Top Businesses You Can Start at Home

If the thought of being your own boss appeals to you, chances are you're thinking about what kind of business you can start at home. Before you skip down to the best ideas for this year, though, there are a few things you should think about to help you narrow the field:

What do you enjoy doing?

Quite simply, running a successful home-based business takes a lot of work—research, marketing, bookkeeping, not to mention the actual performance of your main business duties. If you don't like your business at its core, all of these things will get very tedious very fast, and your enterprise will fail.

Will people pay for what you're offering?

Whether it's a product or a service, there must be a demand for what you're offering. Just because you have competition doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but if your competitors are folding left and right, maybe that's not the direction you should go in.

Quite simply, running a successful home-based business takes a lot of work—research, marketing, bookkeeping, not to mention the actual performance of your main business duties. You can look to newspapers, magazines, and television talk shows to see what's hot; just be sure that if you want a sustainable business you choose something that has long-term potential as well.

Do you have the personal skills to pull this off?

Working on your own at home takes a lot of discipline, dedication, reliability, and organization. If you're missing any of these qualities and are still set on starting a home-based business, you should have money in your budget to find people to fill the gaps.

Now, what should you do?

Here are some of the best prospects for starting a home-based business in 2005. They are divided into 5 major categories by areas of interest:

1. Internet Ingenuity

Online auctions continue to be popular with Amazon and Yahoo joining perennial power Ebay in the game. These sites provide an easy platform for you to sell things you've been looking to get rid of—from old furniture and clothes to more valuable collectibles—and also things you make (see Crafty People below).

Virtual Assistants are people who, you guessed it, virtually assist businesses or other individuals. Many companies need extra help but don't necessarily want another body in the office because of space or financial reasons. A virtual assistant's duties can range from making travel arrangements to ordering supplies.

2. Money Matters

Daily money managers are important for people who have a difficult time performing the daily chores of keeping track of their money—balancing the checkbook, making sure bills are paid on time, maintaining tax records. Potential clients include individuals with travel-heavy careers or extensive job and family responsibilities and also the elderly—those who are physically independent but may feel overwhelmed or simply more comfortable with someone else assuring their financial well-being.

Bookkeeping is a related and equally as in-demand service. This can be the bane of many small business owners because it takes up time they could use to devote to their primary pursuit. For any financial-related job, you should be comfortable with numbers, basic accounting procedures, and have a good eye for detail.

3. Scientific Pursuits

Alternative energy installation is a growing field as more people become concerned with the health of the planet as well as with rising fossil fuel costs. Solar, wind, and geothermal energy are all increasingly popular options for everyday consumers as well as existing businesses and real estate developers—and they need help finding information and installing these alternative energy sources.

Medical transcriptionists are always in demand as many medical professionals simply don't have time for all the paperwork involved in their jobs. Enter you, who types up either handwritten or compiles and retypes records. This requires a working knowledge of medical terms and can include transcribing medical reports, typing case studies and pathology reports, and filling out health insurance forms.

4. Crafty People

Candle-making is a growing business as 7 in 10 American households burn the waxy creations; retail sales are estimated at a mind-boggling $2.3 billion in the United States. Popular gift items, candles can range from very basic old-fashioned tapers to the more elaborate, enhanced with dried flowers, fruits, and scents.

Sewing is another option if you have a penchant for altering, restoring, or even creating your own designs. At one time, most women did their own sewing in the home, but times have changed and a good sewer is always in demand. It is estimated that the home sewing industry pulls in about $3.5 billion a year.

5. Other Personal Services

Party planners can be saviors to busy parents who want a special party for their children but just don't have the time to devote to the task. You can take care of just the basics like the cake and entertainment or do absolutely everything including planning a theme and providing decorations, party favors, and games.

Tutoring at every level of education is always needed—where there are schools, there are students who want or need an extra advantage. Moreover, as college admission standards get stricter and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) adds a written essay portion this Spring, high school students particularly will be looking for help. Of course, under the guise of "tutoring," you can take anything in which you have a particular interest/expertise and offer your services to help others learn about it, including all of the suggestions above.

A final word of caution

There are a lot of scams who prey on people enamored with the idea of working at home, so your first job, before you start any home-based business, is to do your homework just as you would for any position you'd accept.