Where there is a demand for service, there is also the potential for a legitimate home business.
My first attempt to start a business at home flopped within a month of launching.
But that experience taught me that what works for some people doesn’t work for everyone.
Ten years later, I’m still learning from my initial experience and continue to use it to better my freelance business.
If you’re willing to start small and weather the ups and downs, you too can start a low-cost home business that grows over time.
10 Best Small Business Ideas with Low Upfront Costs
It’s possible to start a home business with very little money up front, especially if you use what you already have on hand. As your business grows, you can use some of your earnings to buy better or improved equipment to keep up with demand or improve your services.
If you enjoy writing and have time to learn the behind-the-scenes aspects of having a blog, like search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing, then this is a solid choice for your home business. You can create a blog focusing on any topic from personal finance to self-improvement to travel.
The start-up costs for a blog are low; all you really need is a domain name and a hosting plan. Taking an online course that teaches the ins and outs of blogging isn’t necessary, but it could help you avoid months of trial and error. If you have some extra cash to invest upfront, Create and Go’s Launch Your Blog course walks you through starting a blog from scratch.
2. Facebook Ad Management
Small businesses can use Facebook ads to reach new customers and increase their revenue. However, most small business owners don’t know how or don’t have the time or resources to learn. If you are comfortable with Facebook’s ad platform and are good at marketing, you can start a home-based business as a Facebook ad manager and work with the business owners to create ad campaigns on their behalf.
All you need to launch this business is a Facebook account and email address. You can also register for Bobby Hoyt’s free 6-day email course which teaches you how to build an income by helping businesses use Facebook effectively.
3. Virtual Assistant
Many businesses are turning to virtual assistants to help them complete tasks like scheduling meetings, answering emails, proofreading website content, responding to social media comments, and writing newsletters. If you are detail-oriented, organized, and can handle multiple projects at once, becoming a virtual assistant is a low-cost way to earn money by doing work for clients on an as-needed basis.
If you’re interested in starting a virtual assistant business, consider taking Kayla Sloan’s 10KVA course. She also offers a free 60-minute webinar where she shares tips for finding clients and starting to earn consistent income as a virtual assistant.
If you have a firm grasp on spelling, grammar, and reading comprehension, then starting a proofreading business could be a good option with a low start-up cost. You can work for websites, bloggers, authors, and other businesses that provide written content that needs to be error-free and easy to read.
Caitlin Pyle, who earned $43,000 in her first year as a part-time proofreader, created a free 76-minute webinar to help others decide if they should pursue proofreading. This is a good resource if you’re unsure if you want to work as a proofreader or don’t know where to begin finding work.
Transcribing involves listening to audio recordings and typing the words you hear into a document. The different types of audio files you can transcribe include phone interviews, conference or meeting minutes, and podcast recordings. To master transcribing, you should have strong listening and typing skills.
Consider taking a course online like Transcribe Anywhere to learn everything you need to know about transcription. The program can also help you earn a transcription certification in the legal or healthcare industry. Although the certificate isn’t necessary to work as a transcriber, it can help you charge higher rates.
Thanks to the rising popularity of online shopping, starting a dropshipping business can quickly turn into a lucrative work-from-home option. A dropshipping business allows you to sell products online without touching or managing inventory. The initial startup does require marketing and web traffic, which you can do for minimal cost.
Shopify is an online platform built specifically for dropshipping businesses. It offers a free online course that shares how to start a dropshipping business using the platform.
7. Delivery Service
Depending on your area, a local delivery service could be a profitable business idea. You will need a reliable vehicle and the ability to meet tight deadlines.
You can either work independently and start your own delivery service, or you can drive for an established company like Postmates. The company allows you to deliver anything from prepared food to groceries to household items.
8. English Tutoring
Parents in China and other countries hire tutors to teach their kids English. If English is your first language, or you are fluent in it, you might be able to start your own English tutoring business.
If you have difficulty marketing yourself and finding your own clients, you can work for a company like VIPKid, a platform that connects teachers in the United States and Canada with students around the world. To work for VIPKid, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in any subject, and a reliable laptop with an internet connection. You’ll also need to be able to pass a background check.
9. Freelance Writing
A freelance writing service may be the best business to start if you have little money to spend. If you already have the writing skills, a network of businesses looking for writers, or can cultivate a network, and a computer, you have the ingredients for a potentially profitable business.
Holly Johnson started a freelance writing business and made $225,000 in 2018. Using her prior experience, she helps freelancers grow their income in her course Earn More Writing.
10. Dog Walking
Starting a dog-walking business is a flexible way to make money doing something you enjoy. All it requires is patience and a love for animals.
Start a dog-walking service in your neighborhood and list your services on a platform like Rover, or work independently and market your services on Facebook. If you use Rover, you can expect to share 20 to 25% of your earnings with the company, but no more than $50 per booking.
Related: 100+ Genius Ways to Make Extra Money
Hot New Business Ideas to Make Money at Home
Sometimes starting a trendy business can help you earn a decent income from home. If you’re willing to invest a small amount of money upfront, you can potentially grow your business into a full-time income.
11. Flea Market Flipping
Starting a flea market flipping business requires the ability to scout good secondhand deals and sell the items online for a profit. You can find these bargains at flea markets, yard sales, secondhand stores, and more. Some flea market flippers find free items and profit 100% on the sale.
The idea of flea market flipping is simple, but it’s easy to overlook the strategies that can affect your net profits. Rob and Melissa with Flea Market Flipper earn more than $100,000 per year with their business. They teach their secrets in their online course, Flipper University.
12. Meal Planning
If you enjoy planning meals for your family, you could use your skills to offer your planning services locally or online. Many people want to eat healthy meals but don’t have the time or desire to plan them. You can create meal plan templates to tweak to each client’s family size and taste instead of starting from scratch each time.
If you need a starting point, you can help your clients use a service like PlateJoy, a website that helps users build custom meal plans and offers optional grocery delivery services.
13. Airbnb Hosting
If you have an extra room or property, you can turn it into a rental business without the hassle of long-term lease contracts. Hosting guests for short-term stays can bring in hotel prices, and . you can even stay in a local motel room and enjoy a mini-vacation while renting out your entire home for a profit.
Airbnb is a peer-to-peer platform that connects property owners with renters. Sign up for a free account and take advantage of the security that using a third-party platform offers like insurance, short-term commitments, and exposure.
14. Car Renting
In high-populated cities and suburbs, renting an extra vehicle for money can turn into a lucrative business. If you have at least one vehicle that you can rent out during popular hours (like work commutes, nights, or weekends), this could work for you.
Getaround is a peer-to-peer ride-sharing company that connects you with people looking for a local vehicle to rent. Sign up for a free account, list your vehicle, and set available times and dates to rent your car. Getaround facilitates the car pickup and dropoff so that you can go about your day as usual. Each renter’s driving history is screened and you’re covered by a generous insurance policy should anything happen to your car while it is being rented.
15. Subscription Box Creating
Subscription box companies offer a convenient way to meet everyday needs. You can create boxes for dogs, women, men, children, or any other demographic that enjoys receiving fun or useful kits in the mail. The more unique your box can be, the less competition your subscription boxes will have and the higher your profits will be.
You can use a service like Subbly to create the perfect subscription box for your future customers. That company offers easy checkout services and tools that you can use to build your own website or landing page without using code.
16. Social Media Influencing
Making money as a social media influencer is simple. As you grow a following on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you can influence your followers to purchase products and, in return, earn a commission.
Start an influencer account for free on any platform. Choose a niche or a topic you’re comfortable with and tell your followers about products that meet specific needs. As you learn what your audience likes, you can grow your business in that specific area.
17. YouTube Content Creator
YouTube video creators earn money from advertisements shown before and during their videos. They also earn money by partnering with brands and sharing those products or services throughout their videos for a fee.
While starting a YouTube channel is easy, it takes talents in marketing and video creation to become successful. You can start a channel for free, and then begin to serve paid ads on your videos when you reach at least 4,000 view hours and 1,000 subscribers.
18. Sell or Flip Blogs
Similar to flipping houses, you can buy a blog, fix it up, and sell it for profit. You can find blogs to buy on websites like Flippa or you can contact site owners and negotiate with them directly.
You can also create niche sites, monetize them, and sell them at a profit. It’s a similar process to buying a blog, but you must create it from the ground up. This works particularly well if you know how to build an audience and monetize a website. Coming up with content and adding free use images increases the value of the blogs you sell.
This isn’t one of the lower-cost home businesses, but it does have a lot of earning potential.
19. Online Course Creating
Creating online courses is a low-cost business idea that can turn into passive income, provided you put in the work upfront. You can create a course on any topic that will help your students learn something new – like playing an instrument or completing a project.
Online courses can bring in anywhere between $50 and $1,000+ each time a copy is sold. Use a platform like Udemy to market and sell your course over and over.
20. eBook Publishing
Writing eBooks and selling copies online is another low startup cost business for writers. You can write fiction, nonfiction, or tutorial books to publish and sell online. It’s important to market your work in order to initially sell copies, but if your book takes off, you can potentially earn residual income for years.
If you have a topic idea but don’t know how to write and publish a book, consider taking the online course How to Self-Publish eBooks and Paperbacks, in which you will learn the basics of self-publishing, from outlining your book to publishing the finished copy.
Local Small Business Ideas for Small Towns or Cities
Working online isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of low-cost small business ideas that allow you to offer your services locally.
21. Interior Designing
Use your interior designing skills to build a small business working in the homes of local clients. Set up consultations or work hands-on to design the perfect homes. You can also offer your digital services online to expand your client base.
Designing your own space is not the same as designing for a client. It’s important to learn how to become an interior designer who will put your client’s own style and needs first.
22. Pet Grooming
Set up your own grooming shop where pet owners can bring their animals to you for services like hair clipping, nail clipping, bathing, and more. You can grow your business income and reputation by offering in-home services to loyal clients.
Pet groomers are not required to complete extra schooling or certifications, but if you’re starting from scratch, some schooling might be a good idea.
23. Electronic Repairing
If you enjoy fixing electronic devices or are willing to learn, consider starting your own electronics repair business. You can choose which services to offer, like screen repair or full device servicing.
You’ll need to have experience in electronic repairs or get certified in order to build a reputable business and grow your client base. ETA International supports technical professionals by offering accredited certifications and free practice exams for its students.
24. House Flipping
Flipping houses for a living can be a low-cost business, especially if you choose to live in the homes as you flip them. You can consider the mortgage as a living expense versus viewing it as a start-up fee. The goal with house flipping is to purchase homes for below market value, fix them up, and sell them for a profit.
Running a low-cost house flipping business requires handyman skills. As you grow your business with each property flipped, you can reinvest your income and hire professionals to help with the home improvements rather than do them yourself. Flipping houses can be a lucrative business if you learn how to do it right, and it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before purchasing your first fixer-upper.
25. In-Home Daycare
Babysitting can bring in a decent side income, but to increase your income, consider scaling your services to an in-home daycare. Each location has rules and regulations for starting a daycare. Check your local laws to learn more.
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers an extensive document sharing how to start a quality child care business. It will walk you through everything from assessing the need for childcare in your area, to understand tax laws, to launching your in-home daycare.
26. Event Planning
Planning weddings, showers, or birthday parties can be overwhelming for most people. If event planning is something you’re good at and enjoy, then consider turning your skills into a home business. You can offer consultations and start planning events for clients in your area.
You can use this checklist to help you plan events. It covers things like budget, venue, suppliers/caterers and more.
27. Personal Training
Help others achieve their fitness goals as a personal trainer by providing your services in your trainees’ homes, your home, or meet them at a local gym. You’ll be responsible for helping your trainees set and achieve personal goals through your paid training sessions.
Learning how to become a fitness trainer starts with earning your high school degree or GED and completing certifications. Use those certifications to work in a local gym or start an independent business as a personal trainer.
28. Music Lessons
If you have talents playing an instrument or singing, you can teach music lessons for a living. You’ll need to follow a curriculum or set up your own lesson plans to walk students through.
You don’t need a music degree to teach beginners, but you’ll need to prove your skills if you want to work with advanced students. Music Industry How To shares a guide on how to become a private music teacher. With a little business planning, you will soon be able to start teaching your first student in a private music studio or a room in your own home.
29. DJ Services
As a DJ, you’ll create music lists for events like weddings, proms, and block parties or. you can consult with clients to create the perfect playlist for their party. If you already have music equipment, a DJ services business can be a low-cost venture.
However, there’s more to starting a DJ service than good equipment. Review this guide to start your business right, starting with determining your business goals to getting your first DJ gigs.
30. Gardening / Lawn Services
Creating and maintaining gardens and cutting grass are services that you can offer year-round in some areas. If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, you can shift your services to snow cleanup and removal during the cold season.
There are different liabilities to consider when starting a lawn service. Guidant Financial offers a free guide to help you start your lawn care business right. If you’re starting as a sole proprietor with lawn tools already on hand, then this could be a low-cost startup business.
Creative Small Business Ideas
Starting a creative small business can cost some money upfront, but if you price your services right, you can quickly cover these costs.
31. Social Media Managing
If you know your way around social media and enjoy creating engaging posts, then consider starting a social media management business. You can work with local or online businesses to help grow their audience and sales.
Running a business on social media takes planning and preparation. To get started, take an online course like Social Media Management – The Complete 2019 Manager Bootcamp. The course holds a 4.4-star rating with nearly 15,000 students enrolled to date.
32. Graphic Designing
There are hundreds of thousands of businesses in need of print and online graphics to use for marketing purposes. A business’s graphics can often make or break their marketing strategies. You can use your creative talents to design media for all kinds of advertisements that help businesses gain exposure to new customers.
Having a talent in graphic design isn’t enough to run a home business successfully. To build your experience and price your services right, take an online course like Graphic Design for Beginners Part 1.
33. Website Designing
Small business owners know that it’s hard to succeed without having exposure online. Create simple websites for businesses to help them reach new customers and grow their revenue.
Finding potential web design clients can be simple. Start by searching for local businesses online to see if they already have a website. If they need one or have one that needs an update, contact them to see if they’d be interested in setting up a consultation. If your price is affordable, it shouldn’t take much to convince them that they should hire you to design their website.
34. App Designing
Mobile apps are popular and can earn passive income for years. If you have a unique app idea and the technical skills to create one, you can start there. As you gain design experience, offer your designing skills to help create apps for others.
You don’t need to have lots of experience to become successful, but a background in coding and design can help. There are popular online courses on Udemy that teach how to design mobile apps as well. If you invest time in learning the skill, it could help you start a successful app-designing business.
35. Craft Selling
It can be difficult to sell crafts at a profit, but with the right business plan, you can earn a sustainable income. Sell crafts like home decor, custom jewelry and clothing, and other handmade goods.
There is more to starting a crafting business than creating the perfect product. You’ll need to properly manage your time and expenses in order to turn a profit. Take an online course like Your Craft Business: A Step by Step Guide to help you grow a successful business.
36. Organizing Services
If you have the ability to organize, many people will pay you to organize their homes, closets, or offices. They may even pay you to teach them how to do it. An organizing home business can be virtual or strictly local, depending on your goals and availability.
How to Start an LLC outlines the steps required to start a professional organizing business. It’s not a requirement, but you can also grow your exposure and client base by earning the proper certifications from NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers.
37. Furniture Reupholstering and Repairing
Put your creative talents to good use by restoring and repairing old furniture. According to Curbed, 9 million tons of furniture are trashed each year. If you can help restore old furniture before it hits the landfill, you can both earn a profit and help reduce waste.
There are two main ways to run a furniture restoration business: Find free furniture to restore and sell or work with clients to reupholster and repair their furniture as a service. To get started, take an online course like How to Work from Home Flipping Furniture.
38. Landscape Designing
Help homeowners design a landscape that they can enjoy and maintain for years to come. You can help spruce up any outdoor space to include things like gardens, fish ponds, and rock structures.
A landscape designer goes beyond gardening maintenance services and helps put new ideas into action. Hone your landscaping skills by taking an online course like Fundamentals of Garden Design, which teaches you how to present your plans to clients in a visual and realistic way.
39. Travel Planning
Many people enjoy traveling but prefer to skip the hassle of planning all the details. If you enjoy creating travel plans and can help clients plan a vacation they will enjoy, then consider starting a travel planning business.
You can work with a travel planning company like Pixie Vacations to become a Disney Travel Agent, or you can work independently and plan all kinds of trips. Special education or certifications are not required to become a travel planner, but you can stand out, with the right background. UCAS shares some of the most common certifications that travel agents can get.
It takes a keen eye to be a successful photographer. Almost anyone can take attractive pictures on a smartphone, but the talent of a photographer goes beyond the basics. Lighting, background, and proper equipment are only a few things that photographers need to understand how to control.
It takes more than practice to become a successful photographer. Udemy offers online courses that cover things like how to take perfect pictures and how to use editing tools to perfect the not-so-perfect ones.
Whether you’re starting an online business or a local brick-and-mortar one, there are some costs you will incur. How much you will pay depends on your location, the type of product you choose, whether or not you are sharing the costs with a business partner, and the nature of your business.
Common Online Business Costs
Most online businesses will incur these common startup costs:
- A website
- Website hosting
- A reliable internet connection
- A laptop or PC
- Optional: Licences and Certifications
Common Local Small Business Costs
In addition to the costs listed above, local small businesses can also incur additional costs, including:
- Equipment to complete the service
- Employees or independent contractors
- Travel costs
- Optional: Office rental space
Starting a Business from Home Doesn’t Have to Cost A Lot
A legitimate home business can be affordable. But the amount of investment you’re willing to make can drive the immediate success of your endeavors.
To ease your uncertainty, the Small Business Administration offers tools to calculate your home business’ potential startup cost. From online businesses to local and virtual service offerings, you don’t have to jump into entrepreneurship without knowing what your home business idea will cost you.