Here's my current list of favorite home businesses. They require small investment, are offshore- and recession-resistant, and offer a good risk/reward ratio.
- Agent for job seekers. So many job seekers feel unable to write a resume and cover letter, let alone cold-call potential employers. Just as actors and musicians hire agents to land them auditions, you can help job seekers to land job interviews.
- Marketing consultant. For example, help small business owners to market their business. Specialize, for example, in mom 'n' pop restaurants, or help owners of vacation homes and time shares to get their places rented.
- Consulting writer or editor. Solicit small businesses to hire you to write or edit a newsletter, ads, catalog copy, even business letters.
- Counselor to college-bound students. You'll have an edge if you can also advise on how to find money for college.
- Personal, career, life-transitions, money, or dating coach.
- Accountant or bookkeeper. Especially as electronic records become ubiquitous even in small businesses, this is a business you can run from home.
- Create small-scale architectural models for developers, realtors, municipalities, architects, and landscape architects.
- Tutor. You can charge surprisingly high rates, especially if you specialize. Examples: math for girls, autistic kids, organic chemistry.
Alas, the idea is only 10% of success. The rest?
- Practical intelligence. That means the ability to buy cost-effectively, price at market value, and quickly solve the myriad problems that arise in running a business. You can't always ask a consultant or friend to help you.
- Drive. Procrastinators, you're probably better off working for someone else.
- Willingness to sweat the details. You're at risk of failing if you think you can get away with being big-picture. You must be willing to to discipline yourself to take care of the details.