There are lots of online opportunities out there, but what I have found works best for me is low tech and old fashioned. I wash clothes and I bake bread.
Let me introduce you to, quite possibly, the easiest at-home business you can have… Wash and Fold laundry services! It isn’t glamorous and at some point you will feel like Divine in Hairspray, but it generates a decent bit of cash and is most likely something you already know how to do.
First, the legal side
Laundry is considered a service, which, in a lot of US states, means you don’t need to charge taxes, which means no messy filing of business income and quarterly returns. It is also covered by cottage industry laws, which means for the most part you can operate out of your home without dealing with your local zoning board, or registering your business as anything more complicated than a D.B.A. The only thing I would recommend looking out for is if you have any persnickety neighbors. Certain areas have cottage industry laws that state you cannot disturb/greatly affect traffic flow and parking; even if your patrons park in your private driveway, the increased traffic on the street is something someone could complain about.
Before you begin, consider how much it will cost, both long and short term
- Are your washing machine and dryer ready to be running all day every day?
- How will this affect your utility bills?
- If you have a septic system, will increasing your waste water production tax your system?
If all of those questions can be answered, and you feel ready to begin, consider your asking price. Where I am at, I can charge $1 per pound (or a little more). Do your research, and charge according to your costs. Think of it like any other business venture, and make sure you are netting a minimum 30% profit (from my personal experience it will be significantly more).
But where do you find your customers?
Look for a local business that has out-of-state contractors present and talk to them directly — there will likely be an HR person who has answered a few calls about the subject. Also consider advertising at extended-stay hotels (if you get a nice business card printed — even from your home printer — hotels are happy to keep these at the front desk, because it is a service they can refer their guests to, which makes them happy and more likely to return to and/or recommend the hotel to others). Once you find a client or two and make them happy you can rely on word of mouth. Also, hit up your local community boards and find customers that live in your town. Even if you live in a poorer community there are people who will pay to have their laundry done for the convenience (I live in a rural, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town in northern New Mexico with only one major employer and still have clients from the community).
Then, get to washing, and folding, and repeating!
A couple of bonus tips:
If you have access to it, and can coordinate a schedule, you can offer to drop off/pick up service for dry cleaning. This is great if you have weekly errands you would do anyway that are near the dry cleaner. If you go grocery shopping every Monday, and take your kids to soccer practice every Friday, you can turn those two days into your drop off and pick up days. It’ll more than pay for the gas to run your family errands.
You should expect to make killer tips. Most of the loads I take in are between 15-25 pounds, I end up getting $40 for the work, at times more than a 100% tip.
The best stain removing pre-treater I have found is one I make myself: equal parts hydrogen peroxide, water, and a healthy squeeze of Dawn dish soap. Most of the folks I wash for are miners — this mix gets out everything they have thrown at me.
Once you get established with your laundry business parlay the influx of people in your home into a second stream of income
For me, this is selling bread and jam. Again the legal issues here are practically nil. In most states, jam and bread are the only two foods you can legally sell without having produced them in a commercial kitchen. As with the laundry, the business side is covered by cottage industry laws.
I am not saying this will make you rich, but it is a great way to supplement income while home and still affords you plenty of time to do the things you need to do for yourself and your family.