For baby boomers looking to get out of corporate America, starting a small home-based business may be one of the best ways to get yourself back in the professional saddle. Home-based businesses are often easy to start and require little capital outlay, making them an ideal investment for first-time entrepreneurs.
Leveraging the Internet is the common denominator for all at-home businesses today. It provides the resources that make launching a new business faster, easier, cheaper and more productive than ever. See how this idea plays out across the following home-based business ideas — all of which would be a great fit for baby boomers looking to make the jump into small business ownership.
AirBnb has revolutionized the lodging business, taking the concept of the bed-and-breakfast to new heights and using technology to fine-tune the process, making it more accessible and more efficient to both providers and customers. While vacation rental listing services like VRBO have been around for a long time, AirBnB injected a fresh approach to listing and paying for travel lodging, making the process much more like a social network. Like other web-based platforms in the “gig” economy, AirBnb makes sure to monitor and refine the process at every step along the way. While older services cater primarily to professional property managers, AirBnb has attracted everyday property owners (and lease-holders) into the game, making it a lucrative business opportunity, especially for boomers with homes near major tourist cities. Its success has also spawned a sting of competitors, including Flipkey, Homeaway, and Kidandcoe for child-friendly rentals.
EBay has evolved over the years from primarily a person-to-person auction site into a full-fledged mail order home-based business platform. Now, thanks to many other online retailers (most notably Amazon) opening up their platforms to small retailers — and crafts/handiworks retail sites like Etsy rounding out the picture — a home-based retailer has a wide range of opportunities to sell their products online, as well as build a community of fans and repeat customers. Backing up the actual marketplaces is a range of software tools to automate and track the nuts and bolts of retail: ordering, billing, invoicing, tracking inventory, shipping and customer service.
If you’re creative or technical (or both), the Internet once again makes opening a services-oriented business fast and cheap to set up. These niche service businesses (think software development, graphic design, web development, etc.) use cloud-based applications to create, store and share content. Online marketplaces like Upwork or Freelancer are global resources to help find clients. Specialty sites like 99Designs focus on specific niches, like logo design, brand identity work, etc. If you’re turning a passion or a hobby into a business, there are plenty of training resources online, as well as through local schools and colleges to help you up your game and compete.
As we get older and find ourselves on the other side of life’s bigger lessons (family, relationships, career, etc.), we are, according to psychologists, increasingly drawn to pursuits that serve and support others. This attitude of service is a calling many people gravitate toward in becoming life and career coaches. No matter what you may have done in a previous career, training and professional certification around coaching has grown as the practice has found more acceptance and more application in this rapidly changing and challenging economy. While many coaches work remotely via phone, video services like Skype and Google Hangouts do a pretty good job of making remote coaching as compelling as being in the same room.
If your prior training and career experience involved professional services, including accounting, legal, financial or general management, you can hang out your consulting shingle. Your initial prospects will likely be contacts that you worked with from your in-house employee days, but if you’ve stayed in close touch with your network, you should have a good foundation for building this business. Be open to letting your home-based business and your customer base evolve beyond the work you used to do. Clients will hire you based on your unique approach to solving problems and managing those solutions. Now may be the perfect time to do your business the way you always wanted to do it — and the way that you’ve always felt it should be done.
Sales/Customer Service/Network Marketing
The telephone revolutionized sales, and by hitting the phones from home, you can still build a great home-based business. If you’ve got the gift of gab and a love of selling, there is likely a product, service or business that could use your help. Using digital Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools (e.g. Salesforce, Zoho, Insightly, Sage and many others) allows you to track and service a much greater number of leads than you could ever do manually or with a simple spreadsheet. There are many industries looking to outsource sales and service to home-based workers, and it makes a lot of sense: you get more flexibility and a more pleasant environment; they get the benefits and pay you based on results.
You don’t have to open a restaurant to develop a food-oriented business. More cities and states are acknowledging the market for fresh, home-cooked foods and making it easier for home-based cooks to certify their home kitchens for commercial purposes. Check to see if your home can qualify under these new regulations, and then use digital marketing practices and tools to source ingredients, find co-workers and equipment, and sell your products.
Once you’ve decided which home-based business idea is right for you, don’t forget you don’t have to pay for everything on your own. In addition to business lines of credit or SBA loans, 401(k) rollovers can be an especially attractive financing option for baby boomers, allowing you to use your existing retirement funds tax- and penalty-free to invest in a business.
This post first appeared as one of my regular posts for Guidant Financial, a financial services firm focused on providing guidance to entrepreneurs and small-business startups.