I’m always being asked about how to start a home business, especially if you have no money to “invest” in your business. Many bits of wisdom I have on business I take for granted, having started my first home business (or dorm business :)) nearly 25 years ago. At the time, I had many preconceived ideas about what starting a business was all about, some of which were completely wrong.
Here are some of the basic tips I’ve learned about starting your own home-based business or trying to earn a little side income while you’re home with your kids.
1. You Need to Have Passion for Your Home Based Business Niche
Without being passionate about what you’re doing, it’s not going to be easy to do when life gets hard, as it always does. You’ll find it much harder to stick with something through the hard times if you don’t completely love it.
You might also find it helpful, at this point, to also develop a Personal Mission Statement, in order to put down on paper what it is you value most. What we value and what we love will always take priority in our lives. We need to use our values to figure out what it is we are called to do.
Research the Legal Aspects of Your Home Business Idea in Your Area
Every location has its own laws, taxes, and general rules with regards to business. It is beyond the scope of my website, and my abilities, to advise you regarding your laws.
However, I can direct you to a wonderful, free resource: The Small Business Administration is a great place to start for general information. If there is an SBA office near you, then you might find some counsel from them.
Although it would cost money at the outset, having an accountant at least help you set up your finances for a business is a wise move, depending on the kind of business you are setting up.
My own bit of “legal advice” to you is this: always keep more records than you think you need. 🙂
2. Have Some Focus in your Home Business Endeavors
Some great advice I received once was this: where you know you lack discipline, set up a structure that will encourage and support better habits.Where you know you lack discipline, set up structure to encourage better habits. Click To Tweet
This varies from person to person, of course, but if you are going to succeed as an entrepreneur, you’re going to need some focus and discipline. In my case, I needed a lot more discipline and focus.
You cannot enact every great idea that comes your way, and so you’ll need to take the time to think through your ideas and figure out which ones are worth pursuing, as well as how to best spend your time as you wade into the entrepreneurial waters.
I try to base how I use my time and what ideas and opportunities I pursue, not just as an entrepreneur, but in every area of life, by filtering opportunities that come my way through the lens of my values and goals. There is some flexibility there, of course, but in general, it keeps me from getting too sidetracked.
3. Carefully Consider the Home Business Time-Money Trade-off
There is a basic question we need to answer: is what I’m doing worth the amount of time I’m investing in it?
Your time is not free. It costs you your very life!
When it comes to working at a home business, if we are not careful we will make less than if we got a minimum wage job slinging fries. Now, there will always be some lag time between earning next to nothing while you’re building a business before you start to bring in a steady income. However, we need to be careful that creating the income continuously doesn’t require too much of our time.
Given that our time is so valuable, not only to we need to consider this time money trade-off, we also need to consider how we manage our time in the first place. By properly managing our time, as with managing money, we can make it go even farther.
4. Develop a Web Presence for your Home Business
Yes, a website.
Now, a website, if it is to be effective, needs to be more than a glorified classified ad. You need to start off first by figuring out what the purpose is for your website. What do you want or need your website to do for you, relative to your business?
There is a cost involved in developing a web presence, although it can vary greatly based on what it is you need.
First of all, you’ll need to purchase a domain name (the www.yourname.com) from a company like Namecheap.com. This costs roughly $12 per year. I have more information on selecting your domain name in this post over here.
Secondly, you’ll either need web hosting (where you put the files for your website), which costs under $10 a month, or if you are not directly selling on your website, you can set up a blog at wordpress.com or blogger.com for free, and have the domain name redirect. In fact, you don’t have to have the domain name for those options, but it does look more professional.
For most informational websites, as a web designer, I strongly recommend to my clients that they need a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress. WordPress is not just for blogging. A WordPress website allows you to have a site customized for your needs that anyone without web design skills can use and update easily. In short, using a CMS will make life easier. I have more information on CMS websites here.
5. Consider Your Home Business Audience and Their Needs
Long before you build a website, it’s important to consider your audience. Your audience and their needs must be kept in the front of your mind as you decide what you need to have (and don’t need to have) on your website. Your audience’s needs should also help you write the copy for your website.
In fact, many copywriting experts advise that you create a few different “reader profiles” for your website, and write each post and page with those “people” in mind as if you are writing to them. The reason for this is simple. too often, those of us who own or run a business or blog are so close to our own content that we forget that not everyone understands what we understand. We need to step away from what we take for granted and write to those looking to learn what we already know.
Of all the aspects of web management, can I admit that this one is the hardest one for me?
6. How Are You Going to Make Money on your Website?
Many people simply create websites for the fun of it, and that’s okay. However, if you are thinking of starting a website to bring in some extra income, you’ll need to take your idea and consider the different ways you can make money with it. This is called monetizing your website or idea.
As I touched on earlier, you can do this through selling directly with a shopping cart system of some sort, or you can monetize (make money) on your website in other ways. You may even make money off of other websites selling your products. I have more information here on making money with your idea or website, to get you started monetizing your website.
7. Have a Plan to Constantly Improve Your Website
As a web designer, I’ve seen it too many times. The average person who has me create a site views it as a one time deal. Create the site, then get on with life. Unfortunately, whether you build an informational website, a shopping cart site, or any other website, you need to do some maintenance from time to time.
Additionally, as technology, search engine algorithms, and social media needs changes, your website may need tweaking from time to time to stay relevant. Sometimes this includes small changes (such as Pinterest friendly images for each post), and sometimes it means larger changes (dumping your old shopping cart for a newer, mobile friendly one).
8. Finding and Creating some Extra Start Up Income
When I first started this website (as Joyful Momma Publishing), I had to save up to buy the domain name ($15 at the time) and the web hosting (which originally was $15 a month, though the price thankfully went down). For our family, that cost was pretty hard to include, because of some hardships we went through.
In order to make a little bit of money to keep the website afloat long enough for it to start to become viable, I started doing other things to create a side income in the short term, such as selling on Ebay, having frequent yard sales, doing some babysitting, and even working part time at a seasonal job away home, until things started to turn around both through my husband’s job and my website.
This may seem a bit ridiculous or even redundant, to create a side income so that you can support your side income until it becomes viable, but that’s what I did. I didn’t want to constantly sell on eBay, or run garage sales, or any of the other things I did to support the website until I had a regular income. I wanted the website to work, because that seemed the best long term option, even though short-term money was a huge issue, thus I needed to find other, less pleasant or ideal ways to bring in money quickly.
From talking to other moms, this seems like a huge issue for others as well. This is one of those situations in which keeping your eyes on the long-term goals.