10 Great Home-Based Side-Business Ideas

The following guest post by Kimberly Palmer is based on her new book, "The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life," which comes out this week.

Most work-from-home schemes are scams, or pretty close to it. Anyone who asks you to invest $500 (or more) in inventory before you've made a single sale does not have your best interests in mind. Any company that pays you $5 per online review that you write will not make you rich. And any online vendor that asks you to handle credit card processing is probably downright breaking the law.

If you want to earn money from your home, here's a better idea: Launch a home-based business based on your own skills, creativity, and passions. You will not only increase your income, but you will also discover the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from creating a product or service that other people find useful.

I'm biased towards this approach because it's exactly what I did. When I found myself wanting to earn some extra money on top of my full-time job, I launched an Etsy shop of money planners, based around meeting various goals, from preparing for a baby to organizing finances for the year. Sales were slow at first, but once I caught the eye of some bloggers, the customers came. I started earning close to $200 a month from my shop — not enough to pay my mortgage, but just enough to prove to myself that I have something valuable to offer, and to know that I could ramp it up if I ever needed or wanted to.

If you're considering launching your own home-based side-business, consider these 10 popular options, based on my interviews with entrepreneurs and career experts as well as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com, Freelancer.com, and Upwork. They give you the chance to share your own skills with the world, while also bringing in some extra cash:

1. Website Designer

If you have the ability to create functional and beautiful websites, then you probably already know it's a potentially lucrative skill, and also one that can be easily done from home. That's why it's the number one ranked home-based side-business on the list. Freelancer.com has singled out website design as one of the fastest growing jobs, with over 10,000 jobs in the field posted each quarter on the site. PayScale.com reports that part-time, freelance graphic web designers earn a median rate of around $30 an hour.

2. Marketing Consultant

If you enjoy reaching out to bloggers, social media friends, and reporters to help get word out about other people's projects and businesses, then you can earn a good living from it – around $50 an hour, according to PayScale.com. Since the work is done primarily by phone and email, you can also do it from the comfort of home.

3. Social Media Consultant

If you love playing around on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media sites, then this one might be for you. Lots of solopreneurs as well as companies are looking to hire freelance social media consultants, as evidenced by the growing number of postings on Freelancer.com and other websites. Create a profile for yourself and start picking up clients.

4. Writer

Writers include bloggers, authors of technical guides, publishers of ebooks, and everything in between. Technical writers are among the best paid in the bunch, with copyeditors and proofreaders falling further down the pay scale. Still, all types of writers can pretty much work from anywhere, including their kitchen table, and at any time.

5. Baker

This glamorized profession, thanks to TLC's DC Cupcakes and other baking-related shows, can also be a lucrative one. You can earn more if you find a way to stand out and put your own unique twist on the baked goods, as well as by layering in blogging, teaching, and perhaps even a related online store. Make sure you prepare for the start-up costs, though, which could include state-specific licenses.

6. Voice Actor

Voice actors are in hot demand, thanks largely to small business owners who want to create multimedia websites. You can get started on sites such as Upwork or Fiverr, and you might already have all the supplies you need, like a microphone and headset. Upwork lists voice acting as one of the fastest growing fields, and it's one you can do from almost any (quiet) room.

7. Career Coach

If you find friends already ask you for tips on navigating the workplace and job market, then you might want to consider taking your free advice to a professional level. Career coaches typically work one-on-one with clients and they can do so over the phone, email, or video chat sessions. They also help with improving resumes and cover letters, tasks that are also easily accomplished from home. You don't need any special certification to get started, but it's an option.

8. Artist

Fine artists can earn a living by selling their work on an e-commerce site like Etsy, Zazzle, or RedBubble. Finding paying customers isn't always easy, but by spreading the word about your creations over social media and blogging networks, you can build towards a steady stream of income. Since art is typically a luxury purchase, the field tends to fluctuate with the economy.

9. Online Community Builder

This relatively new field involves connecting people online, typically through new websites or on social media. Examples include DailyMuse.com and dcurbanmom.com. Web design skills help, as do social media fluency — along with a great idea for a niche community hungry for a new way to connect online.

10. Tutor

Tutoring clients often want to stop by your house after school and in the evenings, which can make this the perfect gig for work-at-home parents with school-age children of their own. Tutors usually have education degrees and additional certifications or licenses, although for those working privately for families it's not required. They typically pick up local clients through word-of-mouth, and might specialize in specific areas such as college essay editing or college admissions coaching.

By launching any of these home-based businesses, you'll end up improving the lives of your customers – and your own.

Kimberly Palmer is the author of the new book, "The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life," and senior money editor for U.S. News & World Report, where she writes the popular Alpha Consumer blog. In addition, she is the creator of Palmer's Planners, her own line of digital financial guides and money organizers for major life events and goals. You can connect with her at bykimberlypalmer.com, where you can also download worksheets to help you build your own home-based business.


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Guest's picture

Very nicely put article Kimberly. From the day I found these options, I wonder why would people stay away from family to work in a job they hate, earning money they can hardly live by? More and more people should be made aware about Home Based Business options available.
Kimberly I'd also suggest you to think about adding Network Marketing to the list. But mentioning the importance of proper education about the industry & warning from the 'get-rich-quick' false hypes. The beauty of Network Marketing is that one can do any/some/all the things you mentioned above & still run their Network Marketing business. Network Marketing business can give the benefit of passive income & leverage to common people, which is often comparatively bit difficult to achieve through other forms of Home Based Businesses.

Guest's picture

Learning to code is one of my top 2014 resolutions. As a web presence becomes more and more necessary for EVERY business and even individual, the opportunity for web design grows exponentially and I want to be part of it!

Guest's picture

I'm a stay-at-home mom since my first child was born. Now I have two lovely children which I am able to spend more time tending to. Why? Because I sell wall vinyl decal designs from home.

I currently sell locally to friends, neighbors, acquaintances and anyone I meet. I do drop my business card to folks I meet at the doctor's office or even a supermarket. I plan to sell online, eventually. But, I am happy with what I am able to make from home, at the moment, while my children still need me.

I did all my research online like on YouTube and even sign vinyl forums. There is just tons of information out on the web.

Most of what I learned about my interior wall design business was from a site called Wall Decal Business at http://walldecalbusiness.com

The gentleman who runs the site is a full-time school teacher and he does this from home as a part-time. He tells you all about the wall decal business and his personal experiences.

Take a look to see if interior wall design is for you.

Though I'd share... good luck with your endeavors!