Trying to brainstorm for a one-person business idea.
May 7, 2008 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of a new business or career that can be started by one person with a small start-up budget?

The more portable the better, and I hope to be able to support myself (not extravagently) with income from the business within 2 years. I have done this before starting a massage therapy business in FL that is now quite successful. I don't need to change the world, I just need something interesting and challenging to support myself until I retire in about 15-20 years. I am more of an idea and big-picture creative type than a detail or numbers person, but I am not averse to hard work. I do enjoy flexibility, travel, and living in a temperate climate. Start-up budget of $50k +/- Thank you!
posted by pinkbungalow to Work & Money (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Dog walker.
posted by bigmusic at 4:01 PM on May 7, 2008

Private tutor
posted by Proginoskes at 4:10 PM on May 7, 2008

Well, there are endless possibilities, but it depends on what you like to do, and what skills you already have. Can you give a brief resume?
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 4:10 PM on May 7, 2008

Around here, the Papa Murphy's take-and-bake pizza franchises are very successful. They require you to have a net worth of $250,000 and liquid assets (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.) of $80,000. I'm not sure how much of that they actually require you to invest.

If you like traveling and portability, a mobile car detailing business might be an idea.

Dog daycare seems to be a growing business as well.
posted by Ostara at 4:12 PM on May 7, 2008

Response by poster: Quick resume: print advertising sales, then the massage biz for 15 years. Have decent writing and artistic skills but don't like to sit still for more than a couple of hours.
posted by pinkbungalow at 4:23 PM on May 7, 2008

Your profile doesn't list a location, but in most areas of the country it is an excellent time to buy real estate at a significant discount. You could buy a multi-family apartment building and either manage it yourself, of pay a property management firm to do it for you. This allows a tremendous amount of freedom and flexibility.

The downside is that if you ever decide to sell the property you'll have to pay taxes on the appreciation, unless you do a 1031 exchange.
posted by Ostara at 4:28 PM on May 7, 2008

I'm a massage therapist too and to complement the bodywork, a bit further down the line I want to start a nonclinical eldercare business that helps seniors stay independent ... google shows me this website as a short&sweet overview of the kind of company I'm thinking of. They don't offer massage though & mine will =)
posted by headnsouth at 4:30 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

My husband is a hypnotist and also a life coach, totally one-person operation with very little overhead. You can get training through the National Guild of Hypnotists (among others). Life coach training is available just about anywhere, but some are better than others. MeMail me if you want more info or visit his site from my profile and email him via there, and he'll hook you up with some resources. He works in an office with a lot of other one-person businesses so he might have some more ideas for you.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:36 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Quick resume: print advertising sales, then the massage biz for 15 years. Have decent writing and artistic skills but don't like to sit still for more than a couple of hours.

Thanks! I wonder if you could work your writing and artistic skills together with your knowledge of print advertising, and your knowledge of business you acquired by running your massage biz for 15 years. Perhaps something in advertising and marketing consulting, where you help clients with a cohesive advertising and marketing campaign. Since it sounds like you don't want to sit and do the actual design, you can sketch out ideas to hand off to a graphic artist, who then does the grunt work. Your writing skills can come into play in writing taglines, slogans, and ad copy.

But the most valuable part of your writing skill may lie in writing an opinion of your actual recommendations. I know this part might get more sedentary than you want, but you can do it from anywhere on a laptop. Focus on small, mom and pop operations who are trying to expand, and people who are just starting out, so you don't get into a gigantic project for one big company, and feel like you are an employee instead of a freelancer. You bill by the hour, and consult with your clients on an ongoing basis to help them make the most of their time and budget. Your recommendation reports could consist of budgets, design sketches, schedules, and other information that can be used as a roadmap for your clients to follow as they build their businesses.

There can be some good money in this, and if you are disciplined about what kind of work you take in, focus on what you do best, and farm out the rest, you may very well find that it allows you a lot of freedom, plus you will be meeting new people, and maybe even travelling, as you build your client base. Startup costs would consist of your own marketing (website, cards, brochure, trade show, maybe) and cash flow is generally good as you have no inventory to worry about. You bill as you go.

Options 2: (Can be concurrent with the above): Did you learn things while building your massage business that you wish you knew when you started? Do you think other small business owners and freelancers could benefit from your experience? Are you a good public speaker? If not, are you willing to invest in some coaching to help you become a good public speaker? Or maybe join Toastmasters? Then make yourself available to businesses, clubs, and organizations as a speaker. Start out by volunteering to speak at local community business organizations. As you gain experience, you will get invitations to speak other places. If you are decent and people feel they learn something from you, you are a valuable asset and can charge for your services. Like anything else, it will take time to build a clientele and earn livable fees. But there are more opportunities to speak now than ever, and the pay can be good. And if you do a good job, your reputation can spread quickly over a large geographic area, because people come from all over to attend seminars and conferences.

Just a couple ideas to throw in the pile. Good luck in whatever you decide!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:29 PM on May 7, 2008

if you are in the sunshine state, open a little gift store selling overpriced crap to tourists
posted by Mr_Chips at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2008

What do you have/know/do that few other people have/know/do? That's what people will be willing to pay you for.
posted by winston at 6:47 PM on May 7, 2008

Riffing on the eldercare idea...a business driving elderly people around to appointments and to run errands would be so welcome in my community. We currently have an independent living, elderly person in our family who is gradually becoming less comfortable driving and regularly needs someone friendly and patient to take her to Dr.'s appts, wait in the waiting room (sometimes for over an hour) then swing her by the grocery store on the way home.

Do you have a green thumb? There is a company in my town that sources big tropical looking plants for businesses, offices, restaurants, private homes and comes in to take care of them once a week. I've always thought if I could afford to, I'd love to have someone come over and baby my houseplants.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:12 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

On the same note is aquarium-care. They are popping up in stores and businesses here in Norway, at least.
posted by Harald74 at 4:15 AM on May 8, 2008

This guy made 75K last year as a dog poop picker-upper. (Link may require registration - let me know if you'd like a copy of the article.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:54 AM on May 8, 2008

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