Here is my annual list of ten of the best business opportunities with profit-making potential in 2013. After the worst recession since the Great Depression, the U.S. economy is recovering. Many people decided they wanted to start a business back during the recession and even now. They want to want to work for themselves and build something for their families. So what are the best business opportunities for 2013, with lower initial investments, that will make a profit? People are starting to buy again and there is a whole new clientele out there with baby boomers retiring, but theirs is a different kind of retirement where many still work. People who are still working are spending cautiously. Then, we have technology, which is king.
1. Virtual Administrative Assistant
If you have good organizing and word processing skills, starting a business as a virtual administrative assistant to online businesses is an almost sure path to success. This is a business you can start and run entirely from home. Other skills are also needed. You must have a good telephone voice and telephone skills. Using office equipment, including good computer skills, are a must. Math skills are necessary. On top of all this, you have to learn to start and run your own business. Of course, you have to have a website that either you develop or you hire someone to develop. Take a look at an example of a website developed for a team of virtual assistants.
Start-up costs are very low for virtual administrative assistants. If you work from home, you will need a nook in your house that you can designate for your office for tax purposes. At first, only buy the most basic office equipment which may include a computer and an all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine. Buy other equipment depending on the services you plan to offer.
Virtual assistants are becoming very popular as we live in an increasingly virtual world. Small online companies who cannot afford a full-time employee want to hire virtual assistants. Even small brick and mortar companies who do not have the need or funds for a full-time administrative assistant are turning to virtual assistants. Even though it might be surprising, even large companies that have both brick and mortar and online presences hire more and more virtual assistants for a variety of jobs.
You can set up your business as a virtual assistant any way you like. For example, you can accept clients on a rate-per-hour basis or on a rate-per-job basis or both. As far as salaries for virtual assistants go, they charge, on average $21 - $40 per hour. If you charge on a per job basis, you can estimate your number of hours and quote a price in that way. You can also require a retainer. The price you charge depends on your skill level, your client, and the services you offer. You will need to have a sample contract developed. You can, of course, change it based on the client and details of the job you take on. Here is a good example of a sample contract.
In order to be able to set higher prices for your work, I would recommend certification. Check out Virtual Assistant Certification as it is a reputable organization from which to get your certification.
2. Errand-Running Service for Seniors
If there is a demographic segment of the market that is practically guaranteed for business profitability if you enter it, it is the senior market. By 2030, people over 55 years of age in the U.S. will more than double and will make up 20 percent of the entire population, as compared to around 12 percent now. That percentage of the total population literally increases daily as the baby boom generation ages. The baby boom generation is anyone born between 1946 and 1960.
Seniors over 55 are going to need all kinds of products and services now and in the future. If you know how to start a business and choose your business wisely, a business oriented toward seniors is bound to succeed. Decide on the business you are going to start based on your skills. Write your business plan just like you would for any other business. Investigate your sources of financing. If you don't know how to start a business, learn.
A business geared toward seniors with a low initial investment is starting up an errand service for seniors. Many seniors are still perfectly able to do their own errands. A large number of the oldest of the old (over 85 years) seniors need assistance with errands. Depending on their health issues, any senior may need assistance with errands ranging from grocery shopping, picking up supplies at pharmacies, taking pets to the vet, personal shopping, dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up, and many others. You can tailor your errand-running service to those that you prefer to do.
When you put together your business plan, you need to decide how to market your service. Not only do you need to let seniors in your community know about your service, you also need to let their adult children, who may help make their decisions, know about your service. You have to set a price for your service. The national average for an senior errand-running service is about $25/hour. You have to find the "sweet spot" for your price because if you set it too high, you will not get enough customers; too low and you will lose money. It would be a good idea to do a breakeven analysis to find out if you have your prices set correctly.
You can also determine the geographic area that your service will cover. In a city, you may be able to cover a relatively small area and make a good profit. In a rural setting, you likely will have to cover a larger geographic area. This will play into the price you set because of gasoline and depreciation on your automobile.
Here is an example of some of the elements you should have in a business plan for an errand-running service for seniors. This is an example of a website for an errand-running business. If you want to set up your own website, you can adapt something like this to running errands for seniors.
3. Event Planning
It may not sound like it, but event planning is a very specialized business. If you have the skills to become an event planner, it can also be a very lucrative business. Most people become an event planner because they have become an expert in one area of event planning. For example, perhaps you are a chef and have done some catering. It is a short step from there to a full-fledged catering business. The same is true for a wedding planner. If you have experience planning weddings, a business where you plan weddings for a profit is perfectly feasible. If you are a social person and willing to learn new skills, you can turn a segment of this market into general event planning.
Event planning is an excellent choice for a small business to start. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, this business is supposed to grow by 44%, which is much faster than the average business. The average salary for a 40 hour work week is around $50,000 per year. Event planning is becoming such a popular business because people are busy. Most people simply don't have time to plan their own events and many don't have the skills, especially if they want something elaborate.
Starting an event planning business is much like starting any other business. You have to decide which segment of the event planning business is your strong suit. Then, you have to write your business plan. That business plan will discuss your form of business, your sources of financing, marketing plan, and management structure, along with your price structure. If you go into general event planning, your business plan will be much more complex than if you go into one segment of the business such as catering, wedding planning, or party planning.
In order to be respected in your field, you should get certified if you go into event planning. One certification you should investigate is the Certified Meeting Planner. Another is the Certified Special Events Professional.
In addition to specialized planning, you can also go big and plan conventions and large meetings.
4. Cleaning/Janitorial Service
A cleaning or janitorial service can be a low start-up cost business, depending on how big you want to go. You can start by stocking up on the best cleaning supplies and a few pieces of cleaning equipment. For a larger janitorial service, not only will you need more supplies and equipment, you will also need staff.
An excellent small business idea in today's economy is cleaning out foreclosed homes. Even though this is a very sad situation for homeowners, you can turn it around for you. There are millions of foreclosed homes out there and many of them are in very poor condition. Banks that have foreclosed on the homeowners are looking for cleaning services to clean up the foreclosed properties before offering them for sale. Banks are likely to pay more per hour or per job than a basic individual client who needs a house cleaned. It is important to get a business license, print up brochures, and approach lending organizations in your geographic area about this job. It would be most effect to make an appointment with the manager of foreclosed properties in each financial institution that makes mortgage loans in your community and talk with them personally, giving them a copy of your business card and your brochure, customized for this business.
You may want to clean homes instead. If you start small, you can advertise your cleaning service to private residential homes. Brochures, business cards, and classified advertisements are all effective methods of advertisement. Eventually, word of mouth will be your friend. One of the best things you can do is to get insured and bonded. People want to be sure there will be no theft of their belongings and they will be more likely to hire someone who is insured and bonded.
As with any other business, you need to set your prices. Ask around and try to find the prices that other cleaning services offer in your area. In order to get a local cleaning service off the ground, your prices must be reasonable but competitive. Some cleaning services charge per hour. Some charge per job or per half day or whole day.
You want to start out writing a business plan. If you want to focus on foreclosed homes, then slant your business plan in that direction. If you want a small home cleaning business or a janitorial service, each requires a very different business plan. Your business plan will include a company vision statement, values statement, marketing plan, and financial plan. If you need outside financing to get your business going, you will need to include in your business plan where you plan to get that money. Do you have your own funds or do you plan to borrow the money?
If you are going into business as a commercial cleaner for foreclosed homes or large buildings, you can get bigger contracts if you get a certification. Several certifications exist depending on what you want to do -- Cleaning Industry Management Standard, International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association, and more.
5. Open a Dining Business with a Food Cart
There is a new segment of the restaurant business that is called fast-casual dining. It's not fast food and it is not a full-service, sit down restaurant. You can start a business with a modest investment in this segment of the restaurant business if you can get together the funds to buy a food cart. They can often be had used for a very low price - around $2,000. If you have more money, you can go all in and buy a food truck, but a food cart, especially if you live in a major city, is often the best way to start out.
Forget about the old days when a food cart just meant donuts or greasy hot dogs. Those days are gone! Food carts have gone gourmet! Some will still serve lunch in the main business district of a city but perhaps lunch with a twist. Korean food is popular. If you are a Korean food expert, you can cook at home and equip your cart with warming trays. There are always hot dogs, but high-end, gourmet hot dogs with different toppings. People love food carts specializing in health food. If you are good with desserts, equip your food cart with specialty cupcakes. Here are some examples.
There are requirements for a food cart that don't exist for some of the other businesses mentioned here. You have to get licensed and have the appropriate health department permits in place. Even with a food cart, there may be parking restrictions. Insurance may also be different for a food cart. If you have any expensive equipment, that must be insured and may be expensive. Find a good insurance agent with this area of expertise.
After you think of all of these things, then the rest is similar to opening any other business. You need a business plan. You must nail down your sources of financing if you need outside financing. You need to set your prices which are usually lower than in a traditional restaurant. You are ready to go!
6. Child Care Services
You may think that day care for children is an old idea but it is not. In 2012, nearly half of all children are growing up in a family with no stay-at-home caregiver. In two-parent families, both parents find it necessary to work to make ends meet. In one-parent families, the single parent is obviously working if possible. These statistics make affordable day-care for children a necessity. Many working people try to leave their children with family members. With our geographically diverse society, that is not always possible.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child care workers can earn around $20,000 per year. The field is growing at a 20% rate, or increase by 262,000 jobs by 2020, which is faster than average. You do not have to buy a business and open up a free-standing day care center. You can care for children in your home. Be sure and check with your state, county, and city governments to see what kind of permits and licenses you need to do so and how many children you are allowed to care for. You can care for children with a high-school education or equivalent although any teacher training in early childhood education you have will help you draw clients.
You can structure your business however you like. You can, for example, only care for infants. Perhaps you want to start a part-time business. You could care for children after school and help them with their homework. Your prices can vary based on the services you provide and the type and age of child for which you care. Word of mouth, especially in small communities, is an excellent way to advertise your business. In larger communities, get in touch with the schools in your area and they may be able to help place children with you.
7. Affiliate Marketing
Do you have a blog? Many people do these days and lots of blogs are read regularly by people interested in your topic. Do you sell products online on your own website? If you have a website with a blog or if you sell products on your website, you can engage in the side business of affiliate marketing and make an extremely good passive income.
Affiliate marketing is earning a commission by selling other people's products on your website. The good thing about affiliate marketing is that you do not have to develop a product to sell. That is already done for you. But, beware! The products you promote on your website reflects on your own business. Only sell products you believe in. Only sell products that you really want associated with your website and that you have personally checked out. Be sure that the affiliates you work with are good and reliable and honest or your affiliation will hurt your own business.
Do not let your website become a "link farm." Only engage in affiliate marketing with a few high quality sellers. A website full of links to other sellers will not generate business and looks cheap and trashy. Affiliate marketing originally got a bad name because of this. The products you promote should have something to do with your core business.
Don't fall victim to the supposed "gurus" of affiliate marketing that abound on the Internet. There are actual universities with courses on Internet and affiliate marketing. For example, check out the University of San Francisco from which you can earn a Certificate in Internet Marketing. If you use affiliate marketing correctly, it can be an excellent side business for you.
8. Accounting and Bookkeeping Services
Small businesses often do not have the personnel in house to do their accounting and bookkeeping tasks. They want to outsource those tasks so they do not have to hire a full-time bookkeeper. If you have a high school degree and have experience in bookkeeping, you can have a thriving small practice in accounting and bookkeeping for small business.
So many small businesses outsource their accounting, tax, and payroll functions that job growth in those fields is projected to be faster than average between now and 2020. The average salary is about $35,000 per year. You can operate this business from home as long as you have a computer and the appropriate software. You will need accounting software. If you plan to do taxes and/or payroll, that will mean additional software or an add-on to your accounting software package. You can also open a small office although it may not be necessary, especially at first.
Anything you can do to increase your credentials will help such as online or night courses in accounting and bookkeeping.
Your biggest challenge at first may be marketing your business. An effective marketing method is to visit the small businesses in your area, with a brochure listing your services, and talk with the owner. Word of mouth from satisfied customers will help.
9. Candy Maker
Even in today's downtrodden economy and fitness-crazed world, everyone enjoys something sweet. The candy making industry is holding up very well. The industry is growing while so many are flat or declining. Part of the reason is that sweets, particularly chocolate, are comfort foods and we have all needed a little comfort in the dark days of the recession. Interestingly, some of the top brands of candy, including Snickers and 3 Musketeers, got started during the worst days of the Great Depression between 1930 and 1932.
If you cook and know how to make candy, you can start a little business right in your own kitchen. If you have a special candy all your friends enjoy, why not turn that into something commercial? You can have a small candy-making operation out of your home, but if you get into anything much bigger than that, you will have to purchase special equipment and rent a commercial space, requiring more of an initial investment. You will never know until you try!
Here is an example of a small candy company that might inspire you!
10. Fitness Trainer
Are you in good physical shape? Do you understand the dynamics of fitness training? Have you had classes in fitness training or do you maybe even have a college degree in the subject? You may have what it takes to be a personal fitness trainer. A personal fitness trainer can earn as much as $25 per hour. A group trainer may earn a little less. About 49% of all fitness trainers have their own small business, while the remaining 51% work for a club. Getting a certification as a Certified Personal Trainer is a plus.
You set up a fitness training business like any other small business. You can certainly run this business out of your home unless you want to rent a studio where you can hold group classes. You can also visit your clients' homes. You need to have your own equipment unless you cater exclusively to clients in their own homes who have their own equipment. Marketing your business is easiest if you work in a club setting. Clubs may offer you use of their facilities for a cut of your profits. Word of mouth is a particularly important marketing method for fitness trainers.