Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Smart Skills
Home-based ventures
Usha Albuquerque

Over the past few weeks, shops and markets have remained filled with colourful diyas, candles and gifts of all shapes, sizes and materials. Scented candles, floating candles, silver diyas, bejewelled diyas, dry fruits in colourful wrappings, sweets, chocolates and gift items of all kinds have been flooding the market. Most of these are home-made by those enterprising enough to see the huge business opportunity. The festival season is an excellent time for the home entrepreneur.

Making candles and gift items for the Divali season is only a small part of the variety of self-generated work possible today. Whether it is making pickles or jams, starting a real estate agency, or providing IT services, home-based entrepreneurship is often the most attractive career option for many. Women with small families, people who re-locate, early retirees, and those who need to be at home to handle other personal responsibilities are finding that it is no longer necessary to have a 9-5 job sitting in an office. There are more and more people trying their hand at either a full-time or part-time home-based business venture providing free-lance articles for magazines and journals, beauty care services, catering services, conference and exhibition services, selling books, providing interior design or education services or even a variety of quick home services.

So if you cannot venture out on a full-time job, you can use your talents to either create products from home for a variety of purposes, or provide a service. Making or creating products from home requires using some skills, some finance and probably premises for products that could range from your own paintings, to scented candles or even gift cards and stationary. If you have an aptitude for designing and tailoring clothes, you can turn your spare room into an exclusive boutique for clothes, household linen, lamp-shades and so on. If you have an aptitude or training in culinary skills, you can set up a catering service for a variety of food items from pickles and sauces to specialised items like chocolates and cakes for festivals and parties, and even complete meals and speciality food items. Many of today's big culinary ventures started out by delivering speciality dishes and meals to regular clients, catering for parties and weddings, and possibly managing events too.

If you do not want to invest much money, but have a skill you can use, there are many avenues open to you. The information age of computers and telecommunications makes it possible to market a variety of services that only require a computer, modem and telephone. These include marketing services such as telemarketing, telecommunications, data processing and even call centre and BPO work. Other services that can be out-sourced from homes are in areas such as advertising and design, interior design, publishing, internet services, teaching, as also a range of corporate services. Qualified MBAs with some years of experience need not feel the loss of career growth if circumstances should force them to stay at home due to domestic compulsions. Many set up their own consultancy services in a range of management areas such as finance, marketing, market research, personnel services or even management consultancy. If you have the resources and manpower, and more importantly, the expertise/ technical knowledge, you can have your own consultancy offering a variety of services, ranging from matrimonial services and diet consultancy to head hunting services. With some training in travel and tourism, you can start your own travel agency/ consultancy, provide tourist taxis for hire, or organise special interest tours for Indian or international groups

Those with language skills can sit at home and edit manuscripts, or proof-read for grammatical and typographical errors for book and magazine publishers. Free-lance writing for newspapers, magazines, or web-sites, as also tracking news reports, developing content and conducting research through the net, and providing a clippings service also offer big opportunities.

Those who can draw and paint with creative and artistic skills can take up graphic design and illustrations for books. Advertising companies require a range of graphic design services that can as easily be done from the home as from the office.

Art and craft skills can also provide openings in areas of interior design for offices and homes, fashion, jewellery and accessory design for designers or boutiques, and handling of art works or holding art exhibitions, and other related services.

With the growing demand for a range of beauty, health and cosmetic treatments, this, too, provides ample opportunities for trained professionals to strike out on their own by setting up of a beauty parlour at home or offering personalised services to customers in their own homes. An increasing demand for new faces and acting talent for television, films and modelling can provide opportunities for setting up of a model or television coordinating agency. Organising talent, keeping their portfolios and hiring out services to television companies and advertising agencies can also be a lucrative business.

Another service much in demand is that of teaching. Today school and college teachers find it far more lucrative sitting at home giving tuitions on school subjects, than teaching at schools or colleges. Many teachers have started out coaching two to three batches of 20-30 students, and before long hiring other teachers and increasing their intake of students. Moreover those with specialized knowledge or training in fields such as music, dance, painting, yoga, aerobics or even cooking can hold classes for others wanting to pick up and develop these skills. In the same way those with organizational and inter-personal skills can handle events, seminars, workshops and other social and business activities as well as handle liason and representational work for different organizations.

Running a security agency is another activity that can be conducted from home. Several retired police and service personnel are finding that their past experience comes in handy for starting such a venture.

If you have green fingers, and are good at gardening you can open a plant nursery or provide plants to homes and offices. If you are an animal lover, you can open a pet farm and breed pets for sale.

So, earning from home is not very difficult, especially if you have the talent and the drive to make your business succeed. All you need is, some money and a few contacts to start off initially. And the necessary skills or talent where necessary. Other personal attributes that can help you succeed would be, perseverance, self-confidence, interpersonal skills, some business acumen and imagination. Moreover, you must have a hold on the pulse of the potential customers.

So for those who cannot go out and do a job, there are always opportunities for a lucrative career from home.

The writer is a noted career expert