On the Entrepreneurial Road to Success
By Priscilla Y. Huff
Mobile technology has changed and will continue to change in the future how we communicate and work with one another, including operating on-the-road businesses. Bringing your services and/or products directly to your clients saves them time and money. At the start-up, you can operate a mobile business part-time, around your regular job; and with just the basics of a laptop computer, a cell phone, and the specific tools needed to perform your work.
Just like any prospective venture, taking time to plan a mobile-based business is an important factor in determining its success or failure. Researching your target market; estimating your operating and advertising expenses; obtaining permits, licensing and insurance; and deciding the best home-office and mobile technology for your business are all important and well worth your efforts. Here are fifteen mobile business ideas from which you might choose to start, run, and make money while on the road:**
**Please note: Any listed professional associations are primarily membership-networking organizations and usually do not offer start-up information. Please include a business-sized, self-addressed, first class-stamped envelope with any “snail” mail correspondence
1. Apartment Prepping Service
Be prepared to “get down and dirty” as you clean, paint, make minor and major repairs, and do an assortment of other jobs to ready apartments for the next renters. Offer a package of services; or you can specialize in painting or repairing dry wall, or in other prep areas in which you are qualified.
Success Tips: Apartment complex managers, real estate agents, housing authority departments, and independent landlords are likely prospective customers. Encourage referrals. Using “green” products will help promote your service.
*“How to Start your Own House & Apartment Cleaning Service” – www.legacymarketing.net.
*www.cleaningconsultants.com/ – Cleaning industry educational materials.
2. Catering Vehicle (breakfast, lunch, tail-gate parties)
Using a food preparation equipped vehicle, you can sell breakfast, lunch, and even special suppers; as well as ethnic foods to customers on the street, at their workplaces, or at special company and community events or sporting venues. Business, food, and operating licenses are necessary. Franchise options are available, too.
Success Tips: Naturally, you will need culinary and food preparation skills. Many owners offer their own specialty food and sauces. Office buildings, constructions sites, and shopping districts are good places to sell your foods. Use social networking sites to let customers know where and when your vehicle will be on a daily basis.
*“Start Your Own Lunch Truck Business” – ebook – www.125aday.com/books/276/start-lunch-truck-business.cfm.
*“Lunch Truck Food Wagon Start Up Business Plan” by Bplanxchange (Kindle ed).
3. Children’s Parties
Offer parents and children’s relatives celebration packages for children’s birthdays and special occasions. You can provide games, party favors, and the entertainment; or subcontract others for your clients. Theme parties are popular.
Success Tips: Experience with children is a must, including knowing what activities are appropriate for the age of the children whom you will be providing your services. Market your business with ads in parenting magazines; posting flyers at schools and at child-care centers; and through clients’ referrals.
*How to Start a Home-Based Children’s Birthday Party Business by Amy Jean Peters.
4. Cleaning Services (carpet, air duct, gutters)
The need for cleaning homes, and office and institutional-related buildings will always be in demand. Rent or invest in equipment to clean carpets, windows, air ducts, gutters, and other specific items; or offer general janitorial services. Choose to start your own service; or invest in one of the many available cleaning business opportunities and franchises.
Success Tips: Survey your proposed target market area to see what current cleaning services competitors are offering. Investigate if you can make money by supplying a smaller, related niche type of cleaning service to an untapped customer base. Offer packages of combined services like cleaning out gutters and installing covers over them ; or cleaning and selling related products.
*Start & Run a Home Cleaning Business by Susan Bewsey.
5. Computer Consultant
Computer consultants assist clients in the trouble-shooting, training, purchasing, and set-up of their computer systems and related software. Network with other consultants to refer one another according to each of your computer knowledge specialties and business concentrations.
Success Tips: Best customers are busy people, small business owners, and organization directors who cannot afford full-time technological employees. Market your services through local business owners’ organizations and referrals from satisfied customers. Emphasize how your services can grow your clients’ profits and improve their operations’ efficiencies.
*Independent Computer Consultant Assn. www.icca.org/.
6. Decorating for Holidays and Special Events
If you have artistic talent and a creative flair, owners of businesses and homes, brides, and individuals will hire you to decorate their store windows, properties, and venues for seasonal displays and celebratory events. Some (decorative) window painters make $5,000 or more over the winter holidays. Most professionals specialize in the types of decorating they do. Some will partner with other services to offer joint packages.
Success Tips: Volunteer to decorate for non-profit events or places so potential customers will see your work. Market your services with a portfolio of your work, business cards, and referrals from satisfied customers.
*Art of the Event: Complete Guide to Designing and Decorating Special Events by James C. Monroe.
*Let There Be Lights!: A Beginner’s Guide to Outdoor Christmas Decorating by Christopher Donnells.
7. Disc Jockey
Mobile disc jockeys play all types of music geared to their audiences’ preferences, and to accompany special celebrations like weddings, birthdays, award ceremonies, and other social events. You should know the current hits and trends in music. Strive to work and communicate with your clients in providing the best music for their occasions. Work part-time to build your business and to acquire the money to invest in quality equipment.
Success Tips: Learn how to mix and spin your music, working as an assistant or enrolling in courses. Research the background of your music to ensure it is appropriate for your listeners. Develop your own style and show personality.
*The Mobile DJ Handbook: How to Start & Run a Profitable Mobile Disc Jockey Service by Stacy Zemon.
*The Complete Disc Jockey: A Comprehensive Manual for the Professional Disc Jockey (digital book) by Stu Chisholm.
8. Dog Walking
Regular exercising of dogs helps them stay healthy and eliminates many bad behaviors due to their inactivity. Professional dog walkers exercise one to several dogs at a time for their clients, walking regular routes and/or taking them to dog exercise areas. Having previous education and experience in training dogs will help you handle a variety of dog breeds, plus qualify you as an expert.
Success Tips: Before starting, consult with business experts such as an accountant for business management software recommendations; and a lawyer and an insurance agent for liability contracts and protection. Market with referrals, a web site, and free online classified ads. Consider offering add-ons like pet-sitting, pet transportation, and other related services and/or products.
*How to Start a Home-Based Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking Business by Cathy Vaughan.
*The Dog Walker’s Startup Guide by J D Antell.
9. Employees’ Training
Offer specialized instruction to businesses’ employees ranging from new technological skills to topics on customer service, sales, and more. Your services may also include advising companies how to integrate temporary, dislocated, or older workers; welfare recipients, and people with disabilities successfully into their workforce.
Success Tips: You should have human resources job and staff training experience, and/or formal education in this field. Be knowledgeable about what skills workers will need to have to ensure your clients’ businesses will continue to be competitive and increase their profits. Market your services through referrals and by offering presentations to business owners’ organizations.
*Managing Human Resources: Productivity, Quality of Work Life, Profits by Wayne F. Cascio.
*Work and Disability: Issues and Strategies in Career Development and Job Placement, 2nd ed. by Edna Szymanski, Randall M. Parker.
10. Energy Conservation Consulting
Advise individuals, companies, institutions, and building owners on methods to reduce energy usage and/or the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems. Most consultants are engineers and have the background, certifications, and necessary licenses to operate as energy experts.
Success Tips: Emphasize the value and benefits you, the consultant, can bring to your clients in helping them save money in investing in alternative energy practices and equipment. Start part-time while building up a referral network of clients to bring in a steady stream of projects that will support you and your family.
*Association of Energy Conservation Professionals – www.aecpes.org/.
*Association of Energy Engineers, – www.aeecenter.org/.
11. Lawn and Garden Care Services
Owners of residential and vacation homes, rental properties, businesses, and municipalities are just some of your many potential lawn-care and garden clients. You can offer strictly lawn mowing or add additional services such as fertilizing, shrub pruning, planting flowerbeds, and other landscaping jobs as a package deal.
Success Tips: Survey other services in your area to find a market niche not being served. A background in horticulture is helpful. Contact your local U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA – www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/) county extension services for advice as to pesticide-free care for lawns and shrubs; and any related courses offered.
*How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Landscaping, Nursery, or Lawn Service Business (and CD) by Lyn Wasnak.
*How to Start a Home-Based Landscaping Business, 5th ed., by Own Dell.
12. Mobile Instruction
Equip a new or used vehicle to travel to teach your talents or skills to prospective students of all ages. Tutor remedial and/or advanced students in various subject areas: teach music lessons; have a physical education bus with fun movement activities and equipment; and/or instruct pupils in other special areas of interest.
Success Tips: Market to: schools; pre-schools; special needs, child care and after-school care agencies; community youth and home-schooling groups; interested parents; and mature adults. Certification in your areas and teaching experience are important in qualifying you to instruct your students. .
*Tutoring as a Successful Business by Eileen Kaplan Shapiro.
13. Mobile Notary
Everyday individuals, businesses, lawyers, real estate and insurance agencies, and institutions need notaries’ services. Notaries witness the signing of important documents that require signatures, making them legally binding. Travel to your clients’ offices and homes for their conveniences. Your state will inform you how to become a qualified notary and what you are permitted to do with your notary seal.
Success Tips: Advertise with direct mail pieces to prospective clients; having signs outside your home office (where permitted) and on your vehicle; placing classified ads; and using online mobile notary directories. Many notaries also offer other related services, such as process serving and delivering legal documents.
*National Notary Association – www.nationalnotary.org/.
14. Mobile Oil Changing Business
Mobile oil changing services save people time as well as offering the convenience to have their vehicles’ oil changed at their homes or workplaces. Check that the places you will visit will permit you to change oil in those areas. You can purchase a business opportunity, or start-up independently.
Success Tips: Market with flyers, magnetic vehicle signs, and direct contact with fleet owners and vehicle rental agencies. Encourage word-of-mouth referrals. As your business grows, you can offer wiper and bulb replacements and other services, depending on your automotive mechanics skills.
*Mobile Oil Change Company by Tim Roncevich, Steven Primm.
*www.melrics.com/ – Mobile oil change manual and information.
15. Personal Shopper
Business owners, CEOs, professional couples, seniors, entertainers and others with hectic schedules will hire you to purchase gifts and items for themselves, or for their companies. Working in retail and having previous buyers’ experience will help establish you as an expert.
Success Tips: You can specialize in purchasing certain items through stores, catalogs, or online retail sites. Take time to know your clients’ and their preferences. Consult with an accountant about pricing and keeping track of your hours and mileage to ensure you are making money.
Additional Success Tips
Experienced mobile business owners offer these added success tips: Invest in a dependable vehicle with your contact information posted on its outside; plan adequate time for work and travel; stay current with your industry’s trends and the best mobile technology to connect to your customers; and always provide optimum customer service to encourage repeat business and referrals.
Be sure to also investigate all the free and low-cost business start-up and management resources available in your community and online to get your business up and running. These include the local offices of U. S. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs); Women’s Business Development Centers (WBDCs) (search for both at www.www.sba.gov/); local SCORE chapters www.score.org; and helpful online information at www.Business.gov and others. For additional available entrepreneurial information, also check with your state’s or province’s business development offices; local business owners’ groups; and nonprofit entrepreneur organizations like the Kauffman Foundation (www.kauffman.org/).
These mobile business ideas and the ones in the sidebar are just a small sampling of the many that exist. Related opportunities and franchises are also available if you prefer to invest in a turnkey operation rather than start from scratch.
As mobile technology continues to spread worldwide enabling more people to connect to one another, so too will the number and variety of mobile commerce opportunities become available to savvy entrepreneurs. Why wait when you can start today in your drive for future success and financial independence as an owner of a profitable home-based mobile business? HBM
More Mobile Home-Based Businesses!
1. Auto Brokering – As a licensed and bonded, independent auto broker or consultant, you search, compare and bargain for the best deal on vehicles and to fit your customers’ needs. National Association of Buyers’ Agents – www.naba.com/.
2. Auto Detailing – Travel to your clients’ homes or workplaces to wash, wax, clean, and perform other special vehicle highlighting services. International Detailing Association – www.the-ida.com.
3. Children’s Taxi – Use a vehicle (preferably with a lift for wheelchairs) to transport children to and from their activities and appointments. Pediatric first aid training; background checks; and licensing and insurance are recommended and required. American Public Transportation Assn – www.apta.com/Pages/default.aspx.
4. Errand Service – Help busy professionals and families with shopping, returning and picking up items, and running other errands. International Concierge & Lifestyle Management Assn – www.iceaweb.org; “How to Start an Errand Service” – www.legacymarketing.net.
5. Electronics Set-Up and Repair – Use your knowledge of electronic equipment to set-up computers, entertainment, and security systems in homes and at business offices. You may need licensing and liability insurance to operate. Electronic House Magazine – www.electronichouse.com/; Electronics Technicians Assn., International – www.eta-i.org/.
6. House Call Appliance Repair – Offer a house-call repair service to consumers whose larger appliances have expired warranties. United Servicers Assn.- www.unitedservicers.com/.
7. Indoor Plant Rental and Care Service – Start a maintenance care and rental of attractive plants for professional offices, institutions, hotels, and other public areas that will enhance their inside décor. Horticultural societies – http://gardenwebs.net/.
8. Meal Delivery Service – Working with local restaurants and eateries, advertise their menus to prospective customers who will pay you to place, pick-up, and deliver their specific food orders. How to Start and Operate a Meal Delivery Service – www.legacymarketing.net.
9. Mobile Pet Grooming – For convenience and to reduce their pets’ stress, pet owners hire mobile groomers to come to their homes for washing, trimming, and other grooming care services of their animals. Resource-information site: www.drivetogroom.com/.
10. Mobile Salon Services – Licensed salon professionals and cosmetologists travel to individuals’ homes, seniors’ living places, theater groups, hospitals, wedding parties, and other places to provide services for routine care or for special events. Resource-information sites: www.beautytech.com/; http://cosmetologistsofamerica.com/.
11. Photography and/or Videotaping Services – Though a highly-competitive field, video and photography professionals have found success specializing in specific visual arts “niches.” They travel both locally and worldwide to record and photograph special events or for varied assignments. Professional Photographers of America – www.ppa.com/; Wedding & Event Videographers Assn. International – www.weva.com/public_web/.
12. Tour Guide – Provide historical, scenic, or special tours of local sites for residents and tourists. U. S. Tour Operators Assn. – www.ustoa.com/2009/; Conducting Tours, 3rd ed. by Marc Mancini.
Priscilla Y. Huff, www.PYHuff.com, 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/.