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Businesses You Can Start at Home

When it comes to selling products and services, the best home business is one that fits your interests and abilities.

Home-based businesses are proving to be a great solution for many women today, either as a part-time supplement to their family's income or as a full-time alternative to the 9-5 lifestyle. Could you be the next successful business owner? Consider the following service-oriented and product-oriented businesses.

If you opt for a service business, you can perform the service at home (word processing, tutoring, bookkeeping or child care) or at another location (interior design, home organizing or consulting).

Services that Sell
Computer Services
If you are technically proficient, a computer-related business might be right for you. Programmers, systems engineers, networking experts, repair and upgrade specialists, and web designers are always in demand. You could become a subcontractor for smaller companies and work as a consultant for them. Whether you provide software support or website design, the hourly wage for these services is among the best in freelancing.

Virtual assistant
Virtual assistants, or VAs, perform a variety of duties, ranging from answering phones to updating websites. Some read and respond to e-mails, type up transcripts, write articles and do light bookkeeping. According to The 2-Second Commute: Join the Exploding Ranks of Freelance Virtual Assistants , by Christine Durst, VAs are a $130 billion industry annually.

Bookkeeping
If your friends are always asking for help with their taxes, you can work down the street at a temporary tax store for $10 an hour, or you can sell your own services for several times that amount. You will need software and a computer dedicated to the business. Then you need to find clients. Look for small businesses that are just getting started; they're most likely to need immediate help.

Consulting/coaching/teaching
Providing consulting or coaching services is something many women can do. You start with your own expertise and specialized industry knowledge and sell it to people who need it. Lauri Meizler was a food-and-beverage analyst on Wall Street when she decided to become a nutritional consultant . Laureen Wishom did the same, leaving her corporate life to become a business coach for women. There are consultants in every possible field you can imagine--from fertility to breastfeeding, weddings and nursery set-up. Many teachers and consultants leverage their time by teaching classes or consulting in groups.

Profitable Products
If you want to sell goods as your business, you'll have to decide whether to create them yourself (crafts, baked goods) or buy them from others and resell them (on places like eBay , half.com and Craigslist ).

Online resale
You can sell or resell products via an online marketplace such as eBay, Amazon Auctions or Craigslist. You can sell used goods, buy goods wholesale or use a drop-shipping service. Wendy, a nurse, has been reselling yard-sale items for about two years. "I started when I tried to resell my kid's toys at local consignment shops," says Wendy, who is preparing to shift to her resale business full-time next year. "They only offered about 30 percent of the retail price and, online, I could get closer to 80 percent. Now I buy items at yard sales for about 20 percent of their value," she says. She estimates last year's earnings at $20,000 but is on track to double that this year.

Crafts
In September of 2008, when the stock market crashed and forecasts for most of the economy looked pretty bleak, Etsy.com , the handmade craft-selling site, reported a 5 percent increase over sales in August. In fact, just last month, more than 500,000 items sold, bringing in almost $8 million. The possibilities are endless--you can turn your passion into profit if you are interested in any of these projects: art glass, basket weaving, beading, candle making, ceramics/polymer clay, crocheting, cross stitch, doll making, embroidery, fiber, floral, folk art, gift baskets, jewelry/lapidary, knitting, leather, metalsmithing, mosaic tiles, needlepoint, painting, paper crafts, photography, plastic canvas or pottery.

Agricultural/culinary providers
Resourceful growers specialize in niche markets overlooked by major farmers and ranchers, such as mushrooms, exotic fruits, organically grown vegetables or unusual plants and flowers. If you bake specialty items, you can sell locally to individuals, restaurants, businesses or farmers' markets.

The best home business idea is the one that fits your passions, interests, abilities and needs. Matching your resources with the perfect business idea is the best way to begin a new business designed to succeed.

Lesley Spencer Pyle is the founder and president of HomeBasedWorkingMoms.com and HireMyMom.com , and she is the author of The Work-at-Home Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide on Selecting and Starting the Perfect Home Business for You. Pyle has been working from home for more than 13 years.

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