Finding Business Ideas

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

Outdoor view of a weaving studio
••• (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?

There are many sources of ideas from which to pick a business.  Here are a few considerations to spark your creativity and interest so that you can choose the best business idea to fit your goals.

What Is Your Current 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.

What Are Your 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 there are many opportunities to build a business around pets.

Choosing a Business

You'll be spending a great deal of time researching, prepping, and launching your business before it becomes profitable. Picking an idea you're passionate about can help you avoid building a business you don't enjoy.

What Are 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 from 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.

The Most Profitable Small Businesses

The business ideas listed above have the potential to be profitable and 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. This includes accounting, real estate, legal services, and consulting.

Coming Up With 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 Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs, it is possible. You have to be alert to the opportunities all around you, conduct detailed market research to make sure people really want or need your idea, 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've chosen 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.

Narrowing Your Business Options

By now, your head is probably buzzing with all kinds of ideas for small businesses. If you're having trouble deciding which ones to investigate further, remember that this will be your business. 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. You don't want your business to become drudgery.

Testing Your Business Idea

Once you've settled on what you think is a suitable business, you should 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.

Test Your Idea

It's crucial that you research and test your idea before committing 100% to your business to make sure it's not only viable but also something you'll be able to commit to for the long haul.

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, you'll want to 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.

Article Sources

  1. Wharton University of Pennsylvania. "How Entrepreneurs Identify New Business Opportunities." Accessed Jan. 17, 2020.

  2. Santa Clara University. "Session 1: Deciding on a Business." Accessed Jan. 17, 2020.

  3. Stanford University. "Peer-to-Peer Markets," Page 2. Accessed Jan. 17, 2020.

  4. Federal Trade Commission. "A Consumer’s Guide to Buying a Franchise." Accessed Jan. 17, 2020.

  5. U.S. Small Business Administration. "Write Your Business Plan." Accessed Jan. 17, 2020.