Supplemental Income Business Ideas

Piggy Bank
Photo: Steve Evans

Are you an entrepreneur at heart? Have you always dreamed of starting and running your own business but have been afraid to try?

This article is intended to help the "reluctant entrepreneur" - those who were not planning on, or dreaming of starting a business, or have had a hard time getting started but suddenly find themselves in a financial or other position that requires them to find an alternative means of income.

There are many would-be entrepreneurs who would like to take the plunge - quit their "day" jobs and start their own businesses. Starting a business takes time, money, and hard work, and I strongly recommend making sure you have enough savings to live off for at least one year before making such a major change.

However, there are times where extra income is urgently needed, or, you find yourself unemployed. Some reluctant entrepreneurs experience a sudden change in family responsibilities that require them to quit a job and stay home to care for a sick family member, or to raise a child.

When faced with the sudden need for income, it is easy to get taken in by scam artists, or shady "work-at-home" companies that are only interested in taking your money and not in helping you make money.

Some Basic Guidelines

There really are no good answers, no one-size-fits-all solutions, but here are some general guidelines to consider when you suddenly find yourself the reluctant entrepreneur born from need and not a burning passion to simply be your own boss.

  • Be suspect of any and all "get rich" schemes. Period. If you could, more people would be rich.
  • If you opt to try a work-from-home sales or affiliate ad program, research the company and program thoroughly. Check with the Better Business Bureau and Google for online complaints. Anything that sounds too good to be true, usually is.
  • Be wary of any program that requires you to purchase a start-up kit, "training," or pay other fees to start earning money.
  • Consider trying one of the better-known, legitimate multilevel marketing companies. Stick with ones that have a long business record, not one that just popped up a year ago.
  • "Assemble at home" and "stuff envelopes for money" are both gimmicks. You will lose money, not earn any.
  • Think "niche" market. It is usually easier to break into a niche market than a dominant market.
  • Exploit your own talents; we all have something we can do or a skill or service we can share with others.

Determine How Much and How Fast You Need Money

Ask yourself, how much money do you need and how fast do you need it? Be reasonable, there are no get-rich programs that are reliable. Unless you have a highly marketable, in-demand skill, if you need fast cash, open an eBay store and sell unwanted items.

You can also start your own trinket and clothing line through vendors like Cafe Press. Design clothing items, accessories, and coffee mugs, etc. -- there is nothing to pay upfront, but you will have to get on the Internet and market aggressively to let people know you have items for sale.

If you are a great networker, try connecting with an in-home sales program such as Avon, Pampered Chef, or Stella and Dot jewelry.

You may be required to purchase samples, and how much you make is entirely dependent upon how much you sell. You will have to hustle, but these programs can work if you work hard.

Assess Your Basic Life and Professional Skills

Start by assessing your basic skills. Everyone has a talent or skill they take for granted - a skill or talent that can be marketed in some way. Sometimes, you may have to think hard, and a little outside the box, but with a little creative thinking and a positive attitude you can discover the inner entrepreneur inside.

Examples of hidden talents include being creative, outgoing, patient, and flexible. All these qualities can lead to building better business contacts.

If You Have Good Organization Skills

If you have good organizational skills, you may be able to start a business helping others get organized.

Start by visiting professional networks to find upcoming networking events, seminars, and events. Organizing is equal parts "know how" and networking. To become a successful organizer, you should also like people - and working with people.

The best place to start is the (NAPO). NAPO is a network of 4,200 professional organizers whose mission is "to develop, lead, and promote professional organizers and the organizing industry." They offer programs, information, and guidance for individuals who want to become a professional organizer.

If You Have Strong Communication Skills

If you are a great communicator you may be able to translate your talent into freelance writing, proofreading / editing, or starting a home-based reception service. Many businesses turn to outside sources to compose press releases, articles for publication, and even posts for blogs, websites, and social networks.

Tap Into Your Artistic Skills

Getting into a gallery takes connections, time, and sometimes, money. Opening your own shop is also a long-term dream because of the financial investment required upfront. But that does not mean you cannot start making a splash in the artwork now.

Try selling your artwork online. Many up-and-coming artists start with a simple website showcasing some of their pieces and taking orders for special requests. There is a good, niche market for people who want paintings, drawings, and sculptures of their pets. If you love horses, cats, dogs, and anything furry, consider capturing people's pets. Many pet artists offer to immortalize a lost pet, but few have websites devoted exclusively to pet memorials.

If you do not have the skills or time to build a website, start with Facebook. Open an account, create a business page and start posting your pictures. Be sure to like other artists and share the status updates of others. One of the keys to building a strong social networking presence online is to simply "share the wealth."

That is, don't just market your own interests but make your Facebook page a place to come and find related information and tidbits of interest. Invite your audience to post and share their own artwork. An interactive Facebook page is one more likely to get "shares" and "likes."

Other Possible Income Producers

  • Animal Lover? Try dog walking, pet sitting, or offer in-home day care for pampered pets.
  • Green Thumb or Plant Lover? Be a house or plant sitter for out-of-towners, or start you own landscaping and yard maintenance business.
  • Good With People? Try starting an in-home daycare business, become a nanny, adult day care provider, or companion.
  • Good Writer/Objective Reviewer? I know of two people who started websites that simply review niche market products (one was plus size clothing, another high-end, expensive watches.) With hard work and good marketing, both eventually sold their websites (while making ad income in the meantime). The clothing review site sold for $10,000 -- the watch review site went for $20,000.