I’m always amused at books that try to predict the hot jobs for the future. Leafing through one book a few years ago, I saw “Underwater Archeologist.” I’m not sure why that’s a high-growth area, but I noticed the book failed to predict any Internet-based careers, such as web designer! The book didn’t foresee the development of the Internet. Clearly, predicting the future isn’t easy!
None of these businesses is earth-shattering. But, they all offer real opportunities for entrepreneurs, if the business matches the entrepreneur’s personality and desires. We’ll briefly describe the nature of the business, why the business provides value to clients or customers, and downsides to the particular business. Then, for the specific business you contemplate, we’ll ask you to create a similar brief description of your proposed home business ideas.
1. Information Broker/Researcher
What they do: Information researchers and information professionals use their research skills to obtain information for individuals and companies. If you like studying and doing academic research, this might be the business for you. While many researchers spend considerable time on the Internet, most also spend substantial time at libraries, county courts, and other locations where various records are kept. Private investigators and skip tracers are one type of professional researcher.
Why the business provides value: People and companies value their time and often prefer to hire specialized individuals to do time-consuming jobs, like research. In some cases, people don’t know how to go about collecting the information themselves. Companies and organizations can usually afford to spend the most on research.
Downsides: Like any consulting activity, this is a personal service which essentially limits income to billable hours. Many of the most lucrative opportunities, such as personal background checks for pre-employment screening, are already well-served by established companies.
For more information, read Starting an Information Broker / Research Service Business
- Building & Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional
- Start & Run an Internet Research Business (Start and Run A)
- Super Searchers Make It on Their Own: Top Independent Information Professionals Share Their Secrets for Starting and Running a Research Business (Super Searchers series)
2. Real Estate Investor/Manager
What they do: Real estate investors purchase real property for rent or resale.
Why the business provides value: Fixing up an older property can increase its value, so this is a possible opportunity for people who enjoy fixing up houses. For those who specialize in certain kinds of repairs or construction, contracting can also be lucrative, without requiring substantial investment in property. Many people who don’t want to own homes choose to rent. So, you’re providing the necessity of shelter.
Downsides: Real estate investment usually demands a significant capital investment. It’s important to note that the early 2000s has been a time of greatly increasing property values. This means people could make money by just sitting on properties and reselling them at a later date. In a more subdued real estate market, this large gain in value doesn’t occur as automatically. Further, if real estate prices drop, leveraged investors can lose substantial sums. Tenants can be problematic.
- What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow… And 36 Other Key Financial Measures, Updated Edition
- Buy It, Rent It, Profit!: Make Money as a Landlord in ANY Real Estate Market
- The ABCs of Real Estate Investing: The Secrets of Finding Hidden Profits Most Investors Miss (Rich Dad’s Advisors)
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures, 2nd Edition (Complete Idiot’s Guides (Lifestyle Paperback))
3. Seminar Educator/Professional Speaker
What they do: Seminar instructors teach topics in which they’re experts. For example, some people teach specialized classes about business taxation or preparing for the new SAT tests. Professional speakers often give keynote speeches at special events in front of large groups.
Why the business provides value: Seminar educators tend to be experts in their field and can offer students up-to-date information about a specialized area. I’ve never quite figured out why some organizations pay some individuals $10,000 plus per speech! (Entertainment value, I suppose.) But, many organizations regularly pay $5,000 and up for competent and established professional speakers. Famous people earn far more, of course, with fees going well into six figures.
Downsides: Travel is usually required, because seldom can one region support many seminars in a specialized field. Plus, to give great seminars, you need to be an expert in your field. Building a reputation to earn big bucks giving keynote speeches usually takes time. Further, becoming a semi-celebrity isn’t for everyone.
Many professional speakers sell their speaking services through speakers bureaus, which are like grocery stores for people who are looking for speakers. This means the speakers only talk. They aren’t involved in planning the events. Speakers bureaus are sometimes involved in event planning. If you teach seminars, event planning skills may also be required.
- Secrets of Successful Speakers: How You Can Motivate, Captivate, and Persuade
- 129 Seminar Speaking Success Tips
- 1,001 Ways to Make More Money as a Speaker, Consultant or Trainer: Plus 300 Rainmaking Strategies for Dry Times
- Speak for a Living: The Insider’s Guide to Building a Profitable Speaking Career
4. Financial Planner
What they do: Financial planners help clients plan their finances. Usually, they work with clients one-on-one to help them plan for retirement, college savings, and major purchases. They help clients select appropriate investments. Some money managers and mutual fund managers manage hundreds of millions of dollars in assets from their homes.
Why the business provides value: Many people who have solid incomes lack financial planning skills or don’t have the time or the interest to handle all of their personal finances in a do-it-yourself fashion.
Downsides: Usually, solid credentials are required, such as being a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Building a solid client base can take time. As with information professionals, this is a personal service which inherently limits income. One of the most popular types of financial planners today are flat-fee-based planners, who don’t receive sales commissions. Many knowledgeable, affluent people simply index their money and wouldn’t trust their money to an unestablished money manager.
- Getting Started as a Financial Planner
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Success as a Personal Financial Planner
- So You Want to Be a Financial Planner: Your Guide to a New Career (8th Edition)
- How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Personal Financial Planning Business: With Companion CD-ROM (How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful…)
What they do: Write and/or publish books. Other forms of publishing include newsletter publishing covering specialized topics and online publishing.
Why the business provides value: Books usually provide specialized information or entertainment value to readers. Newsletters and online publishing provide current information and analysis about a specialized field. Most smaller publishers serve a particular niche market, such as Christian readers, people interested in cooking, etc.
Downsides: This is a very competitive area with hundreds of thousands of books published each year. Newsletters must compete with magazines, the Internet, and other forms of communication.
- The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fifth Edition: A Primer on Contracts, Printing Costs, Royalties, Distribution, E-Books, and Marketing
- The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book
- Self-Publishing For Dummies
- The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living
6. Niche Online Retailer/Online Auction Seller
What they do: Niche retailers serve narrow market segments, usually a specialty area in which the business owner is interested. For example, “sporting goods” wouldn’t be considered a niche. But, “golf supplies” or “tennis equipment” or “air gun supplies” would be a niche.
Some online sellers specialize in purchasing inventory at a discount and reselling it. But, unlike a catalog niche seller, the inventory tends to vary, based upon what the individual purchases at special bargain rates.
Why the business provides value: Niche sellers usually serve the most dedicated hobbyists, who spend considerable sums on their hobby or interest. Niche retailers often evaluate and recommend the best products and have specialized knowledge. Mail order and the Internet are key distribution and marketing channels, because many customers don’t have local niche retail operations serving their interest.
Downsides: Many niche areas are well-served. Retailing involves carrying inventory, which represents a significant capital investment. There is inventory risk—the risk the inventory won’t sell. Further, fulfillment of orders may be an issue for the home-based operator.
Resources: Starting an Online Business for Dummies by Greg Holden; Starting an eBay Business for Dummies by Marsha Collier; and Building Your Business with Google For Dummies by Brad Hill.
What they do: According to the National Auctioneers Association, live auction sales in 2004 topped $217 billion. Art, antiques, and collectibles accounted for about $12 billion. You’re probably familiar with auctions. Some quick-talking auctioneer gets bids for an item and sells the item to the highest bidder. Auctioneers help people and organizations sell things through auctions. For example, many larger estates have estate auctions, where property, including antiques, firearms, cars, motorcycles, and other personal valuables are sold at auction. Auctioneers help plan and advertise the auction.
Why the business provides value: Auctioneers help their clients get the best prices possible for items that would be time-consuming and more difficult to sell, if the sales were made individually.
Downsides: Travel is often involved. You’re dependent upon a few key clients at any given time. Understanding the valuation of the property auctioned is essential. Appraiser is a related skill.
- The National Auctioneers Association (NAA). Website: auctioneers.org.
Whenever you are thinking of starting a home-based business, write out statements about your planned home-based business:
- What your business does. You should be able to describe what you envision doing in only a sentence or two;
- Why the business provides value to customers; and
- Possible downsides to your business idea.
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