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Home-Based Business Ideas for Homeschoolers

(From The Homeschooling Almanac 2002-03, (2d Ed) by Mary and Michael Leppert. Copyright, © 2005 by Mary and Michael Leppert. All rights reserved.

In this modern day and age, we tend to get caught up in careers, cars, houses, and fashions of all sorts. Most of our time focuses on work—getting ready for work, getting to and from the office, purchasing, washing and ironing, or picking up dry-cleaned professional clothing. Likewise, when our children go outside the home for their education, school and school-related activities dominate their time (as well the time of their harried moms and dads!).

If Mom was not already employed from home, she and Dad find out quickly how much simpler life is when she does not rush off every day to the wheels-spinning world. Instead of getting up early, dressing up, and commuting to spend the day away from home, one can set a more reasonable schedule and utilize every hour of the day. If you waste an enormous amount of time in the to-and-fro of outside employment, try factoring your work-week hours, including your commute, then calculate what your pay per hour is, based on that figure! Having a home business will look more profitable as well as allow you the freedom to homeschool your children.

When we bring our children home, and the need for school outfitting and shuttling back and forth diminishes, we can begin to strive toward a quieter, more peaceful life. Homeschooling definitely simplifies life and increases people’s desire to live a more all-around, home-based life in general. Often one or both parents end up working from home.

Think about the people in a different era. What would our forefathers have thought of waking up and spending all day away from families and homes? It would have seemed curious to them, perhaps even demented. You may be saying, "But we are modern people." This is true—but we have seen how we can live an old-fashioned life that is rich, peaceful, and full with, ironically, the help of modern technology. We believe you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Imagine this scenario: Mom does part-time secretarial work for a law firm in downtown Chicago. She lives in a suburb and two or three times per week her boss will Fed-Ex cassette tapes for her to transcribe. When she is finished transcribing them, she simply e-mails the completed documents back to her boss. She gets up at 5:00 a.m. and gets in three to four hours of work before the kids are awake. She is available after 9:00 a.m. each day to be with her children. If she chooses to work on weekend mornings, she frees two full days to spend with her kids as well. She transcribes 10 to 15 pages each morning and is paid $4.50 per page for this work. On average, if she works five days a week (two weekend mornings, if she so chooses), she earns anywhere from $225.00 to $335.00 per week.

Another scenario: A father in the advertising business starts his own bulk e-mail and bulk fax business. Depending upon how much money he wants to make, his time on the computer could be as little as three hours per day and time spent getting new clients can be controlled by how much income he needs to support his family. By working from home, he can stop for an hour or two in the middle of the day to shoot baskets with his children, cook lunch, go on a hike, teach a math lesson, a computer lesson . . . what a beautiful life!

If we marry modern technology with old-fashioned values, the possibilities are endless; and we will be pleasantly surprised at the warm happiness that replaces our "modern," stressed-out psyches.

The following pages offer ideas of how you might work from home as well as ideas for self-employment that might require your working outside your home, but in situations in which you could take your children along. We list many occupations you can undertake completely from home, as well as self-employment opportunities that require you to do shows, for example, or take products to retail outlets.

Suggestions for Home-Based Businesses

The following businesses do not require the practitioner to leave home regularly as a prerequisite for doing the business. Even if you were to become a personal chef (run a company that prepares and delivers meals), you might be able to arrange for customers to pick up their own food.

Medical/Legal Transcribing or Word-Processing

Many companies now hire home-based employees to do medical or legal transcribing or word processing because it saves large sums in benefits, downtime due to illness, and so on. Also, because home-based employees are paid for the work they do (per page, for instance), not for hours spent in an office, businesses often find it economical to hire on-call personnel. (As an aside, children in conventional schools attend a certain number of hours per day, no matter how productive or non-productive the hours are. The production rate [quantity/quality per hour] in both arenas—adult work and student school work—can increase when home is the base.)

In large urban areas, doctors’ offices, legal firms, and other large corporations have much work available. In fact, for home-based work, this field of transcribing is one of the best. Many, many firms are looking for people who can work quickly and efficiently off-site. In the past few years, the possibility of earning a living in this fashion has extended to those who do not live near an urban area. Anyone who has access to the Internet, even those who live hundreds of miles from an employer, can easily work electronically from home.

Qualifications

You must be a typist, but don’t necessarily have to be fast to start out. Because you will charge the company by the page or by the job, no one but you will know if it takes you longer in the beginning. You will simply be making less per hour until your efficiency increases. Knowledge of the mechanics of English—spelling, grammar, and punctuation—are necessary as well. An outgoing personality and tenacity can be helpful in order to obtain business initially. Once you have established contacts, a very well-done job is your best calling card. Your customer base will increase by word of mouth—personal referrals bring transcribers much of their work.

Equipment/Costs

The industrious person could start a secretarial business for as little as $400 to $500 per month by renting a computer, buying a small amount of software, and renting a Dictaphone machine. The ideal expenditure would be $1,500 to $3,000, which would enable you to set up with up-to-date software, a fast modem, quick and reliable Internet service, and a separate business phone line.

How To Start

To obtain work in this field, you should be a fast typist (over 65 words per minute after errors); possess good English skills (spelling, punctuation, grammar, legal terminology); have access to a Dictaphone machine, a computer equipped with one of the good word-processing software programs such as Microsoft Word or Word-Perfect, and a printer.

In any city, you can call secretarial agencies or law firms and offer your services. You can find out what the going rate is by doing a bit of research; or, if you are familiar with the locale, call a few law firms and ask one of the secretaries what a competitive price would be. Often smaller law firms do not employ their own word processors or have overflow work you can pick up, transcribe at home, and return to the office. Again, being on the Internet is an advantage because so much legal work can be done online.

How Much You Can Expect to Earn

You can earn as little as $50 per week or as much as $500 to $700 per week. Your income will depend on how many clients you have and how you bill them. You can expect to earn $4.50 per page in a large city or up to $25 per hour for certain kinds of work. If you are able to transcribe or word process six pages or more per hour, charging by the page is likely to bring you a higher income than charging the hourly rate.

Personal Chef

Cooking dinners for two to ten different households is something I (Mary) have personal experience with. The demand for this type of service seems to be greater in large urban areas such as Los Angeles, where many professionals—either those with or without children—desire home-cooked food but haven’t the time or interest to prepare it.

For many years I offered my cooking services to families and single professionals. I would start my cooking at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and simply cook enough of the food that we were eating as a family to serve to all the different families for whom I was cooking. This "mass production" method (I cooked for five different families at one time) helped me keep the food cost down.

I started by requiring all my clients to purchase two sets of glass containers. I would deliver the food before 5:00 in the evening and would pick up the containers from the night before at the same time. This arrangement worked well for me, a stay-at-home mother. I was well paid to share an aspect of the domestic side of my life that I enjoyed very much—cooking for my family. In turn, I enabled the professional women I worked for—primarily psychologists and lawyers under a great deal of stress juggling their professions and children—to provide their families with home-cooked food. They greatly appreciated that I shared with their families what I was doing for my own.

I know that many homeschool mothers are excellent cooks and that some would find this lucrative and rewarding work. It also provides an excellent opportunity to involve your children. My son enjoyed helping me create menus, put together food baskets, and label them for each family.

Qualifications

The primary qualification for this job is that you need to be a good cook! In addition, you do have to market your services, which takes a little business creativity. You must be punctual and organized, as working people really want their dinners ready when they get home from work. It also takes a muscular person to be a cook. Most women already possess this quality.

Start-Up Costs

An advantage of this business is that there is no real start-up cost, with the exception of creating and printing flyers. I had my customers pay me for their glass containers (which I purchased for them) before I began cooking for them, and always collected for a full week of meals up front so I did not have to pay for the food out of our own budget.

How To Get Started

One of the most successful marketing efforts was advertising in a local health-food store by putting a flyer on a bulletin board. I also took flyers to chiropractor offices and other businesses. Once I had my business going, most of my customers came from word of mouth.

How Much You Can Expect To Make

You can expect to make anywhere from $80 to over $700 per week. You set the limit. It all depends on how much cooking you want to do! You could probably charge a family of four $300 to $500 per week, depending on the type of preparation—macrobiotic would cost more than regular food, as an example. Of that, at the $300 level, $200 would be profit. At the $500 level, $350 is profit, plus you are feeding your own family!

Professional Bulk-Mailing Services

Basically, you offer to create, maintain, and mail out bulk mail (some of it "junk" mail) to the mailing and client lists of numerous organizations and companies—for instance, churches, charitable organizations, insurance agencies, some law firms, doctor’s offices, or advertisers. Any approach that utilizes bulk mail is a potential customer. For instance, you could offer to maintain a doctor’s patient list, or maintain and process the patron list for church announcements, newsletters, charitable clubs, businesses, and so on.

In urban areas with medium to large populations, you can find plenty of bulk-mailing work within a 50-mile radius. But you could also solicit clients from a large radius around your home and eventually obtain clients from further away.

Qualifications

You will need good working knowledge of the U.S. Post Office bulk mail regulations, which can be relatively complex. However, since thousands of postal employees learn and understand them, such knowledge isn’t out of reach. There are two publications available through the post office—the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) and Third Class Mail. Call the post office for information on these. Free bulk mail classes are held on a weekly basis; contact your local post office for scheduling or other details. You will also have to purchase a bulk mail permit ($85 one-time fee and then $125 per year—total start-up cost would be $210) and you will use the permit number for all of your jobs. You must be able to type in order to enter the customer list information.

Equipment and Supply Costs

To begin with, you could rent a computer for $25 to $200 per month. A heavy-duty printer would be a bit more. The mail list software you’ll need to create and maintain the mailing lists and print labels is about $200. Labels cost about $20 for 3,000. Other small expenses will include floppy or zip disks. You can print your own business cards from plain white stock or have plain ones printed for as little as $6 per 1,000.

How To Get Started

Call the post office and obtain the "800" number for their Business Mail Department. Ask for their free packet of information and the Third Class Mail Manual, which they will mail to you without charge. This material will help you see what the size, sorting, and labeling requirements are for bulk mail so you can "walk yourself" through a potential job and figure out if it is viable for you in terms of time and effort. Many of the actual mailing materials you need—trays, sacks, sack labels, and sortation stickers—are free from the bulk mail unit at the post office.

How Much You Can Expect To Make

You can make $5,000 to $50,000 per year, depending on how many children you have and how much they could help out. If you must hire outside help at a higher rate, your profit would be cut drastically. Bulk mail jobs can be time-consuming; for this work to be profitable, you will probably need help.

Phone Sales

Phone sales are a relatively common way to make money from your home. One of the easiest ways to make a small amount of money is scheduling pickups for the Salvation Army or a similar organization. Although this job might not be for everyone, it can be rewarding and bring up to $10 per hour in income. Those hired receive a list of phone numbers of neighbors. Your job is to schedule pickups for which you are paid as if the pickup were a sale. Other phone sales positions include selling office equipment or setting up appointments for photography studios, insurance companies, even chiropractors’ offices. Even community newspapers pay a percentage for selling display ads.

Qualifications

Sales experience is helpful, but not mandatory. You can learn how to do this type of work at any age. An outgoing telephone personality is important. A key to success is organization, which will help you follow up on leads, remember when you called so-and-so, and the like.

Equipment Costs

A phone is a necessity and it would behoove you to have a separate phone line, about $85 for installation, plus roughly $10 to $25 per month. A dedicated line is not mandatory for such a business, but is usually a good idea.

How To Get Started

Be creative! Search through the phone book for companies that might hire you to solicit business for them. Look in the classified ads of your newspapers under "Phone Sales" rather than "Sales" to be certain the work you might obtain can be done from home. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Ask for names and phone numbers of people who have worked for and been paid by the company before you begin.

How Much Can You Expect To Make

Some companies try to lure you in with high numbers, which often prove unrealistic. The truth is that you can expect to make as little as $50 and probably not more than $400 per week, depending on how many hours you work. In general, phone solicitation work should be considered supplemental to another income.

Website Designer

The Internet is said to possibly be changing the face of advertising, communication, business ordering, printing, and much more. Today’s businesses communicate with their customers through their websites, and many lack the in-house expertise to design and maintain such sites. As a result, website design is a booming business, one that is highly suitable for at-home employment. If you already are trained or are motivated to learn website design and maintenance, are creative, and charge a reasonable price for your services, you’ll find much work available in this field.

Qualifications

You must be or become conversant in html, and it would behoove you to know many of the website programs available in the market today. The best way for novices to get started would be to take a class (offered at community colleges for a relatively low fee), purchase one or two software packages (and a computer, if necessary), and diligently practice what you learn in the class immediately after you get home. Website design is an excellent way to make money, particularly if you are creative and enjoy coming up with new ideas.

Equipment Costs

If you aren’t already skilled in website design, you might spend anywhere from $85 to $400 for classes, as well as have your own computer and software so you can practice or self-teach from manuals. You can accomplish a great deal by working alone an hour here and there, absorbing the information at your own pace. (Sounds like homeschooling!) In addition to a computer and software, you’ll need an Internet connection.

How To Get Started

Once you’ve mastered the creation of websites and know how to put them up on the world wide web, you can solicit customers through your own local contacts and by placing flyers advertising your business around your community. Many small businesses need a website but haven’t the in-house expertise or the time to add website construction and maintenance to their schedules. We recommend you start out small, charging a nominal fee, perhaps only $250, for people in business for themselves on a small level (Jafra or Avon representatives, for example) or local chapters of charitable or service clubs (such as Toastmasters International, Lions Clubs, or Kiwanis). Once you have gained some experience, examples of your good work and satisfied customers’ word-of-mouth advertising can bring you larger, better paying projects.

How Much Can You Expect To Make

If you begin by creating one or two websites per week, and charged only $250, you would still earn $500 per week. Start small and work your way up. Although website designers often charge $1,500 to $10,000 to create Internet sites, we recommend you direct your business toward people who want a website but could never afford, or justify, paying those prices.

Medical Claims Processor

When you visit the doctor and present your insurance card, an incredible amount of red-tape and paperwork must be done for the physician to be paid. Now-adays, doctors hire "specialists" to facilitate this process. This alleviates the necessity of a front-office person to be knowledgeable of all the different insurance and payment processes in use. This is another job that is excellent for a homeschooling parent because it can be done early in the morning before the children are awake, or late in the evening after they are in bed.

Availability

There is much demand for this type of work in large cities especially. Particularly in this era of downsizing, when companies don’t want to pay benefits such as insurance, vacations, and holidays, hiring private contractors (such as you would be) becomes very attractive.

Qualifications

You must be conversant in all standard types of insurance plans, their paperwork, and their claims filing processes. Community colleges or adult-education extensions in almost any city offer classes in medical billing. You must have a computer and printer to do this job. In today’s high-tech environment, it would behoove you to be on-line (connected to the Internet).

How to Get Started

Classes in this field, which are essential, are offered at community colleges and adult education centers in every community. Fees vary, so check with your local facility. If you have worked for a physician’s office, you may already be conversant in the process (and contacts for your future business venture may be only a phone call away!).

How Much You Can Expect To Make

In this field, a person can make anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per month. As with most endeavors, it depends upon how much or how little you want to work.

Suggestions for Home-Based Businesses That Require Time Away from Home

Many "home" businesses, such as Pampered Chef, Avon Products, and others listed below, allow you to do much of your work at home. For example, you can fill out order forms, line up show hosts, and plan your shows at home; only doing the actual shows will require your being away from home. This might amount to four hours one day or evening per week, or two days/evenings per week. Of course, you could make this work a full-time job, but we assume you’re getting away from the work-focused mentality. However, even working full-time from home as a self-employed businessperson is still a vast improvement over working outside your home and sending your children to school. The following employment opportunities lend themselves beautifully to the homeschooling family because of their flexibility.

Pampered Chef

Since its founding in 1980 by Doris Christopher, a home economist and teacher, Pampered Chef has grown to a multi-million dollar corporation. In 1998 nearly 1 million in-home kitchen shows were held in the U.S. The company boasts sales of over $500 million.

The company’s main focus is to get the family together for sit-down meals. Pampered Chef consultants put on a party in the home of the hostess and make two dishes using Pampered Chef products. The company offers hundreds of innovative and unique items, including pizza stones, pizza cutters, a machinated apple corer/peeler, timers, easy-to-use hand choppers—anything for the kitchen, they have.

The consultant demonstrates the versatility and usability of the high-quality products by making the two dishes. After the party, the consultant passes catalogs to the attendees so they can order products. The Pampered Chef parties I’ve attended were much fun and the products I’ve purchased are excellent. The average party yields between $200 to $500 in sales and the consultant makes approximately 20% ($40 to $100 profit).

Attendees of Pampered Chef parties who order products write checks to the hostess, who in turn writes one check to the consultant for the total amount. The consultant then turns in the orders, writes Pampered Chef a check minus her commission, thus receiving the commission immediately. This is an excellent work opportunity that enables consultants to enjoy a flexible schedule, and possibly even bring their children along. (Children were present at most shows I attended.) To become a consultant, call 630/261-8900 or 800/266-5562 in the U.S.; in Canada, call 800/342-2433.

Usborne Books

Another flexible way to make money from home is to sell books for Usborne Book Company, a business that has many success stories. You would do well to look closely at the books and videos they produce and then find out more details about the business aspects of selling books. You can’t successfully sell something you don’t believe in.

A consultant has book show "parties" in her home (or the home of a host or hostess), at which she shows and discusses her display of books and then takes orders (much the same as Pampered Chef, described above). Product orders are submitted at the party, along with checks made out to the consultant, who in turn mails the order to Usborne, along with her own check (order total minus her commission); the consultant is therefore paid immediately.

This is an excellent way for a homeschooling parent to make from $50 to $500 per week doing in-home book shows. Usborne encourages consultants to sign others up as consultants to create what is known as a "down-line." As the consultant who has signed others, you will be paid a percentage of each person’s total sales who is "under" you, to a certain predetermined limit (for instance, to the tenth level below you). In this is way, consultants can make $50,000 + per year, total. (See coupon for Usborne Books.)

To find out more about employment opportunities with Usborne, contact them at: Usborne Books (Educational Development Corporation) 10302 East 55th Place, Tulsa, OK 74146-6515; 800/475-4522; Fax 800/747-4509

World Book Encyclopedia

This well-known company, which publishes the very popular reference supplement to the homeschool library, offers opportunities for home sales representatives. You can also represent World Book at local children’s shows and homeschool and other types of conferences, taking orders on-site. We have done a few children’s shows and find them an enjoyable way to meet people and talk about a product we believe in. For further information, contact World Book at 800/WORLDBK or sales@wbpublish.com.

Avon Products

Avon’s website reports that it has been selling cosmetics for over 110 years, and has now moved into carrying lines of apparel, jewelry, and other items. The website also lists numerous awards Avon has received from women’s publications for being an excellent employer for women. To become a sales representative, call 800/ FOR AVON or visit their website at http://www.avon.com.

Mary Kay Cosmetics

This company offers opportunities for sales representatives. Mary Kay also rewards reps with high productivity by allowing them to drive the Mary Kay pink cadillac! Call 800/MARY KAY (in the U.S.) or visit their website at www.marykay.com.

Jafra Cosmetics International

Jafra was started in 1956 with the intention of creating an independent sales staff while offering women an opportunity to increase their earning potential. A subsidiary of the Gillette Company from 1973 to 1998, Jafra is once again independently owned. Jafra’s 300,000 private consultants located throughout 20 countries worldwide are the only source of sales; you cannot buy their products in stores. We suggest that you visit their website, listed below for more in-depth information.

Jafra Worldwide Headquarters

2451 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village, CA 91361

805/449-3000; Fax: 805/449-3254

website: http://www.jafra.com

Additional Sources for Home-Based Business Ideas and Information

There are many books available to spark your imagination and get your mind working in the area of home-based work. With the proliferation of Internet access (you can even work from the local public library or a cyber-café until you are online at home!), this field is burgeoning. Even if you don’t use the world wide web, you can still function competitively using a fax machine and a good computer, with documents flowing back and forth between your clients and you in a matter of moments.

In closing, we have listed some titles we recommend to enhance your search for work from home opportunities. Reading any of them will provide you with helpful information; reading more than one will give you even broader coverage of the entire field. (Many of them are available at reduced prices.)

The Home-Business Sourcebook by Maxye and Lou Henry

$16.00, 219-page paperback. Published by Lowell House, (ISBN 1-56565-973-2)

This book offers essays by and case histories of people who are financially satisfied through being self-employed, working from home.

101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women, Everything You Need To Know About Getting Started on the Road to Success, Rev. 2nd Ed. by Priscilla Y. Huff

$14.95, 400 pages. Published by Prima Publishing (ISBN 0-76151651-4)

In this book, Priscilla Huff offers you advice on choosing the perfect home-based business, first steps to starting it, 101 best businesses for you to consider and more.

Making Money With Your Computer at Home: The Inside Information You Need To Know, To Select and Operate a Full-Time, Part-Time or Add-On Business That’s Right for You by Paul Edwards and Sarah Edwards. (Paperback, Sept 1, 1997) $10.85

The Work-at-Home Sourcebook by Lynie Arden (Paperback Mar 1, 2002) $13.57

The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Guide to Making Money from Home, Revised 2nd Edition: Choosing the Business That’s Right for You Using the Skills and Interests You Already Have (Stay-At-Home Mom’s Guides) by Liz Folger