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Referral Service

Help people find businesses that can help them out.

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Business At A Glance

Referral Service
Startup Costs: $2,000 – $10,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Online Operation? Yes

Business Overview

If you’re the one everybody in your circle calls for help when they’re trying to find a good doctor, attorney, plumber or cleaning service, and if you love being on the phone, then a referral service could be the business for you. You can specialize in one area or several, depending on your preferences and the size of your town. You might run an attorney referral service, matching callers to specialists in family, real estate or criminal law; a physicians’ service matching up potential patients with pediatricians, cardiologists and other health-care specialists; or a homeowners’ network, referring consumers to plumbers, painters, and cleaning and lawn care services. Keep in mind that most areas have attorney and physician referral services through local bar associations and hospitals–if you want to compete with these, you’ll have to come up with a special niche that will bring consumers to you.

You can also specialize in travel and tours, entertainment, apartment rentals, baby-sitters, real estate agents, bridal services–just about any service that people need help with. You can also run your referral service online instead of on the phone–or do both. The choice is yours. The advantages to this business are that you get to spend all day on the phone and you get to talk to lots of interesting people. It’s a good idea to have some background or experience in the type of referrals you’ll specialize in. You’ll thoroughly screen the businesses on your list, finding out how they work and what they do best, then checking references so you know you’re referring consumers to only the best, which means you’ll need good communication and people skills.

The Market

Your customers will be both the businesses on your list and consumers who call in to get referrals, so you’ll conduct your marketing campaign in two stages. First, investigate the businesspeople you’d like on your list. If they check out well, send them a sales letter or contact them by phone and explain that you would like to include them in your service. Sell them on the benefits. When you get a good list of referrals worked up, you’ll need to attract consumers’ attention so you can give your businesses their money’s worth.

The best way to go about this is to place prominent ads in the Yellow Pages under each category where people might look–if you’re doing homeowner referrals, for instance, you’ll want to place ads under lawn care, cleaning services, plumbing and the like. You can also place service ads in the classified sections of your local paper and post fliers where your target consumers will see them. If you’re referring baby-sitters, put them up at kid-oriented areas like karate and dance academies, day-care centers, public libraries and parks. And don’t forget churches and supermarkets for any type of referral service.

Needed Equipment

You’ll need a computer and database software capable of handling all the businesses on your list and a two-line phone with a telemarketer-type headset so your ears don’t get sore. If you can’t afford a computer for starters, you can get going with a good handwritten list and purchase your electronics later. Of course, if you’re going with an online service, you’ll have to have the computer as well as a good Web site.

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Business Services

Errand Service Business Opportunity

Help busy people get through the day by providing an errand service.

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errands-business

running-errands-for-people

Business At A Glance

  • Business: Errand Service
  • Start-up Costs: Minimum
  • Home Based: Can be operated from home.
  • Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
  • Online Operation? Yes

Business Overview

Let’s face it; today’s busy lifestyles mean that a lot working people just don’t have time for even the simplest of errands, such as taking the family pet to the veterinarian for a routine checkup, buying AuntSue a birthday present, or picking up the kids after school.

Which is great news if you’re a multi-tasker looking to start your own simple,inexpensive, yet potentially very profitable business. An errand service can be operated with nothing more than a cell phone and reliable transportation.

Land clients by networking and by creating a simple marketing brochure explaining the services you provide along with your contact information.
Related: Start A Small Business, Become Self–Employed

The brochures can be pinned to community bulletin boards, hand-delivered to homes and businesses and distributed with the local newspaper.

A few promotional items such as pens and memo pads emblazoned with your company logo, name and telephone number given out to potential customers will go a long way as a daily reminder of your fast, reliable and affordable errand services.

This is the kind of business where growth is fuelled by referrals, so customer service and satisfaction are the most important goals.

The Market

Busy individuals who need a little help getting their day to day errands done. You can also market your services to small business owners.

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Business Services

Freight Broker

Match shippers and transportation services as a freight broker.

Entrepreneur

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Business At A Glance

Freight Broker

Startup Costs: $2,000 – $10,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Online Operation? No

Business Overview

Trucking plays a major role in the nation’s economy–according to theAmerican Trucking Association, those big wheels generated $346 billionin gross revenues in the most recently calculated year, employed morethan 9.5 million people and hauled 6.5 billion tons of freight.

And 77percent of all American communities rely on trucks as their sole sourceof freight delivery. If you’ve got experience in the industry, youprobably also know that it’s the freight broker who keeps those trucksrolling by arranging for delivery of consignments large and small.

Ifyou love the song of the open road but you don’t want to be on theroad, then a freight brokerage may be just the business for you. As afreight broker, you’ll work with manufacturers, wholesalers anddistributors who need to get their products across town or across thecountry with the help of trucking companies.

You can specialize in LTL(less than a truckload) cargoes or in containerized ones. Theadvantages to this business are that you can work from home and it’s anindustry that’s unlikely to disappear–transportation will always be anecessity.

A background in the transportation industry is importantbecause you’ll need not only hands-on experience, but also contacts inthe field. If you lack this experience, work for another freightbrokerage until you learn the tricks of the trade.

You’ll also needexcellent organizational and time-management skills and the ability toget things moving quickly.

The Market

Your customers can be manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors ofany types of goods and materials. You can also target companies thatexhibit at trade shows or conventions and need booths and displaymaterials moved to various sites.

Place ads in trade magazines and onimport/export Internet sites. Send sales letters and brochures tomailing lists of prospective companies. Ask for referrals fromsatisfied customers and industry contacts.

Needed Equipment

You’ll need to be licensed by the Office of Motor Carriers (a divisionof the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation),and you’ll be required to carry a $10,000 surety bond or trust.

Thenyou’ll want a computer with the usual office software, a laser orinkjet printer, and a fax machine.

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Business Services

One Hour Photo Lab

Do you enjoy seeing a finished product? Consider film development with a one hour photo lab.

Entrepreneur

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Business At A Glance

One Hour Photo Lab

Startup Costs: $10,000 – $50,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Online Operation? No

Business Overview

In spite of the increasing popularity ofdigital imaging, print or negative photography will be around for manyyears to come. A good income can still be earned by starting andoperating a one-hour photo lab.

Of course the resourceful entrepreneurwill also provide customers with digital imaging services in additionto traditional film development services. Like any retail business,location will be a major consideration.

Good operating locations for aone-hour photo lab include stand-alone kiosks in malls, smallstorefronts in strip plazas, and kiosks within existing retail storessuch as grocery stores and pharmacies.

One-hour photo lab equipment iseasy to operate and most distributors of this equipment will includesome training when new or used photo lab equipment is purchased.

Thetitle of the business suggests that all film developing is completed inone hour or less. However, this is inaccurate as it is best to givecustomers film development options.

The faster they want their filmdeveloped the higher the costs. There are also incentives that you canoffer to secure new and repeat business such as two prints for theprice of one, a free roll of film with each three rolls developed, anda free 8-inch by 10-inch blowup of one picture per roll of filmdeveloped.

Also to increase revenues, be sure to establish drop-off andpick-up satellite locations. Satellite locations simply mean thatcustomers can drop off their film at various locations throughout thecommunity and pick up their photos at a later date.

You simply drive tothese location daily and pick up the film to be developed and drop itoff the next day when you return to pick up film again.

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