As technology continues to change the way we do business, many entrepreneurs have embraced mobile business opportunities—businesses that can be run from a vehicle, tablet or smartphone. Mobile businesses give entrepreneurs the flexibility to set their own hours and be their own boss, and they may save thousands of dollars annually in office expenses and overhead associated with a fixed-location business.
A mobile business typically requires only a vehicle (and sometimes not even that), laptop, mobile phone, and the specific tools you need to perform your work. Although mobile food trucks and smartphone apps that allow you to find and follow mobile businesses may be the first to come to mind, there are actually a surprising array of mobile business options available, such as:
- Insurance restoration (disaster recovery, fire damage restoration, mold remediation, water damage restoration)
- Designer clothing or shoe sales
- Mobile flower shop
- Apartment prep service
- Catering vehicle
- Party planning
- Cleaning services
- Computer consulting
- Interior design
- Disc jockey
- Dog grooming/walking
- Lawn and garden services
- Automotive repair/oil changing
- Personal shopping
Mobile-based businesses do take time, and success requires more than just setting up a website and sending a few marketing emails. No matter what type of business you're looking to start, taking the time to plan is imperative. There are a few issues to consider before you purchase your vehicle or design your smartphone app and head off to find clients:
- Optimize your mobile-based technology. If you choose to have only a virtual (online) presence, you'll need to make sure your website is “mobile friendly,” which means it is accessible and easy to use on any mobile device. You may need to create or have someone develop an app for target marketing that will allow your customers to reach you from smartphones or tablets at a time when it's convenient for them. In addition, setting up a mobile site independent of your full site is a good idea as the download speed for the full site from a mobile phone is much slower than a mobile-optimized site. Just make sure your branding remains consistent across all of your sites.
- Research your target market. As with any startup, you will need to research your target market to find the best areas in which to market your services. In addition, you can use Google Analytics to track how customers find your website and what they do there, so that you can better target them in the future.
- Estimate operating costs. Although mobile businesses save on the traditional overhead expenses of a brick-and-mortar-office, you still may need permits, licenses, and insurance before you can sell from your vehicle. According to the American Mobile Retail Association, the capital needed to start the average mobile business ranges from $15,000-$20,000, not including inventory, with another $2,500-$10,000 needed for a vehicle. A mobile business that interacts with customers solely through technology will have operational costs, such as the cost of developing and maintaining your Web presence and app.
- Startup or franchise? If you choose a vehicle-based mobile business, you may find that you can buy into a mobile-based franchise instead of starting from scratch. Simply search for mobile-based business online and you'll find a host of opportunities through various franchise resources. Companies such as PIRTEK, Scotts Lawn Service, and PuroClean are three companies that offer mobile-based franchising opportunities.
- If possible, start part-time. When you begin your mobile business, you may wish to operate it part-time to see if there's a need for your product or service and how much people are willing to pay. This could include working around your “regular” job, on weekends or during evening hours.
Whatever type of mobile business you choose, it's important to consult legal and accounting professionals beforehand to protect your new venture for the long haul.
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