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. This list includes 15 great business ideas that can help you find success in 2020 and beyond.
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 loans only as a last resort.
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.
If you're ready to run your own business, consider any of these 15 great business ideas.
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 overhead. You simply need a computer, the appropriate software and a secure messaging service.
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.
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 up to $30 or $40 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.
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 search engine optimization (SEO) skills 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.
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.
According to research from IBISWorld, the translation services industry is growing more than 5% annually. That growth is showing no signs of slowing as the internet opens 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.
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 that you 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.
If you love food and traveling, a food truck business might be right for you. Food trucks come in all shapes and sizes, serving up a wide range of snacks and cuisines to hungry event attendees or festivalgoers. Take your favorite style of food on the road, travel to events you'd already like to attend, 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. If you're interested in serving up smiles, check out our guide to getting your food truck business rolling full speed ahead.
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.
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 nine 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.
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]
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.
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 small business idea if you're worried about overhead and physical space.
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.
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.
Adam Uzialko contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.