30 Ideas For the Best Businesses to Start With Little Money

18 min read
30 Ideas For the Best Businesses to Start With Little Money

Executive Summary

You don’t need a huge amount of capital to become an entrepreneur. And you don’t have to quit your job or do anything drastic to get started. You can start out with a side hustle and gradually give your business more and more time as it begins to grow.

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Looking to start a new business but don’t have much capital to invest? Not to worry, there are plenty of ventures you can start with little money. But what are they? Here’s a list of 30. Hopefully, one will help you begin your journey to entrepreneurship!

30 great business ideas with low startup costs

Before we get into the list, let’s break it down a little bit further. Technology opens up opportunities for entrepreneurs to work online from anywhere. You don’t have to be tied to a local market if you don’t want to be. However, if you prefer to work offline, face-to-face with your clients or customers, there are lots of opportunities there, too. Being so, we’ll list the low-cost business ideas in two categories — online and offline.

15 best small business ideas online

First up, here’s a collection of 15 online business ideas that you can start without needing much more than a computer and an internet connection.

1. Virtual assistant

A virtual assistant provides business owners and other types of clients with online support while working remotely. For example, as a virtual assistant, you might manage a client’s email inbox, respond to inquiries on their behalf, publish blog posts, or respond to comments on social media. You can choose what types of clients you want to help and what services you’ll provide.

2. Graphic design

A graphic designer creates visual media which can be used in a variety of formats on many channels. For example, you can design websites, logos, and social media content. You could also help brands implement their visual identities across all of their marketing assets. Graphic design is in high demand and doesn’t require formal education. However, you will need to learn the fundamentals of design, practice, and develop a portfolio. If you don’t yet have a portfolio, you can start with a couple volunteer projects to get some pieces under your belt.

3. Influencer

Influencers are individuals who build communities online that engage with their content. To get started, you’ll want to choose a niche (e.g. a topic that you’re going to post about). For example, it could be makeup tutorials, fashionable clothing, or reviews of electronics. From there, you choose where you’ll build an audience. Often, it’s on social media channels like YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. While it can take time and a lot of effort to build a following, it pays off once you have one. You can monetize your presence with ads, affiliate marketing, sponsors, and sponsored content. You can also sell your own products and services to your loyal following.

4. Blogger affiliate marketing

We mentioned affiliate marketing above for influencers but it also deserves its own mention. Affiliate marketing involves selling a company’s products and services in exchange for a commission. Many companies today have affiliate programs up and running. You can begin to earn by choosing a niche, building traffic, and selling relevant products and/or services from affiliate partners. This is commonly done through niche blogs and can be a good business avenue for those who are content-savvy.

5. Content marketing strategist

Content marketing is a booming industry. Most every business is investing in their online presence which spans their website, email, blog, and social channels. You can step in and help business owners in many capacities with their content marketing needs. For example, if you have a solid understanding of content marketing strategy along with experience in the field, you could offer strategy development and/or consulting for clients. You could also build a team that helps you to implement the strategies you create.

6. ECommerce shop

An eCommerce shop is an online store where you sell a collection of products, like t-shirts, swimsuits, or purses. You can also expand your reach by sharing your products on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. To get started, you’ll need to build a website, which you can do yourself on a budget with a platform like Shopify. From there, you’ll need products. However, you don’t have to buy inventory upfront. For a low-cost startup, you can use the dropshipping business model where you only order products after your customers order them.

7. Bookkeeping

A bookkeeper is hired by a company or individual to maintain organized records of all of their financial transactions. You’ll be responsible for recording all of a client’s transactions and producing financial statements, upon request. Bookkeepers don’t need formal education or certification. However, it is an important role that comes with a lot of responsibility. You’ll need to have fine attention to detail, comfort managing financial records, and, in most cases, a high level of savviness with digital recordkeeping. To get started, you’ll often need bookkeeping software like Quickbooks and freelance clients who need your help. Most records are digital today so can easily be managed remotely.

8. Freelance writer

Freelance writing requires little to no startup costs. However, you will need a computer and an internet connection. Beyond that, a simple word processing document, your creativity, and a few paying clients are enough to get going. Freelance writers are in high demand today with the growing importance of digital marketing for businesses. They often write copy for websites, blogs, articles, sales pages, social media posts, email newsletters, ebooks, whitepapers, and much more.

9. Social media management

A big part of most content marketing strategies is social media management. In short, it involves building a community around the business on various social media channels. It often requires:

  • The creation and planning of ongoing strategic posts
  • Interacting with the community on each platform through comments and messages
  • And sometimes running paid ads

If that doesn’t sound like a lot of hard work, don’t be fooled. Social media management is very time-consuming and many business owners are looking for help. You can find clients through freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr, by cold pitching, or by building a brand to attract inbound leads (and showcasing your social media skills while you’re at it).

10. Consulting

Most of us have an area of expertise but may not realize it’s possible to turn that into a profitable business. By becoming a consultant, you can build a paying customer base that comes to you for advice. To provide your services, you can offer virtual consulting sessions through video chats, group coaching sessions, and even virtual recorded programs that you can sell as digital products. The great part about this business idea is that it’s versatile. No matter your area of expertise, there’s likely to be a target audience out there looking for advice on the topic. With digital marketing tactics, you can find it.

11. SEO specialist

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a core part of most content marketing strategies. As an SEO specialist, you help companies optimize their websites and content for search engines. In short, you help to ensure everything is planned and set up properly so that they rank as high as possible on the search engine result pages. SEO specialists are in high demand and you can become one with almost no overhead costs. You will have to learn all about SEO which you can do online through resources like the Moz blog and Google’s guidelines. You can also start your own website with a hundred dollars or so and start experimenting to teach yourself.

12. Web development

Most every business needs a website these days and, on average, small businesses pay a web developer between $2,000 and $10,000 to build one. If you are technically inclined, this could be a great small business idea for you (that comes with a high earning potential). That said, you will need to have an understanding of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. The good news is that there are tons of available resources online that will teach you for free or at a low cost, such as Codecademy and edX. Aside from that, you will need a computer or laptop with a fast CPU and a decent amount of RAM.

13. Podcaster

Ever wanted to have your own radio show? Now you can — well, kind of! You can pick any niche you want and start a podcast about it. While you will have to invest some time and effort to earn a following, once you do, you can start earning money. Podcasters often monetize their shows by getting sponsors and advertisers who pay to reach their audience. Being so, you’ll first have to put in the work to get an audience. You may need to invest in a good mic, editing software, hosting software, and headphones, but can get it going for less than $500.

14. Translator

Do you speak at least two languages fluently? You can use that skill to your advantage! Many people require translation services for personal or business reasons. You can seek out freelance translating gigs online where you either translate in real-time or via written documents. You don’t need anything to get started except your knowledge of both languages! That said, you can improve your service by undergoing translation training and getting certified by a reputable organization like the American Translators Association. This could also be a low-cost business you take offline, providing services in person.

15. Tutor

Lastly, for the online small business ideas, if you like to teach others and excel in a particular subject, you can start a tutoring business. Tutors meet with students, either individually or in small groups, to help them better understand a particular topic. You can specialize in helping students of any age group or area of specialization that you prefer.

For example, if you loved math in high school and aced Algebra, you could become an Algebra tutor for high school students. Tutoring can be easily done virtually using video conferencing software, but can also be done in-person for students in your local area. Aside from knowledge of the main subject, tutors need patience, empathy, and a positive attitude.

15 best small business ideas offline

Prefer to be out in the real world, face-to-face with folks? No problem. Here’s a look at 15 offline business ideas you can start without needing a chunk of money out of pocket.

16. Cleaning services

Do you have a knack for making a room shine? Cleaning services are always in demand by homeowners and business owners alike. You can get started without much overhead. You’ll just need the cleaning supplies and gas money. You can find clients by starting a simple website, networking on social media, and getting the word out in your local area.

17. Dog walking

Almost 40% of American households own a dog. Many dog owners would love someone to help their furry friend socialize and get exercise. That’s where dog walkers come in. As a dog walker, you’ll need to have a love for dogs and understand how to manage a group of dogs safely. With those skills, you can start with little to no money. If you do a good job, word will likely spread quickly and the whole neighborhood will be calling you! A good way to learn the skills required is to attend dog training classes that teach science-based positive reinforcement techniques.

18. Landscaping

Landscaping can encompass a wide variety of services from mowing lawns and spraying for weeds, to pruning bushes, cutting back branches, managing flower beds, and prepping lawns in fall and spring. More advanced operations may plan intricate landscaping designs for homeowners and businesses, but that will likely come later (if you want to go that route at all). You can start up for a relatively low cost by having gardening knowledge and offering basic services like lawn care and pruning. You will need some equipment such as a lawnmower and pruning shears. If you already have those on hand, you’re a step ahead!

19. Pet sitting

Do you love animals? Pet sitting could be a good startup business for you. A pet sitter takes care of an owner’s pet while the owner is away or unavailable. You may pet sit at someone’s house or take the pet(s) to your home, it’s up to you. Either way, you’ll be responsible for keeping them safe and happy during their stay.

Pet sitting is a serious responsibility as most pet owners love their pets dearly and see them as members of their families. You will need to understand how to care for pets properly. You can decide what kind of pets you’ll care for, how long, and what will be involved (walks, bathing, etc.). Startup costs are next to nothing as the value comes from your service. However, you may want to take a training course, purchase general liability insurance, and buy treats, toys, etc.

20. Event planning

Event planning is another service-based business that will enable you to be your own boss without huge overhead costs. As the event planner, you’re in charge of ensuring special events like parties, weddings, corporate meetings, or conventions go off without a hitch. You’ll coordinate all the details, work with contractors and vendors as needed, and help to ensure a smooth experience on the event day. You can be hired by individuals who are planning personal events or businesses that need help with their functions, it’s up to you!

21. Interior design

Interior designers are hired by clients to plan the layout of interior spaces so that they’re beautiful, functional, and safe. As a designer, you’ll outline client objectives, sketch out design plans, figure out the budget, set a timeline for the project, and source the materials for the plans. You’ll be using the client’s budget to pay for the items required to implement the interior designs and then will be paid for your services. Being so, the startup costs can be minimal. However, you will need expertise in interior design which can require a degree or provable experience.

22. Personal trainer

Do you have a passion for health, fitness, and motivating others? Starting a personal training business could be a good fit for you. Personal trainers assess the current state of a client’s fitness and create a customized workout plan that will help them reach their goals. As a trainer, you’ll provide ongoing physical and mental guidance and will monitor their progress.

While certification isn’t required by law, it’s expected by many gyms, employers, and clients. The costs can range from $200 to $2,000, depending on which certification program you go for, but can usually be financed. Aside from certification, and liability insurance, you can use a gym’s facilities which will greatly reduce your startup costs.

23. Rideshare driver

Are you a licensed driver with a vehicle in decent condition? You could start a business as a rideshare driver. Rideshare drivers transport passengers (and sometimes food orders) to their destinations — often getting business through apps like Instacart, Uber, or Lyft. If you already have a vehicle and your license, your startup costs can be very small. Simply log into the apps and pick up rides (or orders) when it fits into your schedule!

24. Car Detailing

Car detailers deep clean vehicles and work to restore them to a like-new condition. The service can involve vacuuming the interior, removing stains on upholstery, and cleaning out all the nooks and crannies. Additionally, detailers clean the outside of vehicles, restoring their windows, wheels, trim, and tires. You will need some equipment, supplies, and know-how to get started, but like most businesses that require minimal income to start, the main value comes from the service.

25. Tour Guide

Do you live in a city that attracts tourists? Do you know it like the back of your hand? If you’re an outgoing person that enjoys being around people, you may enjoy starting a tour guide business. A tour business can start on a shoe-string budget as it’s service-based. You create an offer, charge your clients, rent any equipment you need, and keep the rest as profit. In time, you could save up your earnings and invest in your own equipment to cut costs, build equity, and earn more.

26. Crafter

Handcrafted goods are in demand as people appreciate high-quality items that are one of a kind (in a world of mass-produced products). For example, handmade clay earrings are popular right now, hand-sewn clothes can take off, and all-natural soaps are also trending. You can start by stockpiling your creations and attending local events like craft fairs and farmers' markets. You can also visit local stores that stock similar products and ask them to sell your items. Further, you can sell your crafts online on through your own website, through social media, and on sites like Etsy that attract a target audience that’s looking for handmade goods. This is one business idea that can be both online and offline.

27. Professional Organizer

Many people struggle to keep their spaces and things organized, as you may have seen on Marie Kondo’s popular show. If you have a knack for organization, your services could be in demand! You can offer advice and/or could perform the organizing yourself. For example, someone may hire you to come into their business office and create systems that will help them to keep all of their paperwork orderly. On the other hand, a person may bring you in to do the same but for the closets in their household. The key to this business will be your organizational knowledge, which won’t cost you anything to share (except gas money)!

28. Babysitter or Nanny

The demand for a babysitter or nanny will always exist. Sometimes, parents need some help, and that’s where you can come in. If you have a passion for caregiving and enjoy taking care of children, this could be a great business for you to start. You can offer babysitting services for times when parents want to take an adult vacation, have a night out, or need to attend a work function. On the other hand, you could take on a nanny role which involves ongoing caregiving for the same family. Either way, your start-up costs will be next to nothing! One thing you should get before starting is your cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

29. Photographer

Photographers capture moments so people can treasure them for the rest of their lives. If you love to spend time behind the lens, this could be a good way to break into entrepreneurship. You’ll need to decide which type of photos you want to take and who you want to take them for. For example, you may specialize in wedding photos, portraits, sports photography, music photography, landscapes, etc. To get started, you will need a good camera, editing software, photography skills, and a portfolio of your work.

30. Baker

Lastly, are your family and friends always asking you to bring your pies, cake pops, cookies, or other treats to get-togethers? Why not start your own business sharing your creations with the world? If you love to bake, you likely already have most of the things you’ll need to get started — a kitchen, baking pans, utensils, and tools. While you will need to purchase the ingredients and packaging, those costs will typically be minimal. You can start from your own kitchen and work on getting your baked goods into local shops and farmers' markets. From there, you can gradually build up your demand and profits so you can afford a storefront.

What costs do all businesses require?

While the above ideas all have one thing in common — low startup costs, all businesses will have some basic costs you should be aware of.

You’ll need to decide on your business’s structure. If you opt for a sole proprietorship, you won’t have to worry about any registration steps as you’ll be the business and the business will be you. However, if you want another structure like a limited liability company (LLC), partnership, or corporation, establishing that structure will cost a few hundred dollars. In most cases, you’ll also want a business insurance policy to protect you against various liabilities. A policy will typically cost you a couple of hundred dollars per year.

Other costs can come from trademarking a business name, buying a website domain, setting up a website, and other marketing expenses that are required to get your name out there. A good first step is to write out a business plan that lays out all of your costs, along with how your business plans to make money and how long you estimate it will take. If you need funds to cover these basic startup costs, you may want to consider a business loan or business credit card.

Become an entrepreneur with minimal startup costs!

You don’t need a huge amount of capital to become an entrepreneur. Why? You can start a type of business that doesn’t require much of a monetary investment upfront! And you don’t have to quit your job or do anything drastic to get started. You can start it as a side hustle and gradually give it more and more time as it begins to grow. Before long, you can have a successful business that’s profitable and lets you be your own boss.

About the author

Jessica Walrack

Written by Jessica Walrack

Jessica Walrack is a personal and business finance writer who has written hundreds of articles over the past eight years about loans, insurance, banking, mortgages, credit cards, budgeting, and all things credit. Her work has appeared on Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, The Balance, MSN Money, and Supermoney, among other publications. Her love of a good number breakdown and passion for making complex concepts easy to understand makes writing about finance a natural fit.

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