If you’re looking for a profitable and rewarding home based business, then starting a referral service is a great option. I should know. I’ve been operating my contractor referral business for 22 years!
Referral businesses can be operated part-time or full time from home and they don’t require a lot of start-up capital or overhead. And, with some careful step-by-step planning, you can be up and running in a matter of weeks:
Step One: Determine who you want to refer.
Take into consideration what interests you and also what would serve the needs of your community. For example, if you’re passionate about decorating or home improvements and you see a lot of new homeowners moving into your area, maybe you’d like to start a contractor referral service like mine. If there a growing number of elderly people in your community, maybe you’d like to start a referral business that helps seniors take care of home-related jobs and errands that may be difficult for them.
Step Two: Research local laws.
Investigate what the state and county business requirements are for the service providers you’re going to refer. Do your service providers need to be licensed or insured? You’ll need that information to screen the providers in your network.
Step Three: Create a screening process.
Each of the contractors in your network must be properly vetted to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction. You’ll need to create a system and ongoing procedures for checking licensing and insurance credentials, customer service, etc.
Step Four: How will you get paid?
Decide if you want charge the contractors you refer or your clients for your service. Will you charge a flat monthly fee or will your service be commission-based? To help determine which compensation model will work best for your business, speak with professionals to get their feedback on what is fair and/or customary in your industry.
Step Five: Identify your market.
Once you’ve assembled a network of providers to refer, research who your potential customers are. Start by creating a market segmentation study that identifies the key characteristics of your prospective customers. For example, where do your target customers live? How old are they?
Step Six: Create a marketing plan.
To promote your business, you’ll need to create a marketing plan. A well-designed website with concise and informative copy is a must. To help drive traffic to your site and engage our customers, you may want to start a blog or an e-newsletter. Offline promotional campaigns include direct mail, advertising and reaching out to local reporters to generate press attention. And, networking to build word-of-mouth referrals is another great way to generate buzz about your referral business.
If you’re outgoing, enjoy helping people and think you have what it takes to succeed in the referral service business, don’t hesitate! With low overhead and substantial financial rewards, a referral service is an ideal home based business.
Because, starting a business from scratch can be a challenge, many people seek out franchise or business opportunities to help ensure their success. While both offer support, training and a proven business model, it’s important to know the key differentiations both so that you can decide which system will work best for you.
Below are a few of the key differences:
1. Business name. All franchise owners operate under the same name as opposed to a business opportunity where you are free to use any name you chose for your business.
2. Operating system. Franchises require that every operator follows the exact same operating system. Business opportunities provide detailed suggestions about the most effective way to run your business but you are free to deviate from the business model and incorporate your own ideas.
3. Territory. Franchise owners are restricted to operating in a specific territory. In the case of a business opportunity, you have the freedom to operate in any market, expand and/or move your business without any type of penalty.
4. Royalty payments. Franchisees typically have a contractual commitment to pay the franchisor ongoing fees (royalties). Royalties can be a fixed periodic amount or may be expressed as a percentage of your sales. Business opportunities generally don’t charge any ongoing fees.
5. Ongoing support. Both business opportunities and franchises typically provide ongoing support to business owners. Franchises sometimes offer structured support with different entities within their corporate offices as opposed to business opportunities that offer more informal support on an as needed basis.
6. Investment. The cost to start a franchise can be tens of thousands of dollars in addition to proving that you have liquid assets at hand to support your business. Business opportunities are much less expensive and don’t require detailed financial information.
When it comes to choosing a path for business success, there is no right answer in terms of which strategy is better. It depends on your personality, goals and what you’re able to commit financially. In either case, do your research to determine what business is right for you.
by Dana Sitar
Debra Cohen had a killer job.
She was vice president of a Spanish-language aviation magazine in Manhattan, which sent her all over the world — an “amazing adventure.”
She was on a business trip to Paris when she found out she was pregnant with her first daughter.
Cohen was faced with the working mother’s dilemma: Could she keep her corporate career and have the kind of family life she valued?
That was 20 years ago.
Cohen’s response to this common dilemma ultimately led to her version of “having it all” — the chance to raise her (now, two) daughters and grow a home-based business that’s grossed almost $4 million.
Leaving a Successful Career
“My husband and I had a heartfelt conversation one night about how I was missing out,” Cohen explains.
“He said, ‘quit your job.’ [It was about] quality of life over quantity of money.”
Cohen’s company accommodated motherhood as best it could. After maternity leave, she was even able to work at home some days.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes about writing, life, comedy and love and attempts humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).
That’s how much I made my first year operating my Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business. I worked about 15-25 hours each week in the early morning, when my daughter napped, in the evenings after dinner and on weekends.
My goal in the beginning was to bring in a few hundred dollars each month to help make ends meet but word about my business spread and soon I went from one or two job referrals each week to ten!
And, as homeowners began to know and trust me and my business, they started to request contractors for larger jobs. For example, my first job referral was for an exterminator, a $30 commission. That same homeowner called me a few months later looking for a contractor to build cabinets in her playroom, an $800 commission.
That’s what it’s like to build a business. It’s not overnight riches or instantaneous success. In fact, if someone promises you that you’ll make six figures in your first year, you should run the other way!
Solid businesses (like houses;) are built on a strong foundation with good materials, patience and some hard work. That’s how my Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business was built and that’s why it’s still standing 18 years later!
Check out this great article in Business News Daily about the growing demand for businesses that cater to the growing senior market:
As baby boomers approach retirement, the growing market of seniors and retirees offers great opportunities for savvy businesspeople. As of 2012, 13.7 percent of the population was over the age of 65, and by 2030 this figure will grow to 19 percent, according to U.S. census figures.
Want to seize the opportunity these consumers represent? Here are some new, niche business ideas for entrepreneurs hoping to capitalize on this growing market.
For the elderly who prefer to stay in their own homes instead of moving to an assisted living facility or retirement residence, maintenance and housekeeping may become more difficult as they age. These challenges represent many opportunities for service businesses that help the elderly around the house, including those who do specialized renovation and contracting work.
“Most homeowners can relate to the difficulty in finding reliable contractors to work in their home, but for senior homeowners in particular, this can be a tremendous challenge,” said Debra Cohen, owner of homeowner referral agency, Aging in Place Referrals.
Cohen said that unscrupulous contractors may prey on seniors, and many of this population’s homes need safety modifications.
“After my own experience trying to take care of my elderly parents in their home several states away, I personally realized the value a contractor referral business offers to senior homeowners who want to age in place,” she said.
This led Cohen to launch her business, which serves the needs of senior homeowners by pre-screening contractors to ensure they have the appropriate licenses and insurance.