- Many of the best small business ideas involve an online business model.
- Choose a business idea that you are knowledgeable and passionate about, and develop a detailed business plan.
- Before starting a business, determine if there is a demand for the product or service you want to provide.
- This article is for anyone looking for inspiration to start a business.
If you are thinking about starting a business, you should be considering whether your idea fills a need in the way people live their lives and approach their work. If you can identify an unmet need and a target market, then you might just have a business idea with legs. But how can you come up with a good idea in the first place? This list of business ideas includes 26 great types of business to help you find success.
26 great small business ideas
This list of 26 great business ideas will help you get started on your entrepreneurial journey. Note that many of the ideas below only require you to have a credit card processing partner to get started, so you can keep upfront expenses relatively low.
Read on for some inspiration into the many types of businesses that could launch you to success.
1. Online reselling
If you’re interested in clothing and sales, you might consider starting an online reseller business. Although it takes time, dedication and an eye for fashion, you can start your business as a side hustle and turn it into a full-time resale business. You could start by using online store websites like Poshmark and Mercari to sell your unwanted clothing and items, then expand to your own resale website.
Consider shopping estate sales and flea markets for hidden finds at a low cost and then listing them for a profit online. You may be able to collect a substantial inventory of items that are in good shape for very little overhead if you’re diligent enough and search the right places.
2. Pet sitting
About 70% of U.S. families have a pet. When these families go away for extended periods, 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. As part of the job, you’ll need to feed them, give them water, play with them, and (with dogs) walk them as needed. To help keep clients satisfied, you’ll need to regularly update them on how their pets are doing.
If you have other sources of income that require nothing more than 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 work on your laptop while you spend time at their home with their pets, meaning that you can run two income streams simultaneously.
3. T-shirt printing
If you have a sense of fashion (or humor), you might enjoy launching a T-shirt printing business. You can also license someone else’s designs and screenprint them onto a blank tee. Either way, if you have space for a T-shirt printing setup, you can easily acquire the necessary tools to get started.
Did you know?: T-shirt printing can be a great e-commerce business. You can allow customers to place online orders and sell T-shirts in bulk. This way, you can sell to customers around the country and even the world.
4. Cleaning service
If you like to clean, you can easily turn that 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 $25 to $50 per hour. Cleaning services are straightforward businesses that require relatively little overhead; you simply need planning, dedication and marketing to attract customers.
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.
5. Online teaching
The demand for online education has opened up possibilities for entrepreneurs. Since this is an online venture, you can choose any subject you know about and teach a course regardless of location. If you don’t have advanced knowledge in any particular subject, consider teaching English as a foreign language online to students overseas.
6. 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, take advantage of modern technology to start your own online bookkeeping service.
If you are knowledgeable and passionate about a specific topic (like business, social media, marketing, human resources, leadership or communication), consulting can be a lucrative option. You can start a consulting business on your own, then grow your business and hire other consultants over time.
8. Medical courier service
If you have a reliable vehicle and good time management skills, 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. You could start your courier business on your own or hire other drivers to work for you.
Did you know?: The healthcare industry is expanding, which is a good sign for medical courier service job stability. There’s a wide range of client groups your business can serve, including hospitals, nursing homes, labs and private practices.
9. App development
If you are knowledgeable and experienced in technology, you may want to consider a career in app development. Smartphones are an everyday accessory for many Americans that has increased the demand for mobile apps. Similarly, virtual reality software has become popular in recent years, so there is also a demand for VR app development.
10. Transcription service
If you have a good ear and can type quickly, a transcription service would allow you to work from home with a flexible schedule. Medical transcription services are especially needed as voice recognition technology proliferates for healthcare provider dictation.
You can accept as few or as many transcription jobs as you’d like. This flexibility can be especially beneficial if you’re not looking to start all at once or if you have a day job you would like to keep for now. 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 adds up quickly. 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 ability to accept only a few requests at first means you can scale up as you are ready. Best of all, there is very little startup cost and overhead. You only need a computer, the appropriate software and a secure messaging service.
Tip: While not required, a medical transcription license can increase your business’s competitive advantage while expanding your customer base to include larger companies. Some service providers prefer that their transcriptionists have training from a certified program.
11. Professional organizing
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. 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.
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 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. If so, you can use those to create a portfolio that you can put on social media to attract more clients.
12. Freelance copywriting or content writing
If you’re a natural wordsmith with a bit of marketing knowledge, you can establish yourself as a freelance copywriter or content writer. Whether you write blogs, web content or press releases, plenty of companies will pay for your services. Increase your value by using SEO knowledge to help clients craft a strategy around specific keywords that their target audience is already using in their online searches.
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.
13. 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 Population Reference Bureau, between 2020 and 2060, the 85-and-over population is projected to triple from 6.7 million to 19 million. The global number of centenarians (those over age 100) has already reached nearly 600,000. Many will need care and assistance, often 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 will be in demand as well. Many seniors need help with all kinds of tasks, like errands or 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.
Key takeaway: Senior home care is a rapidly growing industry. As a senior care provider, you can tap into this market while offering seniors premium care and assisting them with everyday tasks.
14. Translation service
According to research from IBISWorld, the translation services industry saw a decline in 2020, as did many industries; however, IBISWorld forecasts a “major uptick” for the industry over the next five years. 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’re fluent in multiple languages, you could be successful in carving out a niche in the translation services industry.
15. Digital marketing
The importance of the internet grows with every passing day, but it also becomes harder for businesses to cut through the online clutter and properly market themselves. Digital marketing services are always in demand. Yet, many small and midsize companies would rather outsource them than establish a costly in-house team. If you have chops in SEO, content marketing, pay-per-click advertising, web development or social media management, you could seize a business opportunity that allows you the freedom to work from home.
Digital marketing is an important part of any brand, so you’ll need 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 with a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. If you enjoy strategizing and implementing marketing 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.
16. Owning 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.
Starting a food truck might sound like a wild idea, but the industry is growing. The overhead and upkeep for a truck is significantly less than for a restaurant, and you have the added benefit of mobility. [Check out our recommendations for POS systems for your food truck.]
Tip: Starting a food truck business can be profitable. However, there are some startup costs to consider, such as purchasing a food truck and modifying it to meet local regulations. If you’re interested in serving up smiles with a food truck, get more information in our guide to starting a food truck business.
17. Lawn care service
If you grew up with a lawn, chances are your parents made you maintain it. For many, 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, but 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 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.
Tip: Some states require landscapers, especially those using pesticides, to have a license. Check your state’s requirements to help you determine if you need to obtain a license for your business’s services.
18. Rideshare driving
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 fall on the rideshare service, giving you the freedom to work as much or as little as you want. Rideshare applications such as Uber and Lyft allow 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 behind-the-scenes logistics. If any of the other business ideas seem to require too much effort or upfront capital, ridesharing might be the way to dip your toe into the world of entrepreneurship.
19. Real estate
For many people, navigating the housing market is overwhelming. As a real estate agent, you can help people find their dream home at a price that fits their budget. In many states, you only need to complete a few months of classes and pass an exam to qualify as a real estate agent. Keep in mind that even with a certification, you’ll need strong social 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]
20. Graphic design
Corporations, small businesses and sole proprietors all need eye-catching promotional materials, but not everybody has an eye for what looks good. If you have an artistic streak and know how to organize content into a visually pleasing format, start a graphic design business to provide flyers, digital ads, posters and other engaging visual materials. Graphic design requires few physical tools beyond a laptop and a desk.
Not all companies that sell goods store them on-site. In drop-shipping, 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 drop-shipping make it an especially great startup idea if you’re worried about overhead costs and physical space.
22. Personal training
If the gym is like your second home, you might want to share some of your expertise and help others reach their fitness goals. As a personal trainer, you can offer in-home training sessions that cater to each of your clients’ exercise capabilities. You can also help clients build customized nutrition and meal plans so their diets complement their physical goals.
Many personal trainers start their client acquisition process with social media pages that detail their experience in the gym along with some motivational quotes. While a certification can help expand your customer base, you aren’t legally required to have any specialized training to start this type of business.
23. Resume writing
People are always applying for jobs, whether they want to make a career shift, increase their pay or switch work environments. Of course, most job applications require candidates to submit resumes to detail their professional background. As a resume writer, you can help job applicants’ resumes stand out from their competition.
You’ll also help your clients create cover letters and portfolios that show off the best of their work. Plus, you don’t need any special schooling to be a resume writer – just some basic organizing and proofreading skills. If you know what makes resumes appear professional and ready for employers’ eyes, you’re already off to a great start.
24. Host a podcast
Podcasts have become extremely popular, with more than 100 million active podcast listeners in the U.S. alone. Best of all, you can start a podcast on any topic that interests you, from business to history to pop culture and more. Starting a podcast requires consistency and dedication, as well as a basic understanding of audio editing (and video editing if you want to start a companion YouTube channel for subscribers to follow).
Once your podcast has built up a substantial following, you can sell time to advertisers or establish partnerships with companies that generate revenue. As your brand expands further, you may even be able to charge to speak at events or moderate panels on topics your podcast focuses on. Of course, in order to get to that level, you need to come up with a unique idea that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, and then make sure you can relate to your target audience.
25. Launch a newsletter
If podcasts aren’t your thing but you like the idea behind building a robust list of subscribers and then selling space to advertisers and partners, consider creating an email newsletter. More than 90% of Americans subscribe to email newsletters. This means if you can capture the attention of a particular audience, you could build a substantial following and monetize it.
To do so, come up with an umbrella topic you can write about at length, and then work to establish a brand voice and mission. Explore the best email marketing software that can help you manage your subscriber list and email sends, and then you’re ready to get started. Solicit feedback from your audience over time to give them more of what they want and less of what they don’t. After all, their continued engagement with your newsletter is what will help you build it into a successful business.
26. Event catering
Do you have a passion for the culinary arts? If so, event catering may be a great business idea for you. There’s no shortage of people who need delicious food to serve their guests, whether that’s at parties, weddings, fundraisers, or family reunions. If you have a knack for cooking or baking and love to serve hungry guests, event catering could be a fun and lucrative way to do just that.
To get started, you’ll need to set up a menu and price sheet, as well as obtain all necessary permits and licenses. Start small to get the word out about your catering service, but when your food speaks for itself don’t be surprised if your business grows by leaps and bounds through word of mouth alone.
What are the most successful small businesses?
Small businesses that involve website design, a subset of digital marketing, are among those that make the most sales and bring in the most profit. People learn about businesses on the internet more often than via other avenues, so finding clients and a steady income stream isn’t as difficult. Cleaning services and real estate businesses also have high success rates, which makes sense – all people need homes, and they prefer them to be 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 want to maximize your profit while minimizing your workload, try any of the small business ideas that most frequently prove successful. However, if you’re more interested in pursuing your passions while earning enough money to live, start a small business that fulfills you, requires you to use your skills and offers you a good work-life balance. There are so many great business ideas – and 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 a side pursuit at first. Then, develop your business plan and analyze your consumer base, market and potential challenges.
Near the final stages of planning, you’ll better understand how much money you need to make your business a full-time job. You can find this money through crowdfunding platforms and investors. Consider taking out a business loan only as a last resort.
You should also work with reliable professionals, including an attorney and an accountant. Most of the businesses on this list require particular permits or licenses, and legal counsel can help you make sure you do it all by the book. Meanwhile, an accountant is critical for managing finances properly, especially in the early days when you’re still establishing your revenue stream. While these professionals represent an upfront cost, they’re well worth it and can help you build a healthy business.
Tip: Choose a small business idea with low startup costs. If you still don’t have enough money, 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 ones. That said, not all great business ideas are suited for home offices, so make sure your business can be conducted from home – jobs with on-site needs and heavy in-person demands might not be suitable. In your business plan and budget, incorporate any office supplies and tools that make your online business ideas feasible, such as a separate business computer, a suitable desk, high-speed internet, filing cabinets and a business website.
What makes for a good work-from-home small business idea?
A good work-from-home small business idea boasts the following traits:
- Minimal inventory and supplies: Presumably, your home isn’t a mansion (yet), and you have only so much space in which to store inventory and supplies. That means lawn care service is probably a no-go if you’re looking to work from home. The same might be true for T-shirt printing if you don’t have space to store your prints. Copywriting and graphic design, on the other hand, require little more than a laptop and a working internet connection, and you probably already have those.
- Low startup costs: A viable work-from-home business shouldn’t cost much to launch. With minimal storage space, it’s not like you can pile up raw materials and inventory. You might need to buy some software or obtain licensure for certain small business ideas, but your financial obstacles should be few and far between.
- Computer-based, online work: Many of the above small business ideas require the use of a computer with an internet connection. Drop-shipping, digital marketing and translation are all great examples. An exception to the rule is pet- sitting if you watch over pets at your house rather than the owner’s home. Then, all you need is a pair of watchful eyes and open ears. You can even do computer-based work while watching the pets.
- Flexible schedule: Traditional office jobs often demand a rigid 9-to-5 schedule from employees. This schedule can feel less important to adhere to if you’re working from home, especially when you’re your own boss. As such, the best work-from-home small business ideas allow for a flexible schedule. If you do your best app development work at 3 a.m., who’s to stop you?
- Modest collaboration needs: Although remote team collaboration is easy to achieve, working from home goes more smoothly when you’re almost fully independent. A small business in which you answer to just a handful of clients and one or two colleagues (if any) leads to greater independence. Then you can truly work on your own terms and see your small business idea through to full fruition.
What is the step-by-step process for starting a business?
Starting a business takes work, but with the right tools and guidelines, your company will be 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 businesses.
- 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
Tejas Vemparala also contributed to this article.