In today's connected world, where technology affords us flexibility in how and where we work, home-based businesses have become increasingly popular. Business owners centering home as their brand headquarters have benefitted from fewer overhead costs (just the mortgage), a wider customer pool, and adaptable working hours.
What makes a 'home-based' business?
A home-based business is typically an individual venture, be it as a full-time profession or part-time hobbyist, that operates solely at home. On of the most common home business ideas are to sell made to order handmade products or buy items in bulk to sell them online. Marketplaces like Etsy and eBay have helped home-based business ideas evolve and thrive, making selling from the comfort of your couch simple.
There can, however, be some drawbacks to working solely from home, let's look at a few pros and cons,
- Lowered costs: no more paying rent on office space, utilities or high set-up costs
- Save commute time: set your alarm, get out of bed and you're at the office
- Wider customer audience: selling online creates a broader customer base
- Flexible working hours: work from 5 pm - 3 am, no one's stopping you!
- Isolation: when you start a home-based business it's typically solo, this can be isolating
- Limited expansion: hiring staff remotely can be difficult to achieve
- Boundaries: home/work-life boundary can be blurred
- Space issues: holding inventory, storing equipment, converting a room to office space can be a challenge at home
Starting a home-based business can be rewarding. Watching a brand you've built from your living room floor up is a great achievement so let's go through some actionable steps to help you get your at-home brand started.
Start with an idea
We've all got to start somewhere, it might as well be the beginning! By this point, you may already have a home-based business idea, or you're looking for inspiration. A smart plan is to consider evergreen markets with recession-proof products that never fail to sell. Things like pet care products or clothing are always best-sellers, ever struggled to find what you need? Sell it! bet others have been searching too!
When brainstorming ideas for your business think about:
- Your hobbies: do you do any crafts you could monetise?
- Competitors: are there areas other businesses are missing? Can you fill these?
- Trends: have you spotted a trend? Act on it fast!
- Customers: who will your customers be? What are they looking for?
It all starts with an idea! Think about how your products could do what other businesses can't. Plus, if you've already got a hobby, turning this into a business can be a very profitable move as the craft industry alone contributed £3.4 billion to the UK economy in 2019!
Finding trending products
While you may want to sell your homemade paper-mache clogs, it's better to know if your product is in demand. You can do this yourself by simply surveying company websites and social media for product trends right now. Or you can utilise trend seeking software to keep up to date - some of these are:
- Trend Monitor UK
- Bestsellers on marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon
- Google Trends UK
For example, a product trend predicted for UK consumers in 2020 is smartphone tripods. Increasing in popularity due to a higher number of at-home brands needing equipment to take product pictures or film advertising content. Knowing and acting on these consumer trends can help you spot and act on home-based business opportunities, initiate customer relationships, and start making sales!
Defining your customer base
Your target customer base is simply the general group of consumers most likely to respond and purchase your products. Taking the time to think about this and decide who these people will likely be, can make or break your home-based online business, so don't skip this step!
You'll be gearing all of your marketing money toward these customers, so to not waste vital resources make sure you go through this checklist to define your customer base:
- Create a customer profile
- Conduct market research
- Mold your offering
Creating a customer profile
A customer profile, or sometimes referred to as a consumer profile, includes geographic, demographic, and psychographic details about your target consumer base.
Demographics are your customers:
Geographics are your customers:
Psychographics are your customers:
- Preferred activities
Lots of this information can be gathered from researching social media profiles of your target customer base and creating a rough silhouette of your average buyer. Knowing even a small amount of information about your customers will give you a better idea of how and where to market your products when you start your home-based business.
Conducting market research
The best way to get to know your market is...to get to know them. Talking to prospective customers and getting their opinion can be an effective (and cheap) means of conducting market research.
To do so you can:
- Ask customers directly for feedback on certain products/businesses
- Send out a survey via social media
- Set up a focus group
The easiest of these would be to send out a survey to friends and family, to begin with, and have them share this on Facebook or Twitter to gain traction. This way you can get an idea of what markets are lacking and what customers want to see more of from the brands they use.
Mold your offering
Use this information! If customers stated they wanted to see more brands offering free shipping, a wider range of products, or easier returns policies - use this to your advantage when starting your business from home.
Businesses that listen to their customer's thoughts and ideas always do better. Take McDonald's as an example, they listened to their customer's requests for more sustainable materials so they brought out paper straws - improving their brand reputation and bolstering customer impressions.
Choose a platform
Once you've got a solid idea and you've done your market homework, you'll be ready to choose an eCommerce platform to run your business through. All of these platforms cater to home business ideas and remote brand owners so any of them will be a great choice. When looking for an eCommerce platform you'll need to make sure they have some key features:
- Allow access for popular payment methods (e.g Paypal)
- Reporting tools
- Email marketing integration
- Ability to manage orders and inventory
- Options to add a blog
Popular eCommerce website builders like Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce all have these characteristics and more and are great for beginners and at-home learners!
Selecting a shipping option
Shipping can often be overlooked, especially by home business ideas that are beginning to lay foundations. Most eCommerce platforms have their own shipping manager built-in, but these can be costly.
Interparcel offers an easy solution to this. With our integrations for Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Etsy, you can connect your store in seconds. Through using Interparcel's Shipping Manager, our at-home business customers benefit from:
- Advanced shipping manager: collate orders from multiple eCommerce platforms into one place
- In-built address verification and correction, no more manual errors or unprofessional mistakes
- New branded tracking, create a seamless brand experience when customers track orders
- Pre select your required service options
- Despatch orders in a few clicks from the comfort of your home, with no address typing, just an instant upload
- Cheap shipping - UK and International!
Integrating your home-based online business with our Shipping Manager is free - all you need to do is create an account with us in seconds and connect to your store. You'll be shipping your customer's orders and managing an at-home business empire in no time! With our hassle-free order processing and discounted shipping services, you'll have more time to focus on selling! Check out our rates on our Quote & Book section to get an idea of how much Interparcel can really save you.
Running a home-based online business can make starting a brand simpler and save you costs in the long run. it's no wonder it's such a popular trend - especially as so many of us have had the chance to try it this year! It could just be a jumping-off point before you open a brick-and-mortar store as well! Either way, selling online has never been so profitable, helping customers find the products and services they're looking for delivered straight to their door.
Just remember too, if you're lucky enough to start a business from doing something you love then as Mark Twain said 'Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life' and what can be more satisfying than success. So get started today!