Let's face it: Nobody absolutely needs sewing lessons or video montages. They can make for viable businesses, but those are things we can do without. It's up to you to convince people that they want what you have to offer.
You do this through effective promotion:
You can create a Web site for as little as $10 a month, but that alone doesn't bring business. You have to get people to the Web site.
Do this through flyers and postcards that you create on your home computer.
Write press releases for your local newspaper about developments in your business, which is one of the ways Jennifer Manriquez promotes BilingualFun.com.
Join business, professional and social networking groups in your area, which is how Kathi Burns has helped spread the word about her organization company AddSpacetoYourLife.com.
Start an e-mail newsletter that you ask everyone you know to forward to everyone they know, which is what I did when I started WomenForHire.com.
Create an eBay store, which is how SarahKadlicGallery.com generated $52,000 in sales in 2006.
Think really creatively -- some people donate gift certificates for their services to local charity events because it's great exposure.
Sometimes you can partner with other complementary small businesses in your area to promote your services together.
Since starting a business on your own can sometimes feel lonely, there are some great resources to turn to for advice and mentoring. I have a few favorites that I think are particularly comprehensive:
Score is a nonprofit organization with a robust Web site and, more significantly, more than 10,000 retired and working entrepreneurs and executives who volunteer their time to provide one-on-one business mentoring and coaching. Score also has 400 locations as well as online assistance. It's all free and confidential.
The Small Business Administration, which is an independent division of the federal government, offers free online self-paced courses for starting a business. It also has lots of related issues including managing and growing the business.
Count Me In is a terrific nonprofit that supports women's economic dependence through a range of services for entrepreneurs. My site, Women for Hire, offers advice on becoming an entrepreneur and links to other resources as well.
And if you're going to sell a product, you'll definitely want to check out the storefront tutorials on eBay, since there's valuable information on how to tap into eBay's 200 million users. I've talked to dozens and dozens of small business owners who swear by eBay.
Legal issues are important considerations -- both to protect yourself and to comply with the law. Check with your local chamber of commerce to inquire about city, county and state requirements for permits and licensing. You might need to file a form for a simple business certificate, or you might want to consider incorporating. They'll also be able to advise you about sales tax certificates.
The type of legal business structure you ultimately opt for is often directly related to your liability and risk. For example, if you're a home-based painter, your liability is likely to be fairly limited. But if you're also a painter who takes her work into someone else's home to deliver and install it, your liability increases -- and you will likely want to incorporate and purchase the necessary insurance to protect yourself and your business.