pricing.
    Suggested Resources:
    Copyediting and Proofreading For Dummies by Suzanne Gilad

    5. Home & Business Loan Consultant
        With their knowledge of various loan processes, these consultant-brokers find the best loans at competitive rates for their clients from qualified lenders who are often more flexible than traditional banks. Consultants are paid percentage fees based on loans’ sizes and types.
    Success Tips: Previous financial institution experience, training, and education in finance and economics are desirable qualifications to have to operate this rewarding but challenging service. Stay knowledgeable with ongoing new banking regulations, and obtain any required licenses. Get new clients with referrals, a web site, and leading community seminars.
    Suggested Resources:
    The Complete Guide to Becoming a Successful Mortgage Broker: Insider Secrets You Need to Know by Patricia Hughes

    6. Management Analyst
        These consultants evaluate companies’ management and operational systems. They help their clients stay competitive with recommendations on improving their structure, proficiency, and methods to increase revenues. Management consultants will often specialize in accounting, marketing, economics, computer science, and other areas based on their education and experience.
    Success Tips:
        Expert analysts often have extensive experience in business management, human resources, computer and information science, financial areas, and other related fields. Business owners contemplating expansion and-or those wishing to economize are ideal potential clients. Offer seminars to local business organizations to promote your services.
    Suggested Resources:
    Institute of Management Consultants - www.imcusa.org/
    'What Clients Don't Tell Management Consultants In Consulting by Y Kwan Loo

    7. Medical Billing
        Using industry software, owners of this business service provide local medical offices with bookkeeping and accounting tasks. They handle bills and accounts receivable; complete and file claims to government or private insurance companies; and perform other related tasks.
    Success Tips: Previous medical office experience is helpful with coding and terminology but not necessary. Research your area to see if a sufficient number of medical offices exist to produce the revenue you need to operate. Then market with direct mail, cold-calls, and existing client referrals.    
    Suggested Resources:
    Electronic Medical Billing Network of America (EMBN) - www.medicalbillingnetwork.com/
    Setting Up Your Medical Billing Business by Merlin B. Coslick

    8. Prototype Builder
    Using your engineering design or related work experience and skills, you can construct models of inventors’ or companies’ new products for their patent applications or demonstrations. Many such designers have engineering backgrounds and can build both functional and virtual prototypes for one-of-a-kind products or for short production runs.
    Success Tips: Market your service through industry directories; at trade shows; to inventors’ groups; with newspaper ads; and a web site. Many prototype service professionals focus in industries related to their backgrounds. Offer clients a choice of prototyping development and price-packages.
    Suggested Resources:
    List of nonprofit inventors’ organizations: - www.bcn.net/~bradley/info/list_of_nonprofit.html
    The Independent Inventor's Handbook: The Best Advice from Idea to Payoff by Louis Foreman, Jill Gilbert Welytok 

    9. Public Relations Service
    Public relation specialists’ goals are to have the media take notice of their clients’ accomplishments and on-going work. With an education and background in advertising, public relations, communications, and journalism, they are good at portraying their clients’ public image to garner worthy recognition and attract the attention of prospective customers.
    Success Tips: Join a local PR/media organization and any industry associations related to your PR niche to develop networking contacts and find potential clients. Encourage client referrals; and keep in touch with current clients with a web site, regular e-mails, your own business’ releases, and the use of social networking sites.
    Suggested Resources:
    Public Relations Society of America - www.prsa.org/
    Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement by Sandra L. Beckwith

    10. Software Specialty Designer
    Freelance software developers offer their services to small companies and businesses that need these experts to design customized software for their various projects. Most developers have advanced degrees and skills in computer science and engineering.
    Success Tips: Stay competitive with on-going training to learn the latest technology advances. Market your services to new clients with a web site and through online freelance-bid sites. Read business publications to get leads to new business startups so you can inquire what their software needs are.
    Suggested Resources:
    Association of Software Developers - www.asp-software.org/
    The Nomadic Developer: Surviving and Thriving in the World of Technology Consulting
    by Aaron Erikson

    11. Home-Business Technology Systems Installer
        Home-based professionals, business owners, and small companies hire techno-savvy experts to set up, install, and train others how to use new electronic and computer systems. Home owners also often need persons to install and demonstrate their new appliances and entertainment systems. Check for licensing regulations and required permits if your services involve electrical work.
    Success Tips: Encourage referrals from local electronic products’ stores and satisfied customers. To stay current with the latest technological products, attend electronic trade shows and manufacturers’ seminars, and/or enroll in related courses presenting new technology.
    Suggested Resources:
    www.ElectronicHouse.com - technology magazine
    Understanding and Installing Home Systems: How to Automate Your Home by David Gaddis

    12. Temporary Staffing Service
        Staffing businesses supply companies with temporary employees to fill in for vacationing staff or to add help in busy seasons or for specific projects. Staffing agencies also supply clients with new workers they wish to test for permanent positions. Many staff services focus in niche industries such as medical, financial, technical, manufacturing, and other fields.
    Success Tips: Having good people skills, a background or degree in human resources, marketing, or business management, plus previous staffing experience will contribute to your success. Use related software to manage your agency.
    Suggested Resources:
    American Staffing Assn. - www.americanstaffing.net/
    Start Your Own Staffing Agency - www.125aday.com/books/68/start-staffing-agency.cfm

    13. Voice-Over Specialist Services
    With affordable and accessible technology, voiceover actors are recording voice tracks from their home studios for radio, television, films, video games, and other entertainment venues. Successful voice actors read well, accept direction, speak clearly, and have some acting talent.
    Success Tips: Enhance your odds in finding roles in this competitive entertainment service by enrolling in voiceover courses and hiring a professional voiceover coach and agent. Search for a niche that best fits your talents. Stay current what is going on in this entertainment industry and remain flexible as to the roles for which you may be offered.
    Suggested Resources
    Screen Actors Guild - www.sag.org/
    Secrets of Voice over Success by Joan Baker - www.secretsofvo.com/

    14. Web Content Specialist
    These freelance writers specialize in writing for clients’ web sites and other online writing projects. Such projects may include articles, e-zines and newsletters, blogging posts, press releases, product descriptions, and e-books. They often partner with graphic designers and other media professionals to achieve their clients’ goals.
    Success Tips: Being able to write concisely, plus having a degree in journalism, English (or in another language), plus excellent communication and presentation skills will help you find many writing markets. Write as a generalist or for specific industries and professions with which you are familiar.
    Suggested Resources:
    The Web Writer's Guide by Darlene Maciuba-Koppel
    Writing for the Web: A Practical Guide by Cynthia L. Jeney

    15. Web Hosting-Design
    Even though over half of all small businesses have web sites, many wish to change their web hosts or update their sites’ designs. With a purchased or leased server, you can provide the software and storage space, plus the design know-how to get new and existing business owners’ sites online and attract potential customers.
    Success Tips: Market your services to new and existing entrepreneurs and professionals through your own web site, articles, social media, presentations, and satisfied clients’ referrals. Many web hosts and designers focus in specific industries. Joining local business owners’ organizations and exhibiting at local business expos are also excellent ways of attracting new clients.
    Suggested Resources:
    Association of Internet and Hosting Service Providers - www.aihsp.org/
    Web Design & Developers Assn - www.wdda.org/

         Whichever service-oriented venture you decide to launch, remember two proven success elements. First, build customer loyalty with outstanding service, helping to ensure a steady income and positive, word-of-mouth referrals. Second, increase sales with diversification by offering related products and add-on additional services.
         These business ideas are just a small sampling of the many type of existing ventures that provide services to people and companies. Once you find one or more that match your qualifications and financial resources, write a business plan to determine if a viable market exists. Then contact those target customers and ask, “How may my business be of service to you?” Their answers may lead to the launch of the successful home-business you always dreamed of having. Why wait? HBM

    Priscilla Y. Huff is the author of 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women, 3rd ed.; and writes regularly at her blog, No Thanks. I’ll Work for Myself. http://nothanksillworkformyself.blogspot.com/

    Previously published in the December 2010 issue of HOME BUSINESS® Magazine, an international publication for the growing and dynamic home-based market. Available on newsstands, in bookstores and chain stores, and via subscriptions ($19.00 for 1 year, six issues). Visit http://www.homebusinessmag.com

    V17-6 Add: 1/11 HP: 1/13/11
     

     

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