There are so many business and work models that one could become very overwhelmed very quickly! I think that there is a self-employment model out there for just about anyone, whether it be starting your own business from scratch, buying an existing business or franchise, or distributing a product that you believe in, there really is something for everyone.
This is what most of us learned about in school. Go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a job working ‘for the man’, and retire in 30 or 40 years. This is the model that I personally dislike the most. Let’s examine this closer; if you work for a company, even one that, at one point in time, offered job security, it is still extremely risky. You have one boss and if you and that boss don’t see eye-to-eye, he or she can fire you like that. There is one extremely large, ‘secure’ company that I am aware of that you can only work for the same manager for a period of 2 years. Once the 2 years are up, you have to move to a different department and report to a different manager. Let’s say that you have a good run for the first 10 years you are there. Now it’s time for you to move to another department and report to another manager. You can’t seem to get along with this manager no matter how hard you try, and 1 month into it, you get issued your walking papers. How’s that for job security?
This is typically a part time business that you run because it’s something you enjoy-whether it is a product or a service. At the time of this writing, I am having a family friend build me a new entertainment center. Woodworking is his hobby business. I don’t know how much he makes ($) with this particular hobby, but it’s something he would be doing either way. For a year I taught kickboxing at a karate school in Minneapolis. This isn’t exactly a business, but it’s something I enjoyed doing and at that point I was actually getting paid to work out! My guess is that you have a hobby RIGHT NOW that someone out there would pay you to do for them. I am aware of a young lady who enjoys scrapbooking, she offered to help a few people build a scrapbook (for free? I am not sure), and the next thing she knows, she is getting paid (a lot, I might add) to put together scrapbooks for people! By the way, at this point I believe she does this little hobby business fulltime!
There are many different types of franchises out there, and in many different industries. Most people seem to believe that there are only fast food and cleaning franchises, but franchises actually run the full spectrum. I have come close to buying several different franchises myself, but I found in each case that my personality seemed to clash with the franchise system. What I mean by that is I tend to challenge systems rather than go along with them. Something a franchisor has found to work in a particular facet (let’s say Marketing) may not interest me and I want to try something else that the franchisor may not agree with. I am not a ‘by the book’ type of person, I like to change things up frequently, take on new projects regularly, and I don’t mind having a few failures along the way!
Two things I learned from reviewing these franchises: 1) Franchisors are convinced that you simply won’t make it in business without buying a franchise from them. 2) You may not NEED to buy a franchise in order to have a business in the same service line or industry.
There is NOTHING wrong with reviewing franchisors material and duplicating the model (that is, the material that they send you for free-and not the material that is part of the franchising system and/or after you signed a confidentiality agreement! Just so we are clear on that. I don’t want angry letters from franchisors!)
Quick story about one of my franchise experiences: I looked at buying a men’s circuit training/kickboxing gym a few years ago. The parent company revealed a lot of their info to me just for the asking. After I had a chance to review it I realized that I already had everything they were looking to sell me (marketing info, equipment, martial arts instructions/videos, and weight training equipment). I priced everything out myself and came up with about $25k total expenses. They were charging $50k for the franchise and $700 a month for operating expenses. It turns out that they needed me (remember I worked for a kickboxing gym for a year) more than I needed them! I parted ways with the franchise company and about a year later I learned that they were going out of business.
BUSINESS IN A BOX
This is like Franchising Light, or Diet Franchising. You are buying a proven business system with a clear business plan, but once you pay your initial fee there are no operating costs or monthly fees. You buy the system and do what you want with it. You can work part time with it, full time, or add the service or product to your existing business model. I owned a auto detailing/product supply company for a few years and I would get so many ‘business in a box’ opportunity info in the mail it wasn’t funny! Several struck me as a great idea, but two that I remember were very unique approaches that I likely won’t forget. One was a ‘Auto Detailing Business in a Trailer’; it was a ready-to-go trailer that you would pull behind your truck, that was chock full of detailing equipment so you could go to the customers location and detail their vehicle. They had a pressure washer, water tank, vacuum system, and tons of other stuff, as well as custom graphics on the outside that advertised what you were doing. Additionally, it came with marketing materials, instructional videos, business cards and some training (I forget the specifics). All this was available to you for right around $10k!
The other business in a box was actually an ‘institute’ that you would buy your detailing equipment from (pressure washer, buffers, etc) and they would have you come to one of their locations and they would teach you how to use everything and how to market your business, once you were done there, they would give you a certificate and consider you a ‘graduate’ of their training program. Then you would go back home, start the business, and never have to pay them another penny!
Distributorships are a great way to start a part time business. There are many different distributorships available out there other than Amway. Generally speaking, distributorships are Multi-Level Marketing opportunities, although some act more like ‘businesses in a box’. Personally I like this model; you pay a small fee to get started (typically in the couple-hundred dollar range), and they will provide you with training including marketing and sales, many will do order fulfillment so you don’t need to stock products, and many will also have conventions or get-togethers with other distributors so you can learn new marketing techniques, see new products, and meet other distributors in your area. Distributorships run the full spectrum as well including gourmet foods, home furnishings, auto-detailing products, legal services, personal care items, and a host of others.
The other type of distributorship is when one would buy products directly from a manufacturer at a discounted rate, and then market and resell the products at a markup. I have done this before for one business I had. There was nothing to it; no minimums, no quotas, just place an order on an as-needed basis. You couldn’t believe the mark-up that retailers get to put on some of the products. There was one product in particular that I resold which, no matter what price I charged, I would sell out before I would receive more from the company. I started selling it at $8.99US and would add a dollar to it almost every month for about 6 months. People bought it no questions asked!
Find something you are genuinely interested in, whether it is a product or service, rather than looking at the popular ones or the ones that promise the best $ or highest commissions.
CONSULTING/CONTRACTING/PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PROVIDER
This is a model that is very near and dear to my heart! I have worked with Consultants extensively over the course of my professional career. Consultants (I am going to just refer to this category as ‘Consultants’) are those who have a particular expertise in an area and are hired by a client (either a company or an individual) to use their skills and abilities for a certain period of time. Consultants could be those who have worked for a company for many years and decided to go from an employee at one single company to a Consultant at many different companies-servicing each one on a part-time basis, maybe even as little as 1x a month. Other Consultants learned a valuable skill in college and started marketing themselves as Consultants at the age of 23. Here again we run the full spectrum, Consultants can be Project Manager, Six Sigma Experts, Engineers, IT Professionals, Personal Trainers, Dietitians, Accountants/Bookkeepers, Construction Managers, Business & Career Coaches, and the list goes on….
Many people have jumped on the dot com bandwagon over the past 10 years and many millionaires have been made over night. With the popularity of auction websites, Yahoo! Stores, and social networking websites, there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy. Personally, I think every small business (and big business) needs to have a presence online, whether offering products for sale or just for informational purposes. I am aware of an e-store that sells genuine ‘Western Tumbleweeds’, primarily to overseas customers. I have also seen a website that sells gas-powered blenders (yes, regular kitchen blender with a gas powered engine!). Another popular model is ‘Membership’ websites. That is where someone has a strong background or knowledge base in some area, and for $4.95 a month, you can have access to this valuable information that one has posted in a private area of a website. That could be stock tips, sports info, video game tips, etc. This avenue could be a nice add-on for a Consultant or Professional Service Provider to market to his or her customers.
One could also start doing e-commerce as a distributor for a product or a service that was made or designed by someone else (as we previously discussed).
I could easily start a snow-removal business or a grass-cutting business or a pressure washing business today for under $300 for EVERYTHING. Business cards, advertisements, and equipment. In fact, when I was in college, I thought that I could either go get a fast food job for $5/hr or I could capitalize on the record breaking snow fall that we had that year. I chose the latter. I recruited my roommate and a couple classmates to help on an hourly basis and we made a killing. I believe our total start-up cost was $50 (for 2 back-friendly plow-like shovels). We went door-to-door, posted a couple of flyers on community bulletin boards, and before we knew it, we had more work than we knew what to do with. It was a rewarding feeling to me knowing that I had to start turning work away. We never got really high-tech or overly fancy, just shovels, flyers, and the desire to succeed. Most of our classmates were eating mac and cheese everyday, but my business partner/roommate and I would have pipin’ hot food delivered to the job site every night, from our choice of delivery restaurants-and the best part is we got to write it off!
Get as much info as you can about an industry or service that you wish to get into and start reading through it. There is an avenue/model that is right for you! This writing barely begins to scratch the surface of all that is available out there. I buy a book put out by Entrepreneur Magazine called The Business Opportunity Handbook, and I go through it with a fine-tooth comb. This handbook has so many different businesses listed that it could easily take you a week to go through. There are franchises, distributorships, businesses in a box, you name it it’s in there! It lists contact info, websites, # of locations, start-up money required, everything you need to know.