This article has been excerpted from 55 Surefire Home Based Businesses You Can Start for Under $5,000 by Entrepreneur Press & Cheryl Kimball (2009).

Today, tens of thousands of people are considering starting a home based business, and for good reasons. On average, people can expect to have two and three careers during their work life. Those leaving one career often think about their second or third career move being to their own home. People who have been part of the traditional nine-to-five work force and are on the verge of retiring from that life are thinking of what to do next. The good news: Starting a homebased business is within the reach of almost anyone who wants to take a risk and work hard.

$1,500 or less to start up

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Create a flier outlining your services. Before you do that, you need to know what those services will be. Do you want to simply do bookkeeping for a small business? A more involved level of accounting would be do actually work up balance sheets, income statements, and other financial reports on a monthly, quarterly, and/or annual basis, depending on the needs of the business. Other specializations can include tax accounting, a huge area of potential work. Many business owners don't mind keeping their own day-to-day bookkeeping records but would rather get professional help with their taxes.


In many parts of the country, this business tends to be seasonal, but you can find ways around that. Rent a storage unit and offer to store people's bicycles over the winter after you do a tune-up and any needed repairs on them. If you want to cater to the Lance Armstrong wannabes, you can have business all year round. These road race riders are training through snow, sleet and dark of night. Some of them work on their own bicycles, but many of them don't, so you can get their business all year. And if you keep Saturday shop hours, you can be sure you will have a group of enthusiasts coming by to talk all things cycling.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Boats that are hauled out of the water for the winter or even just for mid-season repairs will need the hull cleaned. And depending on the type of boat, it is a good time to give a major cleaning everything else too--the decks, the sleeping quarters, the head, and the holds. Start by approaching homes that have a boat sitting in the yard. Or you could market your services to the marina to contract you to do the boat cleaning it offers to customers.

Has expansion possibilities

Offer a soup-to-nuts business plan, including market research, the business plan narrative and the financial statements. Plan your fee around the main one that the client will want and offer the others as add-on services. You can give clients an electronic file and allow them to take it from there, or you can keep the business plan on file and offer the service of tweaking it whenever necessary. Have business plan samples to show clients--and make sure to include your own!


Learning to be a chimney sweep may mean nothing more than apprenticing with someone already in the business. By becoming a chimney expert, you can combine a chimney sweep business with a chimney inspection service--covering more than just whether or not the chimney needs cleaning but whether the chimney is in good working order or in need of repair.


There are many directions you can take this business. If you want to work during hours when no one else does, you can focus on office clients. You can focus on retail businesses and keep your customers clumped into one or two blocks. Restaurants are in great need of daily thorough cleaning and can be a great source of steady clients. Perhaps you would be more interested in house cleaning. Many times with cleaning services you don't have to spend lots of money on advertising or marketing because your customers will come by word of mouth.

To learn more about this business idea, check out Start Your Own Cleaning Service.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Study the main types of software that system users will want--word processing, photo manipulation software, mail merge, spreadsheet, design and especially security software. Investigate all the components--monitor types in all their varieties; keyboards, from wired to ergonomic to wireless; mouse types; as well as peripheral components like printers and scanners. Become completely familiar with all the ISPs (internet service providers) available in the market area you plan to cover. Establish yourself as the guru who can meet the needs of the personal computer user, the small business or a larger corporation.

Has expansion possibilities

To be a consultant, you need to have an expertise in something so you can market yourself as an advisor to others looking to work in that area. Perhaps you managed several large warehouses in your career with a drugstore company, you did all the marketing for many years for a large shoe manufacturer or you set up a chain of beauty supply shops or take-out restaurants. You can use this experience to help others do similar things without making the same mistakes that you made along the way.


Experience, training, or licensing may be needed

Pets are phenomenally popular in the U.S. While many people are willing to adopt from animal shelters, others are looking for a specific breed. Purebred dogs are more popular than ever and can command large sums of money. But becoming a dog breeder is serious business catering to savvy consumers with high expectations of their pet purchases. You will need to establish yourself as a conscientious breeder who cares about the health and welfare of the animals you bring into the world.


Do you have items lurking around your household that you could sell on eBay? Figure out your asking price and decide whether to auction it or put it in your eBay store. Then decide if you want a minimum bid and how long you want the auction to last. You will want to establish a PayPal account to use for transactions. The eBay website provides all the information you need to know to get up and running with an eBay business.

Has expansion possibilities

Here are some of the editorial services you can provide from the quiet of your own home:

  • Copyediting. This is where fact checking takes place, and where grammatical, stylistic and typographical errors are caught.
  • Proofreading. This is the last stop for a "finished" piece. The proofreader makes sure the copyediting changes have been properly made and no new errors are created in the process.
  • Indexing. There are indexing courses available and you can get indexing software.
  • Developmental editing. A developmental editor works with a manuscript on big-picture things like organization and content issues.
  • Book doctoring. This is an editorial service provided for manuscripts written by experts. They create a manuscript as best they can and then a book doctor puts it into publishable shape.
  • Ghost Writing. As a ghost writer, you actually do the research and write the book and someone else's name is attached as the author.
  • Copywriting. Also known as business writing, this is writing that promotes a product or a service.
  • Book writing. Do you have an expertise in something professional, such as accounting or interior decorating? Or personally, like knitting? Why not write a book about it?
  • Magazine article writing. Magazines and newspapers are a great way to get your writing published before tackling the daunting task of writing a whole book.
  • Web page content provider. Providing content for a web site is a good way to make some money writing.

To learn more about this business idea, check out Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business and More.

Has expansion possibilities

This business is similar to the computer repair business, but you will take on all sorts of electronic equipment besides just computers. With smaller electronics, you will need to be prepared to have customers bring their repair projects to you, as you would have difficulty recovering the cost of driving around picking up broken equipment and returning it. You may also want to encourage people to give you their old electronics so you can use them for parts.

Has expansion possibilities

One of the first things you need to do is visit every potential event location with which you plan to work. Work with the marketing manager to tour each site and learn what is available at each location. Start a database that will allow you to sort venues by varying features--the number of people each site holds, if there is AV equipment available on site, will you need to arrange for rental chairs, etc. Then when you are beginning to plan an event with a client, you can find out what the key parameters are for the event and easily pull up the three or four sites that meet the basic criteria. and engagement parties, etc.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

One way to make money in this field is by being an expert witness yourself. If you have an expertise that could be useful in legal cases, you can market yourself to attorneys to act as an expert witness. Another way to be active in the expert witness field is to play a sort of matchmaker, matching attorneys up with expert witnesses for their cases--either for the defense or for the prosecution. Expert witnesses for big money cases can be expected to fly anywhere to testify. There's no reason your database of witnesses can't be from all parts of the country.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

To start, you should go through the certification process so that you can label yourself a CFP (Certified Financial Planner). Your certificate shows that you have expertise and credibility, and this differentiation will help people choose you as their financial planner.

Has expansion possibilities

People love to spend weekends rummaging through tables full of other people's unwanted items, looking for treasures. Make sure to change your layout and put new stuff out for sale often. You want people to come back time and again to see what's new. You don't even have to have that much new stuff to make things look new. Just moving an item from a table to the top of a bookshelf might get it noticed, even though the item has been in your inventory since you first started having sales.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Let the local public courses know about your coaching business. Cultivate relationships with the staff and encourage them to recommend you as a coach. Another place to look for customers is the corporate world. Golfing is a game that business people use to develop relationships outside the office. You do need to be a better than average golfer to develop a reputation as a golf coach. You also need to be a good teacher, know how to be motivational and be willing to work with many different types of people.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

All homeowners are always on the lookout for ways to save on their utility bills. You can come to their aid by providing them with an audit of their house and giving them a breakdown of how they could accomplish real savings in heating, cooling and electrical use. You can go one step further and do the implementation and installation of some of your suggestions in their home yourself. Do a complete appliance audit, with efficiency ratings and calculations based on the age of the appliance. And don't forget the water heater!

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

In order to be successful, you will want to establish contacts with real estate agents who can recommend your services to customers. The home inspection field is one where you will need to do constant updating of your education and knowledge. New products are constantly coming out on the market--if you only know about decks made of wood, you will not know how to inspect and assess the new materials on the market, such as composites that are made to look like real wood. Also keep apprised of all safety updates of materials and issues with things like off-gassing, carbon monoxide production, and other chemical precautions.

To learn more about this business idea, check out Start Your Own Home Inspection Service.

Has expansion possibilities

You can choose either to do the organizing work or to come in to a home and consult on the things the homeowner could do to better organize. Have a portfolio of different organizational scenarios in different rooms in the home and talk with the homeowner about the style he or she likes. Create checklists and questionnaires to understand how the family uses the home. Are the kids wildly busy with after-school activities? Or are they usually home after school and want access to their toys? Do they share rooms? All of these things will help you tailor an organizing plan and become the family hero.

From Import/Export to Solar Energy

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

If you don't already have work experience with importing and/or exporting, you will have a longer learning curve. You can start by learning the basics and hosting educational sessions to teach others what they need to know to get started in import/export. That alone would probably gain you your first couple of clients. If you keep going with educational seminars and expand your reach to outside your immediate region, you could probably develop a sufficient and ongoing customer base very quickly, but be careful not to outpace your learning curve!

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Market your talents to building contractors. People purchasing new homes can often be overwhelmed with the choices and possibilities in home decorating. Design some questionnaires for each major element and each major room in the house. Find out how the homeowner will use the home--are there children? Pets? Does the woman of the house wear high heels? Do the home's residents neglect to remove shoes? How will each room be used? Where might task lighting and ambient lighting be most appropriate?

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

There are many different ways of getting into the jewelry business and many different types of materials with which you can work. Working in metal will probably require the most in the way of specific tools. You need to be able to heat the metal to manipulate it, and you need metalworking tools to cut and engrave it. But there are many other materials that you can work with to make jewelry--glass, plastic, beads, feathers, even wood, to name just a few.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

If you can write copy that gets people excited about purchasing what your client has to sell, you can make good money in this business. Unless you are highly experienced from working in the copywriting field, take a course. There are online courses or classes at community colleges and universities that can give you a leg up in getting savvy at writing copy for brochures, catalogs, advertising and, of course, marketing copy for the web.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

In most states in the U.S., a notary public is a state officer who is authorized to witness and attest to the legalities of certain documents by signature and stamping a seal. Most states require that you pass an exam and a background check. It costs very little to become a notary and your income from notary work is negligible. A justice of the peace typically performs wedding ceremonies. States have varying rules and procedures for becoming a JP and performing services. Becoming a JP and/or notary public does not cost much money. And it is not a big moneymaking venture! Many states set the fees you can charge for JP services. JPs can add additional fees, and often do, including travel and hourly rates for additional meetings such as rehearsals, other prep time and any special requests.


This business is for someone who is supremely efficient and has the ability to make things happen. People who hire you will expect things when they want them and you need to be able to come through with not only what they want, but with a personal touch and a smile on your face. The most likely clients for a personal concierge service are top executives who find themselves at the office by 7 a.m. and are there most nights until 9 p.m., leaving them very little time to do all those things that often need to be done during those very hours.

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Advertise your services in places where everyone goes, like restaurants and grocery stores. Having a website is a good idea--people want some privacy in their decision-making when it comes to getting fit. They can go to your website and determine if your approach to personal training is an approach that would work for them. It is important to emphasize the safety aspect of using a personal trainer. You can help clients get fit and avoid injury.

To learn more about this business idea, check out Start Your Own Personal Training Business.


Your job, in the case of rental units, will be to make sure the property is running smoothly. For seasonal properties, you will most likely spend your management time making sure the property is ready for seasonal visits and well-maintained when no one is around. If the owners go away for six weeks in the winter, the property manager makes regular checks on the property. You will be the contact number if the security system operator needs to contact someone about a breach in security.