If you’ve got a great business idea and the drive to put in a bit of work, you can get your very own home-based business up and running fairly quickly. It’s not as complicated as you may think, especially if you set everything up the right way.
In this article, I’ll break down the process into 8 easy-to-follow steps that work for pretty much any type of small home business. If you know you want to start a business from home but you’re not quite settled on a particular business idea, I’ve also got some interesting ideas for you.
8 Steps to Start a Business from Home
The steps below are general guidelines that you can follow to get your home business off the ground. Follow them to a tee or adapt them to suit your own needs - either way, there’s no time like the present to get started.
Step 1: Choose Your Business Idea
You may already have a great idea for a home business, or you may just know you want to do something entrepreneurial that doesn’t involve going into an office every day.
Your first step is deciding on the focus of your new business venture. If you’re not sure what you want to do yet, you can jump ahead to a great list of ideas.
Here are some questions that can help you find the direction for your business:
- Do you have specific talents or interests that could potentially be monetized?
- Is there a particular problem or challenge you have a solution for, and you think others could also benefit from the solution?
- Are there existing small home-based businesses that you admire and can think of ways to improve upon?
Once you have an initial idea, a few other questions to consider include:
- Is there likely to be demand for this particular product or service?
- Is it logistically possible and feasible to run this type of business from home?
- What will the startup costs entail?
You’ll go into more of these questions in depth later on in the process, but you’ll want to know that a market for your idea exists before you move forward.
Step 2: Scope Out Your Competitors
Unless you’ve come up with a super obscure idea, you’re more than likely to have some competition. Spend some time online and try to find out what your potential competitors are offering.
Check their prices, see what kinds of questions/reviews they’re getting on social media, and read their testimonials for starters. This should give you a sense of how successful they are as well as where there may be room for improvement.
This will help you come up with your own unique value proposition, which can make your business stand out from the competition.
Step 3: Write a Business Plan
Your business plan will become your best friend. This should be a living document that you consult all the time and update as needed, as your business grows and develops. Whether you go the traditional route and follow a template or simply write notes in your favorite app, your business plan should include some of the following elements:
- A brief summary of your business idea
- Market and competitor analysis
- A detailed description of the product or service you plan to sell
- Your sales and marketing plans
- Your financial projections
Don’t let this list stress you out - no section has to be super formal. Think of the business plan as a place to write out all of your ideas. You can refer back to it as things progress and use it to make sure you’re on track.
You may need more of an official business plan if you decide to seek outside funding. Your potential investors or lenders might have specific information they’ll want you to include.
Step 4: Take Care of Bureaucracy
There’s no escaping the bureaucracy involved in setting up a business, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Just take it step by step and work through each item. Below are the critical processes that you’ll most likely need to complete as you create your business:
Step 5: Create a Marketing Plan
You’ll want to have a plan in place for how you’re going to attract customers. Like your overall business plan, your marketing plan may change over time.
To create a marketing plan, think about what your goals are. Are you aiming for a certain number of sales? Are you looking to earn a certain amount of revenue each month? Do you want to reach a particular number of people each quarter?
Once you know your goals, think about your target customer and what you may need to do in order to reach those goals. Where do they hang out online? Should you be doing social media ads? Should you consider print ads in newspapers or magazines? There are many different ways to run a marketing campaign.
Social media is an excellent way to market your business, raise awareness of your brand, and bring in customers. Don’t underestimate the value of your potential community - the more you can get your followers to engage with your posts and get them to participate in conversations around your product or service, the better.
Email marketing can also be a powerful tool, and there are platforms out there that make it easy to get set up. You can get leads by including a signup form on your website.
After you’ve laid out your marketing ideas, create a detailed list of all of the tasks you need to complete to put it into action. Add due dates and a timeline, and your marketing plan is complete.
Step 6: Build a Website
In today’s day and age, a website is a must-have for any business. It can be your virtual storefront, or just a way to provide potential customers with information about your business.
Even if you don’t have any tech experience, you can use one of the many drag-and-drop website builders out there to get a professional-looking site online.
If you’re going to be selling products online, the most important elements to include on your ecommerce site are a clear description of what you’re offering, high-quality product pictures, and a payment system with a checkout page.
Step 7: Set Up a Payment Infrastructure
To accept payments from your customers, you’ll need to choose a payment service provider and set up a payment infrastructure. You’ll want the payment process to be very simple and streamlined for your customers.
It doesn’t get easier than Pay.com. From the quick onboarding process to adding different payment methods to your website at the click of a button, we’ll make sure you’re set up and ready to let customers pay you.
Not all payments will necessarily take place on your website, and Pay.com has a solution for that too. You can easily take your customers’ payment details over the phone and enter them into the system manually, or send them direct Pay Links. Then, you can keep track of the status of all your transactions through your Pay Dashboard.
Step 8: Start Selling
With all of the above in place, all that’s left for you to do is launch your business.
I’m a strong believer in just putting yourself out there and trying things. If one product doesn’t sell well, figure out what you can change and try again. If it seems like there’s no interest in your services, try a new marketing method. There’s no magic formula - success will come with hard work and a bit of luck mixed together!
20 Ideas for Small Businesses You Can Start at Home
Now for the fun part! If you’re still unsure what type of business you’d like to start, we’ve put together a list of 20 potential ideas to inspire you.
1. Ghost Kitchen
It may sound spooky, but a ghost kitchen is not haunted! A ghost kitchen is essentially a virtual restaurant that only offers food for delivery or takeout. You cook in your own home or a rented commercial kitchen, put a menu online, and accept orders from customers for delivery.
This could be a great business opportunity if you love to cook. It doesn’t require a lot of startup costs, especially if you start out cooking in your own kitchen. Once you start growing, however, you’ll need to be sure that you’re appropriately licensed and adhering to food safety regulations.
2. Candle Business
Who doesn’t love to add ambience to their home with a pretty candle? There are so many different options - decorative candles, scented candles, tea lights, birthday candles, and the list goes on and on. With just some wax, wicks, and a heating element, you can start a candle business of your own.
Then, all you need is a website where you can showcase pictures of your creations and where people can choose their favorites for purchase. There’s room to grow and expand the business with custom orders or even candle-making workshops if you so desire.
3. Bookkeeping Business
If you laughed to yourself at the “hire an accountant” step above, perhaps you can put your skills to use helping other small (or large) businesses with their bookkeeping. To start your own bookkeeping business, you’ll need to be fully qualified and licensed based on local rules.
If you’ve got the skills and the license and maybe have some years of in-house work under your belt, taking this skill freelance is a great option for an at-home business. Once you start to build a reputation, you can rely on word-of-mouth and referrals to keep growing your business.
Selling a service is slightly different than selling a product online, and while you should probably still have a website, you may not need a checkout page as you’ll want to invoice your clients directly. Here’s where Pay.com’s Pay Links could come in handy - you can send a link for the client to click on and then pay you directly.
4. Dog Walking Business
Are you walking your own dog every day? Why not turn that into a business and walk other people’s dogs too? Plenty of people have to leave their dogs home alone all day while they go to work. Imagine how relieved they might be to know that someone is there to take their dog out during the day.
What could be better than getting paid for something that you have to do anyway? Once you start your own dog walking business, you can expand to doggy day-care or overnight care should you see the demand.
5. Art Business
Whether you love creating your own art or you’re an art dealer, starting an art business from home could be a good choice for you. If you’re creating your own art anyway, then there’s virtually no overhead (other than the supplies).
You can create a gallery website where you can showcase your work and let people purchase directly from the site or make appointments to come see the artwork in person.
6. Craft Business
Do you have a room full of scrapbooking materials or half-finished sculptures? Don’t let all that inventory go to waste. Pick a niche and start your own craft business. You might want to start out using a platform like Etsy that will help you reach a wide audience.
Eventually, you may want to create your own online shop that will give you more control over the customer information you can collect and relationships you can develop. You may even find yourself offering craft workshops in addition to selling your creations. Custom orders are also always a good upsell opportunity.
7. Clothing Business
Opening an online boutique or specialty clothing store is another potentially lucrative small business option. You could consider a dropshipping business. That way, you don’t have to maintain any inventory or handle the shipping logistics. The supplier takes a cut of the profit, though.
Of course, you could also keep your own supply of inventory and sell directly to customers. There are tons of options for choosing a specific niche in the clothing business. You could focus on baby clothes, kids’ pajamas, athleisure wear, and the list goes on.
8. Consulting Business
Do you have a flair for helping others? Maybe you’ve started successful businesses in the past and want to use your talent to help others. Whatever your speciality, consulting is a great freelance gig that lets you use your skills on your own schedule.
Joining networking groups and other industry forums is a great way to make connections and build up a client base.
9. T-shirt Business
Custom-made t-shirts are all the rage for things like sweet sixteen parties, graduations, family reunions, girls’ trips, and so much more. With an investment in some basic equipment, you could set yourself up with a t-shirt business from home.
You could set up a website that allows people to upload a photo and customize the design they want. Using Pay.com, they can choose to pay using the method of their choice, whether that’s a credit card, a digital wallet, or even ACH transfers.
10. Jewelry Business
From high-end diamonds to handmade jewelry and everything in between, you can create an online jewelry store and sell to customers all over the world.
Depending on the value of the jewelry you sell, you’ll need to take into account insurance and potentially higher shipping costs, but with the right pricing you can run a profitable business. As there are always fraudsters out there looking to make a quick buck, you’ll want to be especially sure that your payment infrastructure can detect questionable transactions and keep you safe.
11. Tutoring Business
Did you have a favorite subject in school that you were really good at? Or perhaps you’re still a student (or recent graduate) looking to earn some money during your free time. Putting your knowledge to good use teaching others is something for you to consider.
When you start a tutoring business, your only cost is really the value of your time, so price accordingly. You can offer tutoring lessons online in addition to in-person which will significantly increase the size of your target market if you aren’t limited by geographic location.
12. Catering Business
Another way to turn your love of cooking or food into a lucrative business is by starting a catering business. If you start out with small events, you can work directly out of your home kitchen.
As the business grows and you want to take on larger events, you may end up renting space in a commercial kitchen or even outsourcing the cooking itself while you focus on business development and client relationships.
13. Photography Business
A photography business could take on many different forms. Of course, the traditional photography business involves getting out your camera and scheduling photo shoots. This could include newborn photos, family shoots, weddings, and more.
Perhaps you love taking amazing pictures of nature (or any other subject). You can set up a website through which you can sell your original photos. You’ll have to partner up with a supplier who can print them for you, so keep that in mind when setting your prices.
14. Personal Training Business
Exercise is all the range and there is no shortage of demand for personal trainers, both in person and online. You’ll need to first get certified as a trainer if you aren’t already, which is both a time and money investment, but a worthwhile one if you’re committed to your business.
Once you’re certified, you can start advertising your services. Offer a free outdoor session in a local park to raise awareness and let people get to know you. Then choose whether you want to offer individual sessions, group classes, or a mix.
Don’t forget, even if your business itself is not online, you can still use Pay.com to accept payments. Send your personal training clients direct Pay Links and all they have to do is click the link and enter their payment details.
15. Makeup Business
You can become an affiliate with one of the myriad direct-to-consumer makeup companies out there. A word of caution - while there are plenty of legitimate companies, do your research well before committing as some may be pyramid-type scams!
Whether you’re an affiliate of an established company or decide to go out on your own selling makeup or other personal care items, you’ll want to first make sure that there is a market for the products you plan to sell. Put out some feelers, ask your friends and family, maybe even put a survey out on social media to get a sense of what types of things people are looking for.
A makeup business is a good candidate for offering subscription services too. This way, your customers will know that they will never run out of their favorite mascara (or whatever products you sell). With Pay.com, you can allow your customers to save their payment information so they don’t have to re-enter it every time they make a purchase from you.
16. Interior Design Business
Do you have a flair for design? Do you love rearranging furniture and envisioning new uses for spaces? Put those talents to work and get yourself certified as an interior designer.
You can set your own hours and choose how many clients and what types of projects you want to take on. Focus on individual rooms or entire houses or even office space. You’ll get to use your creative mind every day while helping people make their living or working spaces more beautiful.
17. Virtual Assistant Business
For the super-organized people who love getting tasks done and checking things off the list, a potential job you can do from home is working as a virtual assistant. This means offering administrative services to other business-owners who need extra help.
You can choose which services you would like to offer, but many virtual assistants do things like scheduling meetings and travel, customer service tasks, social media management and more. Once you choose your own speciality, you can start advertising your services. One of the big upsides to being a virtual assistant is that you can work for anyone anywhere in the world (taking time zones into account, of course).
18. Sticker Business
From name stickers to put on kids’ school supplies and lunch boxes to inspirational quotes for decorating a planner and everything in between, who doesn’t love a good sticker?
All you need is an eye for design, basic knowledge of a graphic design tool, and a high quality printer that can print on sticker paper and you can get your business up and running.
You can create a website where you can showcase the different sticker options and use Pay.com for the behind-the-scenes payment infrastructure. Your customers will be able to use the payment method of their choice and you’ll see the funds in your bank account shortly thereafter.
19. Online Life Coaching Business
If helping people make changes in their life is right up your alley, consider starting a business as a life coach. This is another one that requires training and proper licensing, but can result in a nice home-based business.
You can meet clients in person or you can run your entire business over Zoom or other video tools. Based on your expertise, you can provide one-on-one coaching or also offer group sessions, webinars, and other training programs.
20. Event Planning Business
With minimal startup costs, you can set yourself up as an event planner for in-person events, online events, or both. You can be a generalist or focus specifically on events like weddings or proms, corporate conferences, trade shows, webinars, virtual parties or meetings, and the list goes on.
Once you get up and running, you’ll start to create a network of suppliers and vendors that you like working with who might also be able to refer new clients to you and you to them.
The Pros and Cons of Starting a Business from Home
As with any big decision, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons before you decide whether starting a small business at home is right for you or not. Here are a few things to consider.
The pros include:
- Low overhead costs
- Many expenses (e.g. rent/mortgage, electricity, etc.) can be claimed as tax deductions if you work from home.
- Online business means ability to sell to a wide geographic market.
- Flexible hours and good work-life balance
The cons include:
- Finding the space in your home to set up your business which may be disruptive to others in your house.
- Navigating bureaucracy including licenses and registrations which may be necessary even for a very simple business.
- Working alone can be lonely without the camaraderie of an office.
- Income can vary greatly month to month.
The Bottom Line: Is Starting a Business from Home Right for You?
If you have a hobby that you think you can earn money from, if you want to work but don’t want to have to go to an office every day, or if you’re just feeling the entrepreneurial spirit, starting a home business might just be the right thing for you.
Think it through, weigh the pros and cons, imagine what your life would look like with your new business up and running and then decide if you want to try or not.
No matter what type of business you decide to launch, you’ll need a way to accept payments from your customers - and that’s where we come in. Pay.com lets you easily set up a payment system and accept a variety of payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, ACH transfers, digital wallets, and more. Click here to find out how you can get started.