What Business Should I Start? 20 Ideas to Inspire You

If you think you need a ton of cash or an MBA to start a business, think again. Here is our list of businesses you can start today (and even from home).
Last updated Jun 25, 2021 | By Lindsay Frankel
What Business Should I Start? 20 Ideas to Inspire You

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If you’ve ever dreamed about how to start a business, this could be your year. You don’t need a lot of advanced skills, experience, or startup funding to get a business idea up and running. You can even get started from the comfort of your own home. In fact, about 50% of the small businesses started in the past decade were home-based, according to the Small Business Administration.

About four out of five new businesses survive their first year, and those that continue to grow have a positive impact on the economy — small businesses have netted 9.6 million new jobs since 2000, compared to only 5.2 million jobs generated by large businesses. Imagine taking something you’re passionate about and growing it into a lucrative business that would allow you to hire other passionate people as well.

That might be tomorrow’s goal, or maybe you just want a part-time side hustle, but either way, you can get started today by picking the kind of business you want to start. To get you inspired and help answer that question of “what business should I start?” — here is our big list of small business ideas and best side hustles.

Make money through affiliate marketing

Building a successful blog or social media page can take time, but investing the time can be worth it. If you are interested in starting your own blog, you can do so at a relatively low upfront cost through a service like HostGator. And if you already have an established site and a following, then you’ve got a head start on monetizing your content through affiliate marketing.

Here's how the affiliate marketing business model typically works. You find products or services that match up with your brand, and use an affiliate network like Amazon Associates or Shopstyle Collective to build tracking links to those items. When people click those links on your website, blog, or social media page, you’ll get either a flat rate per click, commission as a percentage of a sale, or both.

Just be sure to keep the integrity of your content and don’t inundate your readers with ads, or you might lose followers. The more you grow your following, the more your business will grow.

HostGator Benefits

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  • Easy Wordpress installs

Become a courier

A lot of people rely on grocery and meal delivery services when they can’t get to the store or restaurant themselves. If you have a car or bike and can provide friendly customer service, you’ve already got what it takes to become a courier.

Consider partnering to deliver with one (or more) of the following on-demand apps:

The application process varies by service, but you’ll generally need to be 18 years old and be able to pass a background check. You may need to complete an orientation or training, but for most services, you’ll be able to get up and running pretty quickly. You can choose your own hours and work wherever you want, which makes this a great side hustle for someone looking to bring in some extra cash.

DoorDash Benefits

  • Be your own boss and set your own hours
  • Keep 100% of the delivery fee plus any tips or boosts
  • Dashers earn an average of $15-25 an hour

Become a reseller

Do you enjoy the treasure hunt of finding valuable items at thrift stores, the thrill of snatching up limited-edition sneakers, or the process of fixing up free furniture from Craigslist? Consider starting a reselling business. You can even start with gently used items in your closet or basement, and get practice by turning your old stuff into cash.

In addition to local outlets like antique stores and used bookstores, there are a number of online platforms for you to use:

  • eBay
  • Poshmark
  • Amazon
  • Etsy
  • Craigslist
  • Ruby Lane

To get started, choose a niche and begin listing your items. Take high-quality photos and write detailed descriptions. Be sure to advertise your items on your social media networks as well.

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Start a landscaping business

If you have a green thumb and are highly skilled at gardening, lawn care, and landscaping, you may be able to start a landscaping business with low start-up costs. You’ll need the right tools (like a mower, pruners, shears, shovel, etc.) to get started. You’ll also need to check the licensing requirements in your area. In most states, you need to be certified and hold a license to be able to apply pesticides.

You can advertise your services on an online platform like Thumbtack, HomeAdvisor, or Houzz. Be sure to request reviews from customers, since your rating will be key to your success on these platforms.

Home Advisor Benefits

  • New projects posted every two seconds
  • Decide when, where and how you want to work
  • Free to join
  • Over 100 million projects started

Make your own workout videos

You can monetize your unique approach to fitness, especially if you are a certified personal trainer or yoga teacher. To get started, create videos that bring something new to the table and post them on YouTube.

You’ll need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours in the last 12 months to be eligible for the Youtube Partner Program, which lets you earn money from ad revenue. But it can be difficult to learn how to make money from AdSense alone, so once you establish a following, consider launching your own website with paid premium content. You can do this on your own or with the help of an online platform like Yondo.

Teach workshops

If you have a skill that is in-demand, whether that’s cooking the perfect holiday meal, creating macrame wall hangings, or building a successful app, you could sell your expertise in the form of an online or in-person workshop.

You’ll likely need a business license or permit to teach a workshop out of your home or to rent a studio space. If you go the online route, you can use a platform like Teachable or Thinkific to create and sell an online course. Once your course is uploaded, you’ll earn passive income every time someone purchases access.

Start a freelance writing business

Almost every website needs written content, which means there’s a need for good freelance writers. If you have copywriting skills, perfect grammar, and a knack for telling stories, you might want to apply for freelance writing jobs. As an independent contractor, you can be your own boss and build your own schedule with a variety of clients.

If you don’t have any writing experience, try volunteering for a nonprofit and writing for their blog until you have some pieces published. You can also search for beginner’s opportunities on platforms like Guru and Upwork. Choose something you’re knowledgeable and passionate about so you can build a portfolio that showcases your expertise. Once you have some published writing, host a portfolio on Clearvoice or buy a domain name and add your work to your own personal website.

Become a rideshare driver

Rideshare drivers can make extra money (or a full-time income) with nothing but a car and a smartphone. Partnering as a driver with Uber or Lyft will give you the opportunity to meet new people and explore your city on your own schedule while getting paid.

There are also several lesser-known rideshare services emerging in select cities that you can sign up for, such as HopSkipDrive and Wingz. The process of getting started varies with each program, but you’ll typically need to fill out an online application and pass a vehicle inspection and background check.

Start a home staging business

If you’re resourceful and have a flair for decorating, you could earn money on your own time as a home stager. Home stagers improve the appeal of a residence by rearranging or replacing furniture and adding decorative touches.

You’ll need a resource for renting furniture and decor to get started. You should also network with real estate agents to find clients. You can start by staging your own home or offering your services free of charge in order to collect high-quality photos of your work. You’ll also need a business license, pricing plans, and a contract for customers to sign.

Sell your jewelry or artwork

If you produce artwork of any kind, there are online platforms to help you turn your work into cash. You might sell handmade items, reproduce prints of your art, or create a design that can be made into a t-shirt.

To get started, all you need is an idea for something that will sell and the materials to create it. Consider the following platforms for selling your work:

  • Etsy
  • Society6
  • Big Cartel
  • Threadless
  • RedBubble

Start a tutoring business

If you had great grades or test scores in school, you may be able to help struggling students learn. Most parents want to hire a tutor with a bachelor’s degree who can pass a background check. However, you may be able to tutor younger students even if you’re still in college. You can also focus on just teaching English through sites like VIPKid.

You can search for tutoring opportunities on sites like Care.com or post ads on bulletin boards at local libraries and universities. A successful tutoring business relies on word-of-mouth, so be sure to get testimonials from your students and their parents and ask them to spread the word.

Start a housekeeping business

If you love a sparkling clean house, there are plenty of people who could use your help keeping their homes looking fresh. A cleaning service is something you can start small by taking on jobs yourself.

You should get a business license and business liability insurance and prepare a contract for clients to sign. You’ll also need cleaning supplies and a good vacuum cleaner. Start by cleaning for your friends and family and asking them to write reviews of your services. You can use an online platform such as TaskRabbit or HomeAdvisor to find potential clients.

Sell your home organization services

While you may not turn into Marie Kondo overnight, there’s very little required to start a home organization business. If you have an eye for organization and a passion for helping people improve their spaces, you can get started doing jobs for families and friends.

Always take before and after photos to fill your portfolio. You’ll need a business license, someplace to showcase your work, and a plan to attract new clients. Word of mouth is important, but you may also want to use an online platform like HomeAdvisor to connect with leads.

Start a bicycle repair business

If you live in a city full of bicyclists, you’ve probably already realized there’s a market for bicycle repair services. If you’re good at repairing bikes, you may be able to offer your services out of your own home or travel to customers, and you can compete with brick-and-mortar locations by offering lower prices.

You’ll need a business license and the right tools to get started. You should consider offering your services on an online platform such as Thumbtack to attract new clients. It’s also a good idea to start a website that lists your range of services and prices, and try distributing flyers around your local community. Get returning customers by offering tune-ups at a flat rate. And remember to request reviews from the customers who are happy with your work.

Provide pet care

Can’t get enough petting time with your furry friends? You could turn your love for animals into a small business venture. You might offer grooming services out of clients’ homes, provide petsitting and house-sitting services while clients are away, or offer dog walking services.

You might use an app like Wag or Rover to meet customers, or distribute flyers in your local community and host a website with a range of services and prices. If you have space in your home, you could even host a doggy daycare to maximize your earnings.

You’ll likely need a business license and some professional experience with animals (or fur babies of your own) to get started. Make sure to collect reviews from satisfied customers and ask them to spread the word.

Become a handyman

If you have the tools and skills necessary to complete small repairs in people’s homes, you may be able to get a handyman business off the ground without much money upfront. You’ll need tools, a business license, and a plan to find customers. You may want to network with real estate agents, since new homeowners frequently need repairs.

It’s easy to get returning customers as a handyman as long as you meet your customers’ expectations, since issues will continue to arise that need your attention. You can get started advertising your services on an online platform like Handy or Thumbtack.

Build custom treehouses

Choosing the right niche can make all the difference when it comes to a successful business. If you love working with your hands and know your way around building materials but don’t have the equipment or staff to build entire homes, start small by building custom treehouses. Treehouses aren’t just for kids anymore, either; they’ve become a trendy option on Airbnb.

You’ll need to get a business license and liability insurance, and you should prepare a contract for each client that outlines the scope of your work and the cost of materials and labor. You can get started by building a treehouse for a friend or even in your own backyard. Take high-quality photos of your completed project so you can showcase your work on a professional website.

Work as a freelance accountant

Not everyone is good with numbers, so if you’ve got a business or accounting degree, you can provide your services on a freelance basis. You’ll be able to choose your own hours and set your own rates.

You don’t need to be a Certified Public Accountant to get started, but that certification would certainly help you stand out. Choose a specialty, such as bookkeeping, tax planning, or personal financial planning, and advertise your services on a professional website. You can also search for clients on sites like Upwork or Freelancer.

Put your design skills to good use

If you have a degree in graphic design, consider using that know-how to strike out on your own as a freelance graphic designer. While graphic design is a competitive field, creative professionals with the right skillset are highly in-demand. Just think about how many businesses are trying to build attractive websites and stand out on social media.

To get started, you'll need a portfolio or website to showcase your work, plus tools like PhotoShop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Consider listing your services on UpWork or Freelancer to start connecting with new clients.  

Become a digital marketing consultant

Whether you're skilled at SEO, Google advertising, or social media, there's no shortage of opportunities out there for you to make extra money. Consider launching your own digital marketing consulting business to help other online businesses grow.

To be successful as a digital marketing consultant, you'll need a business license and a portfolio to showcase your work. Certifications in your specific area of expertise can also help set you apart from competitors who are offering similar services. Consider marketing your services on LinkedIn to find potential clients.

What to do once you’ve picked your business

Once you’ve picked the best business idea for you and feel motivated to get started, there are a few things you’ll need to do to get your business off the ground:

  • Research business owner licensing and certification requirements in your area. Local and state laws vary, so make sure you’re operating your business legally. You could need a business license or certain certifications, depending on the business you choose and your location.
  • Find out if you need an EIN. Some businesses, such as those with employees and those operating as a corporation or partnership, are required to have an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Even if your business isn’t required to have an EIN, you should be aware of the benefits of having one.
  • Open a business credit card. There are many benefits to applying for a business credit card, including keeping your business expenses separate for tax purposes. Many business credit cards also earn rewards, come with generous welcome offers, and can help with cash flow issues. Just be sure you don’t use your business credit card for personal expenses, or you may be in violation of your cardholder agreement.
  • Consider opening a business bank account. While you don’t need a separate bank account for your business, it can be helpful to have one to keep your business expenses organized.
  • Create a business plan. It can be helpful to outline your financial goals and marketing strategy in a formal business plan. You’ll also need one if you plan to request funding from another source.

The bottom line on which business you should start

While starting a business always requires effort and includes some risk, we’ve chosen potential business opportunities that are easy to get off the ground and that also typically have low startup costs. And, if you pick an idea and it doesn’t work out, don’t get discouraged. The most profitable businesses don't typically start out that way, and it may take a couple of tries to become successful. If you’re passionate about becoming a small business owner, you’ll find a way to put your skills to good use.

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Author Details

Lindsay Frankel Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based freelance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel, budgeting/saving, and shopping. She has been featured in several finance publications, including LendingTree. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, playing music, or cuddling with her rescue pup.