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Part of the challenge you may face working from home is coming up with home business ideas that will be sustainable over the long-term and profitable in the short-term. How do you use your time and talent to make money from home? Should you start your own business or work with a corporation that hires clerical staff? Or maybe you can do creative work for clients. What job can you do, and do well, with the amount of time, money, attention and energy you have (especially as a mom) that will be profitable?
You can get a pretty good idea of where your strengths lie, and maybe a few ideas about what you can do for fun (or for money) by doing the activities in the Value workbook. But I pulled this post from my book, 70 Cool Home Business Ideas for Women Who Think Outside the Box, to give you some ideas of home businesses I’ve seen women actually start and succeed in running.
Here are 7 home businesses ideas that are a good fit for creative women.
1. Cook / Caterer
I know a woman who turned her dinner menu into a profitable catering and food truck business.
The Cook is a married woman with an army of football-playing sons. She, like many women, prepares meals for her family with plenty of love and a little money. Early in their marriage, The Cook developed the habit of setting aside a portion of dinner each night for her husband to eat for lunch the next day. After years of sharing his lunch plates with the guys at work, her husband decided to see if he could market his wife’s cooking to the guys at work.
One Tuesday evening, he created a simple menu with an order sheet at the bottom. He printed 10 copies of the order sheet and took them to work with him the next day. Just before lunch, he went around to his friends distributing order forms with a 5-item menu at the top. Co-workers could choose one of two meats on the menu and select two of the three sides listed. There was one dessert listed that he included with every meal. He asked co-workers to submit all orders and payments by noon on Thursday.
His friends didn’t say much about it Wednesday, but by noon on Thursday, he had over $100 in orders. During his lunch break, he carefully discussed the idea with his wife. She thought the idea was worth a shot and they were in business. Over the next two years, the coupled grew their Thursday night hustle into a successful catering business and soul food truck.
- Skills inventory: The ability to cook the food your audience wants (and I strongly recommend choosing a specific type of food – Caribbean, Thai, Soul, Cajun, German – and creating a small menu of the items that make you a BOSS in the kitchen)
- Physical / virtual inventory: A clean, sanitary kitchen; in some towns, you’ll need to stay under the radar if you’re not cooking from a commercial kitchen; cooking utensils; pots and pans large enough to accommodate large amounts of food. In major markets like Atlanta, you can rent commercial kitchen spaces by the day, week or month.
- Launch cost: Assuming you have the cooking utensils, it’ll cost you 90 cents plus tax at FedEx Office to make 10 order sheets if you don’t already have a printer with ink. A membership to Sam’s Club, BJ’s or Costco will be less than $40 and you can usually purchase 100 Styrofoam food containers with a hinged lid for less than $10. As long as the orders are in before you buy food and cook, you don’t have to underwrite the cost of actually buying the food.
- Marketing: Word of mouth is key. Menu flyers work well with food service trucks. You may want to do full-color flyers, but if you don’t have a top quality printer, skip the images.
A Piece of Advice: Make sure you charge enough per meal you sell to cover the cost of cooking and packaging the meals, but don’t overdo it. I would say for most meals, staying under $10 is fair. Soul food tends to get pricey.
I know four women who supplement their incomes by making and selling gourmet chocolate treats.
The chocolate business has natural peak seasons – Valentine’s Day, Easter, wedding season, Sweetest Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas (can’t get enough of those chocolate fountains). All four of the women I know make chocolate from their homes. As well, they sell chocolate during peak seasons and by special order only.
Their confectionery products may include things like gourmet apples, chocolate-covered fruit, chocolate-covered pretzel sticks and nuts and novelty candies made using chocolate molds. These women also provided chocolate as a service at parties in the form of chocolate fondues and chocolate fountains.
- Skills inventory: A sweet tooth and a sophisticated palette, creativity, curiosity, ability to follow recipes
- Physical / virtual inventory: A clean, sanitary kitchen; pots; wrappers for packaging, candy molds
- Launch cost: Approximately $50 for first batch of chocolates
- Marketing: With chocolate, if you tell people, they will come. Start blogging, post pictures on Pinterest, Facebook and other social platforms. Create business pages for your chocolate service on Facebook, Google Plus and with the local business directories.
I know a woman who writes other people’s books for a living.
People want to tell their story… or at least tell someone’s story. Just because you have a story to tell doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a great writer.
If you have a talent for relaying ideas, ghostwriting may work for you. Clients typically hire ghostwriters to provide a service with no strings attached. They may have you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which states the ghostwriter will not reveal that she wrote the work. Most NDAs prohibit you from even including ghostwritten works in your professional portfolio. Clients may also have you sign a Work for Hire Agreement, which indicates once you are paid for your work you no longer have any legal claim to the work.
When you’re just starting out, you will have to prove yourself. Make a good first impression by putting together an engaging sample of your writing in the niche in which you’re looking to get work. If you use a bidding site like Upwork.com, Freelance.com, or Freelancer.com to get work, you will be competing for jobs with writers from all over the globe. As a writer, you don’t just compete with the women from your college creative writing class. You’re competing with a Kenyan dude, a Filipino guy, a British girl and the girls from your college Creative Writing class.
There are a slew of different types of writing jobs. Each of the categories below require a slightly different skill set.
Here are just a few of the most commonly sought writers
Sales copy/landing pages
Web content page writers
- Skills inventory: A dynamic wordsmith with a voice; perfect or near-perfect grammar
- Physical / virtual inventory: Computer and internet connection
- Launch cost: Zero if you have a computer and an internet connection. You can sign up on Upwork.com, PeoplePerHour.com and Guru.com for free.
- Marketing: Focus on creating a good portfolio of your work. Join bidding sites like Upwork.com, Guru.com, Freelance.com, Freelancer.com and Fiverr.com.
Of special note: There are two very important things you should consider as a ghostwriter – actively building your writing portfolio and eventually building your wealth portfolio. You acquire knowledge as a ghostwriter. Each time a client pays you to learn a subject and write about it, you gain a body of knowledge that is yours to do with what you want. Unless you are contractually prohibited from doing so (and as a ghostwriter, I would never sign a contract that prohibits me from writing about a topic again) there is nothing stopping you from taking the knowledge you’ve gained and creating your own content. You don’t have to give up any of your client’s trade secrets to write on the same or a similar topic. In fact, it would be best if you didn’t regurgitate what’s already out there. Find a way to make your content unique and original.
A client hires you to ghostwrite a book called “A Proven System for Designing and Marketing Mobile Apps.” You conduct quite a bit of research on mobile markets, new media, smartphones, etc. and notice that most app marketers actually outsource the development of their apps. So after you write a great book for your client, you could write a separate book that goes into great detail about how to go about hiring the right app developer to get your app to market in record time.
You can add excerpts from your book to your portfolio for new clients to see and you’ve written a book that you and your children will own for years to come.
Intellectual Property is the gift that keeps on giving. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, intellectual property is:
“It is imagination made real. It is the ownership of dream, an idea, an improvement, an emotion that we can touch, see, hear, and feel. It is an asset just like your home, your car, or your bank account. Just like other kinds of property, intellectual property needs to be protected from unauthorized use. There are four ways to protect different types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyright and trade secrets.” Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
At some point, you may want to consider negotiating author credits and a small percentage of royalties in exchange for a reduced ghost writing rate. You’ll have to make the decision on when that option would be beneficial for both you and your client, but the advantage of owning intellectual property is that it remains part of your legacy and continues to generate income – however small that income may be – even once the work’s been completed. When you get to the point where you’ve mentally transitioned from wanting to earn wages to wanting to generate profits, IP may become a key piece of your wealth portfolio.
4. Pop Art Designer
I know a woman who designs tattoos.
She’s not a tattoo artist in the traditional sense of the term. She actually designs tattoo art for people who want original temporary or permanent tattoos. Her customers then take her ideas and present them to local tattoo artists who can replicate her work.
This industrious young woman is actually in high school. She dreams up works of art for other students who pay her $20 to create tattoo art that they then can take to a tattoo artist and have it inked somewhere on their bodies.
The flip side of her business is jean art. She create tattoos for jeans with fabric paint. She also provides other artistic services for jeans. She makes Daisy Duke-inspired short shorts. She also has a technique for ripping jeans to make new jeans look worn and tattered. It may take a full day to get them done, but once the jeans are done – whether tatted or battered – she sells them in person and online for anywhere from $30 – $75 per pair. Not bad money for a high school girl hustling during her lunch hour and designing during commercial breaks on BET’s 106 & Park.
What a brilliant use of raw talent.
- Skills inventory: Creativity, artistic talent or skill
- Physical / virtual inventory: Fabric paints, scissors, access to a washer and dryer
- Launch cost: Bare knuckles minimum, $30 for an array of permanent marker colors and fabric paints for the jean tats
- Marketing: Wear your work and encourage others to talk about your work.
5. Gift Basket Designer
I know a woman who earns money making and selling gift baskets.
The holiday baskets at your neighborhood super center can leave much to be desired. When did they start skimping on the marshmallow Peeps and plastic dolls at Easter time?
The Gift Basket Designer capitalizes on just this kind of dissatisfaction. She specializes in a basket style called suspension – a three-tiered basket in which items are package in a way wherein they appear to be suspended in mid-air.
The Gift Basket Designer has busy times, such as Easter, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. But she also does consistent business during her off-peak periods. This is due, in no small part, to her relentless marketing efforts. She has a lot of individual clients who provide her with much-needed word-of-mouth promotions. But she also has corporate clients who keep her busy with company parties, staff gifts and corporate marketing efforts.
Creatively and stylistically, the Gift Basket Designer is light years ahead of the cellophane-wrapped wicker baskets that line the store shelves during Easter, Mother’s Day and Christmas. Her transition into basket design was a natural progression from other crafts in which she had taken an interest, namely floral arrangement.
When she started her business, she did so making baskets for people right in her family. In the weeks leading up to her busy times, she leaves full-color business cards and flyers with local businesses and displays sample baskets with some of them. She also uses the power of social media to generate leads by holding drawing for gift-basket giveaways. As well, she donates her services to a handful of local community when they hold special events. She sells, on average, three to four baskets per week at an average price tag of $62 each.
- Skills inventory: Creativity, a bit of pizzazz and style, eye for symmetry
- Physical / virtual inventory: Basket design supplies
- Launch cost: $50 for supplies
- Marketing: Word of mouth is a good place to start. Blog on the topic. Take pictures of each basket you create to build a portfolio of your handiwork. Distribute color flyers and business cards to anyone or any business that will take them. This is the perfect business for Pinterest. Pin the pics from your portfolio onto theme gift basket boards on Pinterest. Create a Facebook page for your business and blab about gift ideas and cute ideas on social networks.
6. Jewelry Designer
I know a woman who makes jewelry.
Who isn’t a sucker for handmade jewelry? The Jewelry Designer loves making jewelry. She has both the patience and the creativity for it. She works mostly with semi-precious stones – jade, jet, tiger’s eye, marble, quartz, turquoise, and a host of other stones. She uses hand tools to drill holes, tie loops and secure stones on string, wire and ropes. And the end result is a collection of very beautiful jewelry pieces.
The Jewelry Designer participates in craft shows, fairs, festivals, expos and other vending opportunities. She also sells pieces on eBay, Amazon and Etsy. Finally, she does a lot of reselling to local brick and mortar boutiques, salons and even some consignment shops. She is able to design and sell her jewelry full time and makes a decent living doing so.
Between making pieces, developing her collections and finding ways to sell her wares, she invests probably 60 hours a week into her business. For her, the returns are great. I’ve been told that she earns upwards of $2,500 at jewelry parties, in addition to the money that comes in online and from other sources. I don’t rightly know what her investment is, but her gross (not take-home) hovers somewhere around the $45K mark annually. Not bad for doing something you’re going to do anyway. For her, that’s part of the draw.
Despite the long hours, she’s able to do what she loves, bathe in her own creativity, mix and mingle with people and support her family on her earnings. Cool bonus: She’s always wearing gorgeous, original pieces of jewelry.
- Skills inventory: Time, creativity, patience, good eyes, a steady hand, jewelry-making skill
- Physical / virtual inventory: Jewelry-making supplies
- Launch cost: You can get started for around $100
- Marketing: Generate buzz via word of mouth. Add your business to Google places and other online business directories. Blog at least once a week. Target and increase your social media efforts. Vend at local fairs, festivals and craft shows. Talk to local boutique and consignment shop owners about carrying your exquisite pieces. Build or have someone build an online boutique for you. Throw jewelry parties.
I know a woman who earns money by taking and selling pictures.
She loves capturing moments and moods. She has a real talent for finding beauty in everything but her business is not in taking the pictures. Her business is licensing them online.
As a writer, I know that every time I publish written content, I publish at least one image along with it. So important are pictures to my core business of communicating ideas that I have formed a habit of downloading powerful images whenever I see them. The same is true for many writers who regularly publish content online. They either take pictures or find pictures.
An image is just as much content as a blog post. Every magazine, blog, corporate brand and professional firm that has a presence online also finds they have a need for high-quality images. It is this understanding that eventually brought the photographer to the point where she began licensing the pictures she snapped.
She stores images on sites like GettyImages.com, Dreamstime.com, and iStock.com. Members who are looking for images license her pictures at a set price. That price is usually based on the size and the popularity of the picture. Larger images cost more. Popular images cost more.
The Photographer uploads hundreds and hundreds of images a year. Whenever someone wants to download one of her pictures from an image licensing site, she earns a percentage of the licensing fee –from a few cents to a few dollars – for each download.
She still retains the rights to her images and they are able to serve a higher purpose than just being included in her slideshow screensaver. How much does she make? Not a whole lot, but her images sell and depending on what she photographs and how she tags the images, she can expect to continue receiving royalty income from the licensing fees collected on her behalf.
- Skills inventory: An eye for beauty, imagination, creativity
- Physical / virtual inventory: Quality digital camera
- Launch cost: You can probably get a nice camera for under $200
- Marketing: Generate buzz via word of mouth for your photography services. Blog at least once per week, whether it’s on photography, weddings, getting a dog to sit still for family portraits, taking the best senior picture or whatever. Upload your pictures to popular image licensing platforms.