Having visited the offices of the Color Association of the United States and looked through their year-by-year record dating from 1915 of the most popular colors selected in each season by auto, clothing and paint manufacturers, we found a surprising correlation between colors and the economic times they're associated with. Dark colors seem to have accompanied recessions, drab colors dominated the war years, and bright colors found a market during affluent times.

Thus the bright colors of clothing we've been seeing in stores and advertising recently could be a harbinger of upbeat economic times and maybe a good indication that now's a the time to start that business you've been dreaming of. But what's the best business to start? To help you evaluate your choices, we suggest using two primary criteria: (1) What type of business appeals to you sufficiently enough to motivate you to do the marketing and the work involved? and (2) What type of product and service can you provide that people will willingly pay for?

While you're the best judge of what most appeals to you, here are five businesses that are promising to draw customers in 2005:

1. Alternative energy installation. The rising price of fossil fuels-oil, natural gas, heating oil and propane-is creating a demand from environmentally conscious individuals to "get off the grid." Solar panels and wind may come to mind first, but geothermal energy as a source of home heating and cooling is becoming increasing popular, too. In addition to consumers, commercial customers, such as resorts and hotels, need back-up power sources. Some real estate developers are using alternative energy for entire projects. A site that's a gateway to the information on the alternative energy field is http://energy.sourceguides.com.

2. Online auctions. Commerce on the web continues to grow, and while eBay is the largest auction site today, Amazon and Yahoo.com are among the others that offer platforms to sell what you make, collect or buy. Hundreds of thousands of people now make all or part of their livelihoods from eBay alone. A free newsletter for keeping up with this fast-changing world is available at www.auction-sellers-news.com.

3. Daily money management. Daily money managers primarily serve two types of clients:

  • Individuals and couples whose career demands are such that they don't have time to tend to all of life's daily chores and need help making sure certain bills are paid on time, checking accounts are in balance, bank deposits are made, charge account and credit card statements reconciled, and records organized for tax purposes.

  • Older adults who are physically capable of living independently but need help with the routine tasks of household finance.

The field of daily money management has grown to the point that it now has its own association, the American Association of Daily Money Managers.

4. Tutoring. For the past several years, tutoring has been growing in importance, right along with the increased competition to get into the right schools and excel in class. And the pressure's going to increase: This spring, essay writing will be added to the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and it's the opinion of many experts that most students are unprepared. And they're probably right: A recent national test found only one out of four 12th grade students could write an acceptable essay. So while there are many subjects you could tutor in, writing will be in keen demand. To learn more about the tutoring field, check out the website of the National Tutoring Association.

5. Virtual assistance. Many self-employed people realize that delegating is good business practice. But they also recognize this doesn't have to mean hiring someone to physically work in their home or office. They can get the help they need from a virtual assistant who works in either their home or some other location, whether it's half a mile or half a continent away. Virtual assistants frequently help new companies get started or assist with the daily activities of a business whose owner travels frequently or simply needs additional help. To get started in this field, training and mentorship programs are available at sites like AssistU.


Paul and Sarah Edwards are homebased business experts and consult and coach on the subjects of the 16 books they've written. Their latest book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Free portions of their books are available at www.workingfromhome.com.