Survival through a home business or cottage industry

We survivalist / preppers spend a lot of time worrying about a national or worldwide collapse scenario, giving little thought to collapse on an individual level. The fact is many things can happen to YOU personally, sending your life into turmoil creating a personal collapse.

You can be laid off from your job or fired. Your employer could move or company close. You could become sick or injured, no longer able to work at your present capacity or industry.

You should consider starting a home business. With a home business you have a hedge against unemployment and become an asset to your neighbours.

No doubt many of you have thought of starting your own business but lack the willpower to actually get it going.

Every home business started with an idea followed by action. You have to put your ideas to work, if not you’re guaranteed to fail.

Starting a home business or cottage industry, need not be expensive or time-consuming. Many can be started part-time with little resources or cash outlay. A good book that has been a great resource for me is Small Time Operator by Bernard B. Kamoroff.

Some Ideas to consider:

  • Mail order or Internet Sales
  • Craft Sales (can be combined with above)
  • Freelance Writing
  • Gunsmithing
  • Locksmithing
  • Reloading
  • Auto Repair
  • Computer Repair
  • Knife Making
  • Greenhouse / Produce Sales
  • Firewood Sales
  • Odd Jobs / Handyman
  • Welding
  • Childcare

I’m sure you have many other home business ideas and I can’t wait to read about them in the comments below. Just remember ideas should have low start-up costs that the operator can run from home.

Now the bad news. Even a home business can falter. According to a recent – 50% of all home businesses fail within the first year. This may sound discouraging but one thing is guaranteed – if you never start you will never be included in the 50% that make it.

Steps To Success

  • Consider your Skills
  • Make a plan
  • Avoid entering a saturated market
  • Don’t go into debt
  • Set a work schedule and stick to it
  • Consider customer needs
  • Look for a “recession proof” business
  • Prepare to work long hours for little pay
  • Don’t quit your current job (if you have one) until you’re established

Having a home business is just another step toward survival and self-reliance. Think about it; how can you be self-sufficient if you depend on others for your livelihood?

Do you run a home business? What is it? What advice would you give others starting out?

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. As an entrepreneur for 30 or more years, I can tell you that the added stress of payroll,insurance,quarterly taxes and the idiosyncrocies of human personalities in a work enciroment,is still worth the effort it takes to be a business owner. I’ve owned restaraunts,a roofing company,been a contractor and owned a one truck trucking company that I operated with my wife. Dec13th of 2011 I went to work for an employer and I’ve been amazed and disgusted with the caliber of employees and a near total lack if work ethic. I was unemployed for almost six months and if it wasn’t for my ability to repair/refinish guns and sell them at gun shows,as well as a little money I make from my YouTube channel,I would have been in forclosure. I can’t stress enough the importance of a secondary source of income.

    • BC,
      I been on your youtube channel many times, you do great work. I thought of starting my own and i didn’t know that you got paid for your channel. Can you explain how that works i’d like to move to a B.O. location and whats keeping me as funds to purchase fuel food etc.

      Thank You

  2. JP in MT says:

    Multiple sources of income are, in today’s economic environment, if not essential then extremely important. We have a home based business. When I was working we had 5 sources of income. This made “bumps” in the economy very easy to deal with.

    If you are looking for a home based business that is a franchise-type business, look for a couple of things. First, how long have they been in business. Second, do they require that you purchase a lot of inventory up front (it’s called “front loading” and is illegal in most states). Third, do you get paid to recruit people (also illegal in most states).

    A good, profitable home based business requires work. It will also require and initial investment in time and money. Most of us do not know what it takes to run a business, so find mentor-ship. Be ready to work, and reinvest your profits at first. If it sounds like you will get rich quick, have someone else do the work, and have to invest nothing but some money….RUN AWAY! Just use good discernment. And “dig your well before you are thirsty”.

  3. Or…… you can work for yourself to become self sufficient. Sustainable.

    Until this summer I have sold CSA (Community Support Agriculture) shares, basically garden shares. Sold produce, eggs, tinctures, soaps, flowers and crafts at Farmers Markets and at my farm.
    I ran a co-op farm bringing families in to learn to grow food. Taught canning classes and Native Plant Master classes.
    In the dead of winter I sew to add to my Farmers Market sales.
    It is enough money to pay for most of the improvements here such as our greenhouse, supplies, tools, fruit trees, food crops, seed stock, livestock, and feed.
    Now that we are greatly improved. the income could be enough to pay our basic bills.
    I make my own hours so I have time to search for incredible deals of items we need. Generators, farm implements, heat sources and building materials.
    My husband works full time but we had a choice to make. I go to work 8-5 and depend on the school and pay daycare. Then also have to use my pay to buy groceries, gas, etc.
    No. Not acceptable. I decided to raise my children (and a few others) and work for myself doing something I love.
    It worked out better than we had originally planned. I am taking my first summer off in 15 years due to the Extreme Drought we are experiencing.
    I only have a small private garden this year. We have a lot of food stored and it is time to give it a heavy rotation.
    With some forethought, hard work and careful planning we will be able to stay here and thrive if SHTF or something happened to my husbands job. Or, God forbid something happened to him.

    • I cannot speak for you but one of the great things about having a spouse working a “regular” job or career while the other has an “alternative” career is that you can accentuate the positive and dispell the negatives of each by working as a team.

      Healthcare can be free or discounted through the “regular” route. Opportunities made possible by flexible schedule of the “alternative” partner can be sought out. Growing food, herbs, livestock. firing the lawn maintenance people ( I call them leaf blowers…totally useless. If someone wants an idea for an instantly profitable business try providing real landscape services, communicate with customers to assess their needs and learn to plant and maintain fruit trees. Lawn maintenance has devolved to resemble modern healthcare…15 minute visit-run the mower over the dead grass in the middle of summer…dont get me started!). Providing daycare and homecooked meals. Add to that a $ making business and it starts to really make sense. More importantly it starts to be profitable.

      Being part of the underground economy has its advantages as well. Trading/bartering, networking, accepting alternative currencies, avoiding scrutiny from certain corrupt organizations also comes to mind.

      It sounds like you have hit the right formula.

    • patientmomma says:

      Mama J, thanks for the ideas on selling at the farmer’s market. I was planning on retiring several years ago, but the worst thing that could happen did happen; my husband passed away. Our golden years together never came. As unpleasant as it is to thing about, you should have an idea of how you will survive if your spouse dies and you are suddenly left with all the responsibilities of home, insurance, repairs, and survival—especially in these uncertain times we live in.

      • Patientmomma.
        I am so sorry for your loss sweetheart. “The golden years never came” made me cry. So so sorry. I hope you fine happiness and golden years again.
        If you want a business at Farmers Market I can help you with that.
        You can message me through MD and we can talk.
        Bless you on your journey.

    • Mama J,
      Sounds like you have many small businesses, all of which could survive (perhaps with a little extra work) TEOTWAWKI and would still offer value to your customers, without heavy dependance on the grid, the internet, etc. Very nice.

    • Doris Jones says:

      Mama J,
      Can you hear me laughing from Alabama about how wrong I was about you? I had been so impressed with the wisdom and deep caring in your answers that I “thought” you must be a very elderly grandmother or something. Obviously you learned fast in life or started out with a huge helping of common sense. I always look for your comments and enjoy them (as well as benefit from them) tremendously. Today I learned an “extra” lesson from you–“Wisdom is ageless”.

  4. worrisome says:

    This is a great article. I have worked in the same business for over 25 years and will be retiring over the next couple of years to move to the bol. After I get things organized……I am going to be bored to death and will need to do something. I admire you resourceful types that can turn your skills towards other money making activities. I am thinking that I might start going to craft shows/gun shows/etc and see what sells well as a starting point. I can do that now while I am selling houses, training others to do my job and such. Some things come to mind that I have always wanted to try, leather crafting, cheese making, soap making. I am already good at photography but haven’t found it all that easy to make money at it. Although, for a while, I did do some “action” shooting for some wild and crazy skiers that went crazy places to do high hazard skiing… Takes more physical abilities that I can handle anymore with the bad knee though. I can make bird houses………haven’t thought of anything yet though that would be absolutely a necessity for folks after a big crash………

    • worrisome,
      “absolutely a necessity for folks after a big crash”.
      Food, clothing and shelter have always been required for life. Assuming your neighbors already have shelter, leaves you with food and clothing (or clothing repair). Leather crafting could easily be leveraged into shoe repair.
      Things you could do at your BOL to provide for yourself and to sell / barter to others could include things like fruit, berries, honey, eggs & chickens and herbs, all of which only require work to get started, a little maintenance, and work at harvest / collection time.

  5. I quit a very high paying career 4 years ago to be home with the kids. My wife works in a good career. I dove headfirst into bicycle fabrication, something that I had always dreamed of doing. I made 11 bicycles in the first year and I am now up to about 20 or so each year and getting better and faster every day. Absolutely zero advertising. I now have a year of work scheduled. The only thing I do as far as networking is post progress photos on flickr so that my customers can watch their bike unflod in the process.

    The skills that I have perfected as well as the tools that I have collected have allowed me to do all kinds of income generating jobs that I never would have considered before. Repair of all kinds, auto body work, custom motorcycle tools and parts, engine parts, Gates/fence/iron work, sculpture, furniture…the list is long. (for all you welders out there I only do brass and silver fillet brazing, no tig no mig. Although those are on the horizon). I have also become the go-to-guy in my neighborhood when it comes to maintaining “the fleet” of bicycles (a lot of extra work that I do for free). It has me really feeling like part of a community. I know that if I need something from anyone there would not be a second thought about it. A good feeling.

    My advise.
    *Stay profitable by minimizing overhead and outlay.
    *Work ethic- Dont overvalue your time or skills…if anything undervalue it. Keep your customers coming back. Never turn down work.
    *Keep a low profile-I go out of my way to reduce noise and visual blights that might get me reported or scrutinized.
    *Stay healthy- Work smart without injury…You are in this for the long haul.

    Lately I have gotten interested in some of the things mentioned above. Smithing, soap making, knife making etc. A great thing to do is go on youtube and search for “handmade + (fill in the blank) and you will see all kinds of people doing amazing work.

    Nearly everywhere you look there is an item that people cherish, can be made better, be made in USA and that people would pay actual dollars for. Look for those items/services and you are halfway there.

  6. One idea I didn’t see was shoe making. When it hits it, we won’t have access to the cheap slave-labor produced products from China anymore, and in a few months/years what’s still in stock will wear out. I’ve always been interested in learning how to make shoes, but can’t seem to find any good sources. Anyone have any idea where I can find this out?

    • tommy2rs says:

      Only place I know of off hand is Green Country Technology Center in Okmulgee, OK

      Though there are probably other places around that do the training. Might look around your area at the community colleges or for shoe repair places and see if they need any help or are willing to do an apprentice type thing.

      Might also start with learning to make moccasins and tire sandals then combine the two. Lots of info on the net about both of those. Adding a tire sole to the moccasin is a PITA but I’ve done it, mostly to see if I could. Too hard on my hands to do it these days, though I can still handle making moccasins.

      • I have always wanted to make a pair of mocs, and I think I’m going to try to do a pair with tire soles, because I have a ready source of materials in the used car lot I used to work at. I can always snag one of the runflat spares (easier to work with that steel-belted radials) from them from the scrap pile.

    • Winomega says:

      Rick, IIRC this was the best lead I found.

      What stands in my way is that almost everything I would want to do either needs the economy to be better for discretionary spending, or bad enough that cheap-labor countries stop exporting to us. (You can’t even get fabric for what people are willing to pay for hand-sewn clothing.)

      I’ve got a few feelers on stuff that I don’t know how to do yet, but I’m focusing on the practical of complete collapse first.

      • Might be a little hard to traverse the post-apocalyptic landscape in fashion pumps, though…;-). But I see the general concept there.

    • Rick,
      In order to make shoes you will also need materials like leather, and making leather (fleshing, stretching, tanning) are something anyone can learn, and might be a good adjunct or supplier to those who make the shoes. I’ve done it a few times for fun and can recommend the book, “Deerskins into Buckskins”. available at Amazon ( Don’t forget to use MD’s Amazon link.

      • Thank you. I’ll check into them, and I have looked over at some of the sandal articles over at Insttructables. I am seriously deficient in leatherworking skill, so I’ll have to start out basic. Thanks again.

  7. I putter around with selling things from home. I can never decide exactly what I want to focus my ‘extra’ time on. So I bake cakes and cookies, crochet, and do bead work. I dont make a lot of extra money, as most of my sales are to friends.
    I have thought about starting an actuall business doing something (and it changes with what I have on my mind at the time), but for now it will stay in the thought process. My main priority right now is raising and educating a gaggle of kids.
    I kind of like the ideaof a flea market or craft show. Maybe I will get some stuff together this summer and be ready for this winter, especially the Christmas shows.

  8. S'wt Tater says:

    It has been my experience that: Many people want handmade items, but only want to pay the cost of materials.
    Some exceptions have been hand carved items which are useful…these still pay next to nothing for the time used, Be sure to do something you are passionate about, so you gain something from each item crafted.

  9. Donna in MN says:

    When SHTF there has to be a demand for what you do or sell/trade. I figure it has to be something without much use of electricity or gas. What would people need most in this senario? Especially those who haven’t prepped well?

    ammo and guns
    transportation (Bicycles, horses,)
    medical service and supplies
    temorary shelters
    survival gear
    Solar power, wind power, off grid solutions etc.
    propane cylanders
    barrel stove parts and pipe

  10. Swabbie Robbie says:

    My wife and I have both been self employed since the mid 1970s. We did years of craft fairs with jewelry (me) and weaving (her). I’ve also done graphic arts/illustration, and ornamental iron work as well as damascus (pattern welded) steel knives. In 1988 I switched from retail art shows to wholesale with a titanium jewelry line. It was quite successful and had a good run until fashions changed in the mid ’90s and people were not wearing jewelry as much. I am still self employed but in a non-craft line of work.
    My advice is to look at markets. Example: Precious metal jewelry in hard economic times with the sticker shock at the materials cost is probably not going to work for many.
    2. Don’t have employees. It gets you into the FUTA FICA record keeping game which is as much work for one employee as dozens. Added bonus: You get to listen to long stories about why they could not make it in to work on time. One actually said “I had too many flat tires on the way to work.” The you get to listen to stories of their relationship troubles and other trials and tribulations. My wife and I realized the wasted time could have paid for us to go out to dinner and a movie each week.
    3. Find something you have a passion for. Then the long hours don’t seem like work. Even in a crowded market, that passion and quality will find a place.
    4. Try to develop a narrow deep niche. I know one man who hand makes fiberglass fly fishing rods. People wait many months for theirs. Another makes traditional longbows. There are several musical instrument makers in our area: Native American flutes, Classic guitars.

    I built a wooden sailboat, and decided to learn to make the sails for it. I bought an industrial sewing machine from Sailrite, and that developed into a a small scale spare time business sewing sail for people and repairing sails.

    Last bit of advice: Even if something fails or you move on, NEVER sell your tools. You never know when they will come in handy for a new endeavor or the time is right in the economy to start up again. I would hate to try to purchase my 270 pound Kohlswa anvil or Little Giant trip hammer today, never mind all the little hand tools and hammers which is where where the money really adds up.

  11. There is an old adage, “if you’re doing what you love you never work a day in your life”.

  12. Angus Gray says:

    My wife and I both had successful businesses up until the 2011 Christchurch New Zealand earth-quakes. The quakes wiped us out financially and brought into sharp focus the realities of prepping.
    Unsaddled with no mortgages and only insurance claims to see through, we moved to a small rural village about 400 kilometers north. First thing we did was start a garden, second was start two new businesses.
    As we had no local population I choose to sell rough jade via on-line auctions to professional carvers and hobbyists as it was relatively high value and I was able to supply promptly using the postal service for parcels up to 25 kilos..My wife sells craft supplies on-line via both on=line auctions and her own web-site. This has allowed us to remain self-employed and relatively free to pursue other options in our local area.
    Our new local area, historically was the scene of a gold rush in 1863 so I’m now after careful investigation looking at commercial placer gold mining to provide us with significant income..
    This is a great opportunity for preppers in some areas to produce real money…… Many of us already have tractors and some even have small excavators, which with a few small additions can generate some serious income. Good luck.

    • Lantana says:

      Angus, have you considered writing a full article about your experience with the earthquake and how you have approached becoming better prepared for the future?

      I’m sure many folks here would find your journey both fascinating and full of practical lessons.

    • As an Industrial mechanic/ millwright for over thirty years, I spent about 5 years setting up and maintaining placer mining operations in Northern British Columbia, (along the Yukon border). I met some individuals doing this- by themselves, ( and learned some interesting things through them),
      For an example: If you have a river nearby, consider floating a truck inner tube on it, with a gas powered vacuum pump and a hose, Prod the cracks with a crowbar, with a screen on the hose pipe, (placer gold collects at the bottom of the cracks,) Run the material through a small ‘long tom’ , lined with astroturf, held down with expanded metal mesh, (Save the black sand- there’s a market for that).
      Been there and done that- fascinating!

  13. One really good part-time home business with low start-up costs is to do simple clothing alterations with an average quality sewing machine. Lots of people need waistlines taken in or let out, trouser hems taken up or let down and new buttons sewn on or button holes or seams repaired on shirts. This is simple stuff for an experienced home sewer to do but very expensive for a customer who has no choice other than to go to a dry cleaners that does alterations on the side. In a prolonged grid down situation where clothing cannot easily be replaced and most younger people do not know how to use a sewing machine much less hand-sew anything in a professional-looking manner, anyone who can skillfully repair clothing will be in high demand. Think of all the eggs, garden vegies and firewood you can get in trade if you are a skilled home sewer and have some kind of generator to power your sewing machine or better yet a modern non-electric sewing machine (yes these are still made). You could even make simple patchwork quilts from fabric scraps and chicken feather stuffing when it becomes impossible to buy blankets.

    • Linda,
      This is a very good point for someone with the equipment and skills. We had a lady in our community who is now retired, but who ran a great and profitable business for years doing this. She had been doing it for so long, and with such quality, that she was legendary in the community, and was kept rather busy all of the time, to the point that during times like the High School prom season, you had to schedule weeks in advance.

    • Linda, this is actually a really good idea. I suppose I need to actually practice my basic sewing skills.

      Does anyone have any sites, books ect, they would recommend for quilting? I can put together an easy ‘block’ quilt together, and am in the process of repairing my grandmothers quilt, but other then that, I have no clue. I would love to make some quilts for my kids.

      • If you go to You Tube and search for “quilt” you will find lots of free quilting demos. If I recall correctly the Missouri Quilt Company has some of the better tutorials. There’s also a great one where a lady shows how to use circles of denim from old blue jeans and scraps of calico that ends up looking like the traditional cathedral window pattern (search You Tube for “quilt + denim”).

        Just keep in mind that unless you are buying thrift shop and garage sale fabrics and heavily discounted remnants or are cutting up outgrown clothing, faded curtains, worn out bed sheets or stained tablecloths for use in traditional quilts the way old time thrifty homemakers did, this hobby can quickly become very, very expensive. There are some complicated art quilts that are made with a dozen or so quilt block patterns (patterns can go for $12 to $14 each) plus specialty fabrics selected by the pattern designer that are $8 to $12 per yard and use more than a dozen different fabrics.

        Getting affordable 100% cotton or cotton blend fabric will be the biggest challenge to making a good-looking, homemade quilt these days that someone wants to buy for home use. If you have elderly female relatives, you may get lucky and find they have stored away vintage cloth from their younger days of home sewing and are willing for you to have it. By the way, some of the best quilters out there are men.

  14. Its James from the I Am Liberty Show. For those of you who dont know about it go to the site I am replying because I have been walking the wall between podcasting as a hobby and going off the deep end into a business.

    The research I have done so far has shown me that there are great opportunities out there. It takes a lot to make that jump. I have done it before and hope you take the chance yourselves.

  15. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I am a CAD operator (computer aided drafting) and might be able to stay afloat (barely) as an independent contrator for architects, builders, developers and others who may require some drawings to be drawn. Contracting like this would give an employer options like “I don’t need to pay for his insurance” and other niceties most full time employees are required to provide. So as long grid and internet remains – I have a slim hope of employment.

    As stated above, your living habits right now determines how desperate you are. If your home is paid off, thats a big relief – mortagage is a killer. If you don’t need a car everyday, maybe getting rid of it now and saving that money for renting when you DO need a car will suffice.

    Ray – really like that thought – working at something you really enjoy does make the time pass quickly and reduce stress.

  16. I am an income tax preparer and I am in the process of getting my bachelors degree in accounting (almost done)! My partner and I are working on a plan to do bookkeeping for the small mom and pop businesses in our area. Our goal is to help the small businesses manage their tax burdens. With the system we are putting in place I will not be tied to an office. I can do the work anywhere as long as I have my laptop.

    I sell stun guns, pepper sprays, alarm systems… I want a website for this but I do not have the knowledge to get it set up.

    I know how to cut hair, sew clothes, embroidery, crocheting, make candles and grow produce. My DH knows how to do anything that has to do with a home: wiring, plumbing, framing, insulation, etc… He cannot physically do the work anymore but he can help tell someone else how to get it done.

    We have been getting the info to learn how to do other things for in a SHTF situation for example: tanning, soap making, smoking and curing meat, and the list gets longer all of the time! 

  17. hbostic says:

    My dad broke his back at GM s Fisher Bodes baldwin plant.He had a back operation where they took bone from his pelvic bone and spliced it accross his 3 vertebra,back in the late 50s.
    They gave him 5 grand out of court,and pretty much,he was blacklisted,with the workmans comp passing this info on for the rest of his life.
    He went back to college taking a teachers major at Wayne St U in Detroit,part of Mich St U.He never did get a degree,but racked up apx 9 yrs of college credits.
    As long as he got a C avg,they d pay him to take classes,apx as much as he d get after taxes at minumum wage.Later,he moved to Miami,and took the States accreditation teachers exam and passed it.They don t give you a certificate,they just keep it on file at the Co School Board where he took it in Dade Co.
    Anybody with 3.5 to 4 plus yrs of college can take the test,even if they didn t get their degree.If they pass,thy get the certification.
    Dad was registered a no of yrs,but never got the call.He als registered as a substitute,never got called for that ,either.He did a couple nights a week teaching night schoolart was his specialty.
    So,he was the proverbial jack of all trades.He sold sewing machines,and did repairs/deliveries 4 yrs.Clerked a hardware and lumber yard a few yrs.Helped build his sisters house with her husband.
    Built another house for another sister who sold it to finance a move to FL,splitting profits with him.
    Did rent a cop for Burns a few yrs.Did private duty nursing a couple yrs,after getting a certificate from the Red Cross Home Nursing semeste type class.
    The owner of the singer sewing machine franchise asked him what would be successful in Homestead Fl,he replied a nursery/landscape business.So,he did that for 10 yrs.Theyd mix a few truckloads of dirt for topsoil/potting mix,& pot truckloads to ship to NYC for indoor plants on the side.
    He did commercial Art production numbers /paintings to sell as tourist souvinirs50 to 300 dollar paintings on boards.He landscaped the Miami Golf Club as his last landscape job before going on disability,driving the greens lawnmowing tractor.
    I tried to get him into the Mellingers import/export franchise,he said the cops do that and would send the theives in on him.
    Later,he had a detectivebuddy do custom frames around a college in their mini mall scenarios.Did antique prints for interior decorators.Then they started doing flea markets with it on weekends,also to spot what may be stolen goods.After that pops got in the habit of going to flea markets.I estimated apx 50 cents a hr was all he was making,not worth ones time ,equipment ,and expertise without the cops angle of looking for stolen goods.
    I sent off for the mellingers books.Pops handed it off to a Detective landlord that used it for souvinir shops and flea markets from then on out.He got pops a job on a crew installing power lines underground ,apx 7 mo,and threw selling a haLF DOZ OF HIS SEASCAPE PAINTINGS IN ,…

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