Having a home-based business offers you the freedom to be your own boss, working when — and where — you want.

There are approximately 15 million home-based businesses in the United States, representing nearly half of all U.S. small businesses. Running a home-based business means your company headquarters and your residence are one in the same and, while it can be an adjustment, it presents many advantages from both a convenience and a cost perspective. For starters, there is no commute. Startup costs tend to be relatively low, typically in the $2,000–$5,000 range to get up and running, with the most common expenses being technology, labor, office furniture and supplies, insurance and advertising/marketing. There are also many benefits and deductions that can be afforded to home-based businesses.

The challenge is to identify a need in a category that aligns both with your skills and your interests. Here are 10 ideas to consider, each of which can be easily established and operated from a home office.

SEO expert

In the quest for greater search visibility and web traffic, search engine optimization (SEO) has become vital to digital strategy success. This much-sought-after skill relies on the ability to optimize website content so that search engines recognize and prioritize it based on relevance. If you speak the language of search, have a strong aptitude for technical and keyword SEO and are highly analytical, you can build quite an arsenal of clients who need your expertise. Build your cred with one of several reputable SEO and digital marketing certification courses and you could be earning an average of $75,000/year. Start mining clients through gig-based sites as well as by auditing the sites and search results of local businesses and reaching out with proposals outlining specific strategies.

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers are experts at keeping a company’s day-to-day financial records accurate, organized and up-to-date. They also may be responsible for overseeing the payroll operation of a business. Those that make the best bookkeepers have a background in finance or accounting, love numbers and embrace the often-complex task of sorting and making sense of the pieces of a transactional puzzle. Reliable, accurate bookkeeping is an important service that all companies big and small benefit from, and freelancers can command annual average earnings of $55,000 per year. Experience, training and certificates can result in higher earnings. Independent home-based bookkeepers will want to invest in good accounting software that will help keep track of each client's accounts payable and accounts receivable and prepare the essential documentation for tax season.

Graphic designer

If you have design talent and a portfolio of work to prove it, you can hire yourself out to design for anyone in need of bringing a visual concept to life. Graphic designers use typography, imagery, color and form to create anything from logos to ads, packaging to book covers. With a computer and the right software, this work can be done from the comfort of your own home. Beyond private client work, you can leverage your artistic skills by selling your original designs on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs. You don’t have to manufacture the actual items, just design the graphics and market them via print-on-demand sites that will handle the production, fulfillment and shipping for you.

Online thrifter

Sustainability is not just a buzzword but a way of life for the eco-conscious, and secondhand is their love language. Beyond the good deed of reducing waste by giving perfectly good clothes, decor and housewares a second life, resale items often come with a story, a history, that adds to their charm. The business of secondhand is booming, expected to reach $64 million by 2025, nearly three times what it is today. In September 2020, there was a 104% increase in searches related to online thrifting and Gen Z is more thrift-involved than any generation before it. If vintage is in your veins, consider setting up an online shop filled with fashionable finds or niche goods like sports memorabilia or retro Disney collectibles. Start in your own closet and the closets, attics and garages of family and friends. Scour yard sales, estate sales, clearance sales, flea markets and even eBay. There is no limit to where you can mine merchandise.

Rapid 3D prototype designer/printer

Imagine being the go-to for entrepreneurs who need prototypes of their product concepts designed and printed. From toys to medical devices to student projects, there is a rising demand for prototypes that minimize the time and expense associated with early phase product development. Enter 3D printing (also known as additive printing), the process by which material is extruded layer by layer from a specialty printer to form an object. The 3D printing market is experiencing tremendous growth and, by 2024, is expected to reach $40 billion worldwide. Adjacent disciplines including engineering, computer science or fine arts are good fields to transition from if you want to pursue 3D printing. Universities are increasingly offering degrees in additive printing and there is no shortage of online certification courses available. At the outset of your home business you will need the right software for computer-aided design (CAD) as well as a 3D printer and an inventory of widely used additive printing materials including plastics and metals.

If you are a dog lover who would love nothing more than to spend your days caring for the canines in your community, consider starting an in-home dog day care.

Freelance copywriter

Every business in nearly every industry has a need for quality content that attracts and informs their desired audience and ranks in a Google search. If you have a solid writing style and can turn out interesting and engaging copy for ads, blogs, email, social media or any number of content-based formats, you can build a thriving business as a freelance copywriter. Startup costs involve little more than your own creativity, a computer and good marketing to land clients. Create a digital portfolio where you can show off your best work, grasp of grammar and editing chops and get prospective clients excited about what your skills can do for their business. Beyond exceptional creativity and wordsmithing, a high level of attention to detail and deadlines are key to copywriting success.

Independent education consultant

There are few more stressful processes than the college admissions process. Between 2017 and 2028, undergraduate enrollment in a post-secondary institution is projected to increase by 3% to just over 20 million students. For parents, balancing best collegiate options with realistic price tags is a priority and investing in the expertise and know-how up front often leads to significant savings down the road. A college consultant guides students through the college application process and helps take the burden off the parents who often have to coax and nag their college-bound kids through the process. For guidance counselors looking to work independently or individuals looking for a lucrative and fulfilling career change, education consulting is a great way to be of service and earn a substantial income. There are several reputable online programs that will help you become certified and eligible for membership in the Independent Educational Consultants Association. To be the best resource for your clients, you will need to spend a significant amount of time visiting college campuses and meeting with admissions counselors, continually honing your expertise.

Doggie day care

If you are a dog lover who would love nothing more than to spend your days caring for the canines in your community, consider starting an in-home dog day care. Dog owners who spend their days away from home often look to local caregivers or pet care facilities to keep their pups safe, active and tended to, and are willing to pay well for that peace of mind. Depending on where you live, day rates average $18–$31 and go up from there if you add additional services like bathing and grooming. You will need a supply of quality pet supplies like bowls for food and water, toys, treats, beds and grooming products. You’ll also have to provide walks, playtime and lots of love. Market yourself locally via targeted Facebook groups or join a network of pet sitters like those on Rover.com where dog owners in your area can find you.

Caterer

If you have a kitchen, top-notch culinary skills, a vehicle and a lot of energy, you can start a catering business from your home. It’s a crowded field, but by identifying current trends, you can market your business with a point of difference. Specialize your services by catering specific types of events such as picnics, birthday parties, business lunches or barbecues. To be sure you dazzle your customers, don’t take on more than you can handle. Start with smaller gatherings, or those that last just a few hours. Get plenty of help and be prepared for hard work.

Non-medical eldercare

The aging population is living longer than ever. By 2034, older Americans will outnumber those under 18 for the first time in U.S. history. Among the elderly, there is a stronger-than-ever commitment to age in place, remaining at home instead of transitioning to assisted living communities or nursing facilities. Yet many elderly people require assistance to maintain their lives at home, especially with going to and from appointments, shopping and meal preparation. If compassion is one of your greatest traits, along with being highly organized and resourceful, you may want to consider starting a service that provides quality assistance to seniors. Help with medical claims and insurance, transportation and nutrition are in great need and can help to ease the minds of the loved ones who can’t be close by or have other demands on their time. The key is to market to seniors’ desires to stay healthy, vibrant and independent, and their families’ need for good, trustworthy, caring advocates.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published May 24, 2021