Have you been considering starting a home business? You’re not alone –– more than 28 million small businesses keep the American economy moving forward every day. When you’re ready to launch a business from your home and be your own boss, you may have several questions. Here are a few answers to help start things off right.

How do I set up a home office?

You don’t need a lot of space for a home office, but you do need a dedicated space. If you hope to maximize space in a spare room or the corner of a large family room, think about organization. Keep things decluttered and be minimal with what you keep on surfaces. Consider installing a sleek L-shaped desk in the corner, which takes up less space than a traditional desk and often has more storage to help bring order to the disarray of files, folders, mail, contracts and other paperwork.

Think about what helps you focus— soft colors, natural lighting, an exercise bike, a laptop versus a desktop computer— and be sure to include those things in your home office. It needs to be a place where you are comfortable, motivated and free from the distractions of the rest of your house.

What kinds of tools do I need?

No matter what focus your home business has, you need equipment to run it. There will be things you need specific to your industry, such as woodworking tools, a sewing machine or a large, high-resolution monitor. But there will also be tools that every business owner needs, including invoicing software, data protection for client information, a business credit card, a webcam for video conferencing, project management software, and financial software to help you manage your accounts and taxes.

How do I get (and keep) customers?

There is no simple answer to this question. However, there are a few guidelines when it comes to winning customers. 

First, be authentic. Be true to what you can offer and who can benefit from your business. Secondly, target your audience. Most new business owners think a shotgun approach to finding customers is best, tossing a wide net over a vast client pool. While you may think this will catch more customers, it does the opposite. Narrow your focus on customers who have a pain or a passion that only your company can solve. For instance, if you make custom wooden rocking chairs, target your message to new parents, retirees or people who own cabins — you’ll have more success if you reach out to the people most likely to be interested in your product or service.

What are the best ways to stay productive?

Setting daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals is a great way to keep productivity high. Many business leaders find that starting big and working backward creates a successful and sustainable productivity plan. For example, let’s say you are a human resources consultant, and one of your annual goals is to create a video series on project management. Working backward from this large goal means that your quarterly goal could be to plan the content of the videos. Taking it a step back even further, say you strive to obtain 50 subscriptions to your videos each month and make five new videos a week; that means that each day, you should share clips of those videos on social media to reach out to new audiences. To stay productive, you need to set big and small goals and create milestones, both short-term and long-term, to achieve them. 

It takes a great deal of courage and conviction to start your own home business. From creating a space that inspires to setting goals that keep you productive, you can be well on your way to being one of those amazing home businesses that not only survives, but also thrives.

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A company can receive hundreds of resumes for each job opening it posts. If you’re one of the lucky few that land an interview, you’ll have to convince the hiring managers that you’re the best candidate for the job. Impressing prospective employers requires more than a firm handshake and a professional appearance. If you want an interview to end in a job offer, you need to go in prepared.

These are the tips every candidate should follow when preparing for a job interview.

Research the Company’s Work

An informed candidate is always more attractive than an ill-prepared one. Do your homework and research the company before the interview. Visit their website to learn about the full scope of the company’s work, not just the position you’re applying for. In addition to the company website, press releases, social media pages, and industry contacts are valuable sources of information about a company’s work and reputation.

Don’t limit your research to what the company is doing today. Learn about projects that are underway and read industry news to understand where the company is headed.

Research the Company’s Culture

Skills only get you so far. Fitting in with a company’s culture is equally important to your success in a job. You can’t get the full picture of a company’s culture before working there, but certain clues can tip you off. Glassdoor reviews, social media pages, and customer reviews are good sources of information about a company’s culture, but the best is the office environment. Show up a few minutes early to the interview and pay attention to how employees interact with each other.

Read the Job Description

It can take a couple of weeks to hear back after applying for a job. You’re likely to forget the ins and outs of the job description during that time, so read the posting again to refresh your memory. (It’s a good idea to screenshot job postings when applying in case they’re removed before the interview.) Take note of important qualifications and responsibilities; you’ll need to demonstrate that you match them in the interview.

Practice Interview Questions

Even with diligent research, nerves can affect your performance during the interview. Rehearsing interview questions in advance calms interview jitters so you can answer questions clearly and confidently. Think about how you’ll answer common questions, and brainstorm industry-specific questions you might be asked. It’s also wise to come up with a few questions of your own. Asking good questions shows hiring managers you’ve thought seriously about your role in their company. It’s smart to have a general idea of how you’ll answer interview questions, but avoid over-rehearsing. Your answers should feel natural, not scripted.

Gather Interview Materials

It’s good practice to bring resume copies to your interview. Forbes recommends four or five copies, but if you know how many people are on the interview panel, bring that number plus one or two extra. Include a portfolio or work samples if your industry calls for it. In addition to resume copies and a portfolio, bring a list of references and a notepad and pen. You can bring a bottle of water, but don’t carry in your coffee or lunch.

Finally, get some rest! You want to be at your best during a job interview. While it’s tempting to let your nerves get the best of you and stay up all night preparing, you’ll perform best if you’re well-rested and refreshed when you walk into your interview.

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One of the great things about the gig economy is that you can make a good living while working as your own boss, thanks to the internet and a growing demand for freelance workers with specific job skills. If you like the idea of working from home (or anywhere you like) and making a good living without a demanding supervisor hanging over your shoulder, the gig economy could be the perfect job situation for you. 

Of course, if you’re new to freelancing, be aware that there are trade-offs: as a freelancer, there’s no one withholding taxes from your pay. There’s also no one (other than your clients) monitoring your work and checking your progress, so it’s also up to you to meet deadlines and to be self-motivated.

At Your Service

Before you do anything else, it’s paramount that you determine your niche, the services you can offer, and whether you have the characteristics necessary to running your own business. Take a long hard look at your skill set. Where you’re strongest and where you excel the most might not line up with a freelance career. On the other hand, you could have just the right experience to start a consulting business, to become a freelance writer, or to become a graphic designer. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something you can provide on a consistent basis. Avoid jumping into something you’ve never done before and where you have no background. It could be a nasty surprise when you can’t deliver what clients are looking for.   

Work Area

It’s crucial to have the right workspace at home to help maximize productivity. If you’re used to having an office, cubicle or some other dedicated work area, it might be helpful to set up something similar at home. All you really need is a desk or table large enough to accommodate your computer and any other necessary equipment. If possible, choose a quiet space and arrange it so you’re less likely to be distracted. Creating a defined space that’s yours alone to work in can help keep you focused mentally. 

Accounts Receivable

Getting paid and how you get paid are other critical factors. If you don’t already have payment practices set up with clients, think through how you’ll handle invoicing, and making sure you’re paid in a timely fashion and according to terms. If you’re the type who struggles to balance your checking account, you may want to use an invoicing application. Square Point of Sale, for example, handles all your invoices, payments and sales information in one convenient location. It’s a good way to centralize and track the information you need to check your profitability and productivity, and it beats trying to maintain a ledger and multitask as a number cruncher if you don’t have the inclination or experience for it. 


More than likely, you’ll need to call on friends and old business contacts as you get started. Networking is important in the gig economy just as it is in the mainstream workplace economy. Social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, are good places to begin when you’re getting started. Social media is the landscape for marketing and job prospecting these days for companies and freelancers the world over. 

If you’re considering moving into the gig economy, remember that you don’t absolutely have to make a wholesale jump. Try building some business for yourself on the side before deciding to leave your full-time job, if that makes you more comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with hedging your bet.

Photo: Pixabay

Are you looking for a way to supplement your retirement income without returning to the nine-to-five rat race? You’re not alone! Many Americans want to continue working past retirement age, and most desire part-time work. Yes, retirement is full of perks, like getting the time to pursue your passions and spend more time with loved ones. But what if you could maximize these perks by having more time and more money in retirement? The trick is to find the right gig for you. Below are money-making options that work well for seniors, along with lifestyle benefits you can expect.

  1. Use your proven skills in a part-time job or as a consultant. Whether you have a background in graphic design, writing, or as a CPA, freelance opportunities abound on sites such as Upwork. If you were a teacher, consider offering your services as a tutor. Are you a marketing guru? Consultants have great earning potential. 
  2. Focus on your passions. Do you finally have the time to pursue your interest in mosaics or soap making? Go for it, and sell your goods on Etsy or at your local farmers market. Are you crazy about dogs? You could set up your own pet-sitting or dog-boarding business. If you love dogs and getting outdoors, you could start your own dog-walking business.
  3. Work from home. If the thought of earning money without ever leaving the comfort of home appeals to you, there are many great work-from-home jobs for retirees. Check out job search websites to find the perfect match for you (our Job Boards page has a great list). 
  4. Get out of the house. If you prefer being out in public, consider being an Uber or Lyft driver. 
  5. Make money online. Do you love to shop and have a knack for buying low and selling high? Entrepreneurial success stories abound for those who sell on eBay. Finding items to sell can be as easy as combing your local garage sales or by heading up to your attic! Who knew that clearing out 40 years of your stuff could earn you money? 
  6. Consider listing your spare room on Airbnb. This can be a great moneymaker if you live near business districts or tourist attractions. Plus, Airbnb makes it simple and secure to earn money while reaching millions of travelers looking for a unique place to stay. 

Lifestyle Benefits

Greater Financial Security

The longer you can delay tapping into your 401(k) or IRA, the better off you are. Plus, once you reach full retirement age, you can work as much as you like without impacting your Social Security benefits. 

A Sense of Purpose and Added Structure 

Beyond the financial benefits, many report feeling purpose and structure in their lives.

Better Physical, Mental, and Cognitive Health

Research suggests that people who work after retiring enjoy better health. A recent study cited by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College noted that “working provides people with substantial financial, psychosocial and cognitive resources to draw upon, while retirement can create stress, anxiety and even depression.” 

Increased Longevity

Some studies have found that seniors who work later in life actually live longer. 

Whether you decide to mentor others or sell guitars on eBay, the opportunities are endless, complete with the flexibility and freedom you need. While there’s no guarantee you’ll add years to your life if you work beyond 65, it is guaranteed you’ll add meaning and happiness when you find work that brings you joy each day. The key is to find what makes your heart sing. As a retiree, there’s never been a better time to find out what that is.

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