Sometimes the hardest thing about starting a small business is deciding what kind of business to start. Many times I’ve heard people say something like this, “I’d love to own a small business but I have no idea what kind of business to start. I don’t have the start-up money, I don’t have any special skills, and I have no experience in running a business”.
I was once in that place. I lost my job and decided that I would no longer put my fate, and the fate of my family, in someone else’s hands. I decided to start my own business.
I started a janitorial service business because I needed income immediately and didn’t have time to develop specialized skills. Just about everyone can do simple house cleaning. Also, cleaning equipment is relatively cheap. For $200 you can start a window cleaning business and be doing your first job the next day.
I found a janitorial equipment salesman and promptly put $8000 on my credit cards. I borrowed How-To books from the library and read them each over and over. I lost a lot of sleep those first three months. Within a year I had matched my previous salary. Within 18 months I had doubled my old salary. That small janitorial business paid the bills for over 14 years. I also ran a coffee service along side the janitorial business. Since I was already in their break rooms cleaning I might as well be the one supplying the coffee.
Having started and managed two small and profitable businesses, my advice to folks thinking about starting a small business is this:
1. Do not quit your current job, if you have one, too soon. Wait until you’re so busy (actually making money) with the new business you really have no choice. I believe one of the most common mistakes new business owners make is quitting their regular job too soon.
2. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to start most small businesses. Keep your expenses and overhead as low as possible. Example: If your current computer lets you play Farmville or watch porn or cat videos, it’s probably good enough for your small business start-up. Upgrade later when you have customers, income, and a need. If you’re selling missile-defense systems you may need high end promotional material. If you’re selling dog sweaters homemade business cards and tri-folds should serve you well.
3. Go with what you know. Do not start a business you know nothing about because you think it would be cool or fun. I once had the idea of starting a motorcycles-only tire shop. I thought it would be a great small business. As I started to do a little research I found that there was a reason someone hadn’t already done that in my area…very low profit margins.
4. Do not start a small business strictly for the money. It’s important that you do something that brings you joy and satisfaction. Yes, you want to go with what you know but not if you know you will hate it. Remember the old saying, “Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life”. Which, by-the-way, is what RV Beachbum is all about.
5. Be prepared to work a crap-load of hours building your small business. In the beginning, before you have customers, you may have a lot of free time. Don’t procrastinate; use that time to promote your business. Eventually you will get busier and busier…and that’s just all the stuff the government throws on you. Once you add in a few customers you could find yourself working 50 to 60 hours per week. I am amazed by the number of people who start a small business thinking they will work less than when they had a full-time job. Yes, it’s possible to start a small business and set it up so you work only a few hours a week, but make sure your income expectations match the time and effort you’re putting into your business.
6. Know how your spouse, family, or significant other feels about owning a small business. Do not assume they are as excited as you are. Your spouse may not relish the idea of being your book keeper, errand runner, bill collector, and personal assistant after they come home from their full-time job. They may not like the uncertainty of not having a regular paycheck. They may just be a poo poo head.
Below is a list of a few RV-friendly business ideas. The list is meant to be used as food-for-thought. For example, a CPA specializing in taxes is about to retire. He’s planning to live the RV Beachbum lifestyle. He wants to start a small business he can run from his RV but is tired of doing people’s taxes. By going with what he knows, he could do something related that he might find fun and fulfilling. He could write a tax guide especially for RV-based businesses. He could set up a website and blog or even a consulting business. He could set up workshops at RV parks. He could use his expertise without having to spend his days pouring over tax forms.
Antique and Collectables Dealer
Astrological Charts, Tarot
Building/Home Inspection Service
Bumper Stickers, T-shirts, Mugs
Business Plan Consultant
Day Care for Adults
Flea Market Vendor
Grant Proposal Consultant
Health and Well Being Products Sales
Nature Hikes/Walking Tours
Real Estate Sales