Business ideas for the unemployed
LearningMyLessons made a great comment that deserves an in-depth discussion of its own. I really hope some of you reading will participate. Surprise me. It's hard to find a job, and it's hard to start a business. Which is more feasible for you, and -- more importantly -- which would you rather do?
Unemployed? Can't find a job? Starting a business seems logical. Maybe that's why most businesses start during bad economic times, or so I seem to remember from some Econ class or another.
I have actually enjoyed a tiny bit of entrepreneurial success with my walking tour venture. It's not an ideal business for such a bad economic time, but it's still a little bit of non-soul-obliterating money.
What follows is a start (just a start) on a list of business ideas that unemployed people might be able to launch successfully with little start-up capital. The tour guiding business will not be on this list because, like I said, it's not a good game in this economic environment and most people don't live in places like New York, where we have a steady supply of pilgrims seeking stimulation.
Before starting the list, I want to float some
general maxims germane to founding a viable business in this tough economy:
- Value is the name of the game. Nobody wants to spend money even if they have it. Your business should position its products and services as filling your clients' need to save money.
- Minimize your initial outlay. Start with the assumption that you are under-capitalized and operate accordingly.
- Partner. You can't do it all. Look for partners who have skills that you lack.
- Plan to fail. Edison failed 10,000 times before he found the thing that worked.
OK, so here are a few
cheap start-up business ideas for the unemployed:
- Repair shops -- People are going to fix the things they have rather than buying new things. If you are handy, there is money to be made here.
- Property rehabilitation -- In crisis there is opportunity. Foreclosed-upon properties need major clean-up and fix-up before they can be put on the market. You could offer these services to realtors and landlords.
- Marketing services for small business -- So many mom-and-pop shops need this. You could design, print, and distribute materials or SEO their websites so that their clients find them. Take a small good-faith payment for the first campaign, then charge full fees after the value of your services becomes obvious (and it will if you're good -- I know a guy that will never lack for money because he does exactly what I've described.)
- Showbiz -- One upshot of unemployment for me is that it has turned me into a professional actor. I've also written two teleplays and half a full-length screenplay. Haven't sold anything yet but haven't really tried. One person I know plays solo acoustic sets in coffee shops and offers CDs on a pay-what-you-want basis, and that person clears over $100 per gig, almost pure profit. In times like these, bringing a little beauty and joy into the world is as valuable as any service.
- Foodscaping services -- Got a green thumb? Know what grows where in what kind of dirt? Turn yards into food. Heal the planet and get paid for it.
- Jewelry design -- this seems counter-intuitive in tough times, but one person I know who has an incredible gift for designing beautiful pieces made from semi-precious stones claims that business is good. There will always be people willing to pay for pretty sparkly things.
- Soup kitchen -- I have noticed that the
street meathot dog vendors seem busy these days. It's because what they have is cheap and quick. What if you made a couple big pots of soup every day and offered it for a couple bucks a bowl? Just an idea...
- Guerrilla farming? Word on the street is that some people are selling surplus produce from their backyard gardens.
That's all I can think of right now. Feel free to add other ideas in the comments. Please don't be shy.
If you seriously want to deploy any of the ideas above, contact me. I have lots of ideas on the specifics and would be more than happy to share them, especially if you need a partner!
Finally, a warning about your unemployment benefits:
In many states, starting a business will render you ineligible for benefits, even before you see a dime in revenue. Check with your friendly neighborhood UI office and play this carefully.