Copyright to Sean C. Castrina, © 2014. All rights reserved.
Published here May 2014

Editor's Note | Introduction | Assess Your Strengths and Do Your Homework 
Keep Your Overheads Low | Balance Income with Expenditures
Promotion and Customer Focus | Final Thoughts

Assess Your Strengths and Do Your Homework

1.  Figure out your field

Perhaps you already have a clearly defined vision for your business: You'd like to improve your erstwhile hobby and design, make, and sell original pottery; or you'd like to use your background in accountancy to start your own tax service. However, it's very possible that you're one of many retirees who aren't sure which field to go into. (Anything but the job I just did for 40 years! you think.) In that case, I recommend starting a service business (anything from home cleaning to tutoring to adult care) for the following reasons:

  • They require minimal money to start. I've never started a service business with more than $10k, and many with less than $3k — including businesses that have made me millions!
  • Many service businesses don't require a prior work history in the field or particular qualifications.
  • In most cases, they can't be outsourced or performed by computers so you'll always have work.
  • Since you can hire others to perform the actual work while you handle the key behind-the-scenes management tasks (like hiring, supervising, taking client calls, marketing, etc.), service businesses are a great source of passive income. For instance, I started a mobile car detailing business in my 20s. I hired an employee to do the work, charged $95 for a full detail inside and out, and gave my worker 50 percent. All I did was make the phone ring and schedule the jobs. I didn't get rich, but I did make an extra $25k a year — not bad for three to five hours of work a week during my down time! has a great list of service businesses to start you thinking. Or you might also want to visit for more resources.

2.  Do your homework before making it official

Once you've familiarized yourself with the possibilities and identified a few types of businesses that might be needed in your area, try to poll at least 50 people to see which services they would use in the next six months and if they'd pay the price you would charge. Their answers will give you a good idea of which field you should go into.

Also, before pulling the trigger on your business, take time to research the licenses, permits, and certifications you may need for the industry you're entering, and make sure that obtaining them won't be prohibitive. You can usually find the information you need at your local business tax office or by contacting your Chamber of Commerce. And take it from the voice of experience: Start filling out that paperwork early. Government bureaucracies can be painfully slow!

Introduction  Introduction

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