Using the knowledge, tools, and resources you already have, you can start a home business today. History is littered with successful businesses that were started with little or nothing, except a giant desire and the commitment to make it work, no matter what. In fact, commitment and tenacity are two of the most important assets to have in ensuring home business success. If you want the freedom and flexibility to work at home as your own boss, here are five ideas you can start now for nothing.
Of course, photography can take many forms, from photojournalism to portrait photography to general-interest stock photography. You’ll most likely go for either setting up a studio in your home or taking pictures for use as stock photos, as true photojournalism requires years of experience and almost never involves actually working from home. Keep in mind that stock-photo sites work on a revenue-sharing model, so simply selling pictures to one is unusual.
Lawn, garden and yard care, bathtub reglazing, carpet cleaning, floor installation, green cleaning products distribution, home decorating, remodeling or restoration, house sitting, pet sitting, pool cleaning and maintenance, snow removal, window cleaning, auto repair and maintenance. Many people might grab your services if you're mechanically inclined and willing to go to their location to repair or maintain their vehicles. In many cases, you might be saving them the cost of a tow to a garage.
There are loads of job listings for freelancers on major job boards, and you can always advertise your services (and look for work) on craigslist or LinkedIn. Once the jobs start rolling in, don’t be afraid to go to previous clients and ask for more work. Steady work is the best work for freelancers. If all else fails at first, just write. Start a blog. Build clips. Get writing!
The first step involves figuring out what type of business you want to run. Too many people focus on fast profits over choosing the right idea. Although the goal is to make money, you shouldn't base your decision on profit potential alone, ignoring your interest in or compatibility with the business. It's always better to choose a business idea that you're passionate about.
Like starting a home bakery, developing a catering service comes with a unique set of food-oriented challenges. Right off the bat, you need to make sure that it’s legal in your state or municipality to use your home kitchen for commercial food production. If it is, you’ll still need to make sure that you’re following food-safety regulations and other relevant laws.
We don’t manufacture as much in America as we used to, but the phrase “American made” still means a lot to some people. Artisanal items are also popular, making now a great time to start a furniture-making business. This might not be the easiest idea to start from scratch, but if you already own the equipment you need, you can start producing pieces to sell at fairs and online on sites such as Etsy.
Becoming a freelance coder is an especially great home-based business idea since it’s already a very commonplace gig. Whether you want the flexibility of being your own boss, enjoy taking on a wide diversity of projects rather than working with a single company, or prefer to travel instead of staying in one place, you’ve got many reasons to pursue freelance software development—even though technology companies and startups offer their own perks as well.

Another idea someone could do from home is to start a service or write a software program that scours local ad listings (like craigslist) for a particular used item a person wants to buy. They have services like this for new items, but not used. I know others like me who are keeping their eye out for something used (like a canopy king bed!) but don’t have the time or inclination to search for it every day.
If you know how to make jewelry, there’s really no reason not to sell it. Handmade jewelry has long held appeal for collectors and admirers alike. The biggest challenge to setting up a jewelry business might be running the business itself—just making beautiful things won’t be enough to sustain the operation. Study up on what it takes to run a jewelry business and then make it happen. A great place to start is online with sites like Etsy and eBay

This article was co-authored by Michael R. Lewis. Michael R. Lewis is a retired corporate executive, entrepreneur, and investment advisor in Texas. He has over 40 years of experience in business and finance, including as a Vice President for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. He has a BBA in Industrial Management from the University of Texas at Austin. This article has been viewed 267,253 times.
Or, if you’re particularly attracted to the brewing process but don’t want to get involved in all of the other areas involved in selling beer, you might look into contract brewing—where you help beer companies make and package their beer. Either way, this can be a great hands-on home based business idea, especially if you like experimenting and figuring out how the best beer is made.
Used-car salesmen unfortunately have some nasty stereotypes to live down, but you don’t need a tacky blazer or a fast-talking sales pitch to make money buying and reselling cars. People throw away perfectly good (or certainly good enough) cars all the time for all sorts of trivial issues. If you know a little something about servicing a car and can make one shine for a Craigslist ad, you could take advantage of massive opportunities to buy used cars and resell them for major profit.
There’s more to being a coach or personal trainer than just being fit and loving to exercise. Finding a specialization is important, and licenses might be required for certain types of coaching roles. For instance, a friend in Boston obtained US and European soccer-coaching licenses before opening a successful one-on-one soccer-instruction business.
In my experience, one of the greatest challenges people face is deciding why they are starting a business, what they hope to accomplish and what they really want to do. Starting a business, particularly from home, sounds glamorous and free but, in reality, it can put a strain on home life if not done right. People I talk to often need help decision-making which is an essential quality in running a business.

Hi Edwin – Maybe start by taking a look at products you really like, then see if you can improve on them somehow. Can you make it better? Can you make it cheaper? Can you deliver it faster? Can you find a market niche where the product will take off. It’s not necessary to come up with a whole new product, which is also very risky. But if you can take an existing product and make it better you’ll have a better chance at success. Also take old product and see how you reinvent them. That’s what Howard Schultz did with Starbucks. He virtually reinvented coffee, which is something no one thought could be done at the time.
If you don’t already have an idea, the first step to coming up with an idea can be the hardest step. Many entrepreneurs know exactly what type of at-home business they’re going to open. For example, someone who has worked in an industry for several decades can leverage their knowledge and network to do consulting. Other entrepreneurs may know they want to create jewelry and sell it on Etsy.
×