Business to Consider: Service Startups

UPDATED: May 28, 2010
PUBLISHED: May 28, 2010

If you already possess a specific skill (trust us, you’ll find one if you think hard enough), all you need is guts, capital and some paperwork to start your own business.

Service businesses are as varied as the people who form them and include everything from cleaning, decorating and working as a personal assistant to landscaping, babysitting and teaching piano. As always, doing your homework is an important step before jumping into a new business.

As with other businesses, timing and local competition will have a direct bearing on your success. For example, the large supply of homes for sale has resulted in increased demand for home staging specialists, who can help accentuate a home’s best features to attract buyers.

The most important first step is figuring out what you can do, or would like to do and are willing to learn, as a service to others. Then, you may be able to sell your services part time to test the market.  
Many customers actually look for services available when they are at home (i.e., nights and weekends). So if you are uncertain about going out on your own full time, you risk little by moonlighting in your free time.

The Bottom Line
Regardless of the business you plan to start, you would be wise to look up the local competition and wiser to offer something to customers that the competition does not. Research what the competition charges to come up with your pricing; the idea is to be competitive but fair.

However, don’t underestimate the value of your services. Something that’s easy for you may not be so easy for everyone else. If you possess a skill or knowledge that you can provide/teach well, it may be very valuable to your customer.

Is It Right for You?
Personality traits required: Quality customer service skills, strong work ethic, commitment to projects, ability to adapt to different customer needs.

Risks: Service businesses grow fastest by word-of-mouth and consistent referrals. But without proper marketing, it’s difficult for a small service operation to take off.

Potential Income: Differs depending on location, industry and experience. For example, a piano teacher can charge anywhere from $25 to $100 an hour, depending on the region and personal experience.  
Determine your potential income by looking up the rates other professionals in your area are charging.

Pros and Cons at a Glance

1. No storefront required

1. Hard to get your name out there

2. Set your own prices and schedule

2. Referrals and word-of-mouth take time to build

3. You can choose which jobs to work on

3. May need a few permits/licenses to practice on your own

4. Do something you’re passionate about

4. Inconsistent income