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 :)) more than 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. Don’t Settle for Excuses
When I first started this website, I had to save up to buy my domain name and web hosting. For our family, that cost ($20) was pretty hard to include, because of some hardships we went through.
We were living below the poverty line and there was no hope in sight at the time. I think about that with a little smile now, after doing my taxes this year. I complained a bit about owing on my taxes, but as hubby pointed out, it’s a good thing to earn enough that we owe on our taxes. Perspective, honey.
In order to make a little bit of money to get things going, I had some passionless projects. I started doing other things to create a side income in the short term. These included selling on eBay, having frequent yard sales, and even working part-time at a seasonal job away home.
This may seem a bit ridiculous or even redundant. Really? Create a side income so that you can support your side income until it becomes viable? But that’s what I did.
I wanted the website to work. That seemed the best long term option, even though short-term money was a huge issue. Thus I needed to find other, less glamorous 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.
The best bit of advice I ever received about this topic is this:
Don’t say, “I can’t afford it.”
Instead, ask yourself, “How can I afford this?”
2. Have Some Focus on 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.
Flitting about, chasing every idea that pops into your head costs you money.Flitting about, chasing every idea that pops into your head costs you money. Click To Tweet
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. Do Some Research
The good folks in marketing refer to this as “validating” an idea. In other words, you need to see if there is even a market for your idea in the first place, before you waste precious time and money on a flop.
Thankfully for us, this is easier and cheaper than it’s ever been before.
You can create free surveys on platforms like Typeform or Google Forms to share, in order to gather this research.
Keep your survey short and sweet. Use it to try to figure out:
- Who might be interested
- What their greatest needs are in relation to this idea (ie, their “pain point”)
From there, you’ll be able to line up your basic idea a little more specifically. You’ll be able to focus on a potential customer group and tailor the idea and your marketing message to help soothe their pain and meet a need.
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 and your customers, 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.
If you’re not completely sure about what you need, not to worry. There is help available.
I provide solopreneurs like you with WordPress Set Up Packages, installing and configuring WordPress to meet your needs. I’ll talk it over with you and help you choose just what you need with regards to web hosting and domain names. You can find out more here.
There are some basics everyone needs
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. 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, more planning is
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.
You can do this by 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.
I not only make money on here with my design services, I also:
- earn royalties on designs at Zazzle.com
affilateincome from CreativeMarket
- earn affiliate income from Namecheap
- earn royalties on books on Amazon
- earn royalties on art prints of my artwork on Artpal.com
Each of these started out as a small way to earn extra money to sustain this website before it became viable, but I keep these in particular because they serve my clients and readers, and align with my goals.
6. 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, that’s not how it works. A website needs to constantly be tweaked, improved, and maintained..whether by you or a professional.
Technology is constantly changing. 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).
7. Find and Join a Group of Encouragers
Of all of the points on this list, this one is the most recent for me to enact. Now that I’ve found my own tribe to help and encourage me, give me advice, and fill me with a healthier mindset regarding business and money, I wish I had done it sooner.
I used to think this didn’t apply to me — I didn’t want to hang around other entrepreneurs because their financial situation wasn’t as miserable as mine, and where would I find them anyway?
Excuses. They stink.
The fact is simple. Because my state of poverty had messed with my mind (royally), I needed a tribe of encouragers around me to help me, prod me, and make me believe in myself when I’m feeling like a loser.
Where do you find these people?
Look online, for starters.
If you’re a professional creative, I strongly recommend the Rising Tide Society in your area. They have this neat thing called “Tuesdays Together” for creative entrepreneurs like us, and it’s a great encouragement. I’ve learned so much from these kindred spirits.
Otherwise, there are many Facebook groups out there for small business people, boss babes, and entrepreneurs. Try to avoid any group full of negativity and whining. Hang out with people who are where you aspire to be.
I hesitate to share the names of groups on here as it changes often. If you can’t find one, contact me via my Facebook Page, Thoughts and Designs, and I’ll let you know of any currently awesome ones that might be a good fit for you. 🙂Hang out with people who are where you aspire to be. Click To Tweet
8. 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.
An inexpensive (though not free) way to do this is with QuickBooks for Self-employed. It makes bookkeeping super easy, and I am able to import my data into Turbo Tax for easier taxes.
My own bit of “legal advice” to you is this: always keep more records than you think you need.