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22 Small Businesses You Can Start With Little Money

11 Mins read

From starting a podcast to trying out property management, here are 22 answers to the question, “What are a few excellent small businesses you can start with little money?”

Podcasting Services

If you have a knack for making conversation, marketing, and technology, starting a podcasting service could be a great option for you. 

It may be challenging to get notable guests on your show initially, but with consistent marketing efforts, you’re likely to get the ball rolling and pull in relevant guests and brands. To really make an impact, try to do something different and develop a creative USP that serves to spread the word about your show.

Harry Morton, Founder, Lower Street

Tutoring and Educational Services

I started my company as a college student from my parent’s home, with very little seed money to begin with. I offered test prep services, specifically SAT tutoring, to students around the South Florida area. 

The process was slow-going, but after building my reputation and investing back the money I had been earning from tutoring sessions, I could start hiring other tutors and building my online presence, eventually registering SoFlo as a small business and expanding across the nation and internationally. 

I believe that the initial success of a tutoring or educational services company depends on the quality of your tutors, no matter how much money you start off with.

Adam Shlomi, Founder, SoFlo Tutors

Outdoor Pet Cleanup

All you need to start an outdoor pet cleanup business is a shovel, a pail, and trash bags. It’s dirty work, but that’s why it’s good work. Pet owners are often sick and tired of picking up after their dogs in the yard, and they’re happy to pay someone to do it for them. 

As the weather warms up and homeowners spend more time outside, it’s the perfect time to start this business. You can offer a spring cleanup deal and then offer a weekly maintenance service. 

If your community is like my community, it won’t take long before you have more work than you can handle, and you’ll need to hire employees. Once your business is established, you can take over the business administration and you won’t ever have to pick up another yard.

Michelle Robbins, Licensed Insurance Agent, Clearsurance.com

Relocation Consultant

While those who are traveling or relocating and have a bigger budget to support them can rely on established businesses, many can’t afford these services for their process. This is where someone who is working as a freelance relocation consultant can help them. 

With some initial investment into marketing, you can get your name out there and reach out to people who are traveling or moving on a smaller budget. If you have the expertise they need, and they like your services, you will gradually be able to grow the business and become more established in the long run.

Guy Sharp, Relocation Advisor, Andorra Guides

Selling Templates Online

One low-cost business to start is selling templates online. If you have a little design savvy, you can create templates for almost anything to be sold on sites like Etsy. You can sell templates for anything from resumes to presentations to birthday invitations. 

While there are multiple places you can sell them, Etsy is a good starting point because it costs just $0.20 to create a listing. The best part is that once these listings are complete, they become a passive source of income. Because they’re digital, you’ll never run out of inventory.

Brian Munce, Managing Director, Gestalt Brand Lab

Nonprofit Charity

Running a nonprofit charity isn’t always the first option that comes to mind when establishing a business. However, nonprofits are less financially demanding than launching a for-profit company. 

Besides monthly rent costs and a onetime registration fee to apply for incorporation, no other significant expenses are required on your end. Once you have partnered with donors and volunteers, it will be easier to conduct your social causes, like helping the homeless or starting feeding programs. 

The revenues you generate from grants, donations, and memberships are tax exempt, so you no longer need to undergo the hassle of filing taxes.

Sam Tabak, Board Member, RMBH Charities

Reviewing and Testing Websites and Services

There are so many companies that require individuals to review and test their websites and services that are in beta testing, get proper feedback, and start making improvements before they launch them to the public. 

You can start reviewing these websites or services and get paid for them individually until you have enough experience to start your own company and have people reach out to you for beta testing.

Denise Hemke, Chief Product Officer, Checkr

Home Cleaning Business 

A home cleaning service is one business that can thrive with very little upfront investment. All you need to get started is a reliable vehicle and some basic cleaning supplies, which you can purchase at a low cost from a local discount store. 

To build a customer base, consider offering a special promotion or discount to new customers or partnering with local real estate agents or property managers to provide move-in or move-out cleaning services. Social media platforms can also be great tools for marketing your services and building a following. 

Like any business, success ultimately comes down to providing high-quality services and creating a positive reputation within your community. Prioritize customer satisfaction and consider asking for referrals or positive reviews to help spread the word. You can operate solo and keep overhead costs low while controlling your schedule and workload. As you grow, you may bring on employees or expand into related services like organizing or laundry.

Natalia Grajcar, Co-Founder, Natu.Care

Video Editor

If you enjoy filming and editing videos but don’t want to launch a YouTube channel, you may still use your abilities to support other companies. Businesses all across the world require experts who can edit their videos because of the enormous popularity of YouTube and Facebook videos. 

Start by browsing websites for independent contractors to find jobs. You will initially work with haphazard clients, but soon you will have a few regular clients who will provide you with enough work to pay your bills. Afterward, you can expand your company to open an agency or hire additional independent contractors to assist you.

Alice Hall, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Rowen Homes

A Book Club Membership or Lending Library

A book is an asset that can be sold for money. You should start this small business if you have a sizable library. For a monthly or quarterly membership, books can be checked out for a particular period. You can also sell the books you have already read too many times and are unlikely to ever read again.

A book club is a great way to start book exchanges and build intellectual connections in your community while earning some money. The best example of making money from your passion is when you can use your hobby of collecting books to your advantage. 

You can also use your bibliophile nature to recommend books to others based on their interests and personalities. The initial cost of starting this business will be minimal as you already have books in your personal library.

Cynthia Hamilton, Marketing Director, OGLF

Local Trekking or Hiking Guide

One small business I have seen people start with a little money is a trekking or hiking guide business. I am quite familiar with this, as I started my own adventure travel company through this route when I was only a student. 

If you love the outdoors and are comfortable leading trekkers on their journey, then this could be an excellent business opportunity for you. All you need to get started is some basic equipment such as maps, compasses, and first aid supplies. 

You must also promote your services through word of mouth or by creating a website/social media presence. Once you get customers, provide quality service and take good care of them while in the wilderness. I believe that being a trekking guide is an incredibly rewarding experience and a great business opportunity. You get to enjoy the outdoors while helping others discover the beauty of nature. 

Balaram Thapa, Director and Travel Advisor, Nepal Hiking Team

Mobile App Development

With the growing ubiquity of smartphones, mobile app development has become a lucrative industry. All you need to get started is some coding knowledge and basic design skills, which can be gained through online courses or free tutorials. 

Once you build your first app, you can monetize it by pitching to companies, selling in-app purchases, or offering free versions with sponsored ads. You can also make money through affiliate marketing or selling app source codes in various marketplaces. This is a great way to make money with a small investment and minimal risk.

Karl Robinson, CEO, Logicata

Organic Backyard Farm

As a gardener, an organic backyard farm is a fantastic small-business concept with low startup costs. You can start growing a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your own garden with just a few simple pieces of equipment and some seeds. You can produce high-quality, nutrient-dense produce that is desired by health-conscious consumers by adopting organic farming techniques and sustainable business practices. 

Additionally, since you can sell your food at farmers’ markets or through community-supported agriculture programs, backyard farming can be a terrific way to get involved in your neighborhood. 

Although starting an organic backyard farm requires some effort and commitment, it can be a worthwhile and enjoyable endeavor. As your business expands, you can start small and escalate your activities. I have benefited from growing my organic vegetables, including the satisfaction of feeding my family and myself wholesome food, as a gardener.

Alex Tinsman, Founder and CEO, How To Houseplant

Affiliate Blogging

Starting an affiliate blog has always been the highest return on investment of any business model. All it takes is a domain, hosting, and time. That might sound like an oversimplification, but it’s really all you need. 

The monthly cost would, at most, be $50 if you consider other miscellaneous costs. As you continue to write more valuable articles with proper keyword research and generate quality backlinks from other high-authority sites, this increases traffic to your website. And when you promote products and services through your affiliate links, you have a solid passive income source that is highly scalable and can generate thousands per month from a small investment.

Brendan Aw, Content Marketer, SEO Specialist, and Content Creator, brendanaw.com

E-Commerce Consulting

Offering e-commerce consultation services is easy to start even with no money, though you are best served with a budget of about $100 to help you get some branding materials done. 

All you need to excel in this business is to know how e-commerce works and digital marketing, then list your services on common marketplaces or use social media for lead generation. E-commerce merchants are always looking for expert advice on how to grow their stores organically, so with the right marketing strategy, you can have a consistent stream of clients and income.

Alvin Wei, Co-Founder and CMO, SEOAnt

Personal Training

I’ve found that it is possible to start your own fitness company with limited startup costs outside of education. 

If you want to become a personal trainer, start with some level of education, like a fitness certification from NASM or ISSA. While it’s expensive to get some of these certifications, there are cost-effective ways to access this education, like low-cost online programs. Many community colleges also provide programs that at-need individuals can get scholarships for. 

After accessing the necessary education, all a personal trainer needs is a way to market themselves, which can come for free with an effective social media strategy. These days, some people looking for a side hustle don’t look to the fitness industry because they are looking for a source of passive income. However, through some hard work, you can build a successful fitness brand entirely online, using only your expertise and with minimal startup costs.

Erny Peibst, Founder and CEO, Inside Bodybuilding

Online Course Instructor

Whatever your passion may be, it’s cheap and simple to teach that passion to others. Becoming an online course instructor is inexpensive, especially if you choose to offer home-based tutoring services. 

If you are incredibly well-versed in something, this could be anything from fitness, accounting, insurance, etc., then teaching others can be both profitable and enriching. You can create templates, instructional videos, and host Skype lessons to share your knowledge with other interested individuals. 

Offer virtual classes or one-on-one instruction for a set price. You can offer more in-depth training for a higher price. Videos, templates, and instructions are inexpensive, if not free to make. Take advantage of that, put your knowledge to paper, and share it with others for a pretty penny.

David Lewis, CEO and Founder, Monegenix

Graphic Design Services

Start pitching your services to small-business owners if you’re competent in graphic design or drawing in general. After all, when a business first enters the market, I advise that branding and design services are frequently required. 

You should create an online portfolio to establish a professional online presence. As with starting a blog, your initial expenses will be for a domain name, web hosting, and a website builder-a minimal investment for launching a small-company venture. 

Once you’ve determined your graphic design services and offers, you can pitch to firms directly. To excel in this line of employment, you must have a strong understanding of marketing and networking.

Adam Crossling, Head of Marketing, Zenzero

Opinion Blogging

Blogging is an excellent way to monetize your thoughts and ideas. There are several ways you can monetize your blog, but one of the best ways is to write sponsored/affiliate posts. If you’re passionate about cooking, for example, you can write your thoughts and opinions on different recipes and cookware. Sponsored/affiliate posts are essentially pieces of content that highlight specific products. 

Say you really enjoy using a product by Food Network, you can do a sponsored post that names, links, and provides a positive review for that brand. If you work with the marketing reps from Food Network, they will pay you for promoting their product(s). 

You can also partner with smaller blogs or companies and pursue affiliate marketing. When you partner with this person or company, you blog about their product or service and earn a commission from every transaction. It’s a simple way to both network and earn money.

Shawn Hill, Owner, The Grilling Dad

Value-added Reseller

With creating new products, the barriers to entry can be high. These prohibitive expenses multiply the risks for budding entrepreneurs, dissuading them from following their dreams. 

However, many established brands operate through channel partners and are desperately seeking savvy entrepreneurs to resell their products independently. The most lucrative of these tend to be Software as a Service (SaaS) products, which are easily white-labeled and resold. 

Many providers have dedicated channel partner managers who provide support, training, and financial incentives to would-be resellers, minimizing the risk associated with operating a small business. 

I strongly recommend reaching out to SaaS providers and seeing whether they operate through third-party resellers. This allows you to start your own business, but without the prohibitive costs or unwanted risks associated with creating your own products, a win-win for everyone.

Oliver Savill, CEO and Founder, Assessment Day

Content Writer 

If you have any sort of expertise in anything, and you like writing, then you should offer your services as a content writer. What’s the cost? Nothing. All you need is access to a computer and the internet, and you can apply for jobs writing in many different niches. 

Platforms like Upwork.com and Problogger.com allow anyone to offer their content writing services and apply for writing jobs, and they cost nothing. The natural progression from a content writing business is to level up your skills and become an editor, or start your own website.

Dave Pedley, Owner and Founder, KnowSheets

Property Management

When I started my own business on a shoestring budget, I didn’t know exactly where to begin. One small business that I have found to be a great success for many entrepreneurs like me is property management. 

Property managers offer their expertise in taking care of everyday operations and finances to tenants. Property managers are also responsible for maintenance and repair costs, so having accurate paperwork is key! 

Researching and understanding the local laws and regulations related to tenant and landlord relationships is key to running a successful property management business. Property management can be lucrative and cost-efficient, as you do not need any physical inventory—all you need to get started is knowledge of the industry and proper documentation to begin.

Daniel Pfeffer, CEO, Scrape Network

Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Terkel, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.

Money stock image by lovelyday12/Shutterstock

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