The lure of working from home is strong for most people. The ability to sleep in, spend breakfast and lunch with loved ones, and stop commuting is a dream come true for an estimated three million workers in the United States. According to Forbes, 47 percent of workers with the option to telecommute say they are “very satisfied” with their jobs. Only 27 percent of office-bound employees feel the same way.
The good news is, working from home is on the rise thanks to improved computer and communication technologies that make it easy to put in a full day’s work from your home office. Programs like Skype, Teamwork and Asana keep teams organized and in touch whether they are across the hall from each other or across an ocean. If your ideal job takes place at home, there are many options available to you.
Option One: Take Your Job and Move It
If you are currently working in an office, talk to your manager about taking your work home with you. This is not likely to be a problem unless you work as part of a team or need access to onsite equipment or resources. Usually, however, office jobs are computer-based with a bit of paper filing included, and these are things that most people can handle from any location.
If you are sure that you can continue your current job at home, you’ll just have to convince your boss. Let him or her know that the statistics are in your favor, since productivity is known to rise when employees leave the office for their homes. The increase in your job satisfaction also makes you much less likely to quit in the future.
When travel company Ctrip decided to save money by having employees work from home, they saved $1,900 per employee on furniture and space. They also noticed an average increase of 13.5 percent in productivity when their workers started doing their jobs from home. Explain this to your boss if he or she isn’t sure about letting you telecommute.
Tip: Suggest a trial period so that your boss doesn’t feel so pressured by your request. Explain that you’d like to try working from home for a month, and after that period, you can talk about the results and options for the future.
Option Two: Become a Language Teacher
If there’s one thing the world will always need, it’s language teachers. Many people find that learning with a teacher is much more effective than learning with books or software, so teachers of all languages are in demand.
If you decide to teach English or another language that you are fluent in, you can work with students in person or online. Skype offers a good platform for free two-way video calls that could be an important element of your classes. You might also consider registering with an established online education website such as Lingoda, which will do the work of finding students for you.
Tip: Consider becoming a TEFL-certified teacher for more job opportunities and the ability to charge higher rates.
Option Three: Create Your Own Educational Course
If you have valuable knowledge to share such as a business strategy or Medieval history, you can create your own educational course and promote it online. There are several websites that you can use to easily create your curriculum, such as Udemy, Teachable or Ruzuku.
If you register with any of these or similar sites, you’ll be given the tools you need to craft a course for virtually any topic. The great thing about creating a course is that once you set up your lessons, it can become passive income. If you prefer, of course, you can engage with your students by offering graded assignments and tests.
Tip: Create your own marketing funnel instead of relying on the exposure provided by the website. This way, you’ll have much more control over your traffic and the ability to increase your own sales.
Option Four: Offer Pet-Sitting in Your Home
Do you have extra space in the house and a huge love for dogs or cats? Offer pet-sitting services to members of your community. If you haven’t looked into the pet care market before, you might be surprised at how much work there is out there. In 2015, pet owners spent $5.41 billion just on grooming and boarding.
If you’re a cat or dog person (or both), the work is quite simple and enjoyable. You can choose to offer simple pet-sitting services, or pair that service with grooming or bathing. You could also specialize in high-end pet-sitting and offer your clients the best quality food, treats, toys, beds and private rooms.
Tip: Take a pet first aid class so that you know what to do in an emergency to keep your furry clients safe.
Option Five: Become a Virtual Assistant
There are endless possibilities for virtual assistants these days because small companies and startups love to outsource administrative tasks. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you’ll be able to take care of customer service inquiries, website troubleshooting, business or personal accounting, transcription, copywriting, spreadsheets, and all kinds of tasks that traditionally take place in an office.
If this kind of work appeals to you, you should start by creating a LinkedIn profile. This will allow you to share an online resume easily with employers and potential clients. Next, you can find job postings for virtual assistants via Indeed.com, UpWork, LinkedIn and directly through corporate websites.
Tip: Don’t undersell your services. Just because you see impossibly low rates from fellow virtual assistants doesn’t mean you should try to equal or undercut them. There are plenty of employers willing to pay you what you are worth, so hold out for a good opportunity.
Working from Home Is More Possible Than Ever
Adulthood in modern societies has been characterized by working outside of the home ever since the Industrial Revolution. Only now, with the recent advancements in computer technologies, has it become possible to once more earn a living within the walls of our own homes. If that’s your dream, there’s nothing holding you back but yourself!
Starting a business with a partner can increase your odds of success. It can also bring that success to a level and speed you may not have been able to achieve as a sole proprietor—but only if you base your choice of partners on the right criteria. This article will look at reasons why partnering is worth considering and also the most important points to remember when choosing a partner.
Small Business Survival
Partnerships—companies with more than one owner—are likely to be in business longer than sole proprietorships—one-owner companies—according to Brian Headd, an economist with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.
Though there is no hard data provided to substantiate why this might be, having the right partner provides several benefits, including a support system to keep each other motivated during tough times, and someone to share expenses and responsibilities.
Financially speaking, a 2008 report from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service found that while income for sole proprietorships have been on the decline since 1980, income for partnerships increased during the same period.
Yet, despite this rosy forecast, 87 percent of non-employer companies (those run by one or more individuals with no staff or employees) are sole proprietorships; only seven percent are partnerships, according to the Office of Advocacy.
Not all types of businesses require or would benefit from partnership. For those that do and also hope to survive, there are several points you need to cover before declaring a partnership and signing on any dotted lines.
Each of the points that you’ll read below work together to provide a holistic understanding of how to proceed with choosing the correct business partner.
Establish a Pre-Business History
Whether you’re dealing with a friend, acquaintance or total stranger, you’ve got to establish some kind of history with them, like collaborating on one or more small projects—particularly the kind where there is little risk. This could take weeks, months or even years. This isn’t to say you’ve got to start from ground zero; you may have known and/or worked with someone for a long enough period of time to get an idea of their suitability.
By developing a pre-business history or reviewing an existing one, you can get a ground-level perspective of the other person’s work style: how they work, how they communicate, their level of responsibility, energy, and similar things which will tell you if they’d make a good partner … or not.
Ensure You Both Share the Same Values
This is related to establishing a pre-business history and is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing a business partner.
While you and your partner will likely be able to handle the occasional difference of opinion or other upsets, where values are concerned, your mutually-piloted ship will likely run aground on the basis of differing values. This is because one’s values are usually a matter of deep, personal conviction, which may have, been formed over a long time and reflect a person’s background, beliefs and experiences.
When values are aligned, it can be a beautiful thing, such as when both partners value social responsibility over raking in huge profits (or vice-versa). But when they are not aligned, or are opposed, such as one partner valuing leisure while the other values industriousness, it’s simply not going to work out, unless one person changes.
Choose Someone With Complementary Strengths
If you are the idea person, then you probably don’t need another idea person; you need someone who excels at action, implementation, and execution. One of the best examples in history of this was the early Apple computer: Steve Wozniak, the engineer and idea guy, had been “building” a better, more innovative computer on paper for years. (This was long before computers were common and affordable to the average person.) Steve Jobs, a computer buff of only average skill, took his enthusiasm for Wozniak’s creations and went out and found customers for it.
Of course, if you team up with another idea person and it works on that level, you would need to bring in a third person who is strong on execution. And your main strengths should be laid out in the beginning so that your job roles are well defined and mutually understood.
In addition to complementary strengths, it may be important at some point to recognize and utilize any additional skills each partner has that could benefit the business. There are probably as many possible skills a person could have and contribute, as there are different kinds of businesses. By making them known and figuring out ways to use them, the partner gets to fully express themselves through their work, which is a positive thing.
Establish Each Person’s Commitment
How many hours are you putting in? How many hours is your partner putting in? And what are they supposed to accomplish during those hours? Is one partner still working their day job and working on the business during nights and weekends?
These are the kinds of issues that have to be looked at, understood, and agreed upon by the partners, in order to prevent future disappointment and discord. If the partners, for instance, have said “50-50” yet one is working on the business full-time while the other is still at their day job, it could sow the seeds of future trouble.
However, time invested may not be an issue if you base commitment on hitting the required targets to move the business forward. If one partner is still working a day job but is hitting the necessary business targets, this might be considered an acceptable level of commitment.
Be as upfront as possible about this aspect of the business because it won’t take long for the reality to show itself.
Get the Money Issues Squared Away
If you’ve got a great business idea (or even just a good one), and one or two motivated, dedicated business partners who want to make it a reality, you’d better have this discussion sooner rather than later.
Take a good look at individual involvement and commitment and decide, based on that, how the profits will be shared. Then get it all down in writing.
Agree on the Endgame
Most business owners—partners and sole proprietors alike—don’t look far enough into the future, particularly at formulating and agreeing on an exit strategy for the business. Whether the business is successful or not, the two or three people who start it will gain a lot of experience. However, odds are against them gaining enough experience to be able to make the leap from a successful small business to the world of big business without a lot of expensive outside help.
Many businesses reach a point of profitability and success that attracts the attention of a larger business that will seek to purchase them. It may or may not happen to your business, but it pays to have an exit strategy agreement worked out long in advance.
Are there other aspects of partnership other than these? Of course, including hiring and firing staff (whose responsibility is it, etc.), conflict resolution, and accountability.
But the main thing to realize is that even the best partnerships are not without their rough patches. That’s why the most important thing is the discovery period. Use it to take a close look at the person you are considering as a partner. Spend time with them. Meet their family, if any. Find out all you can to assure yourself that the person will be the one who can hold up their end in creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
For many people, 5 p.m. means indulging at happy hour with co-workers or sitting in front of the television watching the remaining ten minutes of a late afternoon quiz show. But for some, the end of the business day marks the beginning of a new goal. The latter return home after an enduring 9 to 5 shift and then begin work. They work each weekday and night at realizing their dreams of running their own business and being their own boss.
You should use your 9 to 5 job as motivation to work when you return home, not as a reason for casual inactivity. A regular 9 to 5 job should be the reason for you to get fired up, rush home, and plan your very own business.
If you fancy the independence and freedom from authority that most employees seek, consider the following list of potential business ideas that could soon make you your own boss:
1. Sell Your Expertise
If you have a prolific value proposition and consider yourself an expert in a particular field, you could package that wisdom into an eBook to help educate people that are seeking information in that niche.
If you can provide informative and educative content regularly, consider creating online courses. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, online education went mainstream many years ago, while “academic leaders believe it will become even more prevalent in the coming years.”
Once you create digital content, you can sell it repeatedly, without the hassle of inventory caps or manufacturing costs. And if you don’t consider yourself tech savvy, you can use applications like udemy.com to help you.
Do your research first and see what the demands are in a specific area; if they’re high, you’re on to something. Begin drafting, brainstorming, and making important calls to start your business. The longer you delay it, the longer you’ll be reporting to your boss.
2. Create a Blog
Much like point 1, blogs provide a platform for you to express your professional wisdom and industry expertise.
Whether you’re experienced in travel, sports, marketing, real estate, or lifestyle, you can come back from your regular job and begin expressing yourself on your blog. Keep the posts educational, informative, and just as importantly, engaging!
Thanks to subscriptions, affiliate marketing, ad revenue, and sponsors, bloggers can earn a sizeable income from their content. With enough content behind you, you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a full-time blogger.
3. Manage Social Media
A report on Statista reveals that 78% of U.S. Americans have a social media profile in 2016. Therefore, the chances of you spending your time uploading selfies and crafting clever hashtags is probably high. Rather than going home and scouring your social media sites for free, you could earn some money by managing companies’ social media accounts.
In the 2013 Dreamforce conference, Facebook announced that it had 25 million active small business pages on its platform. There’s a high chance that some of these companies can use your help. Not only will the working hours be flexible, but you’ll get a great understanding of managing social media sites for when you launch your own company. Or, you could form a company that manages social media accounts for small businesses.
4. Develop an App
It may seem like there’s an app for just about everything, but then a new app comes along and becomes the must-have app for all.
App development is still a relatively new and ever growing industry. In 2014, the iPhone app market created over 4,000 job postings on freelancer.com.
Look at latest trends and try to brainstorm a number of different app ideas, no matter how absurd they may initially seem. Once you have your idea, it’s time to apply the mechanics, like coding.
Learning to code can be a little difficult and time consuming, but by no means is it an impossible task to learn. Constantly educate yourself and soon enough app development will come easily to you.
Read about various app success stories to learn how they became successful in order to motivate yourself. One such example is Ukrainian app developer, Jan Koum. Living a very modest life with his mother and grandmother in a small apartment, Koum got selected for a training program at San Jose University.
While working at Yahoo, Koum met his business partner, Brian Acton and after nine years they decided to leave the company for new opportunities. After leaving Yahoo, they applied to Facebook, but were quickly rejected. They put their heads together, and decided to create an app—the next big thing.
The record books show that they made the right decision. They created WhatsApp, one of the biggest communication apps in the world.
After a few failed attempts, the initial release figures showed that 250 million people were using the app in the same month it was released.
Notably, in February 2014, the biggest ever acquisition of its kind took place when Facebook (who once rejected the pair) purchased WhatsApp for a record breaking $19 billion.
Although there’s a wide range of online business opportunities, the four options above provide a focused and specific list for you to ponder.
Just remember that you don’t have to quit your day job just to work on being able to quit your day job. After all, it takes money to make money. You could use your regular job’s income to help feed your passion project and buy things like better equipment, which will increase the quality of your blog. Once you get into the routine of working after that 5 p.m. bell sounds, you’ll soon be on your way to becoming your own boss.
Flip through any book about starting a business and, within a few seconds, you’ll see multiple references to “strategy.” Without question, having an effective strategy is vital to every startup’s success, but the word gets bandied about far too frequently.
Perhaps because, deep down, every business owner dreams of having a secret formula for success—and the allure of finding that perfect startup strategy is too much to resist. Thus, they feel compelled to keep searching.
No Golden Ticket
In reality, the fundamentals of a business strategy can be broken down into two basic components: all the activities that go into creating a product or service, and all the activities that go into selling that product or service.
As Foundr recently reported: “Every business is different, every market is different, and you can bet that every entrepreneur is different. So therefore every business model or startup strategy is inevitably different.”
There is no golden ticket. Quiet often, credit for a successful strategy belongs to those who did a great job implementing a time-honored plan of attack. And that’s as much a reflection on decision-making as strategy.
The question is, are there certain strategic choices that virtually every entrepreneur must make when first starting out? And, if so, how can they increase their chances of success by making these decisions wisely?
Peter S. Cohan, who runs a management consulting and venture capital firm and is the author of “Hungry Start-up Strategy,” believes there are key strategic decisions every entrepreneur must successfully navigate. In fact, after interviewing more than 200 entrepreneurs, Cohan concluded there are six such choices. Here’s what they boil down to:
1. Goal Selection
Launching a successful startup requires you to attract the right talent (i.e. better talent than you can afford). So, the question you need to answer is, why would someone leave their present position to accept your offer when it’s probably less than what they’re making now?
As Cohan wrote in an article for Forbes: “ … The right mission can inspire terrific talent. And if a startup commits to an IPO or acquisition, this could help convince an investor that the firm will make him or her richer.”
2. Market Selection
In theory, you could sell your product or service to any business or consumer in the world. But theories don’t pay the bills. The question is, which market and why?
As Cohan sees it: “ … An entrepreneur should pick a market about which he or she feels deep passion and that is big enough to help the firm become a $100 million company even if the founder only receives 10 percent of it.”
Funding your business is a tightrope act; you need cash to cover expenses, but you also want to retain control of the company you’re building. It’s a question of how to fund day-to-day operations during the startup phase without giving away your business.
According to Cohan: “ … To keep control, a company can borrow on its credit card or crowdfund until it has proved that customers will pay for its product. Then the entrepreneur can sell a stake to a venture capitalist to cover the last mile before an IPO.”
4. Team Building
In keeping with goal selection (see #1 above), the strength of your business—and its likelihood for success—hinges on the team you put in place to execute its mission. The question is, how will you build your dream team?
“The entrepreneur can’t do everything—so he or she needs to hire and motivate A-level talent,” explains Cohan. “The stock options offered will only help with recruiting the talent if the entrepreneur has already built successful startups and provides an emotionally compelling mission.”
5. Market Share
It’s tough being the new kid on the block. Attracting customers and clients isn’t easy for a startup because most prospects don’t want to do business with a company that may not be around six months or a year from now. So, how do you capture market share?
Cohan’s take on it: “To overcome this problem and gain market share, the startup should do two things: Find a customer who has pain that has no cure and deliver the cure at a price that makes the product irresistible—what I call a quantum value leap.”
Let’s say you solve your market share problem. The phones are ringing, customers are buying, and your product is flying off the shelves. That’s great news, and you should be proud. The question you need to answer next is, how will you stay in sync with your customers’ evolving needs?
Cohan sums it up this way: “Once customers buy the product in droves, the entrepreneur should be kicked upstairs to monitor changing customer needs, new technologies, and upstart competitors to figure out additional products to build and fresh markets to conquer.”
Hot new business strategies will always garner attention from entrepreneurs and small business owners, but the essential elements of a business plan don’t change.
If you want to succeed in your business, forego the search for a golden ticket and focus on making the strategic decisions that pretty much every entrepreneur can expect to encounter when first starting out. The advice above should help guide your choices.