Best Self-Employment ideas to Earn a Sustainable Income Stream

Best Self-Employment ideas to Earn a Sustainable Income StreamChoosing the best Self-Employment ideas to earn a sustainable income stream is one of the most important decisions you will make on your road to self-employment.

Thousands of possibilities exist. I would like to assist you in this process by giving you promising ideas for self-employment. PLEASE NOTE: This list is not ubiquitous – it simply serves as a guideline.

I’ve divided these self-employment opportunities into a few separate categories. This will aid you in your search for the best self-employment opportunities to suit your needs.  The different categories will give you an understanding of what the sub-categories entail, with a separate definition per category. The approximate length/size of each category will depend on the amount of information available. Each of the categories will give you several business opportunities for self-employment.

The various links will lead you to additional articles and resources with more detailed information about a particular category and/or opportunity you might be interested in.  

I think it’s very important to have a “what-not-to-do-list” when a self-employment opportunity arises. Several of these critically important factors could have a negative influence on your self-employment venture.

Pitfall 1:   Don’t start a business to get rich quickly.

Pitfall 2:   Avoid using the prospect of money/profits as a main driving force – it will come later.

Pitfall 3:   Don’t think about marketing, clients, manufacturing and/or distribution

Pitfall 4:   Don’t think about the costs involved.

Pitfall 5:   Don’t get involved in a get-rich-quick scheme.

Pitfall 6:   Ignore the “good” salesmen and their get-rich-quick schemes.

Pitfall 7:   Don’t do what others do. If your friend and/or neighbour has a successful home-based business, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be successful doing the same as them – their recipe for success might not work for you.

Pitfall 8:   No one can predict the future, so forget about any future technological trends and/or technological cycles.

Pitfall 9:   No one can predict the future of an industry, so forget about any future business trends and/or business cycles.

Herewith a list of the most important self-employment categories and ideas:

A freelancer, or a freelance worker, is a self-employed individual who is not bound by a particular employer on a long-term basis.

The individual performs tasks for multiple employers over the course of a year.

We use terms such as “crowd sourcing” and “outsourcing” when referring to the freelance market.

The advent of the internet expanded the available markets, thereby creating new opportunities for freelancers. The expected internet and technological expansion will create even more job opportunities for freelancers.

An Elance survey concluded:On average, survey respondents predict (companies) 54% of their workforce will be online in five years. They find that talent online is better than or equal to what’s available locally, and in part, are leveraging online workers to do work that they would have done themselves or not done at all.

One remarkable statistic from the survey is that 84% of businesses said that hiring online gives them an advantage over competitors. What’s the nature of that advantage? Three benefits ranked highest: cost savings, faster time-to-hire, and access to talent not otherwise available”(¹)

The report continues:57% of freelancers reported an increase in earnings by working with businesses online. In addition, 19% said they more than doubled their freelance income in the past year. The uncertainty in the global economy is clearly not impacting online work as 42% of freelance workers claim that they are getting hired for more jobs.”(²)

According to Shane Snow: Half of Us May Soon Be Freelancers – 6 Compelling Reasons Why:

  • Work is no longer a place.
  • The biggest friction point for businesses is finding, vetting, and hiring workers, but online talent exchanges remove that friction.
  • The web lets you find the best person to do anything, anywhere.
  • Millennials will be 75% of the workforce in 11.5 years.
  • The internet opens up long tail specialization.

The economics can work for both sides.(³)

Elance’s research into different freelance job types concluded:

“According to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report compiled primarily about North America freelancing, nearly half of freelancers do writing work, with 18% of freelancers listing writing as a primary skill, 10% editing/copy-editing, and 10% as copy-writing. 20% of freelancers listed their primary skills as design. Next on the list was translating (8%), web development (5.5%), and marketing (4%). Elance, a web platform that connects freelancers with contractors, surveyed its members and 39% listed writing and editing are their main skill set.”

According to a study by Accenture the size of this industry is about $300 billion per year.

Thursday Bram argues that the 6 Top-Paying Freelance Jobs are:

  • Writing
  • Translation
  • Photography
  • Social Media
  • Mobile Development
  • Search Engine Optimization

Due to changes in the world job markets and the development of computer and communication technology, more opportunities are made available to a freelancer with the appropriate skills. For the self-employed this is already a huge industry with many opportunities. More opportunities will be available in the future.

Handicrafts/Arts & Craft is a form of self-employment where “things are made by hand” based on the activities of making things with one’s own hands, using one’s specific and specialized skills.

In this way, a large range of products can be manufactured.  These products include: jewellery, ceramic glass, wood, leather products and many more.

The art of manufacturing Art and Craft products is a very old skill and industry.

Information regarding the size of these industries in different countries is not readily available, but the United Kingdom, as a first world, developed country, gives an indication of the size of this industry.

According to a report by the UK government, the Arts & Craft Industry in the UK ”is estimated that the crafts industries currently turn over around £400m annually. This figure is more than double what the industry was turning over ten years ago, with a rise of 20% in the number of crafts businesses over the same period. The crafts industry is continuing to build on a solid and consistent growth rate in sales of craft works (both at home and overseas) of approximately 5% year on year.”(³)

Using the definitions given above of the industry, estimates suggest there are about 25,000 people working in the crafts industry in the UK, although a wider definition suggest a figure 10 times larger.

“THE SOUTH AFRICAN CRAFT INDUSTRY REPORT”(¹²) emphasizes the importance of Arts and Craft for the self-employed in a developed and underdeveloped countries in Africa.

The main benefits are:

  • Craft provides employment for vulnerable segments of society
  • Craft is a source of innovation for the entire economy
  • Craft is linked to and can make an impact on the development of other industries
  • Development of the country’s skills- base and labour pool
  • A strong relationship exists between the crafting sector and the tourism industry of developing countries
  • It can provides employment and income opportunities for people in the rural areas

The benefits of the crafting sector are direct and indirect.

The industry generates small amounts of income to a large number of people, which makes an enormous difference to the people’s quality of life.

This report features many examples of the sociology-economic benefits and importance of handicrafts for other underdeveloped countries in Africa.

The benefits of the arts & craft sectors in developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries of the world are due to:

  • More people looking for handmade products, not machine made products.

Jobs are created for unemployed people with specific skill sets who are passionate about Arts & Crafts.  This is a unique opportunity to create employment in a world where employment is becoming less and less.

The development of the Internet and marketing opportunities make it possible for a small arts & craft self- employed businessman to sell and market his products worldwide

These new developments create unique opportunities for the development of a self-employed manufacturing business.

The individual must have a passion and a specific skill set for the opportunity that he wishes to develop.

The development of websites that specialize in the marketing, selling and development of new creative products enhances this industry.

There are many opportunities to sell and promote products manufactured by self-employed people on the internet.

New opportunities arise to sell these products on the international market and assist in boosting the growth of the industry. This will also create more opportunities for people with the necessary skills to develop their own business.

The marketing and selling of products directly to consumers is being considered as Direct Selling. This sale is not at a fixed retail location. The direct personal presentation of the products or services is normally at the home of the buyer or at his work premises. These are direct person to person sales transactions. These salesmen are independent representatives. They can also be referred to as consultants or distributors or might even have another title. These salespersons are not employed by the company – they are self-employed. They work for commission or incentives, not for a fixed salary. The trading can be done within different structure or business models. Some of the most important ones are:

Electronic commerce, E-commerce or eCommerce is the trading of products or services via computer networks such as the internet. This is also a form of direct selling in some cases.

Multilevel marketing (MLM) or network marketing, is a marketing strategy where salespeople are compensated not only for personally generated sales, but also for sales generated by other people who were recruited (“downline”). This can provide them with multiple levels of income. Other related terms are network marketing or referral marketing. “Network marketing has grown steadily over the last 20 years, increasing 91% in just the last decade. With more than 13 million Americans and 53 million people worldwide involved, it is today a $100 billion global industry.”[9]

Most of the advertising is done on a person-to-person basis and/or via word-of-mouth. According to several studies, this type of promotion is considered as one of the most cost-effective forms of advertising. This strategy is being utilised by numerous companies, as well as several prominent investors.

There’s a large array of companies and products that can be sold via this channel.

It is important to do your homework before you decide which option you would like to get involved in.

It’s of utmost importance to find a product that offers you good value for money and great saleability.

Since you will be associated with the company – or companies – involved in the product, you need to be comfortable with the company’s public image and the way in which it presents itself to consumers, potential clients and/or users of the product and/or service. Don’t get involved if there’s any hesitation on your part.

This is a relatively new, fast developing business model that creates unique employment and business opportunities for the self-employed.

This model must be considered as a potential self-employment opportunity. The advent of new technology will make this model more appealing to businesses in future.

The business model is based on the idea that an individual can lease and/or rent the right to use another individual’s business model and/or brand for a certain period of time. The franchisor acts as a supplier that allows the operator, or franchisee, the use of the supplier’s trademark and to distribute the goods. The operator pays the supplier a fee in return.

Franchising is a method of marketing that knows no boundaries in terms of business categories and/or business opportunities.

The home-based franchise offers an opportunity for an operator to operate said franchise business model from home.

Home-based franchises are available in many different industries, including travel services, tutoring, in-home care, cleaning, business services, and home services. In addition, some franchise concepts offer home-based entry options with the opportunity to open a retail storefront later on at the franchisee’s discretion.”[6]

Various research studies have identified that the failure rate of businesses using franchising is generally lower than those of the ‘conventional’ start-ups.”[7]

Various studies have shown that franchising, as a business model, creates jobs faster the general economy. It also has a significant impact on the economic growth of countries.

Franchising has been described as the best business model to have developed during the previous millennium.

IFA protects, enhances and promotes 825,000 franchise businesses across 300 business lines. It supports nearly 18 million jobs and generates $2.1 trillion of the U.S. economic output. [9]

The development of the internet as a marketing and sales method will further boost the opportunities for home based franchise businesses. The industry offers different opportunities to the self-employed to make a decision which opportunity suits his passion and skills.

Do have elements of Direct Marketing (ecommerce) and home-based franchising. I wish to categorise these under a separate heading due its difference and importance. These opportunities are created by the internet, and its related areas, through the method of new technological developments and growth. 

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. The industry has four core players: the merchant (also known as ‘retailer’ or ‘brand’), the network (that contains offers for the affiliate to choose from and also takes care of the payments), the publisher (also known as ‘the affiliate’), and the customer. The market has grown in complexity, resulting in the emergence of a secondary tier of players, including affiliate management agencies, super-affiliates and specialized third party vendor.

Affiliate marketing overlap with other Internet marketing methods to some degree, because affiliates often use regular advertising methods. Those methods include organic search engine optimization (SEO), paid search engine marketing (PPC – Pay Per Click), e-mail marketingcontent marketing and in some sense display advertising. On the other hand, affiliates sometimes use less orthodox techniques, such as publishing reviews of products or services offered by a partner.”[5]

Worldwide — In 2006 affiliate commission payouts were estimated at $6.5 billion worldwide. (¹⁰)

Forrester, who conducted the study, forecasts U.S. affiliate marketing spending will increase by a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 17% between 2011 and 2016, growing to $4.5 billion.(¹¹)

This is a growing industry with more opportunities developing. It creates opportunities for the self-employed to investigate and evaluate.

For the person considering self-employment, I consider additive manufacturing or 3D Printing as an important category with many self-employment opportunities.  This is a relatively new technology with fast development.

New technology and business models are being developed to create new business opportunities for the self-employed. Therefore it is crucial for the self-employed person to be informed of these developments.

  • “3D printing or additive manufacturing[ (AM) is any of various processes of making a three-dimensional object from a 3D model or other electronic data source primarily through additive processes in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.”

  • A 3D printing marketplace is a virtual space (website) where users buy, sell and freely share digital 3D printable files for use on 3D printers. 3D printing marketplaces have emerged with the fast growing segment of consumer 3D printers. Currently, there are only a few existing 3D printing marketplaces and their business model is still not profitable.
  • The consumer market for 3D printers has grown tremendously over the past several years. According to Credit Suisse the growth in 2013 is 100% vs. 2012. Consumer 3D printers allow households to produce certain goods at home. Since most people are not CAD professionals, they have to use third party designs. 3D printing marketplaces are the largest sources of 3D printable designs and it is believed that they will dominate the market of 3D printable objects.
  • 3D printing marketplaces are a combination of file sharing websites, with or without a built in e-commerce capability. Designers upload suitable files for 3D printing, whilst other users buy and/or freely download the files for printing. The marketplace facilitates account management, infrastructure and server resources. It also guarantees safe payments (e-commerce). Some of the marketplaces offer additional services such as 3D printing-on-demand, commercial 3D-print shop locations, associated model rendering software, and dynamic item viewing via sketchfab. The most widely used 3D printable file formats are stlwrl and vrml.

According to Wohlers Associates, the 3-D printing market grew by 28.6% ($2.2 billion) in 2012

The consumer market is the fastest-growing portion of the 3D printing market, with expectations for 100%+ YoY growth in 2013.

New business models are becoming readily available due to the industry’s high growth rate.

These business models create new and unique opportunities for the self-employed to start a business from home. Involvement will depend on your unique skills, the capital you wish to invest and your passions. These business models create opportunities for a wide range of people with different interests.

This is ideal for someone with creative skills, specialised computer & design skills, a passion for sales and marketing, and an interest in “old world” manufacturing. These are the ideal opportunities for you if you want to invest a large amount of capital for a big business, or start a home based business with small to no capital and/or risk. The flexibility of the business models are striking.

Many products and/or product categories can easily be manufactured using this technology. There’s a growing demand for consumer products in fields such as education, toys and several others.

Self-Employment Ideas: Quotes to think about

  • “The entrepreneur builds an enterprise; the technician builds a job.” – Michael Gerber
  • “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” – Richard Branson
  • “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell
  • “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!” – C.J. Walker
  • “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell
  • “Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” – Vince Lombardi
  • “With the changing economy, no one has lifetime employment. But community colleges provide lifetime employability.” – Barack Obama
  • “Teaching thinking for just five hours to unemployed youngsters increased employment 500 percent.” – Edward de Bono
  • “Self-employed people work where they live. Entrepreneurs live where they work.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana
  • “The employed are punished by having to do what they do not love. The self-employed are punished by the opposite.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana