Q. We are interested in starting our own home business and want to know what first steps we should take in deciding what kind of business to operate from home.
Julie and Vick from Rancho Cucomonga, CA via facebook
ELLIE: There are basically three kinds of businesses: sales, service and manufacturing. Sales can take many forms such as retail or wholesale, mail order or direct sales. They tend to offer more flexible hours but require more paperwork. Service businesses are the easiest to set up and can require the smallest initial investment. If you do something well, like painting or decorating, fixing things, cleaning houses repairing computers, etc, you can start your own service business. Finally, there is manufacturing—everything from crafts to jewelry, furniture and more. Once you decide on the kind of business, do your research online or with the help of a research librarian, subscribe to industry magazines and talk to those in that kind of business.
Q. Are there any online resources available for us to find someone who will give us free advice on our small graphics and design business.
Mike and Victoria from Syracuse, NY via online contact form
ELLIE: Yes! You can go to SCORE.org, which is non-profit organization designed to help small business owners with over 12,000 volunteer counselors across the country. They can hook you up with a mentor to answer your questions online or in one of their offices. Their volunteers are made of experts in 600 fields who have been successful in their own businesses and include former CEOs! If you are interested in funding your startup business you can go to Kickstarter.com or since you’re an artist you may want to find funding for your project by going to IndieGoGo.com
Q: I’ve worked for the same construction company for 20 years and just got laid off. I have a dream to start my own carpentry business, but I’m not sure that I have what it takes to do it. How do I know if I can hack it or not?
Mark submitted via Online Contact Form
ELLIE: That’s a great question, Mark, and since the SBA says that 1 in 2 small businesses will fail within a year, you have every right to question your ability to succeed. I think the key lies in planning and doing your preparation work. It’s important and assess your personality and skills. You can take the Personality ID test offered at your SBA center, college, library or community center. It will help you look at yourself from a fresh perspective and asses whether your personality is best served as an owner or an employee. I also think it’s important to pursue your passion. Do you really love carpentry or has it just been a job to you? When you pursue your passion, not only does it get you up in the morning but it makes more likely to succeed!
Q. My mom sells Premier Jewelry and my best friend sells Mary Kay. Both of them are pressuring me to sign up under them in order to build their business. How do I make the decision about which homebased business to start.
Jenny Monroe from Oklahoma City, OK
ELLIE: Jenny, there’s a phrase you need to learn right away: It’s nothing personal, just business! You need to make your decision based on what is right for YOU, not based on who you love more: your mom or your friend! I’ll send you the Homebased Business file for free if you go to elliekay.com and in that file you’ll see 25 questions you need to ask each woman about their business including: What are the start up costs? What is the hostess plan? Does the company pay sales tax or do I have to do that myself? How many downline generations are paid? How much inventory is needed? It’s important to have all the facts available and then make your decision based on business and not on anything personal!
Q. I’ve dabbled in writing here and there but I want to try and go into it on a more full time basis, should I try to freelance various writing projects or should I offer my writing services as a subcontractor to an existing company that need writers?
Ted from Chicago, VA via Ellie Kay’s blog
ELLIE: The answer is “yes.” It’s easier to launch a service based industry, such as what you’re essentially talking about by subcontracting work to an existing firm. Outsourcing is becoming more and more prominent as jobs are streamlined and companies downsize. It’s cheaper to hire a contractor than paying benefits to a full time employee. So hook up with your local Chamber of Commerce and plug into businesses in your community. At the same time, get The Writers Guide online or from your local library and begin to pitch articles to various periodicals by writing a good query letter and tailoring each article toward the specific needs of the publication. Ted, with how work and bit of luck you’ll find yourself doing what you love and having your dream business at the same time!
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)