1. 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 client’s 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. Like any business, you will be more successful if you first learn about business and then plan it carefully. You’ll want to think about things like what type of students to focus on, what subjects to offer, how to set pricing, and how to write a business plan. And you’ll need to learn some of the basics about how to market your business online.
2. 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.
3. 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 lawnmower and a grass catcher. You don’t need a fancy truck or trailer. My friend’s landscaper carries his lawnmower 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, snowploughing, 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 ploughing 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.
4. Professional Photography
There are all kinds of ways to turn photography into a business. You can do portrait photography, commercial shoots for businesses, real estate photography, or wedding photography. You can sell photos through stock photo services. You can even do photojournalism or sell your outstanding photos in the photo art world.
When we decided to get pictures of our kids, we went to a local portrait photographer who used one of the rooms in her house as her studio. She charged a significant price – but the great pictures made it worth every penny of it. Excellent lighting, good positioning and getting the kids to smile made a difference!
A common myth is that anyone who has a smartphone can be an awesome photographer. But the photos I have taken certainly prove otherwise! So if you are not a great photographer, you may want to brush up on your skills by taking a few classes. You could start your photography business as a side gig but to be sure it turns into a real business instead of a hobby, you need to be serious about it. So write up a business plan that includes the specifics of what kind of customers you will target, what services you will offer, what your marketing message will be, what packages and pricing you will offer, and how you will get your marketing message to your audience.
5. Consulting Business
A consulting business can be very lucrative and rewarding. One of my friends does organizational consulting for small to mid-sized businesses and he charges up to $1,000 an hour. He prefers to do his consulting work only 15-20 hours a month and spends the rest of his time doing volunteer work for non-profits and avidly following outdoor athletic pursuits such as mountain hiking and cross country skiing. Of course when you make that kind of money you don’t need to work too many hours to afford a great lifestyle.
I know a lot of other consultants who have done well with specialities including sales, logistics, human resources, executive coaching, small business coaching, international business customs, Facebook marketing, website strategies, email, accounting, logos, and more. I have also hired a number of consultants for my various businesses
So what does it take to become a successful consultant? The path I have seen many many people take is to start an independent consulting business after many years of working in the field. By that point in time they have not only developed a lot of expertise but they also have built up a network of industry contacts.
However, today I increasingly see many people becoming successful consultants much earlier in their career – sometimes right out of college. Why the shift? For one, the digital world has exacerbated the rate of change, increasing the demand for consultants with new knowledge. Plus online marketing has made it much easier to attract clients.
Also, I have seen people with less experience develop their consulting practice and get new clients by offering attractive flat rate packages for their first assignment, rather than just charging by the hour.
Even though you may be a highly experienced consultant you still should come up with a detailed business plan. Then put together a LinkedIn profile that is less an “attendance record” and more a “sales pitch” for what you can accomplish for clients. You will also need a website to appear credible. Several of the consultants I know regularly send out emails or brief newsletters. I would also try to arrange publicity on industry websites. Then reach out with email, phone, social media and networking.