Starting a Home Business: Offering a Product vs. a Service

Will your home business center around a product or a service?

For many people, there is a definite desire to work from home — especially as a business owner. While telecommuting is gaining in popularity, for many it’s not enough to work for “the man,” even if you can do it from home. Instead, the real dream is being your own boss and owning a home business.

As you create a plan to start a home business, one of the issues to decide is whether you should offer a product or a service. You need to think about what you know, consider your talents, and figure out how you can make money with the resources that you have.

Offering a Product

When you offer a product, your customers have something tangible to purchase. Additionally, the product you offer can be something that you enjoy making. Many home businesses are started by those who begin in their free time, starting with a hobby and then monetizing it. From selling crocheted items, to creating custom furniture, there are a number of ways to take a product and turn it into a profitable side business.

However, there are difficulties associated with offering a product. While you can get started in a small way by spending small amounts of money on the supplies you need, after a while you probably need to purchase large amounts of raw materials. Additionally, no matter your home business idea, if you are creating and selling a product, you might eventually have to move it out of your home. Actual production facilities (and the cost that comes with them) might eventually be needed.

As long as you can keep pace with production, and as long as you can operate at a profit, selling a product can be a fun way to begin a home business. But the expenses can become difficult to manage after a while, especially if you are in the awkward phase of modest expansion, when you need more product to be ready, but don’t quite have the orders to justify it.

Plus, if you are creating high-end products, and you limit how many you make, and make them to order, it’s possible to limit your costs, as well as avoid the need to move your operation out of your home.

Offering a Service

In a lot of ways, offering a service can be a lot easier. Obviously, it’s the path I chose as a freelance writer. As a service provider, there is no need to purchase supplies and raw materials. What you have to offer is your knowledge, expertise, and talent. There are a number of low-cost home business startup ideas that can provide you with a regular income without a large outlay of cash.

For the most part, if you have a computer, an Internet connection, and some time, you can usually start a home business based on the services you offer. From writing to graphic design to pet sitting to consulting to tutoring, it doesn’t cost much to get started. Additionally, you rarely outgrow your home office when you offer a service. Unless you are trying to become a prestigious firm, you can stay in your home office indefinitely. If this is important to you, a service might be the way to go.

Choosing Between the Two

What you decide to do is, of course, up to you. Consider your goals, and your preferences. Think about how you envision your home business progressing. I limit my workload because I don’t want to be buried by it. It has been suggested that I hire someone else to help me write, but I don’t want the hassle of managing others. However, I have been considering a virtual assistent to help with some tasks. But, for the most part, I try to keep it a small operation.

That’s my goal, though. You need to determine your own goals.

If you plan to expand, realize that you might outgrow a home business. If you want to monetize your crafty hobby, realize that there are costs involved, and that it can take time to really see the orders roll in. On the other hand, if you are looking for something that’s relatively easy to start, with low costs, a service is probably the way to go. Either way, though, you need to build your business and prepare to stick it out.

Written by Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger, specializing in personal finance, small business, and investing topics. She writes for a number of financial web sites and blogs, and has been featured in numerous media. Read about life as a freelancer at MirandaMarquit.com and in her book Confessions of a Professional Blogger.

One Response to Starting a Home Business: Offering a Product vs. a Service

  1. The biggest challenge for many that start a home based business is that they operate it with a wish, dream and prayer. While I agree it is great to start part-time, it is very important to treat it like a real business and invest the time, energy and effort necessary to make it a success.

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