How to Make Money at Home

You don't need an MBA and lots of cash to create a successful home-based company. Meet five moms who did it on a shoestring budget.

The Professional Organizer

Nicole Bickett
Carmel, Indiana

Mother of Taylor, 7, and Lindsay, 4
Business: Organize to Optimize (organize2optimize.com)
Job description: Keeps clients well organized
Launched: 2003
Start-up costs: $2,500 for business cards, liability insurance, and software training
Annual income: $30,000 (charges by project, based on a $100-per-hour rate)

Back story: As a child, Bickett never lost Barbie shoes or game pieces. "I'd always been organized, but once I had kids, I found myself drowning in clutter," she says. Since she no longer had the time to take a Saturday to rearrange her closets, she taught herself shortcuts for managing all the paper and kids' stuff that was accumulating in her home. Once she reorganized herself, she figured others could benefit from her tricks. She researched professional organizing on the Web, got training in an organizational software program called the Paper Tiger, and quit her job as a human-resource manager. Then she told everyone she knew about her service. Her first job was sorting financial papers for a friend's mother-in-law. Then she started helping people rearrange their playrooms and kitchens. But now she's focusing primarily on helping organize small companies, which she finds more challenging -- and lucrative. "Almost all my business comes by word of mouth," says Bickett, who works while her kids are in school.

Best advice: "Think about the kind of organizing you like to do, and stick to that specialty." Hot niches include organizing for families with little kids and for adults with ADHD.

Biggest challenge: "Helping sloppy people learn to stay organized. If they're messy by nature, it's usually because they feel perfectly comfortable being surrounded by chaos."

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