Take inventory of the skills you already possess, recommends Holly Reisem Hanna, founder of career blog The Work at Home Woman. List your past jobs, education, training, passions, skills and talents to help identify vocational patterns and interests that can guide you toward your new business venture.
"In this exercise, you want to go deep," she says, "so include what you liked and didn't like about past jobs, training and schooling."
Need more small business ideas to get the wheels turning? Consider these classic business ideas you can start with no immediate costs.
Consulting and Teaching
Your best assets are the knowledge and skills you already have. So whether you're a math whiz, grammar guru or musical wunderkind, consider selling your well-honed expertise. While you may eventually want to spend a few dollars to get the word out about your services -- beyond, say, your social media contacts -- you already have the tools you need to get started, which will help keep overhead low.
Everyday home maintenance and repairs have a habit of piling up, so if you're naturally handy around the house, consider positioning yourself as a master of manual labor. Start by specializing in a niche area, like building your expertise in painting or landscaping to help build credibility among clients and not overextend yourself.
More and more companies are looking to freelancers, or independent contractors, to lower their in-house costs, giving creative types -- writers, photographers, designers -- an opportunity to share their talents with multiple clients.
Americans shell out big bucks when it comes to their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners spent $66.8 billion on their animals in 2016, with $5.8 billion of that going toward services like grooming and boarding. If pets are your passion, you can start a dog-walking or pet-sitting business for little to no money. Later on, you might take it a step further and become a trainer, though you'll want to invest in a certification to give your business credibility.
Cashing in on the fitness craze is a great idea for the athletically blessed, and there are no required costs for starting out. You can start by working out with clients in public spaces like parks and focusing on body-resistance exercises. Take your hustle to the next level by investing in some gear, like resistance bands or weights, to keep your clients progressing_and coming back to you for more. While there are no state or federal laws regulating who can and cannot declare themselves a personal trainer, a potential cost (and a worthwhile one, at that) is getting certified by an industry organization like the American Council on Exercise. You'll also want to consider liability insurance to cover any client injuries that may happen while you're training them.
But Entrepreneur Beware
Hanna recommends avoiding work in highly regulated industries, like health care, because the guidelines can be hard to navigate. Even outside of tricky industries, there are common pitfalls to avoid when pursuing your side job:
1. Don't jeopardize your main hustle. You may need to maintain full-time employment to generate income while your business is getting off the ground. It's crucial you don't allocate your best self to your side hustle and phone it in on your regular job. It's also good to double-check your contract--you don't want to start a new business only to realize you signed a noncompete clause with your full-time employer.
2. Look into licensing and certificates. Keeping overhead costs low is important, but there are some corners you don't want to cut. Even if you're building a business off of your existing skills, like cutting hair or baking, for example, make sure you follow regulatory guidelines for your industry. If you plan to run your business from your home, check your home insurance policy for what incidents are covered and which ones aren't, and buy riders accordingly for added protection.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet.
--The Associated Press