This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
You fantasize about ditching the daily commute and starting a business from the comfort of home.
The only problem with your entrepreneurial daydream? You don’t have any idea what kind of business to start, much less how to make it profitable.
No worries, we’re here to help.
You’re not alone in wanting to go it alone. Of the 30.2 million small businesses operating in the U.S., about half were home-based businesses, according to the most recent government numbers.
Whether you’re looking for a little side-hustle income or dream of quitting your current job and the daily commute for good, here’s your guide to home-based business ideas.
Businesses that don’t require you to leave home
Choosing your business can start with something as simple as picking an activity you enjoy.
If your passion is travel, for instance, you could follow the path of stay-at-home mom Cheryl Cavalli, who told us how she started a home-based travel agent business.
However, if you don’t already have a passion you want to profit from — or you’d rather keep your hobbies and work separate — you can still start a successful home-based business on your own as a sole proprietor, or one-person business.
A sole proprietorship doesn’t need to register with the state to exist (unlike corporations, partnerships and LLCs). However, you still must comply with registration, license, tax and permit laws.
Local social media groups like Nextdoor can be a source of ideas. There you’ll find everyday services that are in demand, although it may not be the most glamorous work.
Mundane chores make for good businesses because they’re tasks that many people are willing to pay someone else to do, whether it’s mowing lawns as a groundskeeper or setting up bounce houses as a kids’ party planner.
We’ve come up with a list of ideas that have relatively low barriers to entry and startup costs but offer real income potential.
Ready to start your journey toward self-employment in the comfort of your own home? Let’s get to work.
1. Freelance writing
Use your wordsmithing skills to quit your day job and start a freelance writing business. We have advice for how to pitch a story if you’re looking for your first byline.
To make writing your full-time business, you’ll benefit from expanding your repertoire to incorporate multiple types of writing (adding editing skills also increases your value). Here are just a few options:
- Creative writing. Share your literary talents by submitting to literary magazines that pay for short stories and poetry.
- Technical writing. Who doesn’t love a well-written instruction manual? Although technical writing might not offer as many creative options, the median pay as of 2017 was $34.10 an hour.
- Resume writing. Use your writing prowess to help other people get jobs. Charmaine Pocek told The Penny Hoarder she earned $30 to $800 on Fiverr as a freelance writer creating resumes and cover letters as well as optimizing clients’ LinkedIn profiles. Pocek has made $2.4 million from work she’s found on the site over the past six years, according to Abby Forman, a Fiverr spokeswoman.
2. Virtual assistant
Administrative assistants typically answer to a boss, but start your own business, and you’ll be calling the shots.
Virtual assistants perform similar tasks to in-person assistants, but you can offer your services to one or multiple companies. You might be doing data entry one day and proofing articles on WordPress another, so be prepared for a variety of tasks.
Life makes more sense in spreadsheets. If this statement sounds like something you’d say, a bookkeeping business could be in your future.
Rather than targeting a big business account, start by focusing on small businesses that need help managing their finances. You don’t need to be a CPA to start, but decent computer and customer service skills help.
Ben Robinson, who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers, told The Penny Hoarder that you can earn up to $60 an hour as a bookkeeper.
Enjoy all the fun of teaching without leaving home.
An online tutoring business lets you offer your expertise, whether it’s teaching math and English to elementary kids or prepping high school students for the SAT.
These 10 online tutoring companies are a good place to start. Promote your expertise in a subject or grade level in your bio — teaching certifications will also add to your credibility (and bottom line).
Most online tutoring platforms require instructors to either have or be working toward a bachelor’s degree, and previous teaching experience is preferred. Check the requirements before you apply.
Spelling ace Cole Shafer-Ray went the solo route and started his own online business by creating a website where he posted tips for competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee (he was the 2015 runner-up). The then-17-year-old told us he earned $100 an hour tutoring kids who want to compete.
5. Affiliate marketer
If you have a website or blog that already gets traffic, affiliate marketing should be part of your business plan.
The basic concept: You can make money by including affiliate links to products you recommend on your site. When your readers click on the link and buy the product, you receive a commission from the company.
The Penny Hoarder’s branded content editor Dana Sitar suggests checking out affiliate marketplaces to connect with brands who’ll pay you to promote their products and services. Among the many marketplaces is ClickBank, which says on its website that commissions range from 1% to 75%.
6. Social media consultant
Got a knack for words and a knowledge of the latest trends in social media? Consider becoming a social media consultant.
Most small businesses don’t have the budget for a full-time media consultant, but they want a presence on social media to attract and engage customers. Sell your social savvy — and expertise with publishing software — to local businesses by writing blog posts. You can grow your portfolio and your business.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lumps social media consultants into the general category of public relations, listing a median pay rate of $28.85 an hour.
Focusing your business on one area, at least early on, can help build your expertise. Research the local online business landscape to discover where the need is, whether it’s helping establish social media accounts for local businesses, contracting for a specific number of posts per week or setting your sights on a specific industry (restaurants, for instance).
7. Web developer
If you can balance aesthetically pleasing and user friendly, your next business could be as a web developer.
Technically, there are differences between web designers and developers, with designers tending toward the visual aspect while developers focusing on the coding. The BLS, which doesn’t differentiate between the two, states the median pay is $33.38 an hour.
Even if businesses in your area don’t have a big budget for complicated websites, they may need a simple landing page. If you have the basic web design and coding skills, you can start small and expand your business based on referrals and your portfolio.
Kelly Vaughn taught herself to code as a kid and ended up quitting her job to become a full-time web developer — she earned $137,000 in her first year.
8. Graphic design
Unleash your creativity — and use your art degree — to create a graphic design business.
Whether it’s designing logos or layouts, you’ll need to invest in the proper equipment and programs to give your designs a professional look. But you’ll at least be able to find colleagues to consult — in 2016, about 1 in 5 graphic designers were self-employed, according to the BLS.
If you’re just getting started, add to your portfolio by volunteering to create brochures and programs for nonprofits like your church or kids’ school.
Once you’re established, you’ll be able to set hourly or per-project rates. Graphic designer Miranda Marquit told us that a common hourly rate for freelance graphic design work is $75 to $150.
Work at home and beyond
Sure, you enjoy working from home, but sometimes you miss human interaction. No worries — there are plenty of options that let you run your business from your couch but also allow you to escape the confines of home.
Many online businesses let you make money with little need to leave the house, while others take you outdoors but don’t require commuting to an “office.”
9. Local tour guide
Do you love showing off your city? Make it your business by becoming a local tour guide.
And you don’t have to limit yourself to museums and monuments — although that’s an option, too.
Brendan Smith told us he makes $10,000 a year with his side gig leading craft coffee tours around St. Petersburg, Florida, while Greg Stanek leads bike tours to check out the many murals around the city.
If you already have a passion for arts, food or other features that make your town special, you can start by offering free tours to friends, as Smith did, then expand your reach by promoting your tours on social media and through your local tourism office.
Cleaning other people’s places may not be everyone’s dream job, but that’s what increases its potential as a profitable business.
Housekeeping is one option, but if you’re willing to get your hands a little (or a lot) dirty, your services can be invaluable to clients who want you to clean out decades of accumulated trash in their basements, attics and barns.
Make your business stand out by including your personal story. Share how you got started and why you love what you do to connect with customers looking for a reason to choose you over the competition.
11. Personal chef
Your dinner parties are always a hit, and people form a line for your bake sale contributions.
Bank on your culinary prowess with a personal chef or catering business.
You don’t need a culinary degree to start plating, but a few referrals could help fire up your business.
Offer to cook for the school fundraiser or church picnic, and be sure to display your business cards at the serving stations.
Let your photography skills help you take a shot at starting a business.
Stock photographer Eliza Snow told The Penny Hoarder that making $1 off a photo may not sound like much, but when these sites tout hundreds of downloads of the same photo, the money can start to add up.
13. Home staging
Live out your HGTV dream.
Homeowners hoping to get the highest price need to make their humble abode look its best. And that’s where you, the home stager, come in to rearrange the furniture, hide the million toys in a storage unit and replace all those framed cat photos with tasteful art.
Think you have what it takes?
Kristy Anderson told The Penny Hoarder that after years of dabbling in decorating, she started her home staging business with a $3,000 investment and built her client base by doing the following:
- Using Google Adwords for online advertising.
- Asking for word-of-mouth referrals.
- Creating a social media presence.
- Networking with local homebuilders and Realtors.
Her hard work paid off. In its first year, Anderson’s company brought in $180,000 in revenue.
Love kids? Love having kids running around your home?
If your home is prepared for the rough-and-tumble world of children, babysitting in your home is a good way to get around the whole “nanny tax” thing (that’s where the parents have to pay you as a domestic employee because you’re working in their home).
Each state has its own regulations about what age and how many kids you can watch at one time before becoming a daycare, so check out your state’s rules before you start. Learning a few basics — like CPR and first aid — can also help you demand a higher rate.
How much you can make varies based on how many kids and your location, among other factors. The Care.com calculator suggests the rate for babysitting one child in San Francisco is $21 per hour.
Let’s start with the assumption that you aren’t a rock star musician prepared to tour the world.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be in the music business. In fact, we have 25 ways to make money off your music here.
16. Personal trainer
Turn your love of fitness into cash by becoming a personal trainer who works from your own home studio or by traveling to clients’ houses. Increase your credibility (and pay) by getting certified by a nationally accredited organization like the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
Expect the business of personal training to be more of a marathon than a sprint. Accreditation training can take weeks and cost hundreds of dollars, along with liability insurance, and you’ll have to maintain your certification with continuing education.
The BLS says the median pay for fitness trainers and instructors is $18.85 per hour, but pay can vary widely depending on your location and specialization — the IDEA Health and Fitness Association notes the average rate for personal trainers in New York City is $32 an hour.
17. Massage therapist
Work with your hands, and arms, and elbows, as you massage away at clients’ muscles.
Starting a massage therapy business requires more than one of those cool tables and a towel — although you should definitely expect to do a lot of laundry (all the sheets, you know).
Before flexing those fingers, you’ll need schooling and licensure — check here for your state’s massage therapy licensing requirements.
According to the latest numbers from the BLS, employment in massage therapy is projected to grow 26% from 2016 to 2026, with a 2017 median pay rate of $19.23 per hour.
18. Amazon seller
Considering it seems like you can buy nearly anything on Amazon, it makes sense that you should be able to sell almost anything on Amazon, right?
If you want to do more than sell your old stuff, you have plenty of options for selling on Amazon:
- Private-label products: Generic products you resell with your own packaging and logo.
- Retail arbitrage: Items you purchased elsewhere — like clearance items or Craigslist freebies — that you sell on Amazon for a higher price.
- Fulfillment by Amazon: Items you purchase for resale are shipped directly to Amazon, which stores the inventory in its warehouse.
Wondering which option will be the most profitable business for you? Estimate your revenue with this Amazon calculator.
19. eBay seller
Use your eye for fashion to resell thrift store finds at a profit as an eBay seller.
To get started, check out eBay’s listings for similar items to determine the demand for your product and a pricing strategy. How you price your item affects how it shows up in a search — the lower the price, the more eyes, but setting a higher minimum guarantees a greater return on investment if the item sells.
Good reviews are essential for any online seller. Invest in thank-you cards to include with each order to remind your customers to add their feedback to your site.
Attract more buyers (and higher prices) by using good lighting and a professional presentation in photos of your product.
20. Etsy marketer
Crafting a business from your love of, well, crafting, doesn’t mean you need to drag your wares to a table at the farmers market every Saturday. Setting up shop with the online marketplace Etsy allows you to sell your custom jewelry, refinished furniture and custom gift baskets without leaving your home.
As experienced sellers will tell you, a big part of being a success on Etsy is re-creating the experience for a buyer who is used to handling the merchandise.
Instead of discovering your handmade jewelry or macramé plant holders through a tactile experience, buyers are looking at your photos and descriptions on your Etsy store to decide whether to buy. High-quality photos and in-depth descriptions are essential for attracting customers, as is sharing your personal story.
Sew you want to start a business (sorry, couldn’t help myself).
Turning your threads into a profitable business can start with adjusting hems and making alterations for family and friends, but there are plenty of other ways to use your needle and thread to follow your passion.
Deisha Strater told us that she found enough work to make a side gig by sewing cosplay costumes. She charges $300 or more per costume, depending on the level of detail.
22. Airbnb host
If you ever dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast, but never quite got your hands on that country estate, you can still channel your inner hostess by transforming a guest room (or your home) into Airbnb accommodations.
Instead of selling physical merchandise, you’ll be selling your space, but you’ll still need those same marketing skills to make your Airbnb attractive to potential guests. Think: inviting photos and a well-organized space that will garner great reviews from previous guests.
Figure your potential earnings with this Airbnb calculator.
(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)
23. Pet sitter
Prefer your clients to be the four-legged variety? Starting a dog walking business could be an easy way to start a profitable business in your own neighborhood.
Connect with fur babies and their parents through apps like Rover to build up a client base. There, you can add your profile and let owners see your experience.
24. Small-scale farming
Got a backyard with some room to breed?
Tim and Chelsea Clarkson started raising four chickens in the backyard of their home. Now, they’re living on a 6-acre farm raising 900 chickens and 400 Grimaud Pekin ducks.
Regulations vary for raising livestock, which is considered any domesticated animal that’s raised to produce labor and/or commodities. Visit your state’s Department of Agriculture website for details.
If a full-size farm is a bit beyond your reach, you could go the (much) smaller animal route and install a beehive. Turn it into a business by selling your tenants’ honey at the local farmers market.
Yes, there’s the setup costs and licensing required after you buy the bees to factor in. But considering the high price local honey can demand, selling the sweet stuff is worth it.
25. Seasonal operator
Maybe you’re more of a fair-weather businessperson.
Seasonal businesses offer you the chance to operate when you prefer to be outdoors — think shoveling snow during the winter or hauling beach gear during the summer.
And if the holiday season offers more free time for a business venture, think Christmas lights.
Light installers make the majority of their money hanging those twinkling lights during the holiday season, according to Joshua Trees, who travels the country teaching people how to properly hang lights. By his third year in business, Trees said he made $138,000.
26. Garden consultant
You’ve probably heard of business consultants, who bring their decades of knowledge to advise a company on whatever their issue is. You might not be a CEO, but if you’ve had years of growing gardens, you could turn your planting know-how into a garden consulting business.
Home gardening is, ahem, growing in popularity as 77% of American households say they are gardening, according to a 2018 National Gardening Survey.
But although people may dream of growing their food, most backyard gardens end up a little on the sad side, if alive at all. Your knowledge of soil acidity, fertilizer composition and sunlight needs — plus a willingness to dig around in the dirt — could pay off as a garden consultant.
Consider these ideas the jumping-off point for your home business. Also know that starting a business requires more than just a good idea, so you’ll first want to check out our step-by-step guide to starting a business.
And no matter how tough the business world might be, isn’t it easier weathering the ups and downs in the comfort of your own home?
What a great idea.