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5 Great Home-Based Businesses

Whether you're looking for income or just a way to follow your passion, these paths can get you started

4. Direct Sales

The nitty-gritty: Selling for a direct sales firm like Mary Kay, The Pampered Chef, Avon, Tupperware and Cutco can be lucrative and there are plenty of opportunities to do so. It's not about going door-to-door ringing bells, anymore. You can market the goods straight from your home office via a computer, Internet access and a telephone. But it requires plenty of legwork and some start-up costs, usually $200 or less for a "starter" kit of training materials and products. Legitimate direct selling companies allow you to "sell back" unsold products that are in good condition if you decide this isn't your bag.

You set your work schedule, so that's a plus. You'll usually sell a company's products through home or office parties and online sales. Earnings are commission-based-typically 25 percent to 40 percent of sales. With some companies, you can ramp up your income, by recruiting other salespeople to join your team. You then earn a commission for the products they sell, too.

Direct selling is not for slackers. You need to set monthly goals – how many new customers you will contact, how many parties will you hold, how many follow-ups with clients you will make. You can't be timid about asking existing customers for referrals either. It's all about getting your name out there and growing your business. An upside: Unlike starting a new business solo, where you're responsible for the whole ball of wax, for the most part, your job is purely selling. The company makes the product, delivers it and has your back if you have customer complaints and other business questions.

For a list of direct selling companies with links back to each check out, go to Go to the Direct Selling Association for information on any specific direct selling company. Be aware that direct sales also encompasses other types of businesses, such as Multi-Level Marketing Companies, also referred to as MLM. In the past, some of them have been scrutinized for illegal practices, or pyramid schemes. Check with The Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints about a company in the past. And be prepared for an unsteady income. That's the nature of the beast.

Median hourly pay:
You can earn around $300 to $500 a month part-time, up to $1,000 or more full-time. Compensation systems are commission-based – 25 percent to $40 percent generally. You buy the products wholesale and sell them at retail prices. You can increase your earnings draw by recruiting, training, and mentoring new representatives at companies such as Avon.

Qualifications: About 16 million Americans work in direct marketing, according to the Direct Selling Association. The core backing you need is your own passion for the product. If you use it and understand how it works yourself, it's easy to make a sales pitch from the heart. But some expertise can come in handy. If you're selling make-up, for example, it helps to have some background in cosmetics and be capable of confidently offering beauty and skin care advice. The same holds true with cooking utensils, if you know your way around a kitchen, it helps. This is a customer-centric gig, so you need smooth people skills. and an ability to be at ease with one-to-one contact with your future customer. Creativity plays a role, too. Building sales stems from drumming up innovative ways to sell your product. Pull out the old soft shoe.

Enjoy organizing large projects? This gig is for you. >>

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