Finding Business Ideas

Small Business and Home-Based Business Ideas to Get You Started

Outdoor view of a weaving studio
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(c) Dave McLeod/Susan Ward

Sometimes the hardest part of starting a business is coming up with a business idea. Should you pursue your passion? Would it be better to choose a business based on profit potential? Maybe you need to jump in on the next big thing?

Here are a few considerations to spark your creativity and interest so that you can choose the best business idea to fit your goals.

Situation and Goals

It's important to consider your situation in life when you're thinking through business ideas. The best businesses for the moment might differ if you're launching a business when you're in bad financial straights or there is a recession.

It's also important to consider your goals. Are you looking to start part-time around school or a job? There are some businesses that work well for students or part-timers. Maybe you're on a tight budget, and want to make extra income moonlighting on the side. Or maybe you're retired and want a flexible business to help support you through your retirement years.

Perhaps you want a business to support your lifestyle goals, such as traveling. Today, with the Internet, it's easier than ever to become a lifestyle entrepreneur.

Interests and Passions

If you're going to create your own career, why not start a business around something you enjoy? If you're passionate about protecting the environment, there are many great green business ideas, such as eco-friendly product sales and eco-friendly travel services.

If you're creative, there are many ways to turn your talents into income, including craft business ideas. Do you love to read? There are several business ideas that involve books, including writing, editing, and book blogging. Or maybe you enjoy animals, in which case there are many opportunities to build a business around pets.

Consider whether or not you want to risk taking the fun out of your passion or hobby by turning it into a must-do career. And keep in mind that 20% of businesses fail in their first year and 50% by the fifth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Trends and Needs

Many people start a business based on the latest business trends, or by filling an untapped need in the marketplace. eBay started the peer-to-peer marketplace trend that has led to businesses such as Airbnb, Etsy, and Uber. You could take this trend to form your own peer-to-peer marketplace, perhaps in lawn equipment rental or shed rentals.

Many inventions were born out of necessity and some services were created to make life easier. If you've ever thought, "It would be nice if someone would make something that...," you might have a business opportunity by creating it yourself.

Home-Based Business Ideas

Many people start a business to give them the flexibility to be home with children or care for ill or aging loved ones. The good news is that starting a home-based business is easier and more affordable than ever. There is also an endless list of home business ideas so you can find the one that best fits your goals and interests. There are home business ideas for food-lovers, gardeners, and photographers. Maybe you love to travel or enjoy helping people reach their potential.

One of the best aspects of home business is the ability to turn a hobby into income. You can even turn your home itself into a money-maker by renting out a room or starting a bed and breakfast.

The Most Profitable Small Businesses

The business ideas listed above do not require significant startup capital or decades of education or experience. However, if you are trained as a professional in a highly skilled or technical field, or you're prepared to invest the time and money required to become a professional in fields such as medicine, dentistry, or accounting, there are some businesses that have excellent profit potential. Medical professionals and dentists are in demand, and opening your own clinic or practice can allow you to have more control over working for a medical group. Other professional entrepreneurial opportunities that don't require as much education as medicine or dentistry include accounting, real estate, legal services, and consulting.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care and social assistance services have the highest business survival rates over time.

Creating Your Own Business Ideas

Do you have a unique, innovative, never-done-before idea? While that can be risky, plenty of entrepreneurs have been successful with new ideas. The personal computer, the iPod, an online bookstore, and the pet rock were all, at one time, original and innovative ideas.

If you want to become the next innovated entrepreneur you have to be alert to the opportunities all around you and have the drive to make it work.

Franchising Businesses

Franchises are available in traditional brick-and-mortar establishments or home-based and are a common choice for new businesses because they come ready-made with a product or service, a brand reputation, and support. That can put you on the fast track to business success and big profits—if you choose wisely.

While buying a franchise can speed up your startup, be sure you know the pros and cons of owning a franchise, and that you understand what to look for in a franchise opportunity.

Franchise Rule

To make an informed decision about what franchise to start, read the Federal Trade Commission's guide to buying a franchise, which covers the laws that govern franchises, gives help in investigating franchise opportunities, and provides tips on how to assess the disclosures required by the franchisor.

Narrowing Your Options

The best business idea is the one that's best suited to you, so consider how your personality, interests, and strengths relate to the ideas you're entertaining. This is going to be your career, so consider whether or not you're willing to stick to it for the long haul until it's successful.

Testing Your Business Idea

Once you've settled on what you think is a suitable business, test your idea before wasting time and money launching a business. Start with a feasibility study to determine if there is a market for what you want to do.

No matter what business you've chosen, running through a condensed version of a business plan is an excellent way to test your business idea. If, for instance, your idea was to provide computer services and you discovered that there were already eight such businesses in a town with fewer than 50,000 people, you would know that this business idea wasn't a great choice unless you could find a way to stand out from the competition.

You can also take your idea for a test drive to see if there is any interest. For example, if your business involves products, you might try selling a small sample of them on eBay or through another avenue to see what the response is like.

When you've decided on your business, write a complete business plan, as this will be your last test of viability before you go all in, as well as your guide to success.