You Only Need A Few Hours to Start Your Own Part-Time Business
EVEN IF YOUR full-time job leaves you little time during the week, a few hours on Saturday and Sunday might be all you need to start a nifty, profitable business. You won’t have to risk your life savings or quit your day job.
Even if you are thinking of starting a full-time business someday, the experience you gain from launching a part-time business can be invaluable later when developing a larger enterprise.
You may think you don’t have the knowledge or expertise to start a business, but many businesses require very little expertise – you can usually pick that up along the way. To begin, you mostly just need a little time, a little confidence, and little sense of adventure!
Here are just of a few of my suggestions to get you thinking:
1. Party Planner
Demand just goes up, up, up in the party business. Kids’ parties, office parties, and adult celebrations! What a fun way to make money!
For example, for one of my daughter’s early birthdays, we hired a “Barbie doll” look-alike.
Bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs are on a whole other level – these celebrations are in a class by themselves! I’ve been to some of these events that are as large and sophisticated as a small circus!
I met a fellow working in the clown business, exclusively focusing on bar and bat mitzvahs. He just works on Saturdays and pockets a pretty $200 an hour. He actually went to clown school if you can imagine that – I bet I could have excelled at that kind of school! Now he has built up his business to include a whole carload of fellow clowns he rents out.
You don’t really need to go to clown school to get started! Just rent a clown suit, blow up a few balloons, learn a few magic tricks and away you go! You don’t even have to smile – you can paint a smile on your face. But then again, making $200 an hour for having fun with kids should be enough to make anyone look happy!
2. Floating Art Gallery
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know some people who have highly established art galleries in excellent locations. Despite these advantages, some still struggle in business at times, as art styles and sales cycles run up and down – the overhead and the rent just seem to go up and up. Enter the “floating art gallery,” where there is no rent or other overhead – just pure profit!
For a floating art gallery, you simply make arrangements with different restaurants, bars, or coffee shops to host your art shows for free in exchange for all the promotion and traffic you will bring to their respective businesses.
How do you promote a floating art gallery? I would totally focus on free promotion – no advertising at all! I would get on the events listings section of every local newspaper, magazine, and website. Then, I’d relentlessly try to get picked up in blogs that might possibly be related. I would reach out to every person I ever knew on social media and email and get them to reach out to their friends. Then, I’d carefully develop, cultivate, and nourish a mailing list. Of course, I would also put posters everywhere I could possibly think of!
What about the artwork? Doesn’t that require a hefty investment? Heck no! Don’t buy any artwork outright! Take it on consignment – you only pay for it if and when it sells.
What are the keys to success? Finding highly sellable artwork, having a huge profit margin, and being really aggressive and creative with your marketing. A great benefit of this kind of business is you can develop repeat browsers and repeat buyers, all of whom can help promote your business through social media, creating momentum that can build like a snowball!
3. Mobile Car Washing and Detailing
I thought about opening up a car wash business (well, to be honest, there aren’t too many businesses I haven’t thought about going into). They can be lucrative, but they are a huge undertaking – car washes require a significant investment and are not always easy to get approved by the local zoning board. Also, they require a ton of water, which costs more than you would think.
On the other hand, a mobile car washing and detailing business has basically no expenses (other than a little soap, a couple of sponges, and old towels). Plus, you get to use the water at your client’s house! No investment, no overhead, and high demand! Now that’s my type of business.
Furthermore, most people want to have their car washed at home on the weekend or when they want to look their best for Saturday or Sunday night outings.
I see the key to making this type of business happen is using guerilla marketing to get the word out. I would try every marketing trick possible. But most of all I would focus on building up the regular clientele that wants to get their car washed every week or every other week. If you seek long-term clients, you can even afford to give away the first-week trial wash for free so they can see how awesome your service is!
Remember that the benefit for your client is not only that you do a fabulous wash, but also that they save a half hour driving to the car wash!
4. Social Media Service
If you’re having fun on Facebook and the like, why not get paid to play with social media?
Many small business people who could really benefit from social media don’t have the time or energy to get involved with it, and particularly don’t have the time or expertise to do it well!
Different small business owners will have wildly different demands, expectations, and budgets. Some businesses will have no idea what to promote on social media and will look for you to develop ideas from the ground up. Others may have a good idea, but simply lack the time to keep up with their postings.
Be sure to clarify and set realistic expectations for each client.
To get going in this business, I might offer a couple, very basic “starter packages,” where for one price you get a client up and running. I’d tend to keep the price low, “over deliver,” and make the client happy – then try to build a long-term relationship, offering a fixed package of services for an annual subscription or monthly price.
5. Collectibles Trading
If you have a hobby that involves collectibles, why not turn that passion into a business? Antiques, paintings, and estate jewelry…the possibilities are endless.
Just yesterday, I was at a model railroad show jammed with booths consisting of exhibitors selling antique, “collectible,” or even just used model trains. Some of these people travel a weekend circuit from one show to the next, often carting their wares on a trailer behind their SUV or pickup truck.
Many of these dealers are supplementing their income by selling online as well, using the in-person shows to help build their clientele.
Going into this space, you need to be particularly disciplined in valuing and paying for items. You want to be able to buy items at a cheap enough price so that you can still make good money when you sell them at a fair price. You also need to avoid items that may take a long, long time to find the right buyer. The more you specialize – assuming you specialize in a not too narrow area – the better your chances are.
Another trap you can fall into in this space is buying or overpaying for items more because you like them rather than because you can easily sell them.
I would start very cautiously in this space, with a very small table at a reasonably high-traffic show. Until I had a solid feel for what was sellable, I would minimize my inventory investment and would be happy if I broke even the first few months. Longer term, if you could make this business work, it could be a lot of fun in addition to being profitable!
6. Test Prep Tutoring
Every year, millions of high school students are trying to pump up their standardized test scores to try gain admission to their dream college. Many of them turn to tutors to get an edge.
To get into this field, you should be able to score reasonably well on whatever tests in which you will be specializing. If you haven’t aced your favorite test yet, then you could be your own first client and practice up. If you can send your own scores through the roof, you can then boast about the results!
Talk about a low-investment business…you don’t need one nickel to start this one! You don’t even need a car! You could advertise your services on bulletin boards around town and offer your tutoring either in your clients’ homes, at the library, or at the local coffee shop.
As you develop this business further, the sky is the limit. You could expand not only into additional tests but also into college admissions counseling. One of my classmates from business school offered test prep and college counseling with a single complete package being priced at $50,000! I met a woman at one of the co-share centers at which I worked who previously worked as a college counselor and had been successful enough in her college testing and admissions counseling service to add several full-time employees. Granted she had previous experience as a college admissions officer and co-authored a book about college admissions, but if you can read a book you could get up to speed on this process too!
At another office complex at which I worked, I met an entrepreneur who had developed a booming business focusing on helping place foreign students at US private high schools.
7. Catering or Bartending Service
Personally, I’d think about a bartending service before a full-fledged catering service – catering sounds like hard work to me! One of my longest-duration jobs ever was the 8 weeks I worked as a busboy when I was 16. One of the shortest-duration jobs was the 2 weeks I worked as a dishwasher when I was 17. Both were a lot of work. But, if you really like cooking, you could consider catering or maybe just renting yourself out as a personal chef.
Of course, I might be a little more inclined to start a catering business if I had ever learned to cook anything beyond a hotdog! One of my friend’s sons, on the other hand, learned how to cook at a young age and started his own catering business when he was about 12 years old – successfully running it for a number of years, despite attending school on a pretty regular basis. So if he can do it – and you can cook a little bit more than I am able to – then you could start and run your own catering business too!
What I might personally get more excited about would be just offering a bartending service. This option sounds like a lot less work than offering a full-service meal! Bartending services are in particularly strong demand on the weekends – perfect for allowing you to keep your day job as you build your clientele!
8. Car or Boat Resale
I’ve never tried to make a business out of selling used cars, but my college girlfriend said it was just the kind of business she envisioned me going into. However, I did buy and sell used boats during a couple college summer vacations.
I had no prior experience, making it a little scary at first to lay down my meager savings to buy my first used boats when I wasn’t sure if I would ever get my money back. But I gained confidence quickly. More importantly, I learned to specialize in faster-selling popular models (in my case Boston Whaler outboard power boats) that everyone wanted and that I could turn over quickly. I even sold a Boston Whaler to the famous author, Norman Mailer.
I would typically clean up and polish each boat, and maybe even do a little cosmetic work like replacing a little of the fancy mahogany decorative wood. Sometimes, I’d do a little repair work. Most of all, I would boost the price – I very carefully bought the boats cheap enough that I could mark them up and still sell the finished product at a reasonable price.
One key to success in this kind of business is not getting overeager. In other words, you need to patiently wait for the best deals that offer you a high probability of making a good profit margin. Another key is having low overhead. I had very low overhead working out of my parent’s backyard – at least until the town sent us a “cease and desist” letter for violating local zoning laws. It’s necessary to keep a very low profile with only a couple cars or boats at your house at a time. Of course, part of the fun of this business is having a constantly changing collection of very cool cars or boats at your disposal to take for a spin now and then!
9. House/Condo Staging
I was just watching one of the “million dollars” real estate shows. On this one episode, to get an uber-expensive listing, the broker had to agree to “stage” or temporarily furnish an over the top, upscale penthouse. The cost for the staging: $35,000! And you can bet the real estate agent didn’t do the staging work himself. No, that is the size of the check that the staging company will pocket. Not bad for temporarily setting up some furniture – especially if you can polish it up and re-use it for future stagings!
I like this business because it seems to be growing fast. Even if you have to buy the furniture, you should get some money back quickly. Furthermore, there is a lot of room for specialization. Maybe you could just stage new homes for builders? Maybe you could focus on upscale apartments? Or focus on suburban homes? On top of this, if you like being around exciting homes and choosing nifty furniture, it could be a lot of fun!
10. Garage Clean Out and Trick Out
My garage is a mess and yours might be too, but it doesn’t have to be that way! A couple of my car nut friends have had their garages turned into car palaces with not only everything cleaned up, but also special floor and wall finishings installed, as well as snappy looking storage compartments.
Thus, garage services could take several different routes – or you could offer a complete line of services. You could only do removal and disposal of all that junk that clutters garages. You could offer an extensive cleaning service. Or you could offer to turn the garage into a car palace.
Personally, I would tend to start with the simpler services, but even a weekend business would likely require some part-time, energetic people to help with the basic work as soon as possible. If you do hire people, make sure that you follow the labor laws and that includes getting worker’s compensation insurance!
11. eBay Business
You can make good money on eBay or other online marketplaces. I met a high school student, for example, who made enough money to pay off a good chunk of his college tuition with an eBay enterprise. However, while an eBay business seems very simple, there are also plenty of people who have gotten tripped up in the process, made key mistakes, and had a rough go of it.
Like other part-time businesses, I recommend starting small – with an eBay business I would recommend starting “in miniature.” Really get a feel for your market space with just a few items. Get a feeling for how customers will respond to your wares, how pricing will work, how bidders tend to respond if you go the auction route, and how to master the important details of processing transactions, packing goods, and shipping these wares.
You need a marketplace or a specialty. Even if at first you have access to a lot of unrelated items for good prices, try to develop some focus. You will get to know what sells and what doesn’t sell; you will learn what sells quickly; you will learn how you should price and describe your wares, and you will learn what to expect from customers. With a specialization, you can ideally acquire some repeat clientele, developing a good reputation and building word of mouth and confidence in the process.
An eBay business could be built into a sizable enterprise, but don’t rush it! Watch your gross margins, ship and pack carefully! Don’t touch any items that might possibly be counterfeit or of questionable quality. Finally, if you are going to specialize, try to find some area that you really enjoy!
Related: How to Start an Online Business While in School
12. Rehabbing Houses
I’ve known several people who have made money rehabbing apartment buildings and houses. One friend works full time as a stockbroker, another ran a multimillion-dollar employment agency, while the third made rehabbing his full-time business.
These people spend a lot of effort buying properties for great prices. They tend to focus on one town and one type of property, getting to know the ins and outs of that particular market. They don’t necessarily wait for properties to be advertised. Instead, they might approach potential sellers of rundown properties before they hit the market.
While you could start out doing the rehab work yourself, my friends have typically contracted it all out. However, finding reliable people to do the work for reasonable prices and on a reasonable schedule is not always easy.
I have seen experienced, full-time builders get fleeced by contractors who either run out of money or take some payments in advance and disappear. This situation can be particularly messy and costly if a contractor that you have paid never gave money to the subcontractors, leaving you to pay for the same work twice!
Therefore, you want to choose your contractors carefully: get references, make sure they are insured and try to minimize any amounts you have to pay them before the work is done.
Sometimes, one of my friends goes into a rehab project without investing a penny of his own money. For example, he might raise a very small amount of equity from private investors, and then finance the majority of his project with a bank mortgage or with a commercial asset-based lender.
One of the great things about rehabbing work is that you can pretty much control your work schedule. Furthermore, if you are careful, any money you have at risk should be fairly well protected by the underlying value of the property.
Like with any other business, you could start small, such as with a studio apartment project, and then move up from there.
13. Personal Shopping Service
Well here’s a fun little business that I haven’t actually considered myself. Why? To be honest, I don’t really like to go shopping – except for new accessories for my model railroad, and there isn’t a demand for personal shoppers for model trains.
But if you like shopping, there are plenty of people (typically busy business executives and the like) who want to hire you to do their shopping for them! With this business, I’d particularly emphasize the personal touch when seeking customers. Reach out to all possible contacts and don’t be shy to push them to pass the word on to everyone they know. This business is an obvious candidate for social media promotion. I would also consider starting a fun blog on what cool styles you are noticing in the stores today!
14. Craft Business
Years ago, my Great Aunt Betty made a lot of creative craft items. For a while, she sold them through a small shop on her property; she also sold them directly to stores. For example, I remember her taking her handmade basket-type pocketbooks to be sold at Bonwit Teller’s, once one of Boston’s most prestigious women’s stores.
Today, the Internet has dramatically expanded the opportunity and ease with which one can break into the craft business. With websites like Etsy.com, you can not only find a place to sell your goods but also get an idea of what other people are making money on.
This is a particularly cool business because you can start as small as you want, working as few hours as you like. Yet, if you create something that catches on, you could build a global brand – the upside is unlimited!
15. Resume and Cover Letter Writing
Anyone with decent writing skills can easily become a master resume and cover letter writer! And are there ever people who could benefit from your help!
As an employer, I often see one sloppy, poorly written, inadequately proofed resume and cover letter after the next!
Furthermore, so many candidates have resumes that are basically attendance records! A resume instead should be a sales pitch that trumpets achievements, skills, and abilities! A great resume and a standout cover letter can go a long way to helping people find a job – and you can help!
My Adams Media book publishing company became one of the largest-selling publishers in the US of resume and cover letter books. We sold millions of these books! The demand for helping people in this space is insatiable!
The different ways of delivering this service are almost endless. You could set up a small office, meet clients at their homes or in coffee shops, transact your business online, or even sell your services as part of an outplacement service to companies laying people off.
Most people seeking a better resume and cover letter will still have a job, so demand for this kind of service will run particularly high on weekends – a great advantage if you want to keep your day job while you get started in this business!
You could also offer to write online profiles or develop personal websites to help promote your clients. For example, I have met people whose sole business is writing profiles for LinkedIn.
16. Yard Sales
Carefully plan out and set up your yard sale, just like you would set up a business. Start with a small business plan, maybe just one page. Then, create a meticulous inventory of everything you could sell.
Put together a comprehensive marketing plan including signage, online and local newspaper listings, and neighborhood flyers. Don’t be shy about contacting everyone in your email database and trumpeting your event on social media!
If your first-yard sale works well, consider having additional ones or even making it an ongoing business. You could solicit friends for additional items they might like to sell or even find places (like flea markets) to buy items cheaply that you think could resell for more.
I know one woman who found enough valuable items for free at her local dump that she considered opening up a retail store to resell them. Imagine the profit margin on items you get for free!
17. Local Interest Blog
Okay, I have said making money from a blog is very hard. But if you really want to do it, it is possible to make it into a viable business.
First, be aware that there are way too many blogs out there and even those that carry advertising typically have the gross income of about $1 a day…not even enough to feed your dog!
However, there is a lot of money out there in local advertising. My college newspaper and my want-advertiser publication were both richly supported by local advertising – and today I see that market being replaced by local online websites and blogs.
Where I often vacation on the small island of Nantucket, an entrepreneur developed a very widely read blog by flooding it with an endless stream of high-quality photos of island residents. Now, he is selling an increasing amount of advertising. That being said, it seems anywhere you go on the island, there is the entrepreneur, camera in hand, working tirelessly in his search for content.
If you enjoy taking photos or writing content and don’t mind selling advertising (which can be a challenge if you don’t like being rejected), you might be able to eke out a reasonable second income at this.
18. Interior Room Painting/Wallpapering
I started a house painting business with no experience so why can’t you?
For this business, I focused the title on interior rooms and wallpapering because I thought these jobs for one or two rooms could easily be finished in a day. However, if you, like me, really are starting this with no experience and also tend to be “quick but a little sloppy,” you might be better off starting with exterior painting. Nobody loses sleep over a little spilled paint on the lawn, but you really don’t want to be dribbling wet paint in places it shouldn’t be inside the house! So maybe you focus on smaller houses that you can do in a few weekends. Or maybe you hire a couple helpers (a lot easier to hire for weekend work).
19. Website Developer
Sure, any business owner could develop a website for free using the increasingly sophisticated templates available today – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good business demand for helping people in the process!
A lot of the potential value you bring to customers is not only the mechanics of building the website but also helping business owners decide what to include on their website – and where to include it!
As I have gone over in a number of my presentations, website design is very important for many businesses – especially when it is the first point of contact with potential customers. Even if you don’t have experience, if you study up a little bit you can quickly become very proficient in the process of designing websites that help businesses attract and hold customers.
The hardest part of this business is usually finding clients, especially clients who are willing to pay a reasonable amount for your services. You can start promoting your services online, but that is often hyper competitive. So I would particularly focus on offline marketing, such as networkingthrough friends or at business events. I would also have a totally awesome-looking design for my own website to serve as a showpiece for the business!
20. Carpet Installation
Carpet only lasts for so long – then it’s time to replace it once again. Every time for you need to replace a carpet in every room that you buy new carpet for, it’s more potential work for a carpet installation firm.
You could initially break into the carpet installation business by marketing directly to consumers. However, the bigger money comes from contracting out your services to carpet retailers. Still, I’d probably try to start out doing a few jobs independently to build references and experience before approaching some small retailers for contract work.
Here, the keys to success are going to be your ability to develop relationships with carpet retailers and, if you don’t want to do the installation work yourself, to find installers who work efficiently and quickly.
With so many people in the workforce, much of this work needs to be done when people are at home which makes it ideal for a weekend business.
21. Home Landscaping
What could be an easier way to make money than pushing a lawnmower around or sweeping a rake? Well, having someone else do it for you and still getting paid for it! With this business you can have both! You can start out doing the work yourself and then hire others to do the actual work as you expand.
There are lots of great things about doing this business on the weekend beyond the most obvious: that you get to keep your day job. For one your customers are more likely to be at home on the weekend. So it’s easy to sell them and line them up on the weekend. Also, you get to work outside – a nice break from your desk job!
Also, on the weekends there is the advantage of being more likely to see your clients while working on their lawns. Show off your friendly personality and cement the bond with them, ensuring they will be customers for keeps! Better yet, you can suggest some additional services you could offer…wouldn’t a few new flowers or a couple new bushes be a nice touch?
This business is easy to market too. Of course you can have a website, but I’d also walk around door to door with simple flyers and a warm smile! Don’t forget to stop by my house! I’m always looking for a better landscape service!