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    Have you considered starting a home business? It's not as difficult as you may think.

    man working from home

    Many people are choosing to start their own businesses these days. Whether they are people who don't want to spend most of their waking hours commuting to and from work, parents of young children who want a more flexible work environment, or retirees who have decided to get back into the mainstream, there are plenty of opportunities for those folks who are considering starting up a home-based business.

    If you've ever thought about starting your own home business, there's no time like the present. But what sort of business should it be? How do you get started? How do you find potential customers? Let's go over the essential steps you should follow in order to answer those questions and help you in your decision-making process.

    1. Go with what you know.

    Almost everyone has skills, knowledge, experience and assets that could be channeled into a marketable home-based business. For instance, if you own a truck or have access to a trailer, you could start a junk hauling or recycling pick-up service. An accountant with space for an office has all the tools they need for a successful home business. There are many types of businesses that can be run from your home. Just to name a few:

    2. Do some market research.

    Do you know who your target customers are? How large is the potential market within your geographical area? You will need to answer those questions before you invest a lot of time and money into the venture. Find out how many people in your area would be interested in your proposed product or service. Talk to the people in your neighborhood, take several informal surveys over a period of one to three months to determine what percentage of your area would be willing to pay for your product or service. Make the survey simple - just a few key questions. For example:

    1. What is the likelihood that you would have a need for _________________ (your product or service) in the next 12 months?
    2. Is this a product / service that you would be willing to pay for?
    3. How much would you be willing to pay for this product / service?
    4. How often would you have a need for this product / service?
    5. Would you be more likely to buy it if this product / service was available in your neighborhood?

    3. Prepare a business plan.

    A business plan is an essential component of the process. It gives you a means to clarify what your business proposition is and how you plan to grow your business, set out your mission statement and goals, and convince potential lenders and investors why they should have confidence in its potential. It is a vital tool for obtaining financing, especially if you require a start-up loan for equipment and supplies.

    Your business plan should include:

    • estimated start-up costs,
    • an advertising and marketing strategy,
    • production costs and procedures,
    • sales strategy,
    • a summary of your work history, skills, resources and strengths as a manager of your own business,
    • a breakdown of how your time will be allocated between the home business and the other demands on your time (regular job, family requirements, etc).

    Too often, enthusiastic and ambitious entrepreneurs jump into an extra income project and suddenly find that the costs are too high, and the time requirements more than they can meet. It pays to lay it all out on paper before you get involved. The clearer the vision you have of the project before you start, the better your chances for success.

    4. Promote, promote, promote.

    • Get the word out wherever and however you can. Look for as many free or low-cost ways to advertise as possible.
    • Give out discount cards, BOGOs, first-time customer specials.
    • Get your website up and running asap. Ensure that customers can place orders / book appointments / ask for quotes easily and seamlessly.
    • Set up a targeted local online ad campaign. If you've never done this before, hire an SEO consultant to help you.
    • If you have printed materials such as business cards, flyers, etc., make sure they're professional looking and memorable.

    5. Be prepared to tough it out for the first 6 months.

    Regardless of what type of business you start, you should have enough capital available to sustain the business through the first six months of operation. Do not count on receiving or spending any business income for yourself or your bills during that start-up phase. All revenues obtained in the first 6 months should be reinvested into the business in order to reach your planned Year 1 projections. After that initial 6-month period you can set up a small monthly salary for yourself.

    Don't expect instant success. "If you build it, they will come" only happens in the movies.

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