When I worked for an employer, and friends talked about the best home-based business, I admit that my eyes rolled back in my head. I envisioned myself struggling to put together jewelry or crafts that would stop casual shoppers in their tracks with their beauty. As friends raved about Pampered Chef or Dove Chocolate at Home, I would think to myself how much I liked getting the same, predictable paycheck every Friday.
Then I was laid off, along with the two dozen other journalists in my office. Boy, did that change my perspective! Suddenly the paycheck from an employer didn't seem predictable at all. But neither had I developed a zest for cooking equipment or a crafty streak overnight -- none of those avenues was the best home-based business for me.
Instead, I thought about what I was good at. Words. Asking questions. Writing down the answers. Researching relevant information. Telling a story. Maybe I could develop a viable business around words! I was launched like a rocket. Now, a mere 15 months later, I'm busy at least 40 hours a week writing articles for various publications, and on top of that I have CurrentMom to write for and edit.
For me, the best home-based business is built around my already well-developed writing and communication skills, which I honed in 15 years as an on-staff journalist. I'm willing to bet that the same is true for most successful entrepreneurs. The field that they launch a business in may be different, but the skills they deploy have been with them for quite some time. My strength is communications; for you it may be analytics, sales, organization, networking or even crafts and design.
If you're thinking about starting a business, ask yourself what you enjoy doing, what you're good at, who you know and who might be willing to spend money on the products or services produced from those skills. Sometimes, a good brainstorming session with a friend is all you need to jumpstart your own home-based business. (I'm always happy to jump in -- just tell me your idea!)
The one caution I would add is that you need to look hard at the dollars and cents -- and hours of work required -- before you launch into a new home-based business. If you're not a numbers person, ask an analytical friend or relative to give you a reality check. It's easy to get carried away with the vision of what you could do, and neglect to look at how much you are likely to earn from the work that you do.
For instance, there are many outlets for freelance writing that will pay $10 or $15 for an article that takes you three hours to write. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to make a living at that kind of gig -- you're better off taking a retail job that won't exhaust your brain, and pitching articles to mainstream publications in your free time. (My fallback plan was to find a job checking people into an apartment or office building, so I could scribble in between visitors.)