For those with the entrepreneurial spirit, startup costs can be a significant barrier. But where there's a will, there's a way. The following business ideas require little in the way of startup costs or resources and respond quickly to some good old-fashioned hard work. For those dreaming big on a small budget, here are a few low-cost businesses to inspire that entrepreneurial passion.
Social media and the 24-hour news cycle have created the perfect storm of opportunity for creative professionals like writers and graphic designers, who can use their talents to create high-quality, shareable content for businesses and media outlets. Thanks to a growing gig economy of freelance and contract workers, it's easier than ever to market yourself as a professional service provider.
Personal or virtual assistant
Along those same lines, those who have good organizational skills are in high demand for other entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses and want to focus on high-return tasks. A personal or virtual assistant performs many of those secretarial or front-desk functions without being onsite. These individuals often work from home for many different clients, keeping track of calendars, making flight arrangements and doing clerical work.
Event planning services
If you're a highly organized, detail-oriented individual who loves putting parties together, you might have the right personality to launch an event-planning business. Working for weddings, birthday parties and class reunions, event planners make it easy for others to host an exciting party. LinkedIn, cold calling and planning a few pro-bono events will help give you the proper experience. This will also help you build up a solid database of vendors and contacts so you can help your clients orchestrate the event of their dreams.
Between caring for their children and their professional responsibilities, most working parents have very little time to take care of personal errands like grocery shopping, making returns at the mall or mailing packages. The right, driven individual can take care of these time-consuming errands for clients and free up their days for the important things in life. Account for travel expenses when determining your rates, which can be hourly or by the task.
Yes, this is really a thing. The importance of good reviews has not been lost on companies large and small. Companies provide products and services to individuals so they can write a review. They want a good one, but more importantly, an honest one. They pay for your time or by the review, and you get to try new things, read new books, experiment with the latest technology and much more, all while getting paid.
Social media consulting
Larger firms can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts and blogs, but small businesses often have to take care of their own social media marketing. With so many other responsibilities, business owners may be too busy or overwhelmed to spend time coming up with a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower counts grow, so will your business.
Etsy shop owner
Etsy is a popular online marketplace that hosts thousands of at-home retailers and larger productions, like the highly-rated Wildflower + co., selling jewelry, patches and DIY merchandise. Starting an Etsy shop is incredibly affordable. It's free to join the site and start a shop, though business owners should be aware there are three selling fees: the listing, transaction and payment-processing fees.
Online courses and tutoring
What are you passionate about? Yoga? Baking? Web design? If you know something inside and out, you can help others enrich their lives by offering virtual classes. Create downloadable instructional packets and videos, or schedule real-time Skype lessons with clients. Another option for aspiring educators is to start a virtual or home-based tutoring service.
This business requires you to plan and prepare weekly or daily meals for your clients, so strong cooking skills and a working knowledge of nutrition and special diets (if applicable) are a must. You don't necessarily need to have graduated from culinary school, but having some cooking classes under your belt will boost your credibility. While you may have to do some traveling to and from supermarkets and client homes, your customers should cover the cost of ingredients in addition to your service charge.
If you're fluent in a second language, you can find work converting written and spoken words from one language to another. Broadening international ties and an increase in the number of non-English speakers in the U.S. make this a fast-growing field, with the Bureau of Labor Services predicting 42 percent growth by 2020. You can start your own independent service and market yourself to businesses, schools, hospitals, courtrooms and conference centers.
Are you proficient in a highly specialized software? There's a growing demand for training from amateurs and professionals looking to expand their skillsets. Technical manuals are available for programs like QuickBooks and Final Cut Pro, but these are often expensive and difficult for the average user to understand. Schedule small group workshops or private sessions, and charge by the hour when giving a full tutorial of the program. Patience and a great personality are critical.
For the musically gifted, offering lessons to others who want to learn an instrument can be a great source of extra income. Unless you're teaching piano, students can likely bring their own instruments to your home for hour-long lessons. Stock up on sheet music or songbooks in varying genres and aimed at various skill levels so you can offer a wide selection for your potential clients. Voice lessons can also bring in a lot of money if you market yourself to local high schools and community theater groups.
Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl and Nicole Fallon.