Best Ways to Start a Work-From-Home Business When you think of owning and operating a business, you might think about renting commercial real estate, commuting to an office, or managing employees.
But with the rise of home businesses, more and more people are discovering ways to use remote work to pursue entrepreneurship with their headquarters at home.
In today’s connected world where technology affords us more flexibility in how and where we work, home-based businesses come in a wide variety of forms.
Some require you to convert a spare room into a mini-warehouse for products, while others can be run completely online. But generally, you can start these types of businesses using your existing space and means.
Advantages and Disadvantages of home-based business
A home-based business is a venture—whether full-time or run as a side hustle—that you can start and operate using your own home as your base of operations. A few home-based businesses, especially those that sell online and don’t buy and hold lots of inventory, can even be run on the go—you don’t necessarily need to be bound to your home.
Naturally, there are pros and cons to consider when deciding whether a home-based business is right for you.
Benefits of starting a Work-From-Home Business:
- A low investment business idea has fewer overhead costs (such as warehousing fees), plus potential tax deductions you can claim.
- The option to sell products or services locally or internationally.
- Flexible work/life balance, which is ideal if you’re a stay-at-home parent or a retiree, for example.
- You can create a family business where your relations or your spouse can chip in as needed
Disadvantages of Starting a Work-From-Home Business:
- You may need to convert space in your home to support the needs of your home business (e.g. holding inventory, creating a home office, or storing equipment). The challenge can be doing it without disrupting your life at home.
- You still have to comply with any regulations that pertain to the business you want to start (e.g. you may still need to rent a commercial kitchen if you plan to sell food products or a license/permit to hold inventory).
- Your business may outgrow your home and require you to rent additional space and hire employees.
- Working from home offers you a lot of freedom, but it can also be lonely. This might be difficult if you enjoy being around other people.
8 easy home-based business ideas
While there are plenty of ways to go about starting a home-based business, the following are some of the most approachable paths to creating a home business for yourself:
- Buy products in bulk to sell
- Sell homemade products you make yourself
- Start a dropshipping store
- Start a print-on-demand store
- Sell your service or expertise
- Productize your service or expertise
- Grow an audience you can monetize
- Buy an existing ecommerce business
1. Buy products in bulk and sell them online
Maybe you recently traveled abroad and came across unique products that aren’t readily available in your market despite an appetite for them. Or maybe you’ve zeroed in on a niche and know the perfect products to serve its customers.
Either way, if these products are relatively easy to store and ship, you may have a solid home-based business idea on your hands. Blue light blocking glasses, for example, are small and durable enough to store in your own home.
Your home can even be used as an initial showroom—which is how Artemis Design Co. got its start—to sell locally, giving you the option to expand with additional storage space and employees as you validate your idea and sales start to ramp up.
“I was living in the south end of Boston, and I had my living room just full of these products. I would have people come over if they wanted to look at something or try something on, and that’s how I made my first sale.” Milicent Armstrong, Artemis Design Co.
2. Sell homemade products
With the ability to control nearly every aspect of the products you sell, you can make them more cost-effective, improve their quality, or cater them to a certain audience to target demand in the market.
Whether you choose to start on a marketplace like Etsy or want to build your own branded storefront, selling your creations is a great way to share your passion with others and make money too. Just be wary of regulations concerning products that customers ingest or put on their skin.
Best handmade products to sell online
Best of all, producing your own products doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When you’re ready to scale, you can establish a process and onboard new employees to help with production.
3. Start a dropshipping store
These businesses employ a dropshipping model, where a third party produces, stores, and ships your products on your behalf, leaving marketing and customer service as your chief responsibilities.
Your dropshipping supplier can be local or overseas, but you need to ensure you find a supplier you can trust to deliver a consistently great customer experience after the sale. Always do your due diligence or you might put your business’s reputation at risk.
At its core, dropshipping involves becoming a distributor of a third party’s products, taking on the costs of marketing (time and money) to be rewarded with the margins when you make a sale. This can make your products a commodity in many cases with limited opportunities to brand your customer experience. Luckily, there are a few different ways you can still compete even when there’s no shortage of your products in the market you’re selling in:
- Curate products, from different suppliers, to create a store that serves a specific niche.
- Compete through quality content and customer service that creates value beyond your products.
- Target an underserved region of the world (be sure to pay attention to your shipping costs).
- Target a new audience with the same products (e.g. LED shoes can be marketed to music festival goers or runners).
4. Start a print-on-demand business
And there are a wide range of products you can sell: books, t-shirts, hats, backpacks, blankets, pillows, mugs, shoes, hoodies, phone cases, watches, and more depending on the supplier you choose to work with.
Many print-on-demand businesses focus on serving a specific niche or, better yet, a shared identity. What are people passionate about and proud to share? What about yourself? From pet owners to vegans to gamers, there are plenty of passionate communities you can create products for.
If you have design skills, then you can create your own designs. But if not, you can always hire the talent you need.
5. Sell your service or expertise
Creative professionals, like designers or marketers, might freelance or consult with other companies, juggling multiple clients, often remotely from their own home office with the occasional travel. Others might operate based on appointments and bookings to offer their services to individuals directly.
Service-based home business ideas include:
- House cleaning
- Freelance writing
- Personal training
- Virtual assistance
Service-based businesses often require a lot of networking and word of mouth referrals to find suitable clients, but satisfied clients will likely retain your services over time and continue to give you their business.
For this reason, you don’t necessarily need a large number of customers to do well, as you would with a product-based business. Depending on the service you’re offering, a handful of high-quality clients can be enough to support yourself full-time while working from home.
6. Productize your service or expertise
“Productizing” your service—creating digital or physical products that package up your expertise, and streamline or complement the service you offer—can add additional revenue streams to your business. You can cater to your current customer base or even find a new target customer in the same space.
Some ideas for adding products to your service-based business include:
- Licensable assets (stock footage, music, etc.)
- Downloadable reports
- Digital templates
7. Grow an audience you can monetize
If you’re a content creator, have a sizable online audience already, or have always thought about starting your own blog, YouTube channel, Instagram account, or podcast, then you can potentially grow and then monetize your following using any of the previous ideas on this list.
On top of that, you can also explore becoming an affiliate—selling other products or services for a commission—or accepting payment for sponsored posts to give brands a chance to connect with your audience.
Building a loyal audience requires patience, consistency, and focus. This is not the easiest way to start a home-based business, especially not in the short-term, but if you’re able to build a following around something you love it can be one of the most fulfilling and enduring, giving you the flexibility to pursue multiple revenue streams at once.
The potential to monetize your audience often depends on the niche you choose to serve. If you’re starting from scratch or are in the midst of growing your own audience, be sure to check out the following guides to learn how to best grow and monetize the most popular channels:
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8. Buy an existing ecommerce business
Last but not least, if you’re more interested in simply investing in a source of income that you can maintain while at home or on the go, then you can consider buying an established ecommerce business.
Prices can vary greatly based on a variety of factors, from total revenue generated, profit potential, available assets (like an email list or social following), inventory, and more. Some sellers will even onboard you and teach you the ropes of running their store.
Exchange is a marketplace powered by Shopify for buying and selling ecommerce stores. You can browse the listings for businesses that are suit your budget, level of experience, and needs. Maybe you want to buy a proven business and are willing to invest more money to acquire it. Or perhaps one catches your eye with untapped potential that you’d like to grow.
Just be sure to vet each listing and consider everything that’s included in the sale. Revenue and other data can be verified through Shopify so you can rest assured that those numbers are accurate. If you’d like some more guidance, be sure to check out our guide: How to Buy a Business on Exchange.
How to find a home business idea that works for you
A home-based business is simply a remote-friendly business in today’s world where technology can close the gap between you, your suppliers, your employees, and your customers. Altogether, this makes for an opportunity to start small, grow nimbly, and invest conservatively—especially when you can cut out the costs of renting an office.
Best Small Business Ideas
Are you always fixing things around the house? Often on call when friends need small projects completed? Put together a website, figure out what your time and expertise is worth, and start asking those thankful friends for referrals.
Similarly, if you have a passion for crafting beautiful furniture or other home goods out of wood — there’s demand for that. List a few of your pieces on sites like Etsy, eBay, or Craigslist. Once you build a following, consider starting a website, accepting custom orders, or expanding to refinishing work and upholstery.
3. Online dating consultant
Dating consultants usually charge for their time. They help people create successful online dating profiles, source possible matches from outside normal online channels, and offer a level of personalization Tinder just can’t. Think you’ve got a knack for the match? This might be the business for you.
4. Sewing and alteration specialist
People will always need clothing hemmed and buttons mended — and you could be the person to do it. If you love sewing, start by offering simple services like those mentioned above, and expand your repertoire to dressmaking and design as you build a customer base and demand.
5. Freelance developer
From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. With such a technical skillset, make sure you can describe what you do and how you will do it in easy-to-understand language. Test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do.
6. Personal trainer
Offer in-home consultations, personalized nutrition and exercise regimens, and community boot camps to get the word out. Don’t forget to populate an Instagram feed with inspirational quotes, free exercise videos, and yummy snack ideas as well — it’s a common way for fitness gurus to build their brands.
7. Freelance graphic designer
Set your own hours, choose your projects, and build a portfolio and business you’re proud of. From website design to blog graphics and more, many companies seek out experienced graphic designers for all manner of projects.
8. Life/career coach
If you have some experience under your belt, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers — and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough. Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, sometimes everyone just needs some uplifting advice.
9. Resume writer
Submitting a resume, cover letter, and — when necessary — portfolio for a new job can be tough and time consuming. That’s why many people hire help. Assist clients with tailored resumes, beautifully edited cover letters, and carefully crafted portfolios that make it impossible for employers to ignore.
10. Freelance writer
If you have writing skills, there’s someone out there willing to pay you for them. Write blog posts, magazine articles, and website copy galore — just make sure you have a body of work built up to share with potential clients. Even if you create a few sample pieces to have on hand, they’ll help exhibit your work and attract new business.
Speak a foreign language? Start a translation service. Consider specializing in a specific genre of translation, like medical or financial translation, as you might be able to fill a niche need in your community.
12. Garden designer
Many people have the willingness to do the dirty work in their backyards, but few have the know-how to design a backyard space to begin with. Draw up the designs for your clients’ outdoor spaces and let them do the actual digging.
13. Ecommerce store owner
Do you create, collect, or curate anything special? Consider starting an ecommerce store and turning your hobby into a full-time job. Whether you need somewhere to sell all that pottery you’ve been making, or an excuse to search for the sports memorabilia you love tracking down — an ecommerce store can make it financially viable for you to pursue your passion.
Mowing, tree-trimming, and seasonal decor are all neighborhood needs. If you have or can acquire the equipment, a landscaping business can be a lucrative affair.
Video production requires you to have invested in the equipment up front which can be quite expensive. But that’s also what makes your services so valuable. Make sure you have a reel of your work to share or create a website with several selections of your work available for interested viewers.
Start by conducting photo shoots for your family and friends. As you build a body of work, ask for referrals. Photography businesses often grow by word of mouth, so create a Facebook page where you can tag recent clients, which will show up in their friends’ newsfeeds as well.
17. Travel planner
The time of the travel agent might be passing, but people are still looking for those with a knack for more nontraditional travel coordination. If you always plan the perfect vacations complete with beautiful hotels, the ideal location, and a bevy of delicious restaurants lined up for every evening, consider advertising your services as a more modern approach to travel planning.
18. Car-detailing specialist
The devil is in the details and you can be too. Car detailing services that travel to the client are in high demand. Just make sure you have the flexibility, transportation, and equipment to take your business on the road.
19. Home inspector
This will require a great deal of expertise and certification, but it’s a job that can give you the flexibility and pay you’ve always dreamed of. Confirm the licensing requirements in your state and consider taking a few courses to build out your knowledge, authority, and expertise.
20. House cleaner
With a low barrier to entry, house cleaning can be a great way to start doing what you love — soon. Consider advertising to homes in your neighborhood and get more bang for your buck by earning a few small businesses as clients as well. They’ll usually bring in a higher paycheck for a similar amount of work.
21. Personal chef
We all love to eat, but few of us have the time or energy to cook healthy, delicious meals. Advertise your services to local families and businesses alike. And consider “chunking” certain groups of clients — say, vegetarians — so you can cook larger quantities of the same dish to feed them all.
22. Property manager
Many people maintain properties they don’t live in — often based in different cities or states. It’s helpful to have someone to ensure the property is being well taken care of, handle small fixes as they arise, and serve as a liaison to renters.
23. Packing services facilitator
Moving is always a pain, and many people hire the entire packing process out. Want to have a steady stream of clients? Partner with a local moving service who will refer new clients to you.
24. Massage therapist
Soothe aching muscles and promote peace for your clients as a massage therapist. Look into training and certification courses in your city and state and invest in a portable bed to take on client visits.
25. Hairdressing or makeup artist
Sure, you could go to cosmetology school and pay for an expensive chair at a salon, or you could offer specialized styling and makeup services right to your client’s door.
26. Bed and breakfast owner
This is another business venture that will require you to research the correct licensure from your state, but it will be well worth it to see your dreams come true. Consider what guests will be traveling to your area to experience and create special packages and themed stays to coincide with their interests in your locale.
27. Interior designer
Similar to landscape design — there are many people who have the ability to buy the furniture and home decor they need to fill their rooms, but few who know where to start. It might take some time to build a portfolio but documenting your projects and sharing them online can build a fan base beyond your wildest dreams.
28. Nonprofit owner
If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status — and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in. Want to do good while still making a profit? Consider social entrepreneurship.
29. Tour guide
Love the local history of your city or state? Consider becoming a tour guide. Sure, you’ll need to conduct tons of research to be able to do the job well, but that’s half the fun. Set yourself apart by offering tours that speak to a specific niche of your community’s history. Some tour guides offer historical walking tours of their town’s most haunted spots while others curate guided foodie tours for guests to get a true taste of the city.
Whether math whiz, piano master, or Shakespeare aficionado — there’s someone out there who needs a little help and is willing to pay for it. Advertise your services through local schools, community colleges, and community centers to get the word out and build a customer base.
If you have significant experience in or knowledge of a specific subject, consider becoming a consultant. Perhaps you’re an expert at hiring practices, have a knack for SEO, or have led multiple sales teams to six-figure success. If you’re good at it, market yourself as a consultant and charge the going rate.
32. Clothing boutique owner
If you dream of building your own fashion empire, why not start with a local boutique? Build buzz with impressive window displays, inspiring social media accounts, and heavy community involvement.
33. Event planner
You might choose to specialize in a specific type of event — like weddings or company meetings — or set yourself up as an event planner of all trades. If you’re highly organized, pay keen attention to minute details, and have experience planning large events, it might be time others benefit from your skills.
34. Specialty food store owner
Gourmet foods, cheeses, sake, wine — you name a food, there’s a specialty food store out there for it. Put your passion for exotic olive oils to good use and open a store where you offer the kind of expertise and selection your audience couldn’t dream of getting from their local grocer.
35. Personal assistant
Again, if you’re an organized, highly detailed person, the life of a personal assistant might be for you. Don’t want to be tied to one office or person all day, every day? Consider becoming a virtual assistant, which allows you a more flexible work environment.
36. Food truck owner
Always dreamt of owning a restaurant but not quite ready to take the plunge? Test out your concepts with a food truck. It’s a great way to become familiar with food and restaurant licensing in your state, see what people like and don’t like, and build a ravenous following before ever opening or investing in a brick-and-mortar location.
37. Consignment shop owner
If you have an eye for style but don’t want to invest in the inventory of a brand-new boutique, consider going consignment. It will allow you to curate a collection of clothing that matches your goals and aesthetic, without the overhead of a boutique selling entirely new garments.
If that personal chef gig is too restrictive for your schedule, consider catering instead. Pick your projects, work fewer but larger events, and get really good at time management.
39. Gym owner
Kickboxing gyms, yoga studios, CrossFit, oh my! Turn your passion for fitness into a community for others by opening your own gym.
40. Daycare owner
Childcare continues to be in high demand. While nannies and nanny shares are popular right now, a good daycare is hard to find. Fill a need in your neighborhood by opening your own. And, as always, make sure you’re complying with your city and state’s zoning, licensure, insurance, and inspection requirements.
41. Boutique agency owner
What’s your specialty? Whether it’s marketing, social media, or PR, it might be time to start your own agency. Many other small businesses need this type of help, but don’t have the resources or volume to necessitate a full-time position. Consider a building a small team and learn from other entrepreneurs who’ve successfully started their own agencies, like Duane Brown of Take Some Risk.
42. Coffee shop owner
Turn your caffeine addiction into something a little more lucrative. Opening a franchise or buying an existing shop are lower-risk entry points to the coffee game but they usually require a little more cash up front. Starting a shop from scratch requires a little more planning and a lot more work — but it also maximizes your earning potential in the future.
43. Moving company
A truck, moving equipment, manpower, and the correct permits and insurance are the building blocks of starting your own moving company. Before you buy your first fleet of trucks, however, start small with a moving van and keep your costs low. Still sound like too much of an initial investment? Consider offering packing services only, which have a much lower financial barrier to entry.
44. Home staging
If you have a flare for interior design, a staging service might serve as your creative outlet and professional calling. You can build a portfolio with little initial investment by staging homes using the owner’s existing furnishings and decor. Most stagers eventually build up inventory of furniture as they become more established and network with area realtors.
45. Dog walker, groomer, or trainer
Licensing and insurance will be the two most important factors in opening a dog walking, grooming, or training business, but your canine colleagues will surely make up for the initial red tape. To test the waters before jumping in, consider walking dogs through companies like Rover or Wag. Ready to run your own show? Consider a franchise like Dogtopia.