- Many of the best small business ideas for 2021 involve an online business model.
- Choose a business idea that you are knowledgeable and passionate about.
- Before starting a business, determine if there is a demand for what you want to provide.
- This article is for anyone looking for an idea to start a business.
You know you want to start a business, but you're having a tough time articulating your idea. If you want to become an entrepreneur, it's important to start with a great business idea. All you need is a bit of inspiration. It all starts with an idea that has room to grow over time.
If you are thinking of starting a business in 2021, it is critical to take the new normal into account. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about how people consume products and services. While starting a retail business or restaurant might have been good ideas previously, you might be best served to reconsider those thoughts until you see how the next year plays out. Instead of some more traditional businesses, think about those that can support how people are now living their lives. No matter what type of business you pursue you'll want to create a sound business plan, but many of the ideas on this list only require a credit card processing partner to accept payments to get started.
This list of business ideas includes 21 great types of business to help you find success in 2021 and beyond. If you find an area you want to pursue, be sure to review the steps for how to start your own business.
21 great small business ideas
If you're ready to run your own business, consider any of these great business ideas.
If you are knowledgeable and passionate about a specific topic (business, social media, marketing, human resources, leadership, communication, etc.), starting a consultant business can be a lucrative option. You can start your consulting business on your own, then grow your business and hire other consultants over time.
2. Online reseller
Those passionate about clothing and/or sales may want to consider starting an online reseller business. Although it takes a lot of time and dedication – and an eye for fashion – this is a great idea that you can start as a side hustle and turn into a full-time resale business. You can start by using online store websites like Poshmark and Mercari to sell your unwanted clothing, eventually expanding to your own resale website.
3. Online teaching
The demand for online education has opened up a wide possibility for entrepreneurs to start their own ventures. Since this is an online business idea, you can choose any subject you are knowledgeable about and teach a course regardless of your location. If you don't have advanced knowledge in any particular subject, you can always consider teaching English as a foreign language online to students overseas.
4. Online bookkeeping
As with education, technology allows many bookkeeping services to be performed online. If you are an accountant or bookkeeper who wants the freedom and autonomy of running your own business, you can take advantage of modern technology to start your own online bookkeeping service, taking on other companies as clients.
5. Medical courier service
If you have a reliable vehicle and good time management skills, you may want to consider creating your own courier service – more specifically, a medical courier service. As a driver, you would be responsible for transporting medical items like lab specimens, prescription drugs and equipment. The healthcare industry is expanding, which is great for medical courier service job stability. You could start your courier business on your own or hire other drivers to work for you.
6. App developer
If you are knowledgeable and experienced in technology, you may want to consider a career in app development. Smartphones have become an everyday accessory for many Americans, which has increased demand for mobile apps. Similarly, virtual reality software has become popular in recent years, so there is also a demand for VR app development.
7. Transcription service
If you have a good ear and can type quickly, a transcription service is a great business idea that allows you to work from home with a flexible schedule. Medical transcription services are especially needed as voice recognition technology proliferates for healthcare provider dictation. If you're not looking to start all at once, or if you have a day job you would like to keep for the time being, you can accept as few or many transcription jobs as you'd like. To boost your business prospects and justify charging more, consider becoming a certified transcriptionist and delving into a few specialties.
Medical transcriptionists typically charge 6 to 14 cents per line of transcription, which can quickly add up. The typical turnaround time for transcription work is 24 hours, so it's important to stay on top of the jobs you accept. However, the flexibility to accept only a few requests to get started means you can scale up as you are ready, making transcription an easy service to start up slowly. Best of all, there is very little startup cost and overhead. You simply need a computer, the appropriate software and a secure messaging service.
8. Professional organizer
Looking for a business idea that can really "spark joy"? Professional organizers, like Marie Kondo, help people declutter and minimize for a living. In an age of materialism, many people are desperate to downsize and take control over their possessions, rather than letting their things possess them. Minimalism is becoming extremely popular, but people often find it hard to part with things they've owned for a long time. Part of being a professional organizer is helping clients develop a system for downsizing and keeping things that way.
If you're a highly organized person who enjoys making spaces functional and comfortable, you might be good at coaching others to do the same. People will pay you to help them devise a method of minimizing their possessions and then maintaining an organized space. To promote your business, ask if your clients will let you take before and after photos of the areas of their homes you've organized, and use those to create a portfolio that you can put on social media to attract more clients.
9. Cleaning service
If you like to clean, you can easily turn it into a business. With a few staff members, a host of cleaning supplies and transportation, you can offer cleaning services to homeowners, apartment complexes and commercial properties. Most cleaning services charge between $25 and $50 per hour. Cleaning services are straightforward businesses that require relatively little overhead; you simply need planning, dedication and marketing to get your business noticed.
If you're looking to differentiate yourself from other cleaning services, consider adding premium options like floor waxing or exterior power washing for an additional fee. These services could be the deciding factor between your new cleaning service and seasoned companies that maintain too large a client list to provide that level of cleaning.
10. Freelance copywriter
If you're a natural wordsmith with a bit of marketing knowledge, you can establish yourself as a freelance copywriter. Whether you write blogs, web content or press releases, plenty of companies will pay for your services. You can increase your value by bringing SEO knowledge to the table to help your clients craft a strategy to attack specific keywords that their target audience is already using in their online searches. Most freelance copywriters charge $40 to $50 per hour, but those with expertise in a given vertical could charge even more.
Freelance copywriting is a great business to run, because as long as you have an internet connection, you can work. It's a business that you can operate from the comfort of your own home, or even from the road if you travel. If you establish a large enough network and gain referrals from satisfied clients, you could even make freelance writing your full-time job.
11. Home care service
A background in care and hospitality can go a long way to support housebound seniors who require in-home care. It's also a service for which demand is only going to grow. According to the National Institute on Aging, between 2010 and 2050, the 85-and-over population is projected to increase 351% globally, and the global number of centenarians (those over age 100) is projected to increase tenfold. Many will need care and assistance, oftentimes in their own homes.
Luckily, you don't need a background in healthcare to help seniors and grow a successful business at the same time, although those skills are certain to be in demand as well. Many seniors need help with everything from errands to repairs around the house. With some experience, you could consider growing your business to help seniors transition from their homes to assisted living facilities, offering services such as packing, transporting, setting up, or storing their furniture and possessions.
12. Translation service
According to research from IBISWorld, the translation services industry saw a decline in 2020, as did many industries; however, it is projected to rebound nicely in 2021. That projected growth isn't surprising, as the internet has opened up entrepreneurs in other countries to English-speaking markets and vice versa.
This trend has created an opening for multilingual speakers to offer specific services, such as document translation and the translation of website information into languages for use in other markets. If you know multiple languages, carving out a niche in the translation services industry could be a successful endeavor.
13. Digital marketing
The importance of the internet grows with every passing day, making it harder all the time for businesses to cut through the clutter and properly market themselves. Digital marketing services are always in demand, and many small and midsize companies would rather outsource it than establish a costly in-house team. If you've got chops in SEO, content marketing, pay-per-click, web development or social media management, you could have a business opportunity that allows you the freedom to work from home.
Digital marketing is an important part of a brand, so it's critical for you to respond to developments in your clients' marketing strategies. Social media management entails watching for comments and messages around the clock, not just scheduling posts in a "set-it-and-forget-it" mindset. If you enjoy strategizing and implementing plans meticulously, digital marketing could be the right business for you. You may also consider becoming an affiliate marketer, which is another form of digital marketing.
14. Food truck
With indoor dining limited in many locations right now, aspiring restaurateurs might find more success with a food truck. Food trucks come in all shapes and sizes, serving up a wide range of snacks and cuisines. Take your favorite style of food on the road and sell your culinary passions directly to hungry customers. Sure, you'll be working, but you'll be in a space you're passionate about, with a chance to connect to people who have similar interests.
Food trucks might sound like a wild idea, but the industry is growing. The overhead and upkeep for a truck costs significantly less than owning a restaurant, and you have the added benefit of mobility. [Check out our recommendation on POS systems for your food truck.]
If you're interested in serving up smiles, get more information in our guide to getting your food truck business rolling full speed ahead.
15. Lawn care service
If you grew up with a lawn, chances are your parents made you take care of it. For many of us, lawn care is bothersome, but for some, it offers a sense of peace and serenity. Working outdoors with your hands to tame and beautify the natural landscape can be a rewarding experience, and since so many people find the work tedious, it can also be profitable.
Lawn care services require little more than some basic equipment, a trailer and perhaps some staff, depending on how many clients you have and how big the jobs are. You can quickly grow a small lawn care service into a full landscaping company by offering premium services and establishing a reputation as a brand that does a thorough job with a smile. If you like working outdoors and creating elegant landscapes, this could be the business for you.
16. Rideshare driver
If starting your own business seems daunting or too much of a risk, you can always use your car to become a rideshare driver. The overhead and responsibility of running the company falls on the rideshare service, giving you the freedom to work as much or as little as you need. Rideshare applications such as Uber and Lyft have enabled people to start side hustles that pay well and require little more than a willingness to drive people to their destinations and make occasional friendly conversation.
Rideshare drivers have the independence of a small business owner without the heavy workload required to manage the logistics behind the scenes. If any of the other business ideas seem like they require too much effort or upfront capital, ridesharing might be a great way for you to dip your toes into the world of entrepreneurship.
17. Real estate agent
For many people, navigating the housing market is overwhelming. As a real estate agent, you can help people find the home of their dreams at a price that fits their budget. In many states, you simply need to complete a few months of classes and pass an exam to qualify as a real estate agent. Even with a certification, you'll get nowhere without basic people skills, so if you're not a people person, this might not be the route for you. [Read related article: How to Become a Real Estate Agent]
18. Graphic designer
Corporations, small businesses and sole proprietors all need eye-catching promotional materials, but not nearly everybody has an eye for what looks good. If you've got an artistic streak and know how to organize content into a visually pleasing format, you can start a graphic design business to provide flyers, digital ads, posters and other engaging visual materials. Graphic design also has the benefit of requiring few physical tools beyond a laptop and a desk.
19. T-shirt printing business
Just like with graphic design, you might enjoy launching a T-shirt printing business if you've got a sharp artistic sense – or maybe you just enjoy taking someone else's visuals and screen-printing them onto a blank shirt. Either way, if you have space for a T-shirt printing setup, you can easily get the necessary tools and start your small business.
Not all companies that sell goods store them onsite. In dropshipping, people who run e-commerce sites go to a third party to fulfill all orders. The third party is likely a wholesale retailer or other entity that runs a warehouse and shipping operation. The minimal inventory and tools needed for dropshipping make it an especially great startup idea if you're worried about overhead and physical space.
21. Pet sitting
About two-thirds of U.S. families have a pet. When these families go away for extended periods and need someone to watch their pets for them, your pet-sitting small business can give them peace of mind. As a pet sitter, you'll watch over your clients' dogs, cats or other pets at their house, making sure to feed them, give them water, play with them, spend time with them, and (with dogs) walk them as needed. You'll also need to regularly update your clients on how their pets are doing.
If you have other sources of income that require merely an internet connection and a laptop, pet sitting may be an especially apt small business idea. Almost all pet owners will be glad to let you do work on your laptop while you spend time at their home with their pets, meaning that you can run two income streams simultaneously.
What are the most successful small businesses?
Small businesses that involve website design, a subset of digital marketing, tend to be among those that make the most sales and bring in the most profit. People now learn about businesses on the internet more often than via other avenues, so finding clients and a steady income stream isn't usually difficult. Cleaning services and real estate businesses also have high success rates, which makes sense – all people need homes, and they prefer them clean.
Key Takeaway: Some of the most profitable business ideas are website design, cleaning services and real estate.
What would be a good small business to start?
If you're concerned about maximizing your profit while minimizing your workload, a good small business to start might be any of the ones that most frequently prove successful. However, if you're more interested in incorporating your passions into your work while earning enough money to live, a good small business to start is any that fulfills you, requires you to use your skills and offers you a good work-life balance. There are so many great business ideas that this question has no objectively correct answer – you know better than anyone what small business ideas will bring you happiness, success and stability.
How can I start my own business with no money?
You don't need money to become a small business owner. The first step in starting a business with no money is to keep your current job and launch your small business as, for now, a side pursuit. Then, develop your business plan and analyze your consumer base, market, and potential challenges. Near the final stages of this planning, you'll better understand how much money you need to start your business. You can find this money through crowdfunding platforms and investors. Consider taking out a business loan only as a last resort.
Tip: Choose a small business idea with low startup costs. If you still don't have enough money, you can finance your business idea through crowdfunding or investors.
How do I start a small business from home?
Home-based businesses tend to be the most convenient and manageable small business ideas. That said, not all great business ideas are suited for home offices, so make sure your business can be conducted from home – jobs with onsite needs and heavy in-person demands might not be suitable. In your business plan and budget, be sure to incorporate any office supplies and tools that make your online business ideas feasible, such as a separate business computer, a proper desk, high-speed internet, filing cabinets and a website for your business.
What is the step-by-step process for starting a business?
Starting a business takes a lot of work, but with the right tools and guidelines, you can get your company up and running in no time. Although your specific business journey will be unique to you, we identified a few steps that entrepreneurs can take to start their business.
- Choose a business idea and find your niche.
- Analyze the current market.
- Create a business plan.
- Assess your finances and raise money as needed.
- Determine your legal business structure.
- Register your business with the government and IRS.
- Choose the appropriate business insurance policies.
- Hire employees and build your team (as needed).
- Choose your vendors (as needed).
- Market and advertise your business.
Adam Uzialko and Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and research in this article.