Start a Business From Home -- Without Giving Up Your Day Job

Jun 01, 2015 - Joe Matar
Just a few short decades ago, startup businesses were nurtured in garages and basements by using pencil, paper, and maybe a trusty calculator. The Internet age has brought with it even more free and low-cost tools available to those hoping to launch their dream business at home. According to a 2012 survey by Small Business Trends, nearly 70 percent of small biz start-ups actually start in the home or garage of the mastermind behind that business. If you have a hobby or a side hustle you’re extremely passionate about, a computer and a corner of your home in which to work, there’s not much stopping you from starting a business of your own while you’re holding down the 9-to-5 grind. Added bonus if you own your home: you can write off that garage or room in your house devoted to your business on your taxes. If you want to start a business while still working full-time, think about your unique value proposition for a business can be launched inexpensively from home. Here are four of the best garage-based startups for burgeoning entrepreneurs to consider: (Click here to tweet this list of startups.)

Etsy storefront for crafts or vintage wares

There might be no better marketing platform to showcase creative wares than Etsy. Whether you have a knack for making artisanal jewelry or woodworking handmade furniture, it’s simple to set up an Etsy shop devoted to your own creations. The Etsy marketplace continues to expand by the week, guaranteeing a substantial target audience of potential customers. Need further proof that it’s possible to have a successful Etsy store and still work full time? Look to Serena Fortenberry, an instructor with the University of Alabama’s English department who owns Vintage Squalor, an Etsy haven for vintage housewares, linens and textiles. While Etsy is great for vintage finds, it’s also a place for craftsmen and women to sell unique, handmade wares. Inspired by the farm-to-table movement, Heirloom Home & Studio specializes in beautiful, handmade porcelain baskets and bowls inspired by the paper containers used for berries and other produce. Heirloom Home & Studio is an example of an Etsy merchant that expertly weaves together multiple trends — including a passion for organic food and durable, rustic design — and has succeeded in addressing its audience’s needs.

Tech-centric services

Think about what computer skills you possess, from web design to desktop publishing to basic programming, and consider how such your expertise could become a profitable business. If you have skill with graphic design, typesetting, or even programming, you can parlay your tech skills into a successful side gig on evenings and weekends. Sites like Craigslist,, and Behance are great places to find people looking for qualified designers and technophiles. One client can jumpstart your business. There’s no greater garage-based tech success story than that of Steve Jobs. Along with his partner, Steve Wozniak, Jobs started the empire that would become Apple from a humble garage. In fact, that garage has become so legendary that the birthplace of Apple computers has been dubbed a historic site.

Freelance editing and writing

The world of freelance wordsmithing is growing with the amount of online content available. For those with the editorial skills and spirit, opportunities can be found proofreading copy or writing on freelance topics as diverse as entertainment reviews to political blogs. It’s very easy to maintain a full-time job and devote a little bit of time to building a freelance writing portfolio. Author and Slate columnist Mason Currey juggled full-time employment as a magazine editor while he was starting his own writing career outside his day job. You can do it, too. Media companies and various agencies are always looking for new talent to assist with the resounding call for content these days. The same sites that seek tech professionals also frequently call for freelance writers and editors. A client or two presents a great opportunity to clear out the garage or spare bedroom and set up a nice, quiet workspace for your writing endeavors.

Sound engineering

If you’re an audiophile with an ear for production, there is no shortage of local bands who would love to have someone capably produce demos or other sound packages for them. Sound mixing software can be purchased relatively inexpensively to create a comprehensive computer "recording studio" right from your garage. You can advertise online and book bands to record demos while you engineer the sound. Rick Rubin, mega-producer and one of the minds behind Def Jam records, started the label from his NYU dorm room. At the time, all Rubin had was a four-track recorder — a relic as far as many of today's aspiring engineers are concerned. But it morphed into one of the most recognizable names in the music industry and put Rubin on the map as a renowned record producer who worked with artists like the Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash.

Your next step

Your own unique skill set is the most important thing to consider when considering building a startup venture from your garage while still punching the clock at your day job. What are you good at that can also be a marketable endeavor? Take stock of yourself, evaluate your options, then work toward making your special talent a profitable one — all from the confines of your garage! John Meyer (@johnameyer) is Head of Strategic Partnerships/Marketing at The Company Corporation. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and connecting them to resources that help them thrive.