How to Start a Referral Service From Home

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.

Three Tips for Home-Based Business Success!

Three Tips for Home-Based Business Success!

According the US Census Bureau, 13.4 million people work from home now. That’s an increase of 41% over the last decade. This significant rise in the number of people who want to work from home and own their own home-based business a direct result of technological advancements but it’s also an indication that people are looking for ways to make more money, achieve a better balance in their lives and spend more quality time with family.

Having the desire to launch your own home-based business is easy, but starting out on your own can be a bit daunting. The good news is that you can significantly increase your odds of success by making sure that you have three key things in place before you get started:
Support: Having a mentor to show you the ropes and guide you through your business start-up can be a valuable asset for new business owners. Researching and establishing a new business can be time consuming not to mention confusing without the guidance of “someone who’s been there”. Seek out an expert who can give you the support you need.
Plan: Operating systems are key for businesses to run smoothly. Liability issues, a marketing plan, invoicing, customer service, etc. all need to be outlined so you can use your time efficiently and present a professional image to prospective clients. Be sure to have a plan for how your business will operate on a day-to-day basis (not to mention how it will make money!) before you start.
Discipline: Unlike traditional offices, there may be a lot of distractions when you work from home and your working hours aren’t defined for you. Even if you’re only able to dedicate 15-20 hours per week to your business, it’s important that you’re disciplined and use that time as efficiently as possible.One way to avoid getting bogged down by household tasks and family responsibilities is to have a coach who will keep you on task and help you accomplish weekly, daily and monthly goals.
Franchise or Business Opportunities

Franchise or Business Opportunities

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.

Celebrating 20 years!

Celebrating 20 years!

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of my Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business. 20 years! It’s hard to believe.

So much has changed since 1996. Back then, I worked from an old farm table in my basement with my two daughters at my feet. I purchased my first computer with a $5000 loan from my husband’s retirement savings plan and I didn’t have a website because the internet didn’t even exist back then! I started with just 5 contractors in my network—a pest control specialist, painter, handyman, floor refinisher and a plumber–and printed my direct mail cards to homeowners on a refurbished printer. My first commission check was a whopping $30!

Once my business became profitable, I decided to give myself a gift and hired a few of the incredible contractors in my network to renovate our front porch and convert it into my home office:

This is a clip of the first news article that was written about my business in 1997 in a local newspaper. After this article, my phone didn’t stop ringing with calls from contractors, homeowners and other entrepreneurs who were all interested in my business:

By year two, my income had almost doubled and gained the attention of homeowners and contractors nationwide, not to mention the media:

Now, 20 years later, I have worked with almost 100 contractors and am proud to say that 80% of the ones who first started with me are still in my network (including the contractor who paid me my first $30 commission)! I still work alone but am now connected with 300 other incredible business owners who are operating HRN businesses like mine all across the country.

Over the years, I’ve seen the start of companies like Improvenet, Angie’s List and Home Advisor to name a few—all of whom attempt to satisfy the universal need for homeowners to find trustworthy contractors. I started Home Remedies before all of them and have been able to compete and survive for two basic reasons:

  1. I kept my business personal and local.
  2. I remained true to my commitment 20 years ago which was to be a “trustworthy resource for local homeowners and an outsourced sales and marketing force for local contractors”.

I never dreamed that the simple home based business I launched from my basement would have grown into a cottage industry nationwide. The rewards have been tremendous and I am grateful for my clients, my contractors and all of my fellow HRN owners who have helped me achieve this extraordinary milestone!