If you’ve ever had the dream to start a home business, but didn’t know where to start, read on. Here, we cover the best home business ideas for 2013, and give you a nudge in the direction of getting started.

My Six Ideas

1. E-commerce

This covers a lot of territory, but if you have a bit of cash to invest in inventory and a well-designed website that will help you process payments and orders, you can sell just about anything, from clothing to computers. And if you want to start a home business in e-commerce with a little help, consider an out-of-the-box solution like eBay or Amazon, which allows you to sell on the site while taking a cut of your revenues.

Cost and Tools to Get Started: E-commerce businesses range greatly in the startup costs, but expect to pay a minimum of $1,000 just for inventory, depending on what you choose to sell. You’ll spend more like $10,000 if you invest in an e-commerce website, but starting on eBay or Amazon is free, and the transaction infrastructure is already built in.

2. Handmade Crafts

While technically, crafts fall under e-commerce, they’ve become a category all their own, with the popularity of sites like Etsy. If you’re handy at designing jewelry, sewing clothing, or painting pictures, there’s a market for it online. And if you live in a small town that doesn’t appreciate your artistry, you may be able to make a better living online. Another perk? You get to keep more profit than you would if you displayed your work in an art gallery.

Cost and Tools to Get Started: Your costs will include raw materials to make your crafts, as well as marketing spend. Being on Etsy doesn’t guarantee your products will fly off of the virtual shelf, so you’ll need to commit to promoting your work in other ways.

 3. Dog Walking and Pet Sitting

If you’re an animal lover, another one of the best home business ideas to consider is dog walking or pet sitting. Start in your neighborhood, where you can meet people in person and show them how passionate you are about dogs. Consider offering these additional services:

  • Pet grooming
  • Overnight pet sitting
  • Doggie daycare
  • Vacation services (collecting mail, watering plants)
  • Training

Cost and Tools to Get Started: Startup costs are minimal, other than a few dog treats and leashes. There are pet sitter certifications you can consider, which would make you more credible as a service provider. These range from $120 to $300, and may take several weeks or months to complete.

4. Virtual Assistant

If you’re well-organized and like being involved in different types of projects for clients, why not start a home business as a virtual assistant? Services that VAs offer range greatly, so feel free to customize your offerings based on your skills and interests. Some areas to consider include:

  • Customer service or phone support
  • Writing
  • Social media management
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Event planning
  • Research

Cost and Tools to Get Started: If you’ve had experience in the services you offer, you won’t need to invest in training. If you want to add new skills, invest a few hundred dollars in a continuing education course or online training. Also, joining an organization like the International Virtual Assistants Association may give you more professional clout. The fee to join is $137 annually.

 5. Writer/Blogger

Many people who fancy themselves prolific start a home business writing. That could be writing books, writing articles, or blogging, depending on your interests and skills. Start by blogging for yourself. This will help you create an online writing portfolio you can point people to when applying for writing gigs. Guru and Elance are two sites that list writing jobs you can bid on. The more work you get, the better you can target the kind of work you want. Business writing can be lucrative, if you have interest in the business world.

If you don’t get paid to write for clients, you can also make money with advertising on your site, once it attracts enough traffic.

Cost and Tools to Get Started: You need “virtually” nothing but a computer and a ready mind to start a home business as a writer. Invest in business cards and professional headshots you can use on your site and social media channels to brand yourself in your niche.

6. Web Design/Graphic Design

If writing isn’t your thing but design is, it’s easy enough to start a home business in design. There is, however, a lot of competition in this field, so find a way to stand out with your work or your branding. Network locally and online to find new clients, and use freelance design job sites to find new projects. Consider reaching out to marketing firms and forging a partnership so that they outsource their graphic or web design work to you.

Cost and Tools to Get Started: You’ll need a website and marketing materials, but since you can design them yourself, your cost will be low. If you need design software, such as Photoshop, budget $500-$1000 for that.

7. Photographer

Another one of the best home business ideas for 2013 is photography. If you’re a shutterbug, you don’t need office space to start working with clients and making money from your portraits. Find a specialty. Many photographers in your area will have already cornered the market in family, children, wedding, or senior photos, so find the niche that you thrive in and market it. Set up a photo website that displays your work in an appealing way.

Cost and Tools to Get Started: If you need camera equipment, the sky can be the limit on how much you’ll spend. Start with a professional grade camera and a few lenses, then grow your tools over time. Invest in a quality website that will render your portfolio well.

Tips for Starting a Home Business

Once you’ve decided which of these best home business ideas fit your interests and skills, develop a marketing plan to promote your business and start taking on new clients. Make sure you’ve got a solid social media presence so that you can establish yourself as an expert in your field and brand your company name. Also network locally and build partnerships with other businesses that offer complementary services or products to yours.

If you’re off to a slow start income-wise, consider freelancing and taking on single projects, if you’ve chosen a service-based home business. Or, start a home business as a side project until it’s making enough income to allow you to quit your full-time job.

And enjoy the perks of working from home! If you’re limited in your career options because you live in a smaller town, or because you have small children at home, running a home-based business can give you financial freedom and more time to create your dream of business ownership.