Small Business Idea – Furniture Repair

Furniture repair business

Start a Small Business in Furniture Repair

Description of Job

• Repair broken pieces of furniture. • Make minor fixes to torn upholstery.

The Need and Demand for this Business

Things break, and upholstery tears, but a major piece of furniture, a valued heir- loom, or merely a favorite couch may be worth repairing to save the cost of buy- ing a new piece.

Challenges Faced by the Furniture Repair Business

The two principal challenges are deciding whether a broken piece of furniture can be repaired and whether the repair makes economic sense. If the total cost of removal of the item, labor, parts, and return of the piece is appreciably less than the price of a new one, you have business to perform.

Be especially careful if you are working on an heirloom or antique; don’t accept a job you are not capable of doing properly, and don’t accept liability for an item of extraordinary value.

What You Should Know Before You Start This Business

You’ll need to have basic repair skills and access to dependable specialists for jobs such as welding broken frames, cutting a custom piece of wood or metal, and reupholstering. In a way, this job could be compared to being a contractor on a house: Much of the work consists of assembling a team of capable subcontractors.

Some jobs can be done in the homes of clients; assemble a mobile workshop for house calls. Otherwise, you will need a truck or require that the client arrange for pickup and delivery.

How to Get Started with a Furniture Repair Business

Advertise your availability at community centers, home and houseware stores, and antique stores.

Up-front Expenses

You’ll need a set of basic tools. You can rent many specialized devices or sub- contract out unusual tasks. Other expenses include promotion and advertising.

How Much to Charge For this Service

Charge an hourly rate plus the cost of materials; give your clients an estimate of the number of hours a job should require and notify them if the price will change markedly.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: In dealing with your client’s property, seek to limit your liability for damage or loss to the actual replacement value of items in your possession. You should protect yourself against claims for sentimental value or loss of use.

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance ➅ Insurance

Small Business Idea – Furniture Stripping

How to Get Started with a Furniture Stripping Business

start a furniture stripping business

Description of Job

• Clean valuable old furniture.

• Use chemicals to strip furniture of one or more old coats of paint, varnish, or other finishes.

• Prepare furniture for application of new finish.

The Need and Demand for this Business

Family heirlooms, an old favorite chair, or just a change in decor—sometimes it makes eminent sense to strip an old varnish, shellac, or paint finish from a still- usable piece of wooden furniture. Once the piece has been brought as close as possible to its original raw wood state, it can be re-stained and refinished.

The process can result in a rejuvenation of a valuable old piece at much less cost than buying a new piece.

wood stripping

Challenges Faced by This Small Business

This is not rocket science, but furniture stripping involves a great deal of hands- on dirty work and the use of caustic and toxic chemicals. You have to work within local, state, and federal regulations on the use and disposal of chemicals and waste materials.

Communicate clearly with your clients to make sure that they have reasonable expectations about the final product. Some finishes can be completely removed, and others cannot. Some modern finishes, including certain polyurethane and acrylic products, are difficult if not impossible to strip.

There are also some environmentally safe stripping solutions that don’t require special handling or disposal; depending on the finish being removed, they may be as effective as harsh chemicals.

Use chemically impervious gloves, eye protection, and protective clothing in your shop; make sure there is adequate ventilation to remove fumes.

Make sure your contract with the customer limits your liability for damage or loss of the furniture; don’t accept a very valuable antique or an irreplaceable heir- loom if your financial exposure is too high.

What You Should Know Before You Start This Business

The most common methods for stripping furniture are hand stripping, cold tank dipping, and hot tank dipping.

Hand stripping is the slowest, most labor-intensive, most expensive, and gen- erally the safest way to remove a finish. A chemical stripper is applied to the fur- niture with a brush, and after a specified period of time the solution is removed with rags and brushes; multiple applications may be necessary. Residue is cleaned off with lacquer thinner or other solvents.

For the cold tank method, the furniture is immersed in a tank filled with a chemical stripping solution. After a period of time, the chemical is scrubbed off and residue is washed off with water or a solvent. This method is generally the

quickest and least expensive option for commercial users and works best on pieces with just a single coat of finish; homeowners working on just one piece would end up wasting a great deal of costly stripping solution.

The most intense commercial stripping method uses a heated tank of caustic lye which removes many types of finish but may be too harsh for delicate pieces. The lye is washed off using water. A side effect of the use of lye is that it may darken some types of wood. For that reason, most pieces must then undergo a second dipping, usually in a tank of oxalic acid or a similar chemical to lighten the wood and neutralize any leftover lye. Hot dipping is well suited to removing layers of paint from architectural elements of a home, including doors, moldings, and banisters. It can also be used on painted furniture.

Modern chemicals are much easier to work with and less likely to cause any damage to furniture than older methods, but any stripping process has the poten- tial of causing some discoloration or other stress.

The most difficult finish to remove is paint, especially on pieces that have a lot of detail. For example, the paint on flat surfaces of a dresser may come off relatively easily, but it requires a lot of handwork to get the coating off of carved decorations, spindles, joined edges, and interior angles. Some practitioners use sprayers to get a stripping solution into tight spaces and objects as fine and small as jeweler’s or surgeon’s tools.

The final step may be to return the near-raw wooden piece to the customer for application of a new finish, or you may offer that service yourself. Some furni- ture strippers partner with expert furniture finishers.

How to Get Started In This Small Business

Advertise your availability at home centers, community centers, and retail stores. Make your services known to interior decorators, auction houses, and used fur- niture dealers. Place ads in newspapers and shoppers.

Ask satisfied customers to recommend you to friends and acquaintances; offer a bonus or discount for new business they send your way.

Up-front Expenses

The amount of up-front expenses for a furniture stripping business depends on the level of service you plan to provide to your customers. The least expensive setup (and the most expensive service to sell) is hand stripping; considerably more expensive are operations that offer cold and hot dipping.

For hand stripping, you’ll need tarps and level work surfaces, a selection of stripping chemicals, a set of brushes of various sizes and firmness, wooden

scrapers, disposable rags, and steel wool. You’ll also need containers for the safe disposal of flammable rags and other debris, and for disposal of used chemicals. To protect yourself, you’ll need heavy rubber gloves, safety glasses or a face

shield, and a strong ventilation system. For dipping, you’ll need several tubs large enough to fully accommodate a

piece of furniture and hold caustic chemicals and acids. You’ll also need to ar- range for safe disposal of large quantities of the solutions.

How Much to Charge for this Service

Charge an hourly rate for your time and the use of chemicals, tanks, and tools. You can offer the client an estimate of hours, but be careful not to lowball the price for intricate pieces. Plan on at least 50 percent more time for removal of paint than for shellac or varnish, and add more time for pieces with intricate carv- ings and inside angles.

If the customer has not already removed hardware such as knobs, hinges, and badges add time or a fee for that service. Add a freight charge for pickup and delivery.

Many companies also add a charge for disposal of hazardous wastes, either as a percentage of the total price or as a flat fee.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: In dealing with your client’s property, seek to limit your liability for damage or loss to the actual replacement value of items in your possession. You should protect yourself against claims for sentimental value or loss of use.

Small Business Idea – Speciality Indoor Painting

How to Start a Small Business in Specialty Indoor Painting

speciaity painting service

Description of Job

• Design and specify specialty interior painting.
• Apply special effects.
• Finish and clean up interior work.

The Need and Demand For This Business

There is no law that says interior walls need to be coated with flat, boring eggshell paint.

An interesting alternative for many homeowners is to decorate using techniques such as marbling, stenciling, sponging, strié (dragging), ragging, rag rolling, stippling, distressing, and faux finishing. In most cases, amateurs are not trained or equipped to perform such work.

This sort of job is usually limited to one or two rooms in a house and there- fore may be less attractive to a commercial painter; the skills involved are also different from those required to paint a living room off-white.

Challenges Faced By This Business

You need to understand and master a range of special techniques and tools. Make sure your clients understand exactly what effect they are requesting.

You can practice many of the techniques in your own home; you might want to create a room—perhaps a den, a section of the basement, or even the interior

of your garage—and create examples of the sort of work you are available to perform.

Things You Should Know About the Business

There are many web sites and books that describe various techniques and tools for specialty painting. Many large home supply and craft stores offer classes on specialty painting. Here are some interesting techniques:

Glazing or color washing. Dilute paints or varnishes to thin them so they can be used to apply a transparent or translucent film of color.

Stippling, or pouncing. This process delivers a sandy or lightly pat- terned effect using a specialized stippling brush to modify the surface of a glaze.

Ragging, or rag rolling. A second glaze color, of a different hue, is wiped into place with a rag to create a purposely uneven effect.

Strié, or dragging. A glaze is applied to a base color, then a dry brush is dragged over the glaze in a vertical or horizontal direction to create fine lines.

Sponging. A rough sponge is used to apply an uneven finish to a base coat or to a second coat of paint in a contrasting color.

Stenciling. You may hand-paint stenciled designs to a painted wall.

How to Get Started in this Business

Post flyers and ads at community centers, in home outlet stores, and on bulletin boards. Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Offer to conduct a class at a community school to get some publicity and per- haps some clients. Buy a table at home decorating and crafts shows to display samples of some of your work.

Make contact with interior decorators and contractors in your area; do the same with commercial painting companies that do not compete with you for spe- cialty jobs. Offer a bonus or commission for business they refer to you.

Up-front Expenses

You will need specialty brushes, sponges, stencils, and other equipment, as well as basic painting tools such as ladders, trays, rollers, tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, and masking tape.

You will have to bear the cost of experiments and practice sessions you con- duct as well as preparation of a display room or a photo album or web site to show examples of your work.

You’ll need a vehicle large enough to transport your equipment. Other expenses include research books, classes, advertising, and promotion.

How Much to Charge For The Service

Most painters quote a fixed price for a job, based on a careful estimate of the number of hours it will require plus the cost of paint and other materials. Many specialty paint jobs require multiple applications of wall covering. Some jobs are quoted on a cost-plus basis: a charge for hours of work plus the actual cost of paint and other supplies.

Prices for specialty painting are usually higher than those for standard indoor work because of the extra time, materials, and skill required.

Legal and Insurance Issues

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance

Small Business Idea – Wallpaper Hanger

Start a Small Business As a Wallpaper Hanger

wallpaper hanging business idea

Description of Job

• Consult with homeowners on wallpaper projects.
• Measure walls and order paper.
• Hang wallpaper and special treatments, including trim and borders.

The Need and Demand For This Business

Wallpaper is an attractive way to decorate a home, but most homeowners lack the time or the expertise to do a professional job by themselves.

Here’s a secret: It’s not that hard to do and does not require great feats of strength. You can learn to hang wallpaper in your own home or by working with someone else on a project, and then you can use your skills to start a profitable small business.

Challenges Faced By This Small Business

No two jobs are the same. The shape of walls and their condition will vary greatly. Some wallpaper patterns are much more difficult to match panel by panel. Some wallpapers are heavier or in other ways more difficult to work with than others.

You need to know how to accurately measure walls and how to apply those measurements to standard widths and lengths of paper.

You should also become an expert on wallpaper itself, able to make recom- mendations to your clients on the best products and to warn them off of a selec- tion that will not work well in their home or that is extremely difficult and expensive to install.

Sometimes the most difficult part of the job is in preparing the walls for the paper. There may be layers of old wallpaper to be removed, rough paint surfaces that need to be smoothed, holes to be filled, and any number of past sins to be covered up.

Any liability you accept should be limited to the value of the paper itself. In general, you should have the homeowner remove any paintings or other wall hangings and move furniture out of the way before you arrive to do the job.

What You Should Know Before Starting the Business

Visit home supply stores and wallpaper specialists to become familiar with all the different types of coverings. Contact some of the manufacturers and ask for samples and technical advice. You’ll find a wealth of information on web sites from stores and manufacturers.

You need to learn which types of paper work best in particular rooms. For example, wallpaper in a bathroom is subjected to a great deal of humidity, and paper in a kitchen needs to resist food and grease splatters. You should learn about different hanging techniques for various types of paper.

An important skill is learning how to match patterns from panel to panel; some wallpaper allows for easier matching than others, and some room designs may make installation much more difficult.

Make contact with wallpaper wholesalers and find out about programs they offer to small businesses. You may be able to direct-order wallpaper on behalf of

your clients, offering them a discount from retail prices or building some addi- tional profit into your business by reselling the wallpaper at retail price.

When you purchase wallpaper for a job, make sure the store or wholesaler is willing to take back unopened rolls of paper; you should generally order more paper than you think you will need to account for errors and problems you may encounter.

You may also be able to work out a deal to receive a discount or a commis- sion from a retail store on wallpaper and supplies you purchase on behalf of a client.

Look for information about wallpaper companies on the Internet and in ads (many of which you’ll find in women’s and home improvement magazines).

How to Get Started in the Wallpaper Hanging Business

Post ads and flyers at home supply stores, in community centers, and elsewhere. Place ads in neighborhood newspapers.

Make yourself known to area contractors who may need to hire wallpaper subcontractors for new construction or renovations.

Ask friends and relatives to spread the word, and offer discounts or referral fees to satisfied customers who recommend you to new clients.

Up-front Expenses

In addition to advertising and promotion expenses, you will need ladders, buck- ets, drop cloths, and brushes. You will also need measuring equipment.

Depending on your level of experience, you may want to practice on walls and rooms in your home before seeking outside work.

How Much to Charge For This Service

Jobs can be priced on an hourly or square-foot basis; if you charge per square foot, adjust the rate upward if the walls require extra preparation or if there are any extraordinary demands on your time.

In addition to the cost of time, the customer should pay for the wallpaper and supplies, including paste. If you order the wallpaper from a wholesale source on behalf of your client, you can mark up the price to retail prices or slightly below.

Be realistic in any estimate you make on the number of hours the job will require, and don’t promise completion of a job by a particular date unless you are certain you will have all of the supplies and the job entails no special effort.

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance

Small Business Idea – Upholstery and Slipcover Maker

Start a Small Business as an Upholstery and Slipcover Maker

Slipcover maker

Description of Job

• Reupholster sofas, chairs, ottomans, and pillows.
• Make slipcovers for upholstered furniture.
• Recover pillows.
• Design and create custom draperies.

The Need and Demand for this Business

Furniture is big, bulky, and expensive . . . and sometimes it gets cut, scratched, or stained. Then there are times when we fall in love with an expensive sofa for the living room and fall out of love with its color and fabric long before it’s paid for.

Normal wear and tear take their toll on furniture, accelerated by the presence of children and pets. Tastes change; perhaps you’ve gone through your green period and now you find yourself preferring more neutral colors.

The good news is that good-quality furniture does not have to be thrown away.

A reupholsterer removes the existing fabric and decorations to rebuild the piece from the frame up.

Another option is to create custom slipcovers that fit over the original upholstery.

Pillows can be recovered in new fabric to brighten up the furniture and deal with damage and stains.

Upholsterers can also be called on to create custom draperies, working with the same material used in remaking the furniture or in a contrasting or comple- mentary shade.

Upholstery maker

Challenges Faced By this Small Business

This job requires a sense of design and some specialized expertise, including skills in minor carpentry and working with fabrics. You need to be able to recog- nize a hidden gem and reject a makeover project when you can see that the end result will please no one.

Consider carefully before working on a valuable antique or collectible; be sure you are not taking on a huge liability in the event of damage or loss.

Things to Know Before You Start This Business

You’ll find a tremendous amount of resources in books, magazines, videos, and on the Internet. Read decorating magazines and special-interest publications about furniture repair, restoration, and reupholstering.

Local craft stores may offer seminars or classes; area experts may teach classes at community schools.

Make contact with suppliers of fabric and supplies for upholstering. They will offer samples and consultation, and some may provide training for their clients.

Upholster slipcover business

How to Get Started as an Upholstery and Slipcover Maker

Place flyers and ads at home supply stores, in community centers, at tag sales, in used furniture stores, and on bulletin boards. Place ads in newspapers and shop- ping guides.

Contact area interior decorators and used furniture stores and make them aware of your services; offer them a bonus or commission for business they bring your way.

Consider teaching a class at a community school for publicity and perhaps to gain clients.

Up-front Expenses

You will need woodworking and heavy-duty sewing and fabric-working tools. Some of the specialty tools you will need as an upholsterer include tack hammer, shears, webbing stretcher, ripping chisel, staple lifter, upholstery needle card, and upholstery pins. To make slipcovers, and for some upholstery projects, you will need a heavy-duty sewing machine. Some jobs may require a serging machine to bind the ends of fabrics.

You may be able to farm out some specialty sewing jobs to others as part of the overall project. You can choose to purchase a truck for pickup and delivery of furniture, or you can contract with a local shipping or moving company for such service.

Other expenses include advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge for this service

Give the client a bottom-line price that includes the purchase of fabric, stuffing, notions, and other expenses as well as compensation for your time; be sure to carefully consider the amount of time involved in a job.

Another pricing scheme is a cost-plus contract, whereby the client pays retail prices for all material and you add a charge for your labor.

You can also add charges for pickup and delivery of the furniture, if necessary.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: In dealing with your client’s property, seek to limit your liability for damage or loss to the actual replacement value of items in your possession. You should protect yourself against claims for sentimental value or loss of use.

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance ➅ Insurance

Small Business Idea – Interior Decorating

Interior decoration business

How To Start a Business as an Interior Decorator

Description of Job

• Draw plans to decorate a client’s home or office with attention to style, quality, and budget.

• Meet with designers, contractors, and suppliers to draw up specifications. • Oversee purchases, renovations, and installation.

The Need and Demand For an Interior Decorator

Somewhere in the mind’s eye of most of us is a vision of the house beautiful and the office spectacular. Yet relatively few of us have the background, the training, or the time to create a handsome environment all at once.

An interior decorator can redo an entire house or a single room. A new baby may be on the way, or a spare bedroom may be due to make the transition to a home office.

Companies need to have attractive spaces for conferences, meetings with customers, and showrooms for products.

Challenges Faced By This Business

There is no license required to hang out a shingle as an interior decorator. Instead, you’ll have to demonstrate your abilities through examples of plans you have drawn or work you have accomplished.

In addition to a good sense of design and color, you’ll need to be knowl- edgeable about construction, fabrics, styles of furniture, lighting systems, and flooring.

In most cases you will be called on to interpret your client’s needs and wants; you’ll rarely be given a blank sheet of paper and an unlimited budget. You’ll have to be able to work in a variety of styles, from antiques and reproductions to com- mercial and industrial to ultramodern.

Things to Know Before You Start This Business

You can take courses on interior design at community colleges and major uni- versities. There is also a tremendous amount of information about design and decorating in books and on web sites. Consult the sites for furniture makers to learn about their products; many manufacturers offer impressive catalogs to dec- orators, and some have sales conferences and demonstrations of products.

Become an expert, or attach yourself to a knowledgeable associate who knows about upholstery, carpeting and other flooring, wallpaper and paneling, and other furnishings. Make contact with manufacturers of lighting systems, audiovisual and computer furniture and fixtures, and office presentation equipment.

Plan on attending national or regional interior decorating shows and conven- tions where manufacturers display their products and conduct seminars.

How to Get Started In This Business

Post flyers and ads at community centers and retail stores. Furniture and home supply centers may allow you to advertise your services in their stores if you promise to direct some of your customers to them.

Contact area contractors. They may want to have a model home decorated and in return would allow you to promote your service there, and they may be willing to give your name to any client who asks for a designer. Offer a commis- sion or bonus for work they send your way.

Ask friends and acquaintances to recommend your services; offer a bonus or discount on future jobs for any business they direct to you. Do the same with sat- isfied customers.

Create a portfolio of jobs you have completed; obtain permission from clients to take photos for the portfolio or for a web site. (You don’t have to identify the names and addresses of clients if they prefer anonymity.)

Up-front Expenses

You may have some expenses in educating yourself about furniture and equip- ment. Other costs include advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge As an Interior Decorator

Most interior decorators make their income in the form of commissions from wholesale or retail outlets. Depending on the complexity and size of the job, you might also charge the client an hourly or fixed fee for consultation and drawing up a plan.

Legal and Insurance Issues

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance.

Small Business Idea – Rug Cleaning Service

How to Start a Small Business As A Rug Cleaner

Rug cleaning business

Description of Job

• Clean carpets using professional equipment.

• Use specialized tools and chemicals for expert attention to problematic stains.

The Need and Demand for A Rug Cleaning Service

Even with frequent vacuuming, rugs and carpets get dirty. If you have children and pets, they get even dirtier.

Although some home centers rent out portable rug cleaners, they are gener- ally the equivalent of a snow shovel in a world of high-powered plows and snow- blowers. The best way to get a seriously dirty carpet clean is with professional cleaning equipment and solutions.

Challenges Faced By A Rug Cleaning Business

You must learn to master the use of professional extraction systems and gain a realistic understanding of their capabilities and limitations. Before committing to a job, make sure you carefully inspect the carpet; make note of any existing stains or damage, and make certain your contract agreement with the client does not promise more than you can reasonably expect to deliver.

Take extra care with especially valuable rugs. Oriental, Persian, or antique carpets may need to be hand-cleaned, or they may need to be processed by spe- cialists. You may be able to act as an agent for another company for that sort of job, collecting a commission.

Make sure that your contract agreement limits your liability for damage to valuable rugs.

You will probably have to move furniture as part of the cleaning process; again, take care not to accept liability for expensive antiques and collectibles— ask the client to remove them from the room.

Things to Know Before Your Start This Business

Many professional equipment vendors offer assistance to their customers in rec- ommending tools and techniques for tricky problems. Some of the most common stains, such as coffee, tea, blood, and urine, are also the most difficult to remove.

You can also offer special services such as carpet protector and carpet deodorizer for an extra charge.

How to Get Started With Rug Cleaning Business

Place flyers and business cards at home centers, hardware stores, and community centers. Make your services known to area interior decorators and housecleaning services. Contact real estate agents who might be in a position to recommend your services to someone who is selling or buying a house and to clients who rent their house to others.

You should also place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Up-front Expenses For This Business

Professional carpet cleaning machines start at about $2,000 and go up from there. A typical package includes a power-cleaning wand or head, a powered extractor, at least 25 feet of hose, and various manual wands, rakes, and detailing tools.

The most powerful units are usually mounted in a truck or van, with hoses that run from the truck into the home or apartment; these machines have their own gas-powered engines, run off the vehicle’s motor, or attach to an electrical outlet. Expect to pay about $4,000 to $5,000 for truck-mounted equipment. (That sort of device is quicker to set up and more powerful, but may not be appropriate for jobs on upper floors of homes or apartment houses.)

You’ll need a supply of detergents and other solutions, including pretreating sprays, spotting kits, rinses, defoamers, deodorizers, and disinfectants.

You’ll require a van or small truck to transport your equipment and supplies; if you use a truck-mounted system, you’ll need special equipment and hoses plus a power source or connection to the vehicle’s engine.

How Much to Charge For Rug Cleaning Services

You can charge by the hour or by the square footage of the carpet to be cleaned. Be sure to take into account any especially difficult stains or unusual circum- stances when giving a price or estimate.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: In dealing with your client’s property, seek to limit your liability for damage or loss to the actual replacement value of items in your possession. You should protect yourself against claims for sentimental value or loss of use.

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance ➅ Insurance.

Small Business Idea – House Cleaning Business

start a house cleaning business

How to Start a Housecleaning Cleaning Small Business

Description of Job

• Clean, vacuum, and neaten homes or apartments. • Carry out other services as requested by the client. • Perform turnover cleaning of rental properties.

The Need and Demand For Housecleaning Services

Most of us, unless we live in a hotel (or in a dorm room and don’t care), are responsible for cleaning our house or apartment. At one time, the idea of hiring household staff was something reserved for the wealthiest among us; today, it may be much less of a luxury and much more of a necessity.

In a two-job family, who has the time to clean the house? For a stay-at-home mother or father with young kids, who has time for anything but the most basic cleanup tasks?

Scheduled or on-demand housecleaning services are very popular in residen- tial areas where one or more family members have jobs outside the home. Addi- tional opportunities exist in tourist areas, where houses and apartments must be cleaned after each rental.

House cleaning tools

Challenges Faced By a Housecleaning Business

Not all houses are the same; not everyone’s idea of minimal orderliness is iden- tical; and few people have exactly the same definition of cleanliness.

The biggest challenge is to have a written agreement that specifies exactly what services you will perform, as well as your expectations from the client. Standard services include vacuuming all carpeted areas, washing kitchen and bathroom floors, dusting, cleaning of kitchen cooking surfaces, sanitizing of bathrooms, and general neatening.

The sort of work that is ordinarily beyond basic services includes jobs such as polishing silver, washing window exteriors, and cleanup after parties.

In most cases, you will be working within an occupied home or apartment and trusted not to steal or damage valuable items. You may be given a set of keys or the code for a burglar alarm and must safeguard them. You will need legalprotection against liability and may want to seek bonding. You may be asked to provide references.

You may have to work while your client is in the home or apartment; think carefully before accepting a job where you do not feel personally safe.

If you build your company to include additional employees, you should seek references from them and check for criminal records; any problems they cause will become your problems. Your attorney or insurance agent may recommend that you have your employees bonded as a reassurance to your clients.

House cleaning lady

Thing to Know Before Starting This Business

Some people have the “clean gene” and some seem constitutionally unable to keep their homes in shape. You know which type you are; be sure you are willing to become a cleaning genie for a stranger.

There are many web sites and books that give special tips and tricks for cleaning.

House cleaning stuff

How to Get Started With the Housecleaning Business

Advertise in the local newspaper and in shopping guides. Put a business card at the supermarket, and, if you have access to the bulletin boards at any companies, leave your card there as well.

In tourist areas leave your business card and references with real estate or rental agencies.

House cleaning

Up-front Expenses for the Business

You’ll need to purchase an arsenal of cleaners, sanitizers, deodorizers, polishes, and other products. Then there are mops, dusters, and the biggest investment: an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner.

You’ll also need a traveling case for your products and equipment and a vehi- cle to transport the whole kit and caboodle.

As a commercial cleaning contractor, you should be able to purchase sup- plies at a discount or from a wholesaler. Warehouse stores also offer good deals on extra-large containers.

Other costs include advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge for the Housecleaning Services

Housecleaners generally charge by the hour, with the rate including the cost of the supplies you use and a portion of the cost of the vacuum cleaner and other capital expenditures.

For regular clients, you could work out an arrangement whereby they provide all of the cleaning supplies to meet your needs; in that case, you would charge a lower hourly rate.

You can expect to be asked to give an estimate of how long it will take you to complete the job. Make sure you take into consideration unusually large homes or apartments and unusually messy abodes. The frequency of cleaning will also make a difference; dust and dirt accumulate over time and make for more work. You could offer a discounted rate to clients who agree to schedule frequent visits.

Legal and Insurance Issues

➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance.

Small Business Idea – Stonemason and Decorative Brick Worker

small business idea

How to start a small business as a Stonemason and doing Decorative Brick Work

Description of Job

• Design and install decorative stone and brick walkways, patios, walls, and garden features.

• Build brick and stone custom barbecues. • Repair and maintain existing exterior stonework.

The Need and Demand For this Business

Outdoor stonework in the form of walkways, patios, walls, and barbecues can beautify a property and increase its value. Stonemasonry is one of the oldest con- struction skills, little changed in thousands of years; in modern days it is a craft not often practiced.

Challenges Faced By the Business

This is outdoor work, with heavy lifting. You’ll need to lift and place heavy stones, bricks, and tiles and use tools to

shape them. You’ll also be working with heavy mortar and cement. In some parts of the country, this is a seasonal job that is available from late

spring through late fall. You may be called upon to design a decorative element or wall or to follow the plans drawn by an architect or contractor.

Important Things to Know About the Business

Stonework is in demand nearly everywhere, but with different purposes or styles in various settings. In a big city, jobs might include walkways, steps, and small patios. In rural and suburban settings, jobs might include larger patios, outdoor fireplaces and barbecues, and stone walls.

The traditional method of training for stonemasonry is to work as a helper or apprentice to a skilled craftsperson. In some areas, unions offer training and for- mal apprenticeship programs. You can also learn many of the skills from books, web sites, and educational programs. The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers has programs around the country and a national training and education center in Maryland to teach basic job skills for brick, stone, tile, terrazzo, and restoration work.

How to Get Started In the Business

If you are already trained as a stonemason, advertise your services with flyers at home and garden centers, retail outlets, and community centers. Place ads in newspapers and shopping guides.

Make yourself known to architects, contractors, and landscapers who might recommend your services to their clients; offer a commission or bonus for work they send to you. Ask satisfied customers to recommend you to others; in return, offer them a bonus or discount on further work.

Up-front Expenses for the Business Startup

You’ll need stoneworking tools, cement and mortar mixing equipment, and land- scaping equipment.

You will need a truck or van to transport your tools and equipment. You may be able to have stone, brick, and other materials delivered directly to the site by your suppliers; if not, you’ll need a heavy truck with a lift gate or ramp.

Other expenses include advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge For This Service

For a simple job like a barbecue or a brick patio, you can charge an all-inclusive set fee that covers the cost of materials and your time. Another option is to charge an hourly rate plus the cost of materials and supplies.

Skilled stonemasons typically charge $25 to $40 per hour for their labor; unionized workers generally receive a higher rate.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: Some municipalities and local homeowners’ associations may have regulations about the type and size of ornamentation, walls, and fences.

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Small Business Idea – Low Voltage Outdoor Electrical Wiring Installations

How To Start A Business Doing Low-Voltage Outdoor Electrical Wiring Installation.

Outdoor wiring business idea

Description of Job

• Install low-voltage landscaping and driveway lighting.

• Install specialized low-voltage illuminated street numbers, poolside light- ing, and deck lighting.

The Need

Nighttime lighting can serve security, safety, and decorative interests. Many homeowners like to show off their landscaping by night with subtle lighting. In other areas, a bit of light helps demarcate driveway edges or winding pathways.


The biggest challenge to installers of outdoor lighting is avoiding excess. Poor design wastes energy and creates “lighting trespass” that bothers neigh- bors, dangerous glare that can affect pedestrians and drivers, and “lighting pollu-

tion” that washes out the view of the dark night sky. As an installer, you need to work closely with your client and tour the prop-

erty to design the best system. You may need to work with a licensed electrician in some localities, espe-

cially if you are asked to include high-voltage outdoor area lighting and motion detectors for security.

Know the Territory

This is a job that can be accomplished by anyone with a small amount of land- scaping and simple home improvement skills.

In most jurisdictions, use of low-voltage systems does not require the involvement of a licensed electrician; if your client’s home does not have a proper exterior outlet or access to an indoor outlet, you will have to engage an electrician to have one installed.

Plug-in lighting systems attach to an outdoor grounded outlet with fault- interruption protection or to an indoor outlet. A transformer reduces line voltage to safer 12-volt power.

Another alternative is the use of solar-powered lamps that use batteries that are recharged by sunlight each day and require no wires to interconnect them.

Consult web sites, catalogs, and home supply stores to learn about available systems and techniques. Contact manufacturers or distributors for samples, cata- logs, and photographs of lamps and accessories.

How to Get Started

Advertise in community centers and garden centers. Some hardware stores or home centers may permit you to advertise your installation services in return for an agreement to purchase lights and supplies there.

Send brochures and letters to landscapers, pool installers, and contractors asking them to recommend your services to their clients; you may want to offer a bonus or commission for business they refer your way. Ask satisfied customers to advise their friends, offering them a bonus or discount.

Up-front Expenses

For most jobs, you’ll need a power trenching tool; this device can be a single- purpose unit or one that attaches to other equipment, such as a rototiller or a trac- tor. Short runs may be possible with hand digging.

You’ll also need some basic hand tools, shovels, and hole diggers.

Other expenses include creation of a portfolio of samples of available sys- tems and advertising and promotion.

How Much to Charge

You can charge a flat rate for your services based on the number of lamps and the length and complexity of the wiring involved, or you can quote an hourly rate. Add the cost of any lights, wire, transformers, and accessories; you should be able to purchase equipment at wholesale or discounted rates and resell them to your client at retail prices.

Legal and Insurance Issues

Special notes: Some municipalities have ordinances aimed at reducing light pollution, and some subdivisions may have regulations that limit outdoor light- ing. Some localities may require a licensed electrician’s involvement or an elec- trical inspection.

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