1. Jewelry Making
There’s always demand for creative handmade jewelry. I’ve seen not just one, but several people, build a successful jewelry business out of their home. And today there are seemingly unlimited venues for selling your jewelry.
You can sell your jewelry on websites like Etsy and eBay. Some people get started selling at craft fairs and flea markets. I’ve seen other people sell through jewelry shops. Jewelry retailers will look for a significant discount to retail, such as 50% or more. Initially merchants may only take your product on consignment – which means they don’t pay you or take ownership until the jewelry actually sells.
Whatever sales approach you take I would recommend you also support it with your own website and marketing efforts, including building and email list and a social media presence. This will help you develop repeat customers, add new customers by word of mouth and build credibility.
Holly Christensen is an example of someone who changed careers to pursue her passion by starting her own jewelry business. Holly began by making jewelry on her kitchen table and personally selling it at local craft shows. Her unique touch was to include sand from popular beaches within her jewelry. People told her it was a crazy idea.However, Holly stuck to her vision of beach sand jewelry and has been very successful. She has developed a solid base of repeat customers, has over 20 employees, and sells through retailers throughout the world.
2. Start a Blog
Ariana Huffington started a blog with her friend Ken Lerer in 2003 after a failed political race for governor of California. They pulled together news stories and gave political commentary naming their blog The Huffington Post. In 2011 they sold it for $315 million.
A blog is a great example of a business that you can start small and grow at your own pace. Popular blog topics include fashion, food, travel, music, sports, local interest, hobbies and much more. Choose a narrow or specialized topic and stick to it. Let your personality shine and include specific, actionable advice or pointed commentary.
My experience with blogs is that great topics and writing is seldom enough to build a sizable audience. You should learn basic SEO (search engine optimization) techniques so that your posts rank well in Google search results. Plus you’ll want to know how to best use email and social media marketing.
To monetize your blog there are a number of options. The easiest is to sign with an advertising network such as Google, Facebook or Outbrain and let them do all the work for you. You will have to have a lot of traffic however to make much money by selling advertising.
Another popular option is affiliate marketing. You provide links on your blog to other businesses that sell products or services and they pay you a commission on each sale. You can approach affiliate marketers directly, such as Amazon. Or you can use an affiliate marketing service such as ClickBank or ShareASale. These services offer thousands of products with commissions as high as 70%.
You can also sell your own products or services from your blog. For example, you could sell your own webinars, courses, ebooks, handcrafted goods, or consulting or coaching services. On the island of Nantucket I watched Gene Mahon build a successful blog business called Mahon about Town. An avid photographer, Gene filled his blog with fresh photos, developed a strong following and sold ads to local businesses.
3. Tutoring Service
If you can add 2 plus 2 and get 4 most of the time or can read “See Spot run!” then you have what it takes to be a tutor – at least for first graders! And if your skills are more advanced then you can tutor at higher levels. Or you can just hire other people to do all the tutoring for you!
You can tutor almost anywhere. You can tutor online via video, such as on Zoom. You can go to your clients’ homes or they can come to your home. Or you can meet in a coffee shop or a library.
The demand is huge. We hired tutors to help my kids improve their college entrance test scores. One year, when they decided they weren’t learning much at school, we hired a tutor to home school them. The tutor was an MIT college student who had never tutored, but nonetheless was fabulous.
Tutoring is still another example of a very easy-to-start business. Yet you can grow it as large as you want by hiring additional tutors and ramping up your marketing. For example, I sold a career magazine business that I started to Kaplan Inc. Kaplan has grown into a world leader in tutoring with over 12,000 employees and over 1 million students.
4. Craft Business
Want to express your creativity and make some money at the same time? How about a craft business?
Years ago my Great Aunt Betty made and sold a variety of creative craft items. She sold them both through a small shop on her property and also directly to a few stores. I remember her taking some highly decorated wicker pocketbooks she had made to be sold at Bonwit Teller, once one of Boston’s most famous women’s stores.
Today the opportunities to sell your crafts are seemingly endless with the expansion of the Internet. With websites like Etsy.com, it is simple to sell your own crafts. But if you really want to turn this into a business, you should develop your own online presence. I would suggest starting with a website. Then adding an email list. Also consider social media.
You can also sell your craft items offline. You can start by selling at local art and craft fairs. And you can also approach retail stores yourself. Or once you have a good product line put together, you may want to consider contracting a sales rep firm that focuses on the gift trade. A sales rep firm will sell your products to retailers for you on a commission basis, usually 15% of the wholesale price. I successfully used sales reps firms to sell my books into the gift trade. You can find these firms at the larger gift shows or you can approach them online.
5. Landscaping Business
This is another perfect business that you can start small, even part-time, and then grow at your own pace.
You can start with just a basic lawn cutting service. All you’ll need is a second hand lawn mower and a grass catcher. You don’t need a fancy truck or trailer. My friend’s landscaper carries his lawn mower in the trunk of his car.
You can grow this business quickly by both adding customers and adding services. Typical add-on services include leaf collection, yard clean up, edging, weeding, snowplowing, and applying fertilizer. The next level of services you could offer would be flower, bush and small tree planting. The highest level of services would be landscape architecture/design, designing and creating beautiful landscapes for higher end homes and commercial locations.
You can make big money cutting small lawns! Even just cutting a few lawns yourself you will likely be able to earn more per hour than many people earn at professional jobs. Add in a few basic services and your income can quickly add up. For example, last year I paid my landscaping service $13,785 for just one residence. They did grass cutting, yard cleanup, and snow plowing but nothing fancy – I hired other services for fertilizer application and irrigation. So how do you get going with a landscape business and how do you get customers? Of course you start with a business plan. Then give a lot of thought to marketing. I would suggest you use both online and traditional marketing.