More and more people are craving the freedom and flexibility that starting their own businesses can offer. For many, becoming an entrepreneur signifies the potential to earn a high profit while also getting full control over business decisions. It’s no wonder you might find that to be a tempting career path.
Of course, before you jump into business, it’s important to do your research and understand what industries are most profitable. This is especially true for small businesses, as what works on a smaller scale is very different from large, Fortune 500 companies.
Luckily, there’s plenty of data on the most profitable types of small businesses. Here’s my expert guide, based on both market research and my own experience as a small business owner. Plus, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take to increase profitability within your small business.
30 Most Profitable Small Businesses to Start This Year
1. Real Estate Agency
Real estate offers several lucrative careers. As a real estate agent, you can potentially earn great money. When you sell a house, you earn about 3%. If you sell a $350,000 home, you could make $10,500.
By having your own real estate business, you can avoid sharing your earnings with a real estate broker. However, you’ll need to pay for your own expenses, like signs, advertising, and transportation. While selling real estate isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, you can earn well into the six figures.
2. Personal Trainer
In the past, personal training could earn you a modest, liveable income. However, with the internet and thousands of clients at your fingertips, you can now earn much more. Some people report earning as much as $126,500 each year as a trainer.
If you’re not sure if there’s room for you in this industry, think again. Experts expect to see the employment of fitness trainers and instructors grow by 39% in the next decade.
Developing a profitable personal training business isn’t the easiest career path. To be successful online, you’ll need to cultivate a social media following. Then, you can either sell downloadable programs or one-on-one coaching. To earn the most, sell a mixture of the two, so you get passive and active income.
3. Business Consultant
If you have experience growing businesses or working in essential roles at big-name companies, people will pay good money for your expertise. There are a variety of niches you can get into – people need help with everything from marketing to tech to HR.
Once you know your niche, you can offer consulting services in a one-on-one capacity to executives. You might also serve on a board of advisors or speak at conferences. Regardless of how you choose to do business, you can earn well over $100,000 if you have the right strategy and knowledge to back up your service.
There’s also plenty of demand for business consultants. Experts estimate that this type of work will grow by 14% in the next decade.
There will always be a demand for bookkeepers or accountants. As companies grow, they inevitably need help managing their money. With your own bookkeeping business, you can serve clients all around the country and earn up to $43 per hour.
There are certifications you can take online to learn everything you need to offer this service. If you want to make even more, you could go back to school to become a certified public accountant (CPA). On average, CPAs in the US earn $119,000 each year.
Almost anyone can start a cleaning business that could turn into a very profitable company. You can work the cost of the cleaning supplies into what you charge customers, so you have very little overhead.
There are a few ways to run your own cleaning business. You can offer weekly housekeeping or deep cleaning services to households. Alternatively, you could focus on serving businesses alone. You may even choose a more specific niche, like carpet or window cleaning. The more you niche down, the more you’ll earn as an expert in a specific area.
Most one-person cleaning businesses earn $30,000 to $50,000. However, once you have momentum going, you can hire more people and earn up to $100,000.
6. Online Course Creator
If you have a skill that you can teach others, it could be profitable to create an online course. Online courses take lots of effort to set up and sell - but once you do start selling them, it can be a great form of passive income. In fact, experts believe the e-learning industry will reach close to $400 billion in the next few years.
You can create a course on your own without much financial investment. You may need to pay for upgraded software, like Photoshop, though there are free tools available. You may also pay someone else to help you organize, write, design, and edit the course, in which case you’ll easily spend thousands.
Once the course is complete, you’ll need to market it. If you have an existing online following, you already have an audience of ideal customers. If you don’t, it’s time to start consistently posting online to target a market. You can sell your course through your own website or via a platform like Udemy.
You don’t have to be an expert to be a tutor. However, you will need to have some general knowledge of the topics you’re tutoring. You’ll also need to be fairly academically minded, as you’ll need to help others navigate school lessons. Perhaps most importantly, you must have excellent communication skills.
You can tutor online or in person on a variety of subjects. If you tutor at people’s homes, you can even charge the client for travel costs. Tutors can earn up to $50 an hour. Once you build up an audience, you can scale the business by hiring other tutors and taking on more clients.
8. Mobile Car Detailing Service
For as long as people have cars, they’ll need car washing and detailing services. In fact, the industry is growing - experts estimate that it will reach over $20 billion within the decade.
While opening a car wash with a physical location can be quite expensive, you can start a mobile service for the cost of supplies and advertising. In fact, people are willing to pay a premium for the convenience of you bringing the car wash to them.
Without a physical location, you’ll have very little overhead. You can build the cost of cleaning supplies into what you charge your customers so that you have a higher profit margin. As the business grows, you can hire people to help you and take on even more customers.
9. Food Truck Owner
The numbers show that people love the experience of getting a meal from a food truck. In fact, the food truck industry has now reached $2 billion. While it is somewhat costly at about $40,000 to start, it’s still more affordable than opening a full restaurant.
You can attend food truck events to get business. You can also check out other local events, like farmers' markets, and see where you can get the most exposure. Once you get traction, people will start seeking you out, rather than the other way around.
10. Child Enrichment Activity Provider
Unfortunately, academic budgets around the US have been shrinking for years. After-school and summer enrichment programs that were once included with school have become increasingly limited.
This creates a unique business opportunity. Not only do parents need child care while they’re still at work, but they also want their children to earn the creative and social skills they’d typically get with after-school programs.
You can create a child enrichment business centered around a variety of topics: gymnastics, art, music, yoga, swimming… the list goes on. In all cases, you’ll need some sort of space to host the activities in, so there will be some overhead as you get started.
While becoming a lawyer can be a time-consuming and expensive venture, becoming a paralegal is fairly easy. Regulations vary by state, but many allow you to become a paralegal after working through a 60-credit-hour paralegal certification program.
Paralegal work can also be quite interesting. You’ll be helping lawyers as they prepare for trials, hearings, and corporate meetings. You will need access to a computer both to earn the certificate as well as in your daily work as a paralegal.
When starting your own business, you can work as a freelancer with multiple law offices. You can charge up to $45 per hour as a paralegal and work as much or as little as you like.
12. Social Media Manager
Today, we expect every business to have social media accounts on all the big platforms. Businesses can use social media as a way to market themselves, but they can also use it as an opportunity to connect with customers, take care of service issues, and even go viral with unique content.
This creates demand for a role that didn’t exist a few years ago – social media management. As a social media manager, you’ll manage multiple accounts for multiple companies. You’ll just need a laptop and phone to work from.
Marketing on social media alone is worth $153.7 billion dollars. Some people earn $5,000 per client per month as a social media manager.
13. Online Business Manager
The vast majority of businesses have moved online. While a physical store would have an operations manager, digital businesses need an online business manager (OBM). OBMs work behind the scenes, managing projects, implementing tech, and more.
OBMs can earn quite a profit when they work with large enough businesses. Some OBMs even report earning up to $220,000 per year, though some part-timers earn as little as $24,000.
14. Mobile Notary
A notary is an official who acts as a voluntary witness when you need important legal documents signed. While you can work as a notary for companies or government organizations, you can earn the best money when you own your own business.
Working as a mobile notary, you’ll meet people where they’re at and notarize their documents. Appointments can take as little as 10 minutes up to a few hours. The more you can stack up appointments, the more you’ll make. Top earners make close to $178,000.
It’s fairly easy to become a notary. You just need to take a certification course and purchase a few supplies, like insurance and a notary stamp. Once you have that, your biggest challenge will be finding clients. Start by advertising your services to real estate agents, accountants, financial institutions, and legal firms.
15. Candle Maker
Etsy’s popularity proves that there’s a huge market for homemade wares, from clothing to soap. While some products can be quite expensive and time-consuming to create, candles are among the most profitable and easiest to get started with.
To make candles, you’ll just need wax, fragrance, wicks, containers, and mixing equipment. You can buy a kit for quite cheap online and start in your own home. Then, you can sell on your own website, or take advantage of sites like Etsy for their existing traffic.
A candle business can have up to a 60% margin. Some businesses earn hundreds of thousands per year. As you grow, you’ll likely need to upgrade your equipment and space, and perhaps even hire some people to help you.
16. Digital Download Creator
If you have an eye for creative design, you could turn that skill into a profitable business with little to no investment. Many people shop for downloadable products on Etsy, Amazon, and other marketplaces. They buy digital journals, checklists, fonts, phone backgrounds, and other kinds of art.
You will need a laptop or iPad, as well as some sort of design software, like Canva, Procreate, or Photoshop. If you aren’t sure what to make, you can have a look around online to see what other people are selling and what you’d feel comfortable making.
Feel free to sell the designs on your own website or on a marketplace. Some people earn as little as a couple hundreds per month, while others make $10,000 each month. The secret to higher earnings tends to be creating lots of listings, especially with pop culture or seasonal references that shoppers are searching for.
Landscaping is often one of the first tasks that homeowners and business owners outsource, so the market is always booming. Plus, if you already have the equipment, there’s little overhead to get started.
Some landscaping businesses earn millions each year. As a small business, you’re likely to start out closer to $60,000 per year. However, you can scale the business quickly as you earn clients and get referrals. Once you start hiring employees, you can really increase your profit.
You can start a blog with very little financial investment, though it does require quite a bit of effort and time. One of the best things about blogging is that you can write about any topic you’re passionate about. Whether it’s a hobby, your personal life, or something you studied in school - there’s likely an audience.
When you’re first getting started, you might earn just $100 to $500 per month. However, as you become established, you can earn up to $5,000 each month. There’s no limit to your income, though - some bloggers earn well over $100,000 per year.
There are a lot of ways to make money as a blogger. You’ll need to use several tactics to earn a good profit. This can include selling ad space, writing sponsored posts, using affiliate links, and more.
19. Meal Prep Services
There’s always demand for services within the health and nutrition industry. One particularly exciting area is meal prep. As people are busier than ever, they’re willing to pay a high price to have someone else prepare healthy meals for them.
Meal prepping is also relatively affordable to get into. You can cook meals in the comfort of your own home. You will need to purchase containers and food ingredients, but you can build those costs into the price of your product.
Some people who offer meal prep services earn $50 per hour. The more specialized your services are, the more you can earn. For example, you can charge more when you sell plant-based or keto meals.
20. Brand Designer
If you’re creative and tech-savvy, you could serve others by becoming a brand designer. With this type of work, you create a visual identity for a brand. This includes creating logos, style guides, business cards, and more.
You’ll need some equipment, like a laptop and design software. You can sell your services on your website or on a marketplace like Upwork or Fiverr. It’s generally best to avoid marketplaces since they take a cut of your sales. However, they can help you get your first customers.
If you have no experience, you may start out earning a lower income. On average, low earners in this field make $34,000. However, once you have enough testimonials to raise your prices, you can earn over $100,000 as a brand designer.
21. Mobile Mechanic
The majority of Americans drive cars – yet most of us have no idea how to fix them if any issues arise. This is why there’s always demand for auto repair shops and mechanics.
If you have experience working as a mechanic or would like to get training, this could be a lucrative career path. However, starting your own repair shop can be costly. Working in someone else’s mechanic shop means sharing your pay with a boss.
Instead, offering mobile mechanic services can earn you up to $105 per hour. People are willing to pay a premium to have you come to them and fix their car. You can offer things like oil changes, headlight repairs, diagnostic tests, tire repairs, and more.
22. Online Reseller
There’s a huge audience for second-hand goods online. If you’ve got a flair for vintage goods or an eye for high-priced resellable items, you can make good money. For example, a top seller specializing in vintage clothing and furniture earns $270,000 a year. Meanwhile, you can earn anywhere from $50 to $1,000 selling used guitar pedals.
The key to making good money as a reseller is knowing what sells with a high-profit margin - and where to source goods. If you nail these aspects, there’s no limit to how much you can make.
23. Airbnb and VRBO
While you can invest in real estate to rent to regular tenants, you can also specialize in vacation rentals. You can even start this business as a side hustle, renting out a room in your current home. Once you earn enough, you can invest in another property.
It’s also worth noting that you can buy and rent out property even if you aren’t in the same place as the property. For example, you might live in the Midwest but purchase a vacation home in South Carolina. You’ll need to list the home on a site like Airbnb or VRBO, hire cleaners, and other services to help you manage the home from afar.
24. Foreign Language Teacher
As the world becomes more interconnected, there’s more demand than ever for language courses and teachers. Within the next few years, we expect the market for language learning courses to see a $5.7 billion growth.
There are a few ways you can cash in on your language skills. You may offer one-on-one lessons either in person or online. While people average about $25 per hour, you can earn up to $40.
You may also turn your skills into an online course. Although this takes a lot of work up front, when you’ve completed the product, all you have to do is market it and earn a passive income. Pay.com lets you accept multiple payment methods on your own website, even if you don’t have any tech experience.
25. Payroll Service Provider
As businesses grow, they start offloading some of their responsibilities. One such task is payroll services. You can start your own business specializing in this one element of bookkeeping, which includes calculating payroll, creating tax statements, and working on year-end taxes.
This is also a fairly easy industry to break into. You can purchase a payroll software that does all of the computing for you. You’ll just need to stay organized while you onboard and manage clients. Top earners in payroll services make $90,000 a year.
26. Courier Services
Although it might seem like a thing of the past, people still use and need physical paperwork for important documents. In big cities, you can earn good money by offering a courier service, delivering critical documents and other items.
Courier services are growing - experts estimate that the industry will reach over $68 billion in the next few years. It’s standard to charge a per-mile fee of up to $1.70, with add-on fees for fast delivery, notary and return, or delivery outside of your given area.
As a copywriter, you’ll write sales content for other companies. This is an easy business to break into, as all you need is a laptop and an internet connection. If you don’t have writing skills yet, you can even take courses online to learn.
To get set up, you’ll need a website and portfolio. Then, reach out to potential clients via email or social media. You can also apply for jobs on marketplaces like Upwork, though the site will take a portion of your sales. On average, copywriters in the US earn $74,520.
28. Website Designer
Almost every business has a website, and more and more people are creating businesses every day. That means there’s a huge market for website designers. Top earners make $100,000 a year.
With a web design company, you’ll need the technical skill to deliver an appealing and user-friendly website. You can take online courses or a course through a college or university. Then you can sell your services on your own website or on a third-party platform.
29. Tech Repair
Most people who use technology don’t actually understand how it works. So, when something breaks, they’re quick to reach out for expert help. On average, people with tech repair businesses earn $70 per hour.
There are many ways to niche in this industry. You can fix physical products, like computers and phones. Or, you can fix issues with code. The more you niche down, the more you can charge as you’ll become an expert in that field.
30. Virtual Assistant
Some virtual assistants earn as much as $90,000 a year – and that’s before they hire help to grow an agency. As a virtual assistant, you take tasks off of your client’s plate. That means the tasks you do are often a bit mundane – they’re things anyone can do. However, that also means you can get into this business easily.
Some virtual assistants specialize in different areas. You can focus on social media, technical operations, customer service, or another area.
How to Start a Profitable Business in 5 Steps
Complete Market Research
Before getting into any business, it’s important that you scope out the market to ensure there are customers who want to buy what you’re selling. While it might not seem appealing, this is actually like a cheat code in business. You talk to the people you imagine would buy your service and get real-life feedback.
Market research allows you to understand your ideal customer’s needs and adjust your product or service so that you know with certainty you’re creating something people can’t say no to. You can also reach out to people who are already doing what you want to do, and ask if you can buy them a coffee in exchange for a conversation to get insight.
Create a Business Plan
If you want to start a business and earn money, you have to be consistent. Yet when you’re months into the process, it can be easy to lose sight of your mission. This is where a business plan becomes critical. Plus, if you’re getting a loan, lenders will ask to see your business plan to ensure your business is a good investment.
Your business plan can act as a guide and makes decision-making easy. This frees up mental space and provides clarity. Your business plan should include:
- Business name
- Business structure
- Executive summary
- Packages and pricing
- Competitive analysis
- Target market
- Startup costs and projections of earnings
- Marketing strategy
You may be able to get started with what you have in your savings account. If you only need to make a few purchases – like software or a laptop – you might use a business credit card to cover costs. However, other types of businesses, like buying a vacation rental home, can require more capital to get started.
If you need a business loan, you can apply with traditional banks or online lenders. Take your time as you compare loan offers to ensure you get the lowest interest rate. This will save money over time.
Set Up a Payment System
Naturally, you want to own a business so you can earn money. Choosing a payment system that makes it easy for your customers to pay you is critical. With Pay.com, you can create a customized checkout page on your website and add a variety of payment methods. Your customers can pay you with a credit card or PayPal, or anything in between.
You can also send direct payment requests via Pay Links. Your customer will receive a text or email with the link which takes them to a checkout page. Even after the sale is complete, you can use the Pay Dashboard to track payments and review analytics.
Following a Marketing Strategy
Once your business is up and running, getting customers is your number one job. Having a strong marketing strategy is critical to getting noticed and earning sales. Your plan will greatly depend on what you’re selling and who you’re selling to.
For example, if you have a mobile notary service, your ideal clients will likely be real estate agents and law firms. You might visit their offices, hand out business cards, and join networking groups for professionals in your area. On the other hand, if you offer virtual assistant services for fitness influencers, you’ll likely do all your marketing online.
The Bottom Line: Which Business Idea Is Best for You?
There are a lot of different routes you can take when starting your own small business. While it’s important to choose a profitable industry, your results ultimately come down to you.
You must be passionate about your business in order to continue on, even when you have hard days, weeks, or months. Whether you choose to start a mobile car detailing service or create a blog, your dedication will determine your success.
Of course, it’s important to set up your foundations correctly from the start so that you can focus on growing your new business. When you sign up for an account with Pay.com, you can get set up with just a few clicks – then, you have everything you need to get paid at your fingertips with the Pay Dashboard. You can create a customized checkout page, add payment methods, send direct payment requests to customers, and more.