There are many great reasons to start a business part time. Maybe you want to get your feet wet in the entrepreneurial ocean but aren't ready to dive in completely. Perhaps your potential market is too small to warrant a full-time venture but could provide enough cash to pay off some bills or fill your savings account. Maybe you don't have enough funding to quit your job and have decided to start your new business slowly and steadily. Whatever the reason, we've got five hot businesses you can start this weekend.
Starting a business in your off hours won't be easy. Businesses, once birthed, are much like living, breathing animals. Even though you might be too tired to walk it during the week, pretty soon it'll start clawing its way into your life 24/7. Clients will call. One more task will nag at your brain Tuesday at midnight. You've got to be an organizational genius--and unless you're planning on expanding full time eventually (which is a very viable option with any of these businesses), you've got to hold that beast back before it takes over your life.
Pros and Cons
As we've already discussed, starting part time offers several advantages. It reduces your overall risk because you can rely on a regular income and benefits from your full-time job while you get your business off the ground. By starting part time, you also allow your business the chance to grow gradually.
Yet the part-time path is not without its own dangers and disadvantages. Starting part time leaves you with less time to market your business, strategize and build a clientele. Since you won't be available to answer calls or solve customers' problems for most of the day, clients may become frustrated and feel you're not offering adequate customer service or responding quickly enough to their needs.
Part-time entrepreneurs may also find that prospective customers, suppliers or investors don't take them seriously. Perhaps the most serious problem is the risk of burnout. Holding down a full-time job while running a part-time business leaves you with little, if any, leisure time; as a result, your personal and family life may suffer.
That's not to say a part-time business can't work. It can, says Arnold Sanow, author of You Can Start Your Own Business--if you have excellent time-management skills, strong self-discipline, and support from family and friends. Also crucial, he says, is your commitment: "Don't think that, since you already have a job, you don't really have to work hard at your business. You must have a plan of attack."
Your Plan of Attack
You must distinguish a professionally organized, part-time business from a hobby. According to Webster's dictionary, a hobby is an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation. Basically, a hobby is for fun. A part-time business can be fun, too, but it also takes a lot of work.
It's a big commitment--so how do you cope? First, think small. A series of small steps will get you in the same position as one giant step. These steps include developing a business concept, writing a business plan, acquiring basic business equipment, setting a long-term target date to go full time, aiming for moderate first-year revenues, using your time wisely, selecting time-saving business equipment, and maintaining top performance at your day job. Finally, study the industry, and try to make your mistakes while the company is still growing. Consider this part-time endeavor your formal test market.
Tutor, Videographer, Flea Market Entrepreneur & More
Education is a major element of a child's development. For parents wanting the peace of mind that their child is receiving the proper education, extracurricular tutoring can be the preferred method of extending educational training beyond public school. There is one main requirement for starting this type of instruction business: You must be an expert in the field in which you intend to teach or tutor.
Beyond that, this business is very simple to start. You can operate on a mobile basis by going to the client, or from your home office with the client coming to you. Build a customer and referral base by joining community business associations and parent-teacher associations. Networking and self-promotion is probably the best marketing strategy.
Tutoring is a competitive industry, and gaining the upper hand requires explanation and disclosure of credentials firsthand. Current rates for a professional tutoring service vary from a low of $18 per hour to a high of $35 per hour, depending on the course material and complexity.
- Start-up costs: $1,000 and up
- More info:National Parent Teacher Association; National Tutoring Association
- Books:The Howard Street Tutoring Manual by Darrell Morris; Tutoring as a Successful Business: An Expert Tutor Shows You How by Eileen Kaplan Shapiro; Tutoring Matters: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About How to Tutor by Tiffani Chin, Nima Fahimian and Jerome Rabow
Get in the frame with a picture framing service. You can work with gallery owners, artists, portrait photographers and individuals who've purchased a print, painting or fine photo. If you aren't already a framing expert, read up, take classes at a local college or community center, then assemble your tools--including clamps, saws, miter boxes, glue, and a pneumatic or hand stapler. Establish relationships with local artists' groups, galleries, photographers and print shops that can give you their business or refer their customers to you.
- Start-up costs: $1,500
- More info: Professional Picture Framers Association
- Books: The Encyclopedia of Picture Framing Techniques by Robert Cunning; Frame It Yourself: Matting & Framing Step-By-Step by the Editors of Creative Publishing International; Home Book of Picture Framing: Professional Secrets of Mounting Matting, Framing and Displaying Artworks, Photographs, Posters, Fabrics, Collectibles by Kenn Oberrecht
- Publications: Picture Framing Magazine
Not so long ago, the way to immortalize a wedding, graduation, birthday or other special event was only with photographs. Now, with video cameras, everybody can be the star of their own big day or night--except that it's hard to be a member of the wedding party and film it, too, and most people have a tendency to take shots of walls as often as people. But if you're a sharpshooter with a video camera, you can capture it all as a videographer. You'll roll tape, then edit your work and provide copies. Establish relationships with wedding, party and event planners who can refer you to their customers, and place ads in your local newspaper.
- Start-up costs: $3,000
- More info: Professional Videographer Association of America; Wedding & Event Videographers Association International
- Books: An Introduction to Digital Video by John Watkinson; Placing Shadows, Lighting Techniques for Video Production by Chuck B. Gloman and Tom Letourneau; Setting Up Your Shots by Jeremy Vineyard
- Publications: Camcorder and Computer Video magazine; Digital Video (DV) magazine
Garage & Attic Cleaning/Hauling Service
Nobody likes to spend a weekend cleaning out the garage, attic or garden shed--it's dirty and time-consuming, and when it's done, there's still the task of hauling off all that discarded junk. But if you don't mind putting in the physical labor, a cleaning and hauling service can be a lot of fun. You can usually find a few treasures among the trash which most people are delighted to give away, and you can add to your income by recycling bottles, newspapers and metal castoffs. You'll need a pick-up truck or other vehicle capable of carrying everything from cast-iron sinks to old timbers. Start off by advertising in your local newspaper.
- Start-up costs: $500, assuming you already have wheels
- More info: Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration or National Association of Professional Cleaners
- Books: Cleaning Up Making Money by Stanley J. Price Jr.; Entrepreneur Press' How to Start a Cleaning Service; The Professional Cleaner's Personal Handbook by Don Aslett
- Publications: Cleaning and Restoration magazine
Flea Market Entrepreneur
If you've got an eye for castoffs that can become somebody else's treasures and you love combing garage and estate sales, then you'll have a ball as a flea market entrepreneur. You can specialize in a particular collectible--anything from old record albums to Depression-era pottery to antique tools--or you can go eclectic with a wide assortment of pre-owned goodies. Or you can forego the collectible trade and buy new close-out merchandise from wholesalers to sell at major discounts. To get started, you'll need to obtain a resale license, then start searching for flea markets with a base of deep-pocketed customers and reserve your space. Y
- Start-up costs: $2,000
- More info: Antiques & Collectibles Associations or National Flea Market Association
- Books: Flea Market Trader, edited by Sharon Huxford and Bob Huxford; Kovel's Know Your Collectibles by Terry Kovel and Ralph Kovel; The Official Directory to U.S. Flea Markets, edited by Kitty Werner
- Publications: Antiques and the Arts Weekly; Art & Antiques magazine; Collector News