Primer on Developing and Running a Home-Based Biz
Have you ever thought about running your own business from home? I know I did. When I retired in 2010, I discovered this book by Donna Partow. It was well organized and full of information and ideas. I found Donna’s upbeat, optimistic attitude inspiring. While she was writing to women, the principles are the same for men and retirees.
Making Money from Home: How to Run a Successful Home-Based Business by Donna Partow
With the Internet, turning a good idea into a great business has never been easier. With this book, Making Money from Home, Donna Partow shared her story and how anyone can start and successfully operate a home business.
Working a home-based business used to be thought of as a small enterprise or only for women. The American economy and the internet has shown us that anyone can take a good idea and turn it into a successful business, all from the comfort of their home.
Donna found herself out of work and recovering from substance abuse. Today, she is happy and is running a successful home business. In fact, she created a foundation to support clean water supplies in Latin America.
Steps to Success
Donna suggests various strategies to determine if you want to offer a service, actual merchandise or digital products. She also discusses how to market the business and how to minimize expenses in the start up. She helps the reader to see how the benefits of a home-based business may outweigh the cost of working outside the home. Advantages include:
- No commuting expenses,
- No need for high fashion clothing,
- No need to wear ties (three cheers for the men!),
- No lunch purchases,
- No offsite childcare,
- No afterschool sitters for your children,
- No home security issues since the home is always occupied!
This is good news for stay at home moms and dads. But it is also good news for retirees looking to supplement their retirement income. We do’t want commuting and clothing expenses to eat up our retirement income. Also, we want a low cost method to starting a home based business.
Topics to Get You Started on the Road to Success
This book shows you in easy-to-understand language how to get started.
- Learning to form the foundations of a solid business,
- How to manage your time wisely,
- How to market products and services,
- How to create a simple business plan (even if you cannot use a spreadsheet),
- How handle legal issues,
- How to set up a business account,
- How to set up a record keeping file,
- How to use the Internet to your advantage.
As Donna would say: “Three cheers for technology!”
The Book Got Me Started With My Personal Home Biz
I now have a home-based business in my retirement. I set my own schedule and work at my own pace. I still have the time for retirement activities and to spend more time with my family. This is a good book and will help you decide if operating a home based business is right for you. Click here for more on Donna Partow and her book.
This is not news, but it is reality. Buy this book and begin your journey now.
Avoid the Paper Dragon, Keep Good Records
I am retired and I decided to start a home-based business. I discovered early in my business that I need to keep good records for Uncle Sam. I need to keep the business records separate from my personal accounts. I set up a business checking account and applied for a business credit card. Then I used a paper and pencil system for the first year. Now I am using both digital and paper tracking systems.
This article is a general assessment of the choices you need to make before you let it get ahead of you. The “Paper Dragon” will eat you alive without mercy if you get behind in the process. But don’t obsess over it. Just begin slowly with your basic checkbook register, your rolodex file, and your filing cabinet for receipts. Then branch out from there.
Some of the items to track are as follows:
- Money: What is coming in and going out
- Potential client information
- Tracking payments and collection
The above list is just to tickle your imagination. It can get overwhelming rather quickly if you don’t have a good system tracking important information.
Use Your Computer?
Today you have a choice of manual and computerized record keeping. In addition, if you use computerized systems (which most people do), you can keep track of your records in the cloud as well. By “cloud,” you can use Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud. These services that are offsite will save space on your home system, and keep everything super secure if there should be a problem such as a fire or theft.
What System Is Right for You?
So how do you choose what is right for you? It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have; you will need to keep complete records. If you have a very small business you may choose to use a manual form of record keeping. I think most home based businesses for retirees would choose this method. I used two systems, Dome and Tax MiniMiser. Both are good products and excellent for the beginner when starting a new business.
A larger business will benefit from a cloud based record keeping system. Don’t let the term “cloud” scare you. All that is required is using Dropbox, Google Drive, or the Apple cloud service. It works like a separate drive on your computer, but it is off-site.
You may be able to hire a virtual assistant to help you with this chore. Working on the web allows them to have more than one client and you gain access to administrative assistances at a reasonable cost.
What Does Record Keeping Mean?
It means that you have a process that keeps records organized for optimal retrieval. For example, if you sell widgets, you need to keep track of the inventory, income, expenses and customer records. However, if you’re a coach, you’re going to want to keep track of individual clients and each session you have with them.
What Type of Records Do You Have?
There are customer records, sales records, correspondence, inventory and financial records that you will need to keep. Make a list of the different types of records your business will generate so that you can find or create a system that works.
How Do You Work Best?
The perfect system works in the way you do, not in the way other people tell you to work. So your first course of action is to be honest with yourself. Will you keep records organized if you have to scan them and then upload them to a cloud system?
Will You Outsource?
Can you find someone to help you with the record keeping? If you find an expert to help you such as a business manager, why not let them choose the system to use, set it up, and you follow the expert to successful record keeping? As a retired home-based business owner, you could look into hiring a Virtual Assistant who will offer the service at a reasonable price per hour.
Keeps Everything Separate
You need to keep both business and personal records, and the system you use should work with both in a seamless way. As you go through your day, note each time a record is needed or created. Use those notes to determine the best way to keep those records organized.
Look at Business Software
You may already have certain business software that keeps track of certain functions of your business, such as accounting and bookkeeping. This software might have additional “add-on” tools that will help everything work seamlessly to keep track of financial records.
The simple approach is to use a digital check register with categories established to track your checks for expenses and your income. When I had a Windows machine, I really liked using Quicken for Home and Business. It had the categories set up and downloading the bank records was a snap. Click here for a good book to learn how to use this software.
Different Solution for the Mac
When I changed over to an iMac, an Apple machine, the Quicken product was buggy and light on categories. Now I use iBank. I had to create some categories and it is slightly more difficult to use when compared to the Windows product. On the Mac, you can use a window os on the Mac but it will expose your computer to viruses. I chose not to use it because that is one reason why I chose to use Apple. To see the iBank in Amazon, click here.
Digital Accounting System
For a more robust accounting system, QuickBooks is a popular choice over the Peachtree system. It is easier to use and is a universal product for bookkeepers. It should be easy to find a virtual bookkeeper to operate the system. If you like accounting, click here for the software from Amazon. All of their digital products are easily downloaded from their website. Click here for the PC version. Click here for the Mac version.
Pencil and Paper Record System
This system is based on the principal that a dull pencil is better than a sharp memory. I began my record system using the Dome paper system. It was compact and easy to use. Click here for the Dome product.
I switched to the Tax Minimizer system that fits in a standard sized notebook. Each page has space to store receipts for the month. You write in the date, check number, name of product and the expense under basic business categories. I think the categories really helps to organized expenses that is easily transferred to the business worksheet C for your IRS 1040.
Then, if I am audited, I have the receipts to prove my expenses and I sleep better at night. They also have an excellent record system for recording milage, purpose of he trip and the expense. The IRS wants to see a running tally of personal, business, medical and charity use of your vehicle. Take a look and give it a try. Click here for the TaxMiniMiser record system.
In some cases, there are legal requirements for certain types of records. If you have people’s personal information, you will want to keep it under lock and key if maintained as physical records. If such records are cloud-based, make sure your choice of service meets all the legal requirements for security required by law in your field. Click here for a good book on the legal and tax records is here.
Developing a record keeping system that works for you is like eating a watermelon. You cannot eat it without the seed. Record keeping is something that you will have to get the hang of eventually. But, it’s important to use a system that works for you, as well as meets all the legal requirements for your business according to the IRS and local taxing authorities. For some people, a paper system works better than a computer system. It’s up to you.
How to Create a List of Resources to Help You Reach Your Business Goals
“If you don’t know where you are going,
then all roads will lead you there.”
The quote above this paragraph is from Ivan Hall, my father. He was always teaching me to set goals. If I didn’t set them, I would get nothing done. He was famously urging me to take action and measure my progress. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, how do you know you got there? Set your goals and move forward!
As a new retiree, I collected a wide variety of information from every place I could find it. This included books, magazine articles, websites, business contacts, goal setting programs, and the like, to help me reach my business goals. But, I discovered to my chagrin, that because the information was unorganized, I could not find anything when I needed it.
Do you have that same problem? Frustrating isn’t it? Well, read on and see how I solved my problem (most of the time) using a critical tool: The Resource List.
Crucial Tool for Your Business Success
A list of resources can become a crucial tool for success. It doesn’t matter what niche you’re involved in, there are always some indispensable tools that you can use on a regular basis. Your goal is to track the things that you need so you don’t forget where they are or that they exist. A well-rounded resource list can literally mean the difference between success and failure.
A Good Resource List Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
Your resource list needs to include personal and business resources. This includes currently available resources as well as resources you hope to use one day. Anytime you make a new goal, you may need to add new items to your resource list because you want it to always grow and change as time moves on. Sometimes you’ll move things off the list, and sometimes you’ll add things to the list.
Make a Note of It
Every Goal You Make Needs Resources
When you make a new goal there are always things blocking your way to keep you from achieving the goal. That’s where your resource list comes in. Whenever you’re feeling blocked from achieving anything you want to do, simply take a look at the list to figure out what you have available to help you overcome the barrier to success.
Separate the Types of Resources
You want to be sure to categorize the list correctly. For example, some of your resources will be internal and some external. You’ll have resources that will help with your mindset, and resources that will help with actually taking action. Some resources will be time centered and others will simply give you support such as a Writers Support Group. Assign them whatever categories work for you.
Set Your Goals
Make a Private Web Page
One way to keep track of everything is to create a private webpage for your use only. If you use WordPress, it’s very easy to make a new page and simply put the links in the categories you want so that you can find the resources anytime you want. You can take this one step further by putting your own affiliate links in the page so that you can offer the list to your friends or fans when they ask what resources you use.
Create a Word Document
Start a new file folder in My Documents on your computer, or in Google Drive or in Dropbox, then it’s available to you in the cloud at any time you need it. Simply add the links to the document each time you find something you can use to help you in your business. That way it’s available to you anytime you need help. Don’t have Word? It is time to take the plunge! There is a free download for Apache Open Office that is free. Amazon has the free download but they will not let me link it here. Go to Amazon, click software, and search for Apache Open office. The free download is for both PC and Mac. The word processor is very similar to Word and the price is right!
Make a Notebook
Some people still like things done old school, which requires a three ring binder. You’ll simply print out your Word pages, and if they have links to websites, include the actual URL so that you can find it. You can even make a QR code so that you can easily link to the resource using your smartphone (the OR code is that funny picture the iPhone recognizes as a link).
More Information on Goal Setting
A good book on setting goals is Make It Happen: Write Your Goals on Paper to Achieve Success by H. It has good reviews and is a simple system that works. You can review the book here.
Take Action Today
Whatever method you choose to use, developing your resource list will prevent frustration over not finding the information you need. The list will keep growing and become more inclusive as time goes on. You’ll sometimes remove things, and sometimes you’ll add things. But, the important thing is that each time you have a new goal, look at your resource list first to see what you have already to help make your goal come true.
Remember my father’s mantra: If you don’t know where you are going, then all roads will get you there. Take action now, set y0ur goals, develop your resource list and begin your road to success in building a home biz in retirement.
Retirement: Do You Want to “Rust Out or Wear Out?”
You finally made it to retirement! Congratulations! Now what?
Retirement is a time to reflect on what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Every day is Saturday and we have time to burn. In my personal situation, I was not ready to watch TV all day and play the occasional game of golf. I wanted to run a business from my home office. My challenge was to determine just what I wanted to do.
How Much Golf Can We Play Anyway?
You have so many choices today that it may be hard to figure out which one is best for you. You can go traditional or you can go digital. It depends on whom you want to serve and your current skills. As you read through these descriptions, make a list of your skills, your resources, and your interests.
Here are ten suggestions of what you can do in a home-based business. Perhaps one of these will trigger an idea. Let’s take a look:
- Virtual Assistant: A VA has many forms today. But, essentially a VA performs administrative-type work from the comfort of their home office. They use technology to work virtually; all you need is a computer and a reliable Internet connection. The VA can work for one or several clients, since you can choose a wide variety of niches: such as the online business manager, social media manager, customer service, scheduling, and more.
The administrative assistance is an endangered species in Corporate America. But not on the web! The demand is growing as more websites are developed and owners need help to keep their businesses running smoothly with customer interaction. Here is a step by step guide to setting up a VA Business in 30 days. Click here to view the book.
- Freelance Writer: Businesses need content to put on their websites, blogs, and creating information products such as special reports. They also need ghostwriters to write books to publish on Kindle and even in print. If you fancy yourself as a writer, freelancing for others is a great way to start earning money today. The demand is huge and the workers are few. If you can write a letter, you can write for the net. Watch this blog for future references on making a new career in this field. Here is the book by Susan Anderson that got me bidding and writing on the web.
- Grandparent Child Care Center: Grandparents may want to consider offering their services for childcare. Each state, city and even county has different rules set up for home children sitters. But, in general you will be able to watch up to six children in your home each day in exchange for money. The fees range from $150 weekly and up per child depending on their age and activities you provide for them. Differentiate yourself as a loving grandparent interacting with their grandchildren. This book is for young babysitters, but the principles are the same for grandparents. It should get you started with one or two children. I wouldn’t want to have more at my age! Click here for the Babysitters Business Guide.
- Graphic Designer: With the advent of cloud-based delivery methods for large files, being a graphic designer from the comfort of your home is in the realm of possibilities. If you have an eye for color and design, business owners need banners, advertisements, book covers and more. The Baby Boom market is still huge. Who better to communicate to them than retired Baby Boomers? Begin by reading this book.
- Pet Sitting: Love dogs, cats, and birds? If so, you are not alone. People love their pets like their own children, and want the best care for them. They need pet sitters when they are out of town. Like childcare, state and local regulations may apply in your area. If you are home most weeks, you can offer to take in a dog or two for $20 a day, more in some areas of the country. You will have companionship and develop new animal friends and get paid for it! Sweet. Here is a step by step guide to starting a pet sitting and dog walking business. Click to view the book.
- Handmade Items Sales: If you are crafty and are good at making something such as jewelry, paintings, wood items, clothing and more, you can start a business making those items for sale to others. List your items on Etsy.com, eBay, and Amazon Merch, as well as your own website. I bought a unique homemade plaque for my new home office. I love Eagles due to their Biblical symbolism in my life. My office is now the “Eagle’s Nest,” in honor of Psalm 103:5. Here is a beginners guide to hand made crafts to sell online. Free yourself from long days at craft fairs. Click here for the book.
Another option is to apply to Amazon Merch to sell your products. It is by invitation only but the process is simple. Click here to read the application pay.
- Flea Market Sales: Today, you can start a flea market right online, making it an excellent choice for a home business. There are sales sites on Facebook, and you can also sell some items on Etsy. And there is always eBay and your own website. Your best bet is to pick a niche of the type of items you want to sell the most (such as wedding dresses, children’s clothing, or necklaces), and get started. You may be able to find toys and comics you read as a kid, which are collector’s items today. You can add commentary with your own experience with the product you are selling. Here is a good book on Thrift Stores: How to Find and Sell Products on eBay and other outlets. Click here to see the book.
- Life or Business Coach: If you have expertise in an area that you can teach other people, becoming a coach is a great choice. You can coach people using the telephone, Skype, Google, email, Facebook groups and more. You can coach people through life events, such as divorce, parenting, or weight loss, as well as business events like product launches and so forth. Who better to give advice than a retired Baby Boomer? Here is a step by step guide to building a Life Coaching business. Click here for the book.
- Personal Trainer: You can do this business in person by meeting people at their location to help train them, or at a particular gym. You can also do it online, much like personal coaching. Don’t laugh! I met a lady who was physically fit and taught basic exercises for older Americans to keep fit. I thought she was in her forties. I was shocked to see she was in her sixties and a grandmother! She “walked the talk” and kept up her exercises to show she was not about to waste away doing nothing. Here is a book on the secrets of building a personal trainer business. Click here to see the book.
- Consulting: If you have a lot of experience in a certain type of niche business, you can sell your expertise in the form of consulting. Essentially you can advise about a lot of different things, such as improving the business, focusing employees on the Mission Statement, helping managers hire the right employees and so forth. My first income stream was offering my services as a grant writer and non-profit fund raising consultant. I later branched out into freelance content writing. It was a good choice for me. Here is an updated version of how to build a successful consulting business. Click here to view the book.
These ideas might have triggered your creative juices to flow enough to come up with a unique home business idea all on your own. Having a home business is a dream of many, but very few make one succeed. Can you?
Small business owners are more likely to make more costly advertising mistakes than large corporations. The main reason for this is because as a small business you likely don’t have an advertising department and experts to help you navigate the ins and outs of advertising. You can avoid these mistakes simply by knowing about them and then not doing them.
1. Placing the Focus Elsewhere – The focus always needs to be on your audience, their problems, and how you can solve them. NOT on your products and/or services. They want to know what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for you. Remember: benefits over features.
2. Being Unclear about the Audience – If you don’t know who your audience is, it will be hard to create the right advertisement. Create customer personas so that each time you write an advertisement or create a message, you know exactly who to direct it to.
3. Having a Weak Message – In order to create a strong message, you need to know your audience and the objective (action you want them to do), ensuring that you list the benefits along with your unique selling proposition. If you include some powerful words in simple but clear language, so much the better.
4. Not Sending Marketing Messages Often Enough – The frequency by which you choose to send advertising messages is important. Not often enough and they forget you exist; too often and you become a pest. You have to know your audience to know that fine line.
5. Avoiding a Call to Action – If you don’t give your audience something to do, they will likely do nothing. It’s important to know what your objective is before placing the advertisement so that you can form an effective CTA.
6. Not Using an Effective Landing Page – You can have a great product, a wonderful advertisement and then not convert people because your landing page isn’t effective. If you have a lot of click-throughs to the landing page but which aren’t converting to customers, test different landing pages.
7. Misunderstanding the Metrics – A good example of what metrics can do for you is the point above. Try to understand what the numbers mean so that you can make a good choice of how to perfect the situation. If you’re not sure, talk to someone who is an expert.
8. Not Budgeting for Experts – You can’t do everything yourself and if advertising and sales isn’t in your expertise wheelhouse, you should contract with an expert to help you. If you already have your product or service ready, find someone who is used to marketing to your audience, and get their help.
Understanding that these are mistakes that many small businesses make with their advertising can help you not do the same thing. It’s important that you are aware of the types of things small businesses do that cause failure, or that cost a lot of money without any results. If you know better, you can do better.