Monday, March 2, 2009

Be a Language Translator

In today's shrinking world (and as our planet becomes more populated), we are seeing an increased need to communicate with people from other countries. Naturally, there can be a communication gap when dealing with different languages. That's where a language translator becomes an invaluable asset to a company or organization.

As a language translator, you may be required to provide services to company executives, the government, news media or even individuals who must deal with people from other countries. The good news is that there is no shortage of work in this field if you have the required skills.

With the Internet growing by leaps and bounds every day, the need for professional translators is almost a necessity if you plan to build a worldwide web presence. People can't count on the fact that programmers and writers from another country can easily translate from one language to another.

Of course, in order to get into this business, you're going to have to be fluent in at least two languages. While many translators only offer translating services from one language to the other, you can make a niche for yourself in this industry by offering two-way translation services. In other words, you can translate from one language to another, and then back if needed.

So if you're relatively comfortable in two languages, the world is your oyster as the need for your services becomes much more mainstream.

Until you make a name for yourself, you're going to have to get out there and sell your services. One of the best ways to start is by establishing a website presence. The reason this is so effective is that it's seen from people from many countries. If you have to, pay for some online advertising so that your site gets noticed by people who are seeking your exact services.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Flea Markets - An Easy Way to Get Into Retail Sales

I just love flea markets.

To me, this really is the ideal environment for a beginning entrepreneur to get his/her feet wet in retail sales. The ease at which you can start up a flea market business is amazing. This truly is a level playing field where both large, medium, and smalltime operations have an equal chance at making sales. It's also a great way to test new products and get a feel for what the demand is going to be like.

There are three things that make flea market sales attractive:

1. You don't need a lot of money to get started. Even in some of the most popular flea markets, you can still rent a booth for a weekend for around $100.

2. There is no long-term commitment. Unlike any other retail venue, you don't have to commit yourself for any length of time. Compare this to operating your own retail store (or even a kiosk in a shopping mall) where you have to sign a lease. This can be a major financial obligation.

3. Fleamarket traffic can be quite heavy. In terms of what you pay for your booth versus the amount of foot traffic you get, nothing beats this venue for value. Where else are you going to get thousands of people in front of your product for a measly $50 a day?

Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks to flea markets is that people are out looking for bargains. You won't be able to charge as much as you would in a retail store, but usually the increased number of sales will make up for this.

If you've never done any sort of retail sales before, one of your biggest challenges may be in finding reliable suppliers. You want to make sure that you're going to be able to make a decent profit even though your customers are expecting rock-bottom prices. Usually, your inventory is bought wholesale in larger lots. The bigger your purchase, the more money you are going to save.

Check online for your bulk purchases as well as frequenting local auctions. You're going to have to have the ability to recognize a good deal when you see it, while staying away from things that will be difficult to sell and/or have little profit potential. Much of this is going to come with experience.

Whether you decide to specialize in one area or simply offer a variety of items, you can't beat a flea market for exposure and volume. Furthermore, if you're able to distinguish yourself from all the other vendors, you'll gradually make a name for yourself - and something like this can easily become a full-time income.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Start a Wedding Planning Business

If you're a people person and highly organized, starting a wedding planning business may be just what you're looking for. In this day of high divorce rates, it seems that people haven't been scared off and the wedding industry is still booming.

As a wedding planner, you'll be taking care of all the details so the bride and groom don't have to. You'll handle everything from flowers, caterers, the reception, the band, booking the venue - pretty much everything.

Needless to say, there can be a lot of stress involved with running a business like this. Since this is their special day, if anything goes wrong or isn't quite up to snuff, you're going to hear about it in very short order.

Much of your job will involve managing people and all the different services that come together to make a wedding perfect. One minute you'll be taking care of a crisis with the caterers, the next, you've got the florist on the phone telling you that they won't be able to deliver everything requested.

As far as experience goes, you obviously need to know what is necessary to put together a memorable wedding. You've got to be familiar with everything from invitations to table centerpieces and wedding favors.

As well, you'll need to be fairly well connected with suppliers and services such as DJ services, bartending, catering, photography services, and flowers - not to mention, having a great working relationship with a few banquet halls.

The good news is that you'll likely be able to get better prices for such goods and services if you're a regular customer. If you pass the savings on to your customer, they won't think twice about the bill for your services.

So if you thrive under pressure and love dealing with people, perhaps a wedding planner business is in your future.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Start a Home Inspection Business

If you've got a background in construction, engineering, or home repair, you might want to consider starting your very own home inspection service. This is still a very in-demand service since just about everyone who buys a house will need a home inspector at some point before the final papers are signed. Even with the downturn in the economy, it's still possible to make a decent living in this niche business.

It's a home inspector's responsibility to report on all aspects of electrical, plumbing, cooling/heating, foundation, and roofing problems - to name a few. Most home inspections take a couple hours and the customer is given a written, itemized report at the end of it.

Along with your experience, it's always a good idea to take an official home inspector course. This will prepare you for things that you're going to see in the field but perhaps have not experienced in your career. Essentially, in order to be a good home inspector, you need to be able to spot defects. You need to know how something "should" look when everything is normal.

Another reason to combine experience with classroom training is to become certified through the American Society of Home Inspectors. This will give you a distinct advantage over those home inspectors who are not certified.

You want to make sure that you have extensive experience and knowledge considering you're going to be responsible for identifying defects in the home and reporting them to the potential buyer. In the event that anyone gets injured or the buyer is damaged financially due to your negligence, you can be sued.

Unless you're going to be working for someone else or starting your own franchise, getting a foothold in this business is going to be tough. This is one industry where your reputation is everything. You've got to make a name for yourself and earn the trust of people who are going to recommend your services. In fact, most of your work is going to come from referrals from real estate brokers.

Once you get some steady profits coming in, be sure to take out a yellow pages ad. Other than direct referrals, this is where most people will look for a home inspector.

Although this business isn't for everyone, if you have the education and experience, you can be making several hundred dollars per hour after you've established your business and you've got a few years of experience.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Importance of Having a Good Business Plan

Like many would-be entrepreneurs, I didn't have a clue about business plans when I first started seriously considering starting my own venture. At best, I threw together a rough plan on a few sheets of paper, outlining costs and projected revenues. I wouldn't call it a plan, however, since it really didn't have any flow to it and was probably not decipherable by anyone except myself. At best, it was a bunch of random thoughts scribbled down on paper. Amazingly enough, I thought that this flimsy plan would be enough to secure a bank loan. I assumed that most of the questions they would ask, I could simply answer off the top of my head. Needless to say, I didn't get the loan.

Years later, I was fortunate enough to be able to really appreciate the value of a well-thought-out business plan. A good business plan lays things out systematically and forces you to look at serious questions such as startup costs, operating revenues, projected sales, and future growth. You definitely don't want to guess at this. By having your costs written down in a solid plan, you can confidently decide on what you're going to charge for your product or services.

Here's a quick business plan that also contains information about your major competitors. It would be a huge mistake to forget about who you're competing against. They should be part of your business plan and you should definitely know everything you can about them.

Remember, most businesses fail through lack of a solid business plan. Yes, it's time-consuming to draw one up, but it's an absolute necessity. Even if you've been in business for some time and are experiencing a little success, don't think that a good business plan can't help you. In fact, it should be revisited on an ongoing basis even once the initial startup phase is over.

Here's the plan:

1. Describe your business in one or two sentences. If you can't do this, you need to revisit and rethink your entire focus and ultimate goal.

2. Is there a demand for your product or services? Why do you believe this is so?

3. In one year, where do you think your business will be? How about three years? How about five years? Be as detailed as possible.

4. What will you use for startup capital? Will you tap into your savings? Use your credit line or credit cards? Will you rely on a bank loan?

5. How about your expenses? What big-ticket items are you going to need? Where will your money be needed the most? What will the cost be?

6. Will you need memberships in any trade organizations or publications? What will the cost be?

7. Can you describe your target customer? Who is he/she, what do they need, and why should they buy from you?

8. Who are your competitors? What advantages do they have – what advantages do you have?

9. How well are you differentiating yourself from your competitors? Be specific and include things like price, services, and quality.

10. Where will you set up shop? Will you designate an area of your home, or will you opt for a commercial location? How much will each cost?

11. How about non-direct costs such as daycare?

12. How much money do you need to survive? This includes all the money you're going to need to pay your bills and survive.

While this is only a partial list of questions you need to ask yourself when creating your business plan, it should be enough to get you thinking about the detail involved and the hard questions you need to ask yourself before committing to your new venture.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Starting a Small Business? Here Are Some Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

For many people, the lure of business ownership can be very strong. Imagine, not having to commute, being your own boss, and having the complete freedom to be able to plan your day and make your own decisions as you see fit.

However, starting your own business is a serious thing, and it's really something that you must think through. Part of this involves asking yourself certain key questions like:

1. If you start your business part-time while keeping your full-time job, how will you find time to devote enough hours to your business? How many hours a day are you going to be able to realistically put in? You're going to have to decide whether you are going to work mornings or evenings, then set up a schedule to follow. Additionally, you're going to have to decide whether you're going to work weekends. If you're holding down a full-time job, there's a good chance that your new enterprise is going to require that you work seven days a week.

2. Where, exactly, are you going to set up your business? Will you designate an area of your bedroom, basement, or garage? And once you find a place where you can be productive and uninterrupted, will there be any negative effects on your neighbors (such as customers coming to the door, parking on the street, and delivery trucks snarling traffic)?

3. Are you willing to put in time and money for your education? Not many businesses start off profitable. It takes time to learn the ropes and find your groove. Do you have enough money to keep you going while you're still finding your legs?

4. What are your marketing plans? Exactly, how are you going to get customers in front of your product or service? Do you have any natural sales ability? What marketing techniques are you going to use to get your name out there?

5. And, lastly; how do you plan on financing your new venture? How much money do you require? How much cash you have on hand? Are you able to borrow from friends or family? Do you have a business plan in order to apply for financing from a bank? What's your credit rating like?

These are all very important questions that you must address before you even think of hanging out your shingle. A good percentage of businesses go under because of poor financial planning on the owner's part. You must be ready for all possibilities and plan accordingly.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Start a Commercial Plant Care Business

If you have a green thumb and you love working with plants, starting a commercial plant care business should be right up your alley. For around $1000 startup fee, you can establish a route that can keep you busy either part-time or full-time. Not only that, but you should be able to make a modest living doing what you love.

This business works best if you are living in and around a major population center. Most of the plants you'll be tending will be situated in common areas within office buildings. It's a fact that many corporations have adopted a greener look over the past few decades. It adds a bit of softness and creates an atmosphere of relaxation in an otherwise cold corporate environment.

The majority of your daily duties will involve simply watering plants and doing some minor trimming. In some cases, your customer will also want plants swapped in and out throughout the year. A good example of this is changing from summer to fall, to winter plants. For this reason, you should be a plant lover and have a bit of experience.

In order to service your customers efficiently, it's a good idea to have a small van or truck. Occasionally, you'll be transporting plants from the nursery to your customer’s site - having said that, you can probably get away with using your car on a temporary basis.

Marketing your services will mean creating working partnerships with local nurseries, advertising in the Yellow Pages, taking out a classified ad, or doing some old-fashioned, face-to-face sales - make sure you get some business cards printed.

Expect to make between 30,000 and $60,000 per year working full time. While this certainly won't make you rich, it does allow you to make your own hours and gives you a certain amount of freedom.