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Finding the Right "Opportunity" for You (Part II)

To help you sort out your options, here's a break-down of the four basic types of Home-Based Businesses. Use them to start clearing a path to your home career goals.

© 1997, by Lisa M. Roberts

Today there are literally thousands of independent careers that can be developed in the home. With so many Home-Based Businesses (HBBs) in operation right now and more surfacing every day, there are plenty to choose from and plenty more to mix and match to make yours original.

As stressed in Finding the Right Work-at-Home Opportunity, Part I, the key is to find your idea on your own, not have someone else's idea find you. Resist the temptation to answer ads that entice you to invest in a business that's already established. For true autonomy and to safeguard your investment, your home business or home career should be born from your own pursuit. Even if you end up working as part of someone else's business plan, you will take comfort in knowing you stepped forward -- not backward -- into the position.

If you're not quite sure what type of home business or home career is right for you, there are a great many sources available today to help stimulate ideas. From books, web sites, associations and magazines, to casual conversation with just about anyone you know, the world seems a-buzz with information on how to use today's technology to enjoy a flexible career at home. Yet with all the hub-bub, it can be hard to find a moment's peace to think clearly!

To help you sort out your options, here's a break-down of the four basic types of HBBs. Use the following categorizations -- and the list of marketable skills you came up with in Part I -- to start clearing a path to your home career goals.

The Basic Four HBBs

A HBB sells either products or services. Of the product-based HBBs, you can sell manufactured goods or hand-made goods. Of the service-based HBBs, you can sell hard skills or soft skills. Combinations involving all four types certainly exist, but for the sake of clarity we'll take a close look at each separately.

Also for clarity's sake we'll apply the "HBB Formula for Success" to sample HBBs of each category. This concept takes the basic product or service, adds a target market (specific client or customer), and a niche (a specialty) to come up with a specific HBB. Use such a formula to get to the root of your own idea, and then consider branching out as your home career develops.

(1) Selling Hard-Skill Services

Hard skills are practical skills, skills that have a tangible end result. Any skill that involves the operation of things (appliances, computers, what-have-you) and data (factual information) usually fall into this category.

Because today's computer and communications technology have created so many new "hard skills" -- many of which are in high demand -- this is where much of the excitement is stirring among the work-at-home community. HBB owners in this category are breaking all kinds of boundaries -- geographical (they can work anywhere, anytime), personality (many have temperaments outside the traditional entrepreneurial type) and professional (many come from the corporate world and are headed back...often worth more than when they left!).

But in all the excitement let's not forget the more standard hard skills with a rich history in the HBB workforce that are still in great demand today. These include such work-at-home professionals as accountants, bookkeepers, typists, translators and copywriters, as well as independent contract workers such as plumbers, electricians, handymen, landscapers and roofers.

Basic Product/Service + Target Market + Niche = HBB Owner

Programming + Children + Games = Software Game Developer
Programming + Parents + Games = Educational Software Game Developer (!)
Indexing + University Presses + Accounting = Accounting Textbook Indexer
Web Design + Seniors + Families = Family Tree/Family Historian Web Site Developer
Desktop Publisher + Non-Profit Organizations + Annual Conventions = Convention Brochure Producer

(2) Selling Soft-Skill Services

Soft skills are interpersonal and critical thinking skills, skills that "reach out and touch someone" or involve analysis of the "big picture." Any type of teaching, counseling, consulting, managing or communicating fall into this category, and HBBs of this type primarily involve interaction with people or information (that gets delivered to people).

Again, technology has boosted the possibilities in this home-based arena too. For instance, while before a SAHM licensed math teacher might have run a private local tutoring service out of a separate wing of her home, now she may be able to extend her services to the entire online community through "classes" or "lessons" delivered electronically. Plus new home businesses are emerging that strictly serve the online community, such as PR agents who focus solely on getting web sites media attention.

Basic Service + Target Market + Niche = HBB Owner

Financial Consulting + New Parents + College = College Fund Financial Advisor
Publishing + Vegetarians + Newsletters = Vegetarian Newsletter Publisher
Musician + Children + Piano = Piano Teacher
Writing + CEOs + Corporate Events = Executive Speech Writer
Event Planner + Brides + Modest Budgets = Creative Wedding Planner
Interior Design + Christians + Christmas = Christmas Tree Decorator

(3) Selling Manufactured Products

Manufactured products are mostly goods that are produced outside the home. They can be sold via mail order, telemarketing, retail stores, special distribution programs and direct sales.

The most popular type of business in this category are what are known as Multi-Level Marketing ventures (MLMs), aka Direct Sales, Network Marketing or "Party" businesses. While some parents do nicely in this line of HBB, many more are in over their heads. The truth is that even with reputable MLMs -- those that ask for a modest investment or "membership fee" and offer strong support to their consultants -- it still takes an ambitious, hard-working, enthusiastic entrepreneur who is 100% commited to the product line to make it all worthwhile. A cheery personality also goes a long way in the "party" businesses that sell products mostly through local neighborhood parties hosted by friends and relatives of the HBB owner. Also needed are strong salesmanship, self-motivation and public speaking skills. This, naturally, is the minority of the overall workforce, so step slowly if you're moving in this direction!

If you do think you have the personality and drive for this type of home career, I have known a few local moms who are very happy with the following Direct Sale companies:

  • Pampered Chef
  • Mary Kay Cosmetics
  • Discovery Toys
  • Creative Memories

(4) Selling Handmade Products

A business that sells handmade products is a labor of love. For men and women with talented hands, the love for the work itself carries this type of business to success. It takes craftsmanship, self-discipline, and a special repertoire between the business owner and her customers for these HBBs to thrive.

Selling handmade goods is like gift-giving year-round -- tenderly creating a product, wrapping it up and offering it to customers who to some degree share the same passion. This is the "American Classic" version of working from home, and is as popular today as it has ever been.

Consider this classic the thread that weaves HBBs throughout the ages!

Basic Product/Service + Target Market + Niche = HBB Owner

Crafts + Home Owners + Holidays = Year-round Holiday Wreath Maker
Tayloring + Children + Halloween = Children's Costume Maker
Painting + Proud Parents + Graduation Ceremonies = Graduation Portrait Artist
Woodwork + Pet Owner + Pet = Bird or Doghouse Carpenter
Jeweler + Teens + Hair = Teen Hair Fashion Jeweler
Needlework + B&B Owners + Quilts = B&B Quilt Maker

Once you settle on the specific product line or service of your HBB, you are ready to start making preparations for its debut. Remember that selecting your home-based career is a time not only to evaluate your marketable skills, but to reflect on the contribution you always wanted to make on your local community and perhaps on society at large. Throughout your professional development, keep your personal mission in the back of your mind and weave it through the information you process on your way to an independent vocation. It will give your home career heart and your bank account soul!

© 1997 Lisa M. Roberts, all rights reserved. The above article is an excerpt from How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business, a title highly recommended by La Leche League, Home Office Computing and the Family Christian Bookclub. Order your own copy today!

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