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Updated May 17, 2024

25 Best Low-Cost Business Ideas

If you want to start a low-cost business, these 25 ideas will help inspire your entrepreneurial passion.

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Sean Peek, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

Table of Contents

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Many people with an entrepreneurial spirit don’t pursue their business dreams because of the significant costs associated with starting a business. However, you can launch many businesses today with little money if you’re dedicated and hard-working.

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Starting a business is a lot of work, but we're here to help! Check out our helpful resources for everything you need to successfully build your business from the ground up.

25 best businesses to start with little money

1. Content creation

graphic of a person sitting at a laptop

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle have created the perfect storm of opportunity for creative professionals like writers and graphic designers. If this is your area of expertise, use your talents to create high-quality, shareable content for businesses and media outlets that need help with their content strategy. Thanks to a growing gig economy of freelance and contract workers, it’s easier than ever to market yourself as a professional service provider.

2. Personal or virtual assistant

Entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses must focus on high-return tasks. They need professionals with good organizational skills to help them run their operations. A personal or virtual assistant performs many secretarial and front-desk functions without being onsite. These individuals often work from home for many different clients, tracking calendars, making flight arrangements and doing clerical work.

3. Event planning services

If you’re a highly organized, detail-oriented individual who loves planning parties, you might have the right personality to launch an event-planning business. Event planners work on weddings, birthday parties, class reunions and other events, making it easy for others to host an exciting party. Planning a few pro bono events will help you gain the proper experience. Use LinkedIn and cold calling to build up a solid database of vendors and contacts, and help your clients orchestrate the event of their dreams.

4. Errand/concierge service

Between caring for their children and handling professional responsibilities, most working parents have very little time to deal with personal errands like grocery shopping, returning purchases or mailing packages. A 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 task.

5. Professional reviewer

graphic of person sitting at a laptop in front of a large star

Yes, this is really a thing. Good reviews have not been lost on companies large and small. Many companies provide products and services to individuals so they can write a review of the company. They want a good review 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.

6. Social media consultant

Larger companies can hire a marketing company or a full-time staff member to run their Facebook and X/Twitter accounts and blogs, but small businesses must often handle this on their own. With so many other responsibilities, business owners may be too busy or overwhelmed to develop 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.

7. Etsy shop

Etsy is a popular online marketplace that hosts thousands of at-home retailers and larger productions 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 there are four selling fees: listing, transaction, payment processing and offsite ad fees.

8. Online courses and tutoring

What are you passionate about? Yoga? Baking? Web design? You can help others enrich their lives by offering virtual classes if you know something inside and out. 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.

9. Personal chef

This business requires you to plan and prepare weekly or daily meals for your clients, so solid cooking skills and a working knowledge of nutrition and special diets 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.

You don't need a Michelin star to start as a personal chef. Cooking and baking are popular hobbies worldwide, especially in places like Italy and Sweden. Many amateur chefs can become professionals by allowing others to sample their fare at trade shows or events.

10. Translation service

graphic of person sitting at desk next to word bubbles

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 growing field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 4 percent growth through 2032. You can start your own independent service and market yourself to businesses, schools, hospitals, courtrooms and conference centers.

11. Software training

Are you proficient in a highly specialized software program? There’s a growing demand for training from amateurs and professionals looking to expand their skill sets. Technical manuals are available for business software 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 program tutorial. Patience and a great personality are critical. [Read related: Intuit QuickBooks Accounting Software Review]

12. Music lessons

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 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.

13. Sustainability consultant

Over the past several years, businesses all over the country have taken a closer look at their environmental impact, aiming to make sustainability part of their business model. However, eco-friendly business solutions are often prohibitively expensive, even for the largest enterprises, and businesses of all sizes are looking for experts to advise them. Sustainability consultants come from various backgrounds, from management to engineering, meaning practical skills and experience are more important than a specific degree.

14. Bookkeeping services

graphic of a person sitting at a desk next to a calculator

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a certified public accountant to work as a freelance bookkeeper. All you need is a knack for numbers and practical knowledge of basic accounting and bookkeeping tasks (though an associate degree in accounting or equivalent business experience is preferable). These are some of the services you could offer as an outsourced bookkeeper:

[Read related: Accountant vs. Bookkeeper: What’s the Difference?]

15. Digital marketing services

If you have experience in marketing, a solo digital marketing agency is a low-cost business idea you can get up and running in no time. If you don’t have a background in marketing but are interested in the field, you can take affordable online courses to develop your skills. One of the best yet most challenging things about marketing is that it is always evolving. Therefore, if you have a knack for storytelling and learning, a digital marketing firm is a business you can start quickly and cheaply.

Did You Know?Did you know
Hobbyists around the world can monetize things they do for fun under the umbrella of digital marketing, from podcasting to blogging to photography. Do you have a hobby to turn into a side hustle?

16. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is easy and cheap, but it takes dedication and a long-term vision to succeed. Affiliate marketing involves promoting other companies’ products and services via affiliate links and earning a commission on generated leads. All you need to get started is a blog or website and a specific product or service you would like to promote. However, to be successful in affiliate marketing, you must attract many visitors to your website and get them to purchase products or services from your affiliate partners.

17. Online dating consultant

While it may sound like a , if you love connecting with people and playing matchmaker, you should consider becoming an online dating consultant. As anyone with multiple online or app dating profiles can tell you, filtering messages and finding interesting people to meet can be a full-time job. An online dating consultant can write interesting profiles, manage multiple client accounts, filter unwanted messages, and provide text or telephone updates on potential matches.

18. eBay seller

An eBay seller is sometimes referred to as an eBay assistant; the job’s primary function is to sell other people’s products on eBay for a small commission. Becoming an eBay seller is simple and affordable, but the platform is riddled with scammers. You must be very careful who you work with, as you could be held responsible for packages your customers don’t receive. When selling on eBay, be overcautious and never share any personal data, such as credit card or banking information.

19. Internet security consultant

If you’re passionate about IT, communication systems and computers, you are highly marketable to small businesses that must upgrade their online security. Helping business owners avoid viruses, hackers and scammers can be a very lucrative business — especially if you have the cybersecurity knowledge and skills to secure sensitive client and customer information.

20. Graphic design

graphic of person drawing a lightbulb

Every company needs visual assets to brand its business and attract customers. Becoming a freelance graphic designer requires a computer, a design application like Adobe Illustrator or Canva, and an extensive portfolio of your work. You can provide a wide array of graphic design services or offer niche services, such as the following:

  • Logos
  • Display ads
  • Brochures
  • T-shirt graphics
  • Flyers
  • Hero images
  • Infographics
  • Instagram graphics

21. Vlogger or blogger

If you’re passionate about a specific topic or field and love to write or be in front of a camera, consider starting a professional blog or vlog. For a blog, all you need is a computer and a website to get started. Vloggers should invest in a high-quality camera, video-editing software and AV equipment as needed. To make money, you can offer advertising space on your website, find video sponsors or create an account on a funding platform, such as Patreon or Indiegogo.

22. Domain name buyer

A domain name buyer or domain broker purchases domain names they believe people or businesses will want and sells them for a profit. Like many other professions on this list, the concept is simple. However, becoming a successful domain name buyer requires quickly acting on trends and identifying profitable domains — with an extra serving of luck.

23. Resume writer

Few people are good at writing great resumes, and even fewer enjoy writing their own. All you need to become a professional resume writer is a computer and a knack for describing professionals’ work histories. To start, you can sign up for a freelance platform like Fiverr or Upwork and market your services on social media.

24. Meal planner

Most people love to eat, but not everyone knows how to cook healthy, mouthwatering meals on an affordable budget. As a meal planner, your duties would include creating a list of ingredients, writing easy-to-follow recipes, providing nutritional information, developing a budget plan and educating your customers.

25. Video producer

graphic of a person holding a video camera

Many companies, influencers and potential YouTube celebrities want to take their videos to the next level but don’t have the skills or equipment to produce high-quality videos. If you have experience as a video producer, a solid portfolio, and the desire to help individuals and businesses create stunning videos, becoming a freelance producer is an excellent career move.

Tips for starting a business with low costs

Ready to step out on your own? The prospect is certainly exciting, but it’s also risky. Here are some tips for maximizing your chances of success and overcoming all the potential challenges.

1. If you have a job, keep it (for now).

You could have the best low-cost business idea in the world, but success still wouldn’t be guaranteed. After all, you can’t control the economy, your target audience’s income and many other factors tied to making a profit. These risk factors make immediately quitting your job to launch your business a poor decision. Instead, keep your day job while gradually rolling out your business. You can scale down your duties as you progress but don’t fully jump ship until you’ve proven your business is viable.

2. Write a business plan.

A great business plan gives shape to the hodgepodge of ideas running around freely in your mind. It’s what you fall back on to guide your decision-making whenever times get tough. Consider it your path from having a genius business idea to getting it out there and successfully onboarding — and retaining — customers or clients.

3. Review your licensing needs.

Even the lowest-cost, lowest-overhead businesses require some form of formal business licensure. The one exception might be if you operate as a freelancer, but if you advertise your products or services as a business, licensure becomes necessary. This consideration matters because licenses typically cost money, and your goal is to launch a business with low startup costs. Consider the contrast between this objective and your legal requirements from the get-go.

4. Network, network, network.

Jampacked rooms buzzing with professionals are ripe with potential clients, vendors or other potential business partners. In these spaces, you can find people who offer solutions to your problems, people who need what you provide and everyone in between. Put on a friendly smile, make casual but professional conversation and new, meaningful business connections are beyond likely.

5. Test out your idea first with friends and family.

The people you trust the most and know the best in your life shouldn’t be afraid to share their true opinions. That makes your friends and family ideal people with whom to test your business idea. Give them your product or guide them through your service, then get their feedback. Would they use it? Do they know other people who would — and how many people? This honest input can help you determine for certain whether your business idea is viable.

From idea to reality

Looking for even more ways you can start a business? Check out these other great business ideas. These exciting ideas are only the start of your journey — use them to build a truly unique company with little to no competition. Bring that business to life, and you’re off to the best start possible.

Max Freedman and Marci Martin contributed to this article.

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Sean Peek, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
Sean Peek is the co-founder of a self-funded small business that employs more than a dozen team members. His years of hands-on entrepreneurial experience in bootstrapping, operations management, process automation and leadership have strengthened his knowledge of the B2B world and the most pressing issues facing business owners today. Peek uses his expertise to guide fellow small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the areas of marketing, finance and software technology. Peek excels at developing customer bases and fostering long-term client relationships, using lean principles to drive efficiency and cost-saving, and identifying growth areas. He has demonstrated his business savvy through collaborations with Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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