Some people believe that you need a lot of money in order to start a successful business, but nothing is further from the truth. Especially in our world today, with the rise of online and at-home businesses, it has never been easier to start a business with next to no money.
If you want to start a business but are strapped for cash, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve laid out 30 business ideas that have little to no startup costs. These ideas cover a wide range of skill sets, passions, and time investment, so you’re sure to find something that sparks your interest. Keep reading to discover your next business venture!
What Do You Need to Start a Small Business?
Starting a new business is no small feat and while you don’t necessarily need a lot of money, there are a few things to take into account. The particulars will vary depending on your industry and location, but in general you’ll need:
- A plan: Whether you create a full business plan or have a simple outline scrawled in a notebook, it’s vital to have some sort of strategy for pricing your offerings, obtaining supplies (if necessary), and keeping track of finances.
- A business structure: You’ll need to decide if you want to be a sole proprietor, an LLC, or a partnership. Depending on how you want to structure your business, you may then need to legally register the company to operate. Since the exact requirements are location-specific, check with your local government to ensure you’re fully compliant.
- A marketing strategy: No matter what products or services you’re selling, you’ll need a way to get the word out to potential customers. This might be through a website, social media, freelancer sites, word-of-mouth, or a combination of several options.
- An understanding of your tax and legal requirements: In addition to registering as a business, you may also need to obtain a business license, a tax number, or fulfill other requirements before you start, so be sure to check with a business bureau or government agency for help if you’re unsure.
- A payment system: Finally, no matter what kind of business you operate, you’ll need a way to accept payments from customers. Pay.com is a full service provider that offers a convenient and secure way to accept a variety of payment methods.
30 Business Ideas with Low Startup Costs
1. Career Coaching
Helping people achieve their career goals can be a fulfilling way to earn a living. Sometimes people aren’t sure what they want from a career or how to leverage their past jobs to move up the corporate ladder and find lasting success. Career coaches work with people one-on-one to achieve professional goals through upskilling, job assessment, and resume building.
To be successful as a career coach, you generally want to have a good amount of professional experience to use as a guide and a great deal of empathy and strategy-building skills. You can also get certified as a coach. This can help boost your reputation, but it usually isn’t required if you want to operate independently.
If you’re an expert in your field, becoming an independent consultant could be a chance to start a business and work on your own terms, with little upfront cost.
Consulting involves working with businesses or executives to develop strong strategies and grow in their businesses – helping with everything from marketing and sales to leadership and development.
With the right expertise, this can be an extremely easy and potentially lucrative business to get into. You can reach out to your existing business network – like past co-workers or companies – to get started and increase your pricing and services as you gain a positive reputation.
Dropshipping is a retail business model in which you sell products to customers as the go-between, without having to worry about holding inventory or shipping directly. Instead, you list products on your site. When a customer places an order, you purchase the products from the wholesaler, who then sends them directly to the customer.
Basically, your job as a dropshipping business owner is to market your business, manage the storefront, and facilitate the ordering process.
You’ll need to choose what type of products you want to sell and ensure you have a good marketing strategy in place, but aside from a few hundred dollars to set up a website, you don’t need much to get started.
4. Freelance Writing
If you have a knack for the written word and a solid grasp of grammar and spelling, becoming a freelance writer is a low-investment, potentially high-reward business to get into. Companies, creatives, and individuals always need people to write marketing materials, scripts, business proposals, and website content – among many other things.
All you need to get started is a computer, the internet, and a place to find clients. It’s a good idea to specialize in a certain niche – such as copywriting, content writing, ghostwriting, or email writing – and try to grow in that area.
5. Proofreading and Editing Services
If you have an eagle eye when it comes to reviewing documents, starting a proofreading or editing business is a cheap and easy business to set up. Writers and businesses often hire editors and proofreaders to review and enhance their work. This can be simple improvements like grammar and sentence structure, or more in-depth development editing
You can use freelancer sites to find clients, or build your own website and market it yourself (which is more profitable and scalable in the long run). You need to be able to provide solid feedback and have a great grasp of grammar and language, with the ability to communicate in a positive and professional way.
6. Social Media Management
Many companies don’t fully understand how to use social media to grow their business, and often look to outsource this task to a social media manager who can grow and monitor their accounts.
If you understand how to engage with users online and have a marketing or communications background, this may be the perfect business idea for you. As it’s easy to do on-the-go, it can be ideal if you’re just looking for a side hustle, but you can also grow it into a full-time business by managing several businesses' social media channels.
The best way to find clients is to reach out directly to companies that may have lackluster social media presences and offer your services.
7. Translation Services
If you have a solid working knowledge of more than one language, starting a translation service can be a fantastic way to earn a living. This may involve written or spoken translation, depending on your skills and location.
While there are many specializations within the translation field, the simplest place to start is with businesses that may need simple web content or marketing material translated. These jobs are often posted on job sites, but you can also market your services through expat groups, business groups, or social media.
8. Virtual Assistance
If you have strong organizational skills, becoming a virtual assistant is one of the easiest and most low-cost opportunities out there. The work might involve booking travel, doing basic data entry, calendar maintenance, and much more.
To become a virtual assistant, it’s important to determine your skills and experience and create a resume and portfolio that showcases your capabilities. You can find clients through job boards or freelance websites or by reaching out to businesses and individuals directly to offer your services.
9. Web Design
Web design is a broad term that covers a whole range of skills. Some web designers focus only on the front end, creating functional and attractive websites with tools like WordPress.
Other web designers develop sites from scratch, focusing on the back end. These web designers often maintain client sites for years, which can be great for creating recurring income.
If you are skilled with website design and development, this can be a lucrative business to start. It’s important to specify what type of web designer you are and what your services will include, by focusing on your strengths. You can work with clients around the world, which can help you break into the market more easily.
Many small businesses and individuals find accounting and bookkeeping a tedious chore. They often outsource bookkeeping tasks like payroll, accounts payable, invoicing, and financial reporting to external bookkeepers. If you’re savvy with numbers and spreadsheets, it may be the best low-cost business for you.
The most important thing is to have a general competency in spreadsheets and some sort of accounting software – which you can learn online for free. You may also want to seek out certification, as this can help you build trust with clients. However, it’s not required to get started.
11. Car Detailing
Many people are willing to pay good money to keep their vehicles shiny and clean. Car detailers can work out of their home garage or go to a person’s home to provide concierge car detailing services. If you are known for meticulous cleaning, like working with your hands, and know your way around cars, this could be a great business option for you.
To get started, you’ll only need some basic supplies which you can purchase for around $150 or less, like a vacuum for the car interior, cleaning products, sponges, and wax. It’s a great way to make some extra money on the weekends or scale and grow into a full car detailing service.
12. Cleaning Services
Starting a cleaning business can be a great low-investment venture. You can choose to clean homes or businesses, or niche-down into a specialized type of cleaning like carpet cleaning or even forensic clean-up (not for the faint of heart).
All you need to start a cleaning business is some basic supplies, a drive to impress your clients, and a plan to get the word out. There is always a market for high-quality cleaners, so even if you have a lot of competition, you can work to make a name for yourself and grow a successful business.
13. Decluttering and Home Organizing
Home organization and decluttering have become popular services over the last decade. If you have a keen eye for organization and enjoy helping people simplify their space and their stuff, starting a decluttering or home organization would be right up your alley.
You won’t need much to get started: just a passion for helping others and the ability to empathize – especially as decluttering can be a painful process for some – plus some basic understanding of good home organization techniques.
14. Dog Walking
For the canine-lovers of the world, getting to work with dogs everyday is a dream come true. Dog walking is a lot of physical work, but there is always a need from busy people that need someone to care for their furbabies.
Starting a dog walking business doesn’t require much upfront cost, but it does require a general knowledge on how to handle dogs of all types in all sorts of situations – interacting with other animals, aggression, kids, etc.
15. Handyman Services
Are you good with tools or know your way around a hardware store? If so, becoming a handyman is a very cost-effective business venture to start.
As a handyman, you can offer an array of home services like installing shelves or curtains, cleaning gutters, putting up a fence, or any other odd job that people may need assistance with. You only need some basic tools and a general DIY skillset to get started.
16. Landscaping and Lawncare
If you enjoy working outdoors, a great business that is always in demand is landscaping and lawn care. While this can be more of an investment if you want to specialize in a particular landscaping specialty service like lawn irrigation, you can get a simple start by offering lawn mowing services in your community.
If you already have a mower or are willing to buy one, this is one of the cheapest businesses you can start. Once you make a name for yourself, it’s easy to expand your business, offering more services like lawn seeding and maintenance, gardening, or even landscape design.
17. Meal Prepping
Offering healthy, fresh meals is a great business to start, right from your own kitchen. You’ll need to have a solid understanding of culinary practices and understand proper food health and safety (including passing an inspection, in most places).
Other than that, meal prep businesses don’t require a ton of upfront investment – only the cost of the ingredients used for the meals. Buying and making food in bulk can keep these costs low and you can charge at a significant margin for convenience, which many people are happy to pay for.
18. Teaching Music or Art
Teaching music or art to students of all ages can be a rewarding business for creatives. You’ll need a proficient knowledge of theories and techniques, patience, and a passion for the craft. It’s also helpful if you have experience teaching or tutoring, to understand how students learn and progress.
You can start hosting music or art lessons straight from your home, which makes the startup cost very affordable. For music lessons, people will generally bring their own instruments or play yours (especially common for piano lessons). For art lessons, you may have to stock up on supplies, but these should only cost you a couple hundred, at most.
19. Pool Cleaning and Maintenance
Pool services can be a great business opportunity if you know how pools work or are willing to learn. Most pool cleaning services offer physical cleaning, as well as monitoring of chemical levels, so you should have a basic understanding of how to balance the chemicals to ensure the water is safe to swim in.
It’s simple to advertise your services in your community, and you may only need some pool cleaning supplies (but many customers probably already have them available for use). You can go door-to-door to offer your services or ask local pool supply stores to recommend you.
20. Power Washing
Power washing is another great option for people who like working outdoors and with their hands. Power washers (also called water blasters) range in price from several hundred to several thousand, but you don’t need a super high-end one to get started.
People often need power washers to clean their homes, driveways, pools, decks, or buildings – especially in humid climates where moss and lichen are common. You don’t need any advanced knowledge to get started, simply a grasp on using the equipment properly.
Starting a tutoring business is great if you have in-depth knowledge of certain subjects and are willing to work odd hours. As a tutor, you can work with students from preschool students all the way through doctoral candidates. It’s best suited for knowledgeable and patient people, but can be a very rewarding experience.
You’ll generally need at least some higher education to get started with lower-level subjects, but you may need a graduate degree for more advanced tutoring. There are even certifications you can get, which may help you build credibility and trust from your clients. You can tutor in people’s homes, at universities or schools, or even online.
22. Wedding Planning
If you have an eye for detail and a background in event management, then starting a wedding planning business may be perfect for you. It’s helpful to have connections with venues, caterers, florists, and similar vendors to get good deals and packages for your clients.
As a wedding planner you might plan the whole event , or just coordinate the day itself. You’ll need to be organized, detailed-oriented, and be able to stay focused and calm if things go awry.
Creative Business Ideas
23. Candle Making
Candle making can be a great small business for you if you love dipping your hands into new things (literally)! As a candle maker, you can be as fun and creative as you want. You’ll need to find a way to set your candles apart from others and decide whether you’ll sell online, in person, or both.
Candle making only requires some basic equipment like thermometers or pour pots, along with wax, wicks, and jars, but you can get these supplies for a couple hundred dollars. It’s not the cheapest option on the list, but can be a great choice for the right entrepreneur.
24. Content Creation
With the rise of social media, it has never been easier to start an online business, especially if you’re selling yourself as a brand. While big-name influencers make millions, there are plenty of people that make a very comfortable living through ads and brand partnerships.
You can create content through a blog, a YouTube channel, or social media to gain a following and grow your influence. Then, you can work to monetize your channel either through the sites themselves or with membership programs like Patreon.
25. Creating Digital Products
Selling digital products online may include niche-specific content like lesson plans for teachers and fonts for designers, or more general content like budget spreadsheets and digital planners. Specific content is best if you already have experience in that area – to ensure it’s actually useful.
You’ll need to take the time upfront to create beautifully designed products that people want, but after you’ve created them there is very little additional work needed, besides marketing your business. You can use programs like Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, or Canva to get started, but you should have a basic understanding of good design.
26. Designing Print-On-Demand Products
Similar to dropshipping, print-on-demand is a business model that doesn’t require you to purchase any inventory outright. Unlike dropshipping, you don’t just choose products that already exist. Instead, you create unique designs like t-shirts, hats, and greeting cards that are only made when someone orders them.
For creative people, this can be a great way to earn side income or build a thriving business over time. It only requires you to create (or outsource to other creatives) designs and maintain a website or seller profile to ensure orders are fulfilled.
27. Graphic Design
If you have a background in design and you understand how to use graphic software like Photoshop or Illustrator, becoming a graphic designer could be the ideal business opportunity for you. As a graphic designer, you work with clients to design all sorts of things from apps and websites to logos and brochures for local businesses.
The biggest upfront cost for graphic designers is marketing costs and graphic design software such as the Adobe suite or Affinity software – but these can be obtained for under $200. There are plenty of places to find work from LinkedIn and Instagram to freelancer sites like Upwork and a personal website as well.
28. Personal Styling
Personal styling businesses have been around for decades, but have taken a whole new life with the internet. No longer are you limited by physical location. Instead, as a personal stylist, you can work with clients around the world to help shape their wardrobes and their looks.
Becoming a personal stylist is ideal if you love fashion and helping people find their perfect look. You don’t need formal fashion education, but you should have your pulse on the industry and understand the basics of coloring, body types, and trends.
If you know your way around a camera and have the skills to edit photos properly, starting a photography business might be a great low-cost option for you. Even though photography equipment is expensive, if you’re already an enthusiast, you probably have everything you need to get started.
You can choose to do photography for businesses, people, events, or a mix of all three, depending on your particular skills. It’s easy to get started as a side hustle, picking up clients here and there in order to build a reputation and grow your business.
30. Selling Crafts
With the popularity of sites like Etsy, it has never been easier to turn your hobby into an income source. If you’re a crafty person, turning your work into a business (either full-time or just as a side hustle) is a great way to earn some money while doing what you love already.
If you have the supplies and materials on hand, your startup costs should be quite low. You could sell anything from knitted hats and scarves to furniture, home decor, and more, depending on your skills.
How Can a New Business Accept Payments?
You can easily create a checkout page for your website, customized to fit your branding, with no technical skills needed. Your Pay Dashboard will give you an overview of all your customer transactions, so you can deal with any issues as they arise.
If you don’t have a website, you can send direct Pay Links to customers through email or SMS.
The Bottom Line
Starting your own business doesn’t have to cost a fortune. By understanding your skills and abilities, while taking stock of industries that may be lacking in your area, you can create a thriving business from very little.
Whether you want to work from home in your PJs, take on a side hustle to earn some extra money, become your own boss, or pursue lifelong passions, there is a business idea that’s right for you. Take the time to figure out what you’re best suited for and then get started – there is no better time to start a new business than right now.
Pay.com lets you start accepting payments quickly and easily. With a variety of payment methods you can accept and the user-friendly Pay Dashboard to track all your transactions, Pay.com makes accepting payments simple. Get started now!