With many states enforcing “stay-at-home” orders and social distancing policies, 26 million Americans have found themselves underemployed or unemployed. Here in Illinois, over 500,000 people have filed for unemployment in the last two months.
Self Employment Increases During Difficult Times
Entrepreneurs are often born in times of hardship. Indeed, a 2009 study (the year after the last great recession) found that 57% of that year’s Fortune 500 firms had gotten their start during previous recessions or bear markets. Examples of companies started in the wake of the 2008 recession include Square, Venmo, Groupon, Slack, WhatsApp, Uber, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Of course, this economic downturn is different because of the unique challenges Covid-19 poses. It is nearly impossible to start a business that requires in-person client interaction, sales, or services. Still, a savvy entrepreneur can find opportunities in any situation. A quarantine entrepreneur can provide consulting services, delivery services, online tutorial services, or address a new need created because of the virus.
Saper Law is already assisting new businesses focused on supporting Covid-19 response efforts, including one dedicated to Covid-19 pre-screenings and another to the promotion of take-out restaurants open during the lockdown (diningatadistance.com).
Businesses You Can Start Right Now
A new business doesn’t have to be novel (pun intended) to be successful. We compiled this short list of businesses that are relatively easy to start from home, especially during a global pandemic.
Graphic Design and Digital Marketing: Do you have design skills? Good at whipping up stylish posters or flyers, creating logos? Familiar with animation or editing software? Plenty of companies are still operating during lockdown. In addition to their usual marketing needs, they also need to quickly explain any changes they have in place for coping with social distancing. You can apply your art, design and editing skills on your home computer to create professional advertising and promotional materials for companies in need.
Social Media Manager: Are you good with social media platforms and tools? Are you on top of the latest social media trends? Now is a good time for businesses to start focusing on increasing their online presence – but many don’t know where to begin. You can help businesses set up new social media accounts and show them how to use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram. You can also help them curate content to post, create catchy hashtags, show them TikTok trends, and otherwise help them market their products and services through social media.
Online Tutoring: Have a background in education or experience tutoring? With almost every school in the country closed until summer, millions of parents are now forced to become teachers. Many desperately need help teaching their kids while they work or take care of the home but they are also afraid to bring help directly into their homes. If you are an educator (or you just really love 4th grade math), think about offering online tutoring services.
Start a podcast or Youtube channel: Know a lot about a particular subject? Have a unique hobby or skill? Find yourself with extra time to research an obscure topic or story? All you need is a decent microphone and webcam and you can start your own YouTube Channel or podcast. Use this time to iron out the kinks and grow your subscriber base. Once the shelter in place orders are lifted, you’ll have positioned yourself to convert all those eyes and ears into advertising dollars. Always remember, you don’t need to be good at the thing you’re doing if you are entertaining enough.
Open an E-commerce Store: Know how to source toilet paper or other in demand home goods? Do people constantly tell you they love your homemade cookies? Your art? Your fashion designs? You can sell almost anything online and this may be a great time to set up that e-commerce store you’ve always been thinking about. Don’t want to bother with creating a whole new website? No worries. There are lots of platforms for DIYers. Check out Etsy, Shopify, Cargoh, Zazzle, ArtFire, or Indiemade. And of course, there is always Amazon.
Consulting: If you have worked in a particular industry, or have a professional skill, you may be able to provide your services as a consultant. Most consulting work can easily be done virtually. The key to consulting is knowing the value of your experiences, and finding customers who need your expertise.
- E-commerce consulting: Experience with Amazon, eBay or other e-commerce platforms? Help others launch their e-commerce store. Are you familiar with platforms like UberEats or Grubhub? Help restaurants and smaller retail businesses stay open by setting up an online order and delivery infrastructure. These are just two examples of e-commerce consulting.
- Professional Services: All businesses need consultants to thrive. If you are a recently laid off accountant, lawyer, PR or other business professional, now may be the best time to think about offering your services as an independent business owner.
You can find even more ideas for at-home businesses here.
Plan Your Business During Lockdown
One you have honed in on the type of business you‘d like to launch, use this time to create a business plan. This plan should be designed to convince others to work with you, invest in you, and utilize your services. What will be your businesses’ strengths? Weaknesses? What market opportunities can you capitalize on? What are potential threats?
There are a number of online resources to help you create a solid business plan including this guide from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In conjunction with drafting your plan you should also be thinking about:
How to fund your business: How much capital will you need to start your business? Having a practical budget and well thought out plan will be crucial to securing funding from investors or lending from banks. Also consider alternatives like crowdfunding platforms.
Your location: A central aspect of your business plan (and something most investors will want to know before investing) is where your business will operate. Decide if you want your business to be completely online or if you will also have a brick and mortar location.
Your business structure: How you structure your business (e.g., partnership, LLC, an S corporation or a C corporation) will determine how your business will be managed and taxed. You should consult with a lawyer and an accountant prior to making this decision. You can find a quick overview of different entity types here.
Your business name: You will need to choose a name for your business before you can start operations and complete necessary government filings. Check the Secretary of State’s site to make sure the name you choose is not already taken.
Your brand name a.k.a your Trademarks: Your business name is not necessarily the same as your trademark name. A trademark helps consumers know that your company is the source of your service or product. Indeed, your business may offer several different services or products, and each may have their own unique trademark. It is important to select a creative and memorable trademark that no one else is using. The more unique your trademark is, the easier it will be to enforce it. To get nationwide protection for your mark, you will need to seek a federal trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Learn more about trademarks and the process for applying for a trademark here. If you are ready to start the trademark application process, click here.
Business licenses and permits: Some businesses may require special licensing, permits or other certifications. These requirements will differ from state to state and depend on your business and its location. Without the proper license, your business may be fined or be operating illegally.
Insurance: Depending on the nature of your business and the types of risks and liabilities it may face, your business will likely need special insurance policies. You will want to discuss these risks and the appropriate policies with your attorney, your accountant, and your insurance broker.
Getting tax IDs and opening a business bank account: Once you have created your business, it is important to act like a business. That means opening a separate bank account, getting a business EIN number, and keeping great accounting records. If you start co-mingling your personal finances with your business’ you can be personally liable for any business debts or lawsuits.
Saper Law can help you start your new business!
Our experienced attorneys can help you incorporate your new LLC or corporation, protect your intellectual property, draft business contracts and licensing agreements, and make sure your social media marketing is legal.
If you have any questions about Saper Law’s services for new businesses call 312-527-4100 or click here to book a consultation.