Though the holidays are often a good time to reflect on our lives, our accomplishments, our futures, and our budgets, you can change your world at any time of year.
One of the easiest and most effective changes people consider is finding a way to work from home. The flexibility, the extra income, the resolution to find time or an activity just for yourself: all of these are appealing, not just in light of the looming New Year but whenever you find yourself ready for something new.
Regardless of your motivations, the first step toward starting your own home-based business is exploring all the available options. It can be an intimidating prospect, but once you know what’s out there and how each option works you can figure out what’s best for you.
It starts with this: there are three basic options for working from home. You can work for yourself, you can work for someone else, or you can work with someone else.
Working for yourself
Your first option is to go into business for yourself. These types of businesses generally get started because your hobbies get out of hand or your skill set is highly regarded and needed by others. The business model for these is pretty simple: you create a good or hone a skill set. Then you reach out and find people who want the good or need the skill. You sell it to them. Easy in concept, slightly more complicated in execution.
Still, the internet has made reaching people and promoting your home business a lot easier. For hobbies, a great place to get started is Etsy, an online marketplace that hosts thousands of vendors selling handmade items, collectibles, and customized pieces. Websites like Etsy make it easier for people who work for themselves to market their products. If crafting isn’t your thing, you can also start a business out of your home selling whatever you have the skill to produce: baked goods, furniture, fresh vegetables. If you can supply it, odds are good that somewhere out there you can find a market for it.
If your hobby isn’t creating tangible things, you can use your talents to offer services. Perhaps you’re always offering specific advice to your friends and family or maybe you love helping people and want to serve others in a specific way. You can set up shop as a consultant in whatever field you love and are trained for, anything from freelance creativity to insurance or financial consultation to tutoring or massage or childcare. Whatever the case, you can use your skills to earn more money either on the side or as a full-time career working from home.
When you work for yourself, you have an independence you’ll never have in other home-based jobs. You’ll have the satisfaction of setting your own goals, determining your own methods, choosing which projects to undertake, steering the course of your own career. Success is hard-earned and even sweeter than when you work for someone else.
Of course, independence has its own stressors, with legal hoops to jump through when becoming an official business, or even just when being paid by others for your work. If you think taxes are frustrating, imagine filing taxes when you’re earning money working for yourself. It’s no picnic. There’s no backup, no support structure in place. Just you and your little home office against the world.
It can be stressful, frustrating, and scary to venture out as an entrepreneur. But it can also be immensely rewarding. In the end, you have to decide for yourself whether you’re willing to take the plunge.
For the entrepreneurs and future business founders out there, we’ve found a number of resources to help you brainstorm ideas and figure out the logistics and legalities of working from home as your own boss:
- Entrepreneur Magazine’s Home Based Business Resources
- U.S. Small Business Administration on Starting a Freelance Business
- Earth-friendly Home Business Ideas
- Forbes on the Most Profitable Home Business Ideas
- Starting a Craft Business
Working for someone else
You have plenty of hobbies and talents, but maybe venturing off and starting your own business is about as appealing as wine bought at a gas station. You’re not alone: the most common career choice is to work for someone else.
This particular model takes two forms. You can do the same job you would at an office, just from your computer at home, connecting with the rest of your team virtually. Thanks to the internet, many companies both large and small are allowing their employees to work from home.
Or you can be hired on specifically to do a job that is free-floating enough to be done from anywhere. There’s an increasing number of services that are reaching out to home-based workers. Positions like virtual assistant, medical claims billing representative, and data entry associate can be done from your favorite wi-fi spot.
These types of positions have a lot of the advantages of working for yourself but with corporate backup and policies to guide you and a guaranteed paycheck on a regular schedule. The right person in the right position will find that her productivity skyrockets working from home rather than the distracting environment of a traditional office. Plus, all the legal ramifications of starting and running a business are handled by your employer.
But just like working in an office, there are drawbacks to working for someone else, even when you get to work from home. If you don’t enjoy the work, it becomes tedious, and your productivity can plummet – more than it would if you were working in an office environment. Should you choose to go into online tech support or transcription, you’ll likely need training and certifications, which are out-of-pocket expenses you pay before your first paycheck comes in.
Still, the lure of working from home can be strong and shouldn’t be dismissed without further research. Interested in learning more about ways to work from home for someone else? Get a jumpstart here:
- Bankrate on The 10 Best Work From Home Jobs
- Real Companies That Will Pay You to Work from Home
- FlexJobs – Legitimate Telecommuting Jobs
Working with someone else
You know you want to work from home. You’re pretty sure you don’t want to start your own business, but you don’t really like the idea of working for someone else, either. Another option is to work with someone else, which most often takes the form of direct marketing or selling.
A number of companies have achieved incredible success by allowing people to work with them instead of for them. Just about every industry has its own success story: cosmetics has Mary Kay and Avon. Jewelry has Silpada and Stella and Dot. There are the well-known kitchen goods companies like Pampered Chef and Tupperware. There’s even a company called Pure Romance that allows people to market and sell items for date night.
Of course, we like to think the best kind of date night involves good wine, and you can find people marketing wine with us at Traveling Vineyard. For every hobby and favorite pass-time there seems to be an opportunity to do it from home.
This option combines the benefits of working for yourself and working for someone else. It provides flexibility and the ability to do something you enjoy. Choose your level of involvement and your schedule, just like an entrepreneur, but avoid the legal stressors that come from starting your own business. You get the logistical support and backup as if you worked for someone else, but you don’t have to pay for your own training.
Like the others, this particular home-based business idea has its unique drawbacks. You’re responsible for your own promotion, for recruiting a team, and for making sure the product is sold as quickly as possible. Many of these companies require that you purchase and carry stock, which can be an expensive upfront cost. Be careful to fully investigate any company to make sure there are no surprises: there’s a big difference between marketing with a company (which doesn’t require you to buy and carry stock) and selling with a company (which means you have to purchase products for future sales).
Curious to discover just which products and companies you can work with for your home business? Start your research here:
- Find the Best – Search and Compare Work at Home Opportunities
- Women For Hire’s List of Direct Selling Companies
- How to Assess a Direct Selling Opportunity
- The Direct Selling Association’s Guidelines and Directory
In case you were wondering about Traveling Vineyard’s model of marketing and selling wine, here’s How it Works.
Regardless of the how, you need to know the who
People who follow through on their home-based business ideas generally have a few personality traits that help propel them toward success. These qualities don’t ensure you’ll make millions, but they’ll definitely help you achieve whatever goals you set for yourself.
Home-based jobs are best for people who are self-driven, motivated, and independent. You don’t have a boss or coworkers looming over your shoulders waiting for you to get things done. You’re your own safety net and accountability.
Home-based workers should be organized and detail-oriented. You wear a lot of hats when you’re your own company. You need to be able to keep on top of everything without anyone reminding you.
You need to be teachable and willing to learn from experience, a problem solver. You can’t let failures and setbacks stop your momentum, but you also have to be able to identify new ways of doing things when one approach fails. You’ll have to acquire new skills on the fly as your business grows and evolves.
A home-based business requires someone who is willing to work and persevere through the trying times. Small, home businesses can take a while to get up off the ground and without a lot of padding in your teeny-tiny corporate budget, you’ll feel the fluctuations of the lean months. If you’re not willing to push forward, you won’t last long enough to come out the other side of the tunnel.
Working from home means you must be an effective communicator. You’re speaking for yourself to your customers and your vendors, responsible for your own marketing and promotion and clearly conveying what you offer and what you need. If you’re working from home for someone else, you need to be able to give your virtual coworkers the scope, scale, and context for the projects you’re working on in order to keep them in the loop.
Both introverts and extroverts can excel at home-based jobs. In general, introverts most enjoy working from home for someone else, while extroverts tend towards jobs that require self-promotion (most of the work for yourself or direct selling options).
Based on your personality and what makes you – and your budget – most comfortable, take the time to look into all your options for jobs that allow you to work from home. We’d like to help you figure out which path is best for you. We’ll be talking about all your options in the weeks to come.
For now, here’s a questionnaire that will get you started on assessing your options for a home-based business.
All set? Move onto the next step and hone in on your best option with What’s Best For You: Finding the Right Home-Based Business. After that, it’s time to attend to the business of Finalizing the Details: Setting Up Your Home-Based Business. Scroll down and sign up for our newsletter to be among the first to get great new content as we release it.
And hey, if you’ve already decided that you’re ready to try direct marketing and you love wine, find out more about becoming a Traveling Vineyard Wine Guide.