Small businesses have a huge impact on the economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 31.7 million small businesses, and they make up 99.9% of businesses in the nation. Business owners help create jobs and provide needed services in their local communities.
Want to join the ranks of small business owners yourself? Have an idea of what business you should start? If you have a little money stashed away or even just a great idea, you may be able to figure out how to start a business sooner than you think. And as you earn more profit, you’ll be able to invest that money back into your business so it can flourish. One day, you may even be able to hire employees to help your business grow.
You don’t need to save up a ton of cash or take out a business loan to get your new business up and running. In fact, there are good business ideas you can start with just $1,000 or less. If you’re passionate about the service you’re providing, that’s sometimes all it takes — there are businesses you can establish without any startup funds at all.
If you want ways to make money and need some inspiration, we’ve pulled together this small business ideas list. Here are 35 ideas to consider.
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The first few items on this list are online business ideas. If you have a degree in marketing, advertising, or business with a focus on marketing, along with relevant experience working in the industry, you may be able to offer your marketing services to businesses as a consultant.
First, choose an area of expertise for your consulting business that you can highlight. It’s a good idea to create a portfolio showcasing your experience and host that portfolio on a website. Once that’s live, reach out through your business network or post your services on Upwork or The Mom Project to start getting clients. Depending on where you live, you might also need a business license to offer your services.
If you’ve got a strong grasp of the written word, you might be able to start a freelance writing business, even if you don’t have a degree or experience. Many businesses will pay for blog content, copywriting, search engine optimization (SEO) expertise, podcast scripts, and more. You’ll usually need some examples of published writing to attract clients, so freelancing on a platform such as Fiverr, Upwork, Textbroker, or Clearvoice is a great way to start. That way, you can build your portfolio and get your name out there.
Once you’re established, it’s also a good idea to launch a personal blog or website with writing samples. If you have an idea for an article, you can even pitch it to a publication. Keep in mind that pay will typically be commensurate with experience, so you may have to accept a lower rate if you’re just getting started.
Are you a stickler for perfect grammar? Many businesses need someone who can do proofreading and edit their content, and if you can get through a document quickly, you might be able to make some serious cash on your own time.
If you don’t have a network of clients yet, consider searching for opportunities on Freelancer or Upwork until you get established. While you don’t need a certificate to get started, some training might set you apart from the pack. You can get the Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing for just $150.
Whether you’re creating your own product(s) or drop-shipping an item that your customers need, it’s easy (and cheap) to set up an online store with Shopify. Alternatively, arts and craft makers can use platforms such as Etsy and Society 6 to sell their products. If you're good with graphic design, you could create designs and use a site like Redbubble to add them to t-shirts and other products.
You can get started by sharing the link to your online store with your social media networks, but ultimately you may want to invest money in targeted advertising via Facebook and Instagram to attract more customers.
Social media management
Not everyone is savvy about how to reach customers on social media, so if you have a background in social media management, you might find businesses seeking your assistance with managing their social media accounts. Most businesses will want someone with a degree in marketing or public relations along with industry experience. Some are also looking for someone with graphic design experience.
If you’re just getting started with social media marketing, you might want to volunteer to run the accounts for a nonprofit organization to gain experience. Keep track of your success growing social media accounts and advertise your skills to potential clients on a professional website.
If you don’t mind being on your bike or in your vehicle, you can make money packing and delivering orders from restaurants or grocery stores. There are a number of on-demand delivery apps you can use, such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart, and GoPuff. But you might also consider finding your own clients so you can set your rates. If you choose to go this route, you’ll likely need a business license. Choosing a niche, such as delivering and unpacking groceries for seniors, will help you get more clients via word-of-mouth.
If you love the idea of motivating and inspiring others to get in shape, you could have a career as a personal trainer. ACE and NASM are two of the available programs for getting your certification, and both are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
ACE estimates that you’ll need 3-4 months of study time to prepare for the exam, and you’ll also need a CPR/AED Certification with live skills check to be eligible to take it. Once you pass the exam, you can start offering your services to people in your community.
If you have at least a year of personal experience doing yoga, you might want to consider teaching others how they can benefit from the ancient practice. To find a credible training program near you, consult the Yoga Alliance. There are both 200-hour and 500-hour programs to prepare you for your Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) credential, so you can choose a program that aligns with the kind of business you’d like to start.
Pet owners love their fur babies, and many are willing to pay top dollar for quality care. If you have experience working with animals, pet sitting, walking dogs, or pet grooming, consider starting a pet care business.
Since it’s easy to offer these services in your own home or customers’ homes, the startup cost is next to nothing. You can even list your services on Rover or Care.com to avoid advertising costs. And while you don’t need a certification to get started with most pet care services, the following may help you get more clients:
- National Association of Professional Pet Trainers Certification
- Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
You may also need a business license, depending on the rules in your state.
Child care provider
If you have babysitting experience, you can offer child care services in your home or in customers’ homes. Besides advertising in your local community, you can list your services on Care.com or Sittercity. Word-of-mouth is also a great way to grow a child care business, so make sure you’re providing extra special care to clients.
If you decide to go this route, it’s also a good idea to get your CPR/First Aid certifications, and you should be able to pass a background check if the family requests one.
Special needs provider
Children and adults with disabilities need compassionate care. If you have experience working with people who have special needs. You can leverage your experience to start your own business. Word-of-mouth works great for attracting new clients, but if you’re just getting started, you can browse opportunities on Care.com. In addition, there are a few certificate programs that might help you earn more money:
- Registered Behavior Technician
- IBCCES Special Needs Telepractice Certificate
- IBCCES Autism Certificate
If you’ve got great organizational skills and a passion for helping small businesses succeed, consider you might want to consider offering your services as a virtual assistant. Choosing a specialty can help you earn money, but you can also offer an array of general services, including:
- Managing emails
- Customer service
- Maintaining websites
- Managing social media accounts
You might try advertising to local businesses in your community or signing up for one of these platforms:
Depending on where you live, you may also need to acquire a business license.
If you’re fluent in more than one language, you can turn your knowledge into cash by providing remote translation services. You’ll likely be paid more if you have a specialty, such as medical translation, that you can promote. If you don’t have any potential clients in your current network, you may want to list your services on Smartlation or Gengo until you’re more established.
A lot of businesses seek developers to build apps for them if they don’t have an in-house team, so if you know how to code and have a portfolio of apps you’ve built, you can learn how to make money as an app developer.
If you don’t know how to code and don’t have experience, there are also several programs that defer tuition until after you find a job. You can also take online courses at your own pace through Udemy, which will help you develop a portfolio to show to potential clients.
You’ll need coding skills to do web development for businesses as well, but if you have a portfolio of work or even just an impressive personal website, you can offer your web design services to companies as an independent contractor. As you’re getting up and running, consider joining Toptal or browsing opportunities on Freelancer.
If you love the idea of helping people find their dream homes, consider becoming a property manager. You’ll need a real estate broker license in most states, but some states don’t require a license for property management.
When choosing an online exam prep course, make sure you pick one that is accredited. You may want to choose a niche market to work in and find a mentor who can show you how to get started.
Home repair services
If you’re handy, you may be able to offer your services to homeowners who need repairs. You’ll need a license in most states to perform home repairs, but requirements vary. You might simply pay a registration fee, or you may be required to complete coursework and pass an exam.
Once you’re licensed, you can list your services on platforms like TaskRabbit and HomeAdvisor. Depending on your level of experience, you can perform jobs ranging from minor repairs to complete remodels. Word-of-mouth goes a long way in attracting more clients for handyman work, so you should always ensure your customers are satisfied.
If you have an appealing space in a great location, from an extra bedroom in your home to a treehouse in your backyard to a camper that you can deliver, you can earn money hosting with Airbnb. It’s free to list your space, but getting great reviews is the key to success in a vacation hosting business. Post beautiful pictures and write detailed descriptions to get your first customers.
To ensure that travelers are happy, make sure your space is clean, inviting, and exactly as described. Also, go the extra mile by providing local tips or leaving a welcome gift such as coffee or a bottle of wine.
Auto repair services
If you enjoy working on cars and already have the right tools to perform repairs, you can start an auto repair business at a low cost. You might perform repairs ranging from bulb replacement to oil changes to body repair. The type of services you offer, along with your state laws, will determine what kind of license you need to get started. In some states, you’ll need specific training and certification to work as a mechanic, while other states simply require a business license or permit.
If you have a garage, you can operate your business from the comfort of your own home, but you don’t necessarily need workspace; you may be able to travel to clients to perform basic repairs on their vehicles.
Got a green thumb? Consider providing landscaping services in your community. Your workday might include raking and mowing and other lawn care, or you might get involved in a project that requires you to plant and maintain bushes and flowers.
You’ll need a license for a landscaping business in many states, especially if you’re working with pesticides. You’ll typically need to pass an exam to obtain your license. After that, you can get started by advertising around your community, posting an ad on Craigslist, or using a platform such as HomeAdvisor.
If the sight of a sparkling clean bathtub is rewarding to you, you might enjoy providing needed cleaning services to homeowners and renters. You’ll need some cleaning supplies to get started, including a vacuum cleaner. Other than that, your only startup cost will be applying for a vendor’s license, which is typically very inexpensive.
To promote your cleaning business, consider advertising on social media or using platforms such as Housekeeper, TaskRabbit, Andi, or Care.com to find clients. Once you’ve built a customer-base, you might want to offer cleaning packages to secure ongoing work from repeat clients.
Becoming a tour guide gives you the opportunity to explore your city, share your knowledge, and meet new and interesting people from around the globe. You’ll need little more than a positive attitude and an understanding of what makes your city special to get started. To connect with travelers, try using a platform such as ToursByLocals, which handles things like customer support, payment, and marketing for you.
Alternatively, you might consider hosting an experience on Airbnb. You might lead a hike, teach a cooking class, or guide travelers through local museums. Note that some activities may require a business license depending on where you live.
If you’re good at giving advice, motivating people, and coming up with formulas for success, you could make an excellent life coach. You might specialize in helping people with relationship problems, supporting entrepreneurs, or guiding someone through their fight with addiction. If you have personal experience with success in your area of specialization, that can certainly help, but it’s likely not enough to get started.
While you don’t need a certificate to advertise your services, most people will need some sort of training to get hired. There are a lot of poor quality programs out there, so choose something that is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), which sets the standards for the industry. You’ll need at least 60 hours of training and 100 hours of coaching experience to be eligible for a credential. Offer your services to friends and family to get started, or try providing low-cost services in your community while you gain experience.
If you’re organized enough to pull off the perfect party without a hitch, you can start an event planning business with very little formal education, training, or money down. Focus on a type of event that you have experience with, whether that’s business conferences or bachelorette parties, and document successful events you’ve helped plan for your portfolio.
Depending on where you live, you might need a business license to be an event planner. Becoming a Certified Meeting Professional with a credential from the Events Industry Council can help you stand out from the crowd, and you’ll be able to get certified for less than $500. From there, promote your services on social media and other outlets. Be sure to get reviews from customers, which you can advertise on a professional website.
You can start a photography business with nothing but a good camera and a portfolio of work. You may also need a business license or permit, depending on where you live. Pick an area of specialization, such as weddings or graduation photos, and offer low or no-cost services while you build your portfolio. You can create a portfolio website or social media account to attract clients.
Decide how you’ll charge customers and set your hourly rate or offer flat-rate packages. If you have professional equipment and a lot of experience already, you can apply to freelance with Snappr, a photography marketplace than can help you get bookings.
Video production and editing
If you have experience or technical training along with a great video camera or editing software on your computer, you may be able to assist businesses or individuals with their video production and editing needs.
It’s a good idea to maintain an online portfolio of your work and establish social media accounts for your business. As you’re getting started, you can also search for freelance jobs, browse Craigslist gigs, or list your services on an online marketplace such as Fiverr or Upwork.
If you have a bachelor’s degree and expert knowledge of any subject, you can get hired as a private tutor. Most parents will also want you to pass a background check. Unless you’re homeschooling, you won’t need a teaching certificate to offer tutoring services, but you may need a business license or tax registration.
You can find clients by advertising at your local library or nearby colleges, or you can search for opportunities on an online platform such as Care.com. Check to see what other tutors in your area are charging before you set your rate.
If you have a website, blog, or social media account with a significant following, you can monetize your content with affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing allows you to collect commission when people click through your website, blog, or account to view products or services or make purchases.
Beginners can get started by joining Amazon Associates or Collective Voice and building links to products or services that are relevant to the content they are sharing. You can start an affiliate marketing business with zero upfront costs.
If you’re good with numbers, you may be able to provide financial services such as preparing reports, processing payroll, or even training people how to use accounting software. You don’t need to be a Certified Public Accountant to be a bookkeeper, but you might want to seek certification with the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers in your area of specialty to help you attract new clients. You can obtain certification for less than $1,000.
To start your business, you can either choose an area of specialty or provide numerous services to a specific type of business, such as local restaurants. Every time you work with a client, ask them to write a review of your services. You can promote your business on social media or search for opportunities on a platform like Upwork to help get your name out there.
If you love shopping and have a knack for finding great deals on coveted brands or vintage items, you might enjoy starting a reselling business. You might already have items at home you can sell to get started, removing the need for any startup funds. Start by defining your brand and determining your audience. Depending on what you are selling, you might set up shop on Poshmark, eBay, or Etsy.
Whether you sell limited-edition sneakers, vintage movie posters, or designer clothing from sample sales, you’ll want to ensure that you take great pictures, write detailed descriptions, and pack and ship your items promptly. Customer ratings are key to success in online reselling.
If you love to prepare food for large groups of people, consider starting your own catering business. In some states, you’ll just need space in your kitchen and a business license, while in others, you’ll need to use a commercial kitchen. Local restaurants may let you rent their kitchen space while they are closed. In most cases, you’ll be subject to health and safety inspections either way. If you’re going to provide alcohol at your events, you’ll also need a liquor license.
Research the rules at the local and state level before you get started. Once your business is up and running, you can advertise on social media or professional marketplaces such as Bark.
Many individuals need help learning technology and even small businesses seek support from an IT professional. You can offer training to customers, handle upgrades on PCs or mobile devices, or repair or maintain other systems.
You don’t need any formal education or training to get started, but you may need a business license. If you work in this field, word-of-mouth is a great way to get clients, so make sure to go the extra mile on every job you complete. You can also find jobs on freelance platforms such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour as you’re getting started.
Not everyone owns a sewing machine or knows how to make alterations, and visiting a storefront can be expensive. That means there’s a great opportunity for anyone with tailoring skills and the right equipment to run a business out of their home.
You might want to partner with local boutiques to advertise your services, post an ad on Craigslist, or use an online marketplace such as Thumbtack to get new leads. Always ensure customers are happy with your work so you can get new clients via word-of-mouth as well.
Freelance graphic designer
If you know your way around Adobe Photoshop and have a knack for creating eye-catching designs, you may be able to offer your services to small businesses or nonprofit organizations that don’t have an in-house design team.
To get started, create an online portfolio of your work. Search for freelance job opportunities on sites like Freelancer or list your services on a platform such as Fiverr. It’s also a good idea to establish social media accounts showcasing your designs and follow local businesses that might need design help. If you have designs that aren’t the property of your clients, you can also sell them on platforms such as Zazzle and CafePress.
Do you have a pickup truck and some muscle? Most people will need some sort of assistance when they move, which means there’s a great opportunity to help people in your local community with moving furniture and other items.
If you have a pickup truck, cargo van, or box truck, you can make $30 an hour or more working on your own schedule as an independent contractor for Dolly. If you want to set your own rates, you’ll likely need a business license and business insurance.
The final word on starting a small business
Whether you’re picking up a side hustle or devoting your full-time attention to growing a small business, make sure you’re qualified to legally provide the products or services that will make you money.
If you need some working capital or just want to keep your expenses organized, consider applying for a business credit card. Don’t forget to check local and state requirements before starting your business. And take the time to make a business plan and decide on a business structure.
With some preparation, passion, and ongoing effort, you can build a successful business without much in the bank to start. Good luck with your business venture!
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