Some people reach retirement age after a lifetime in business and can’t wait to focus on something entirely new. Fair enough, we say! For a great many others, though, retirement presents a wonderful opportunity to explore a range of smaller, self-run business opportunities at relatively low cost from the comfort of home.

Whether it’s built around a chiefly creative enterprise with the potential to bring in a few sales as an occasional bonus, or you’re looking to launch a primarily profit-driven scheme aimed at putting your resources to more financially rewarding use through a regular secondary income, operating a retirement business from home can be a superbly rewarding experience in all manner of ways.

The finer details of what you choose to do and how you choose to do it are entirely down to you, of course – that’s very much the point, after all – but here are four key tips to consider in finding a jumping-off point for a whole host of potential (ad)ventures.

1. Take an inventory

Before deciding on quite how you might like to approach the idea of a retirement business, it’s a good idea to step back and assess your assets, taking stock of any untapped potential in what’s sitting right under your nose.

After a lifetime of working, raising a family or exchanging gifts with friends, you might well find that your basement, spare room, garage or garden is packed to the rafters with miscellaneous items you rarely use but that still have decent sell-on value. You always figured you’d have a clear-out someday but never quite got around to it, right?

Well, now is the time. You could easily be sitting on enough pre-owned stock to make shifting and trading it on eBay (or any other reputable trading website) into a busy little venture in itself. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy doing into goods sales and trading, you may prefer to quickly offload just enough of your own ‘backroom stock’ to provide a handy start-up float for whatever sort of business you do feel like investing your time in now.

Then again, perhaps you’ve been far more disciplined when it comes to clearing out your living spaces, and your spare room or garden are a vision of minimalist tidiness. Well done! In that case, could your empty spaces themselves form the basis of your business venture? Even if you don’t need it for your own use, might it be a possible income generator were you to loan it to someone else? What about any contacts you’ve built up over the years … how might they be able to help you out?

The point here is to assess and exploit your existing situation before you make any big moves – particularly those requiring further investment. You could very well discover that you’ve got a lot of what you need already or at least the potential means to get things up and running for free. The less you have to put in, the lower the risk and the less stressful it will be to begin with.

2. Know going in what you want to get out

It’s hugely important to have a well-defined picture in your mind of what it is you’re hoping to achieve, regardless of what sort of business you think you’d like to try (and way before you start looking into any of the finer details of planning and execution). State your objectives clearly to yourself and perhaps even to appropriately place others where applicable.

Is the point of this venture to provide the bulk of your income from here on in? Or rather, is it to continue using the expertise and experience you gained in full-time work but at a more relaxed pace? Then again, is it to try your hand at something entirely new for your own interest, amusement and growth? Knowing the answers to these sorts of questions before you lift a finger to put your plan into action is crucial; otherwise, it’s all too easy to get bogged down and lose direction once you’re in the thick of it.

In arriving at those answers, be realistic and mindful of your broader life situation. Are there other family members who’ll be affected by the space or money your new venture might absorb, for example? Do you already have certain demands on your time, space, availability or resources that you’ll need to build in the flexibility to work around? (Remember in particular that for any business involving customers, they won’t necessarily know or care that you’re an individual working from home, not a multinational conglomerate: they’ll still expect a basic standard of service, and you need to be confident that your situation will allow for it.)

3. Look in the mirror

Obviously, one of the first questions you’ll need to address once you reach the planning stage is what sort of business you’re going to operate. And, when you’re essentially starting from a blank sheet of paper, that question can be so wide open it feels a little overwhelming! So, very early on in the process, you’re going to need to narrow down the field a bit – and the best way to do that is by asking yourself a series of further questions, such as:

  • What interests you? Your enthusiasm for the venture will affect its chance of success – if none of your favorite hobbies translates directly into a business opportunity, you might need to dig a little deeper.
  • Which aspects of previous jobs have you particularly liked or disliked, and how might that influence the way you operate?
  • What sort of employee/boss are you? (Be honest with yourself here because that’s who you’ll be working with and for!)
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses likely to be?
  • Will your chosen working style complement your life in other areas, e.g. social, or will it demand difficult compromises?

Making an honest assessment of these sorts of issues before you get going can be incredibly helpful in deciding not only what it is you’re going to do, but how you’re going to do it – and remember that both are equally important in helping you steer your new business ship out of port.

4. Take aim, and have fun!

Ok, we’re getting there … now, we come to the really exciting (and in many ways, the most daunting) part, where you have to decide what you’re going to focus on. And this, really, is the one part of the process where suggestions from others are of limited use – ultimately, it’s going to be up to you. But there are a couple of different general approaches you might like to bear in mind when starting out:

On the one hand, you might wish to diversify your potential income streams by mixing and matching a few smaller projects. That’s a popular approach for those that feel they can swing from an organizational standpoint. If that is indeed your preferred angle (rather than putting all your eggs in one basket), there are a huge number of specialized freelance organizations and home commerce websites out there that could allow you to set up like this very effectively. Some of the handier lists even allow you to narrow your search according to your interests and available time – which, as we discussed above, are both very important considerations.

Alternatively, you might prefer to focus on just one core idea, to begin with, and avoid muddying the water with any further dabblings until you feel more confident you’ve got the basics down. It’s completely up to you; once again, that’s the real beauty of this whole scenario, after all. Whatever direction you do ultimately finally decide to head in, you’ll find the internet is awash with ideas for small business models that are perfect for operating from home. The instant connectivity offered by working online from home means that the vast majority of these are now just as accessible to retirees as they are to current workers seeking a drastic change of direction, or to people looking for a temporary change of pace – or, indeed, to anybody else with enough time and energy to dedicate to them.

Ashley Fleming is a blogger, editor and marketer working in the franchising industry. He likes to share knowledge with would-be franchisees to help them choose the right business model. You can find some of his other franchising articles at the Tubz Advice Blog.