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Start Your Business Franchising

Prefer Going Solo? 10 Home-Based Franchises That Don't Need Employees

image for Flamingo Images / Shutterstock
Flamingo Images / Shutterstock
  • Franchising can offer freedom and flexibility to those who are both persistent and organized.
  • Home-based franchises, as well as franchises that don't require employees, offer the advantage of a lower initial investment.
  • Aspiring franchisees are advised to choose an industry and a franchise that aligns with their experience and skill set.

While many of us may yearn to be our own bosses, few are willing to put up the risk. Marketing and initial overhead is hard enough; recruiting talent and managing schedules, salaries, payroll taxes and insurance further complicate the endeavor. Then there are those who would rather go solo.

This is where franchising can provide a risk-neutral middle ground. Investing in a home-based business franchise offers the freedom and flexibility of entrepreneurship without the risk of a startup.

Editor's note: Considering opening a franchise? If you're looking for information to help you choose the right one, use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will provide you with information for free: 

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Franchising is a way for businesses to expand while mitigating risk. The way it works is that a franchisor (the company) will sell branding rights and the business model to the franchisee (the individual) for a certain location or period of time – all laid out in the franchise agreement. Typically, the franchisor will then make money in the form of a monthly or annual fee, while the franchisee gets to keep the profits (or suffer the losses) they make.

While most franchises involve brick-and-mortar locations (fast food is a common one), in this era of flexibility and cloud communications, home-based franchises are an increasingly popular career option. In many such arrangements, franchisees are free to work remotely, from a home office, or out and about in the community, walking dogs or selling real estate. The real attraction is that none of these require employees – all you need is your own accountability.  

Franchises offer a level of independence just short of ownership, but that also means that all the burdens of profit-making are on your shoulders. For that reason, those shopping for franchises should be realistic about the "level of persistence and organization" they possess, said Thomas Gibbs, experienced franchisee as well as franchise coach and consultant.

"In a home-based franchise, you will hold yourself accountable to achieving business goals," he said. "If persistence and organization are not strong areas, direct employment may be a better choice." [Read related article: How to Choose the Right Franchise for You]

The next step for those sufficiently self-motivated is to consider the worst-case scenario. Gibbs suggested prospective franchisees ask themselves how much money they could lose in 12 months and still be able to pay the monthly bills. "This thinking allows you to actually move forward with a decision instead of being paralyzed by fear on making an investment that might not work out."

If you ask yourself these questions and still fit the bill, start by selecting several franchises and doing your research. This may involve getting them on the phone to "gauge how well your values and the franchisor's values align," Gibbs said. Finally, be sure to leverage the fact that others have "been there, done that … call active franchisees and ask them if they would invest in the franchise again, knowing what they now know."

Do you have a knack for business strategy but lack the capital to start a management consultancy? Consider becoming a certified business coach through the AdviCoach franchise. Because of this business model's flexible scheduling and location, all you need to start your business as an AdviCoach – aside from the necessary knowledge and people skills – is a phone and an internet connection. Your initial investment includes training, operations and marketing support.

America's Swimming Pool Co. (ASP) says it is the country's largest swimming pool service and maintenance franchise, and it serves both residential and commercial properties.

An ASP franchisee does not need to have any past experience in swimming pool service. The company provides dedicated training through its Pool School, which provides all the knowledge the franchisee needs to run the business, from product information to marketing strategies.

Real estate has been providing careers for independent, self-motivated types for far longer than today's gig economy. Century 21 is one of the most recognized names in the industry, offering franchisees comprehensive training, support and exposure to its global network of real estate markets. For those unsure whether they possess the peppy real estate personality profile, Century 21 provides prospective franchisees a personality assessment to see if they would be a good fit for real estate sales.

Coffee News, a single-page publication of horoscopes and local happenings, is also a low-investment franchise for anyone with a sales or advertising background. Coffee News provides the content and printing services, while franchisees write their own "What's Happening" column, set advertising rates and sell ads in their designated territory. As with most sales franchises, your level of input determines your level of output, giving this the flexibility of becoming either a full-time job or a side gig that allows you to stay abreast of your community.   

Aspiring entrepreneurs with a strong professional network should consider investing in Corps Team, a national staffing firm that helps employers fill intermittent staffing needs. The initial startup cost includes new-owner training, a mentor program, operations and marketing systems, and back-office support. While there are ongoing franchise fees, a staffing business generally has low overhead costs, especially if you work out of your home. 

For those ready to take their casual neighborhood dog-walking services to the next level, an investment in a Fetch! Pet Care franchise may be the way to do it. The pet-sitting and dog-walking brand offers opportunities in more than 1,500 national cities, with the corporate support you need to get your business up and running quickly.

Note that Fetch! franchisees must have a strong credit history and a minimum of $15,000 in liquid financial net worth. First-year franchise fees for a single area of operation include onsite training, equipment, marketing and supplies.

For new mothers seeking job flexibility, Fit4Mom purports to allow you "to have the best of both worlds – to become a successful business owner and have a career that is supportive of motherhood."

The group exercise program features prenatal and postnatal classes for moms and moms-to-be, including stroller-based workouts where attendees bring their children along. Franchisees can set their own schedules and run classes from anywhere, with the help of corporate training, support and partnerships. A Fit4Mom franchise investment depends on the size of the territory and whether you want to run a part- or full-time business.

Like Fit4Mom, Jazzercise is a workout program franchise perfect for those trying to avoid desk life. As a Jazzercise instructor, you'll have access to the brand's training, technology, choreography and other support so that you can begin teaching classes in your local community. With an initial franchise fee of just $1,250, it's one of the more affordable options on the market. Total upfront investments depend on whether you rent studio space or want to open your own Jazzercise studio.

While many Lawn Doctor franchisees go into business with a partner, this flexible opportunity is certainly manageable as a solo operation. Because the lawn care industry is founded on repeat service, franchise owners are well poised to achieve growth with the right customer service and marketing skills. Lawn Doctor franchisees should understand sales basics, but the company provides franchise training for anyone who needs it. It also offers in-house financing for eligible franchisees, as well as the opportunity to convert an independent lawn care business to a Lawn Doctor franchise.

With a general shift in mental health care from inpatient to outpatient services, Thriveworks franchising offers a way for independent counselors to reach patients with all the insurance and administrative details taken care of. The initial fee ranges from $20,700 to $35,800 for converting existing practices, and $37,100 to $79,282 for opening new counseling practices. To get started, you must make sure you have the proper qualifications and certifications required in your state. From there, you'll undergo training to assure your clients are in safe and capable hands.

Additional reporting by Sammi Caramela.

Siri Hedreen

Siri Hedreen is a graduate of King’s College London, where she wrote for Roar News, London Student and Edinburgh Festivals Magazine. Find her on Twitter @sirihedreen.