21 Low Cost Business Ideas for a Highly Profitable Startup
Historically, starting a business was challenging and risky for entrepreneurs. Traditional storefront businesses have high startup costs. As we move into the Internet age, there are so many new opportunities for entrepreneurs to make money doing what they are passionate about.
So whether you’re looking for a fun way to spend your weekends or want to quit your 9-to-5 job, many business ideas have a low start-up cost.
Low Cost Business Ideas
Starting a business doesn’t have to break the bank. It can be a fun way to earn some money doing what you’re passionate about. And you can start all of these businesses for a few hundred dollars, and some of them with just a laptop and an entrepreneurial attitude.
1. Freelance Writing or Editing
The need for freelance writers and editors is growing as more businesses create an online presence. As a freelance writer or editor, you can work on a wide range of projects, from marketing campaigns to blogs to product descriptions.
But it is better to find your niche, what you specialize in. That allows you to build a strong portfolio, charge higher fees, and create better work in a shorter period of time.
You can find work through freelancing sites like Fiverr and Upwork or find clients by answering calls for proposals. In my experience, they are great platforms to gain some experience and build a portfolio, but they are not financially advantageous in the long run.
There are a lot of people on these platforms and they tend to start bidding less on each other to get projects. On top of that, the platforms themselves will take a percentage of your earnings.
That said, some people on these platforms are reported to be earning well over six figures each year, so the sky is your limit.
Many media publishers also post on social media when looking for pitches. Writers need to be vigilant and pitch them. Who Pays Writers is another helpful resource for finding companies that pay to write and at what rate.
Freelance editors can find work in the same way as writers. But they can also check out sites like Reedsy . It’s a website that helps authors get their books ready to hit the shelves. You set up a profile on the platform, and authors interested in working with you can contact you, tell you about their project, and request a quote.
You can set your freelance writing and editing rates by word, hour, or project. Typically. Beginning writers and editors earn $20 to $30 per hour. As you gain more experience and a stronger portfolio, increase your rates.
2. Gig Worker
Contract work is a broad term that refers to temporary, flexible work compensated on a project basis rather than hourly rates. Some popular forms of temporary jobs are ride-sharing apps, like Uber or Lyft , or food delivery services, like Doordash or Grubhub .
There are dozens of other platforms that connect temporary workers with clients. For example, TaskRabbit focuses on cleaning and manual labor and Soothe is for massage therapists.
These platforms simplify the process of finding clients and can provide a steady stream of work, even for those just starting out. But in most cases, the company keeps a percentage of your earnings, which makes it difficult to earn much.
Most temp workers who work at companies like Uber , Lyft , Doordash , and Grubhub count on tips to boost their earnings rates. Generally speaking, they earn between $15 and $25 per hour. More specialized temporary workers, such as Soothe massage therapists, earn between $60 and $100 per hour.
Influencers are a popular form of content creator. They build a following, usually on multiple platforms, and then sign brand deals with companies to promote their products.
In recent years, micro-influencers have grown in popularity and can earn several hundred dollars per post with just a few thousand followers. The most popular influencers can earn tens of thousands of dollars or more per post. Popular influencers like Kylie Jenner or NikkieTutorials make millions of dollars a year.
But when you are just starting out, you can only expect to earn around $100 per post from time to time. It takes time to build a large enough and interactive enough following to be an influencer .
If you love creating content and want to be able to make money from it faster, you can offer your creative services to brands directly. You will not retain any ownership rights in the content you create. You sell it to the brand you’re working with.
By building and monetizing your own audience, it can take a while before brands pay you to post or talk about them. However, with the rise of micro-influencers, there are more opportunities for smaller accounts.
The general rule of thumb is to charge $100 per post per 10,000 followers (meaning if someone has 30,000 followers, they will charge $300), while those with many followers of over 1 million can charge upwards of $10,000 or more per post. on social networks.
Blogging is similar to influencing in that you build your own audience and create content for them. Bloggers make money through advertising revenue (a small percentage of the ad cost in the margins of the article), affiliate marketing (a commission from any sales resulting from recommending a product), or through sponsored brand deals.
Building your own audience takes time and effort; don’t expect to be able to monetize right away. In the long run, owning your own content allows you to earn passive income as people continue to read your blogs.
The amount bloggers earn for having ads on their posts varies, but some established bloggers report earning $15 per 1,000 ad readers.
Bloggers can also earn money through affiliate marketing. You join an affiliate program like Amazon Associates or DFO Global. Then you use special links when you recommend a product. If someone uses that link to make a purchase, you receive a small percentage of that sale, often even if they don’t purchase the specific product you recommend.
Finally, bloggers make money doing brand deals similar to influencers. Since blogging depends on having a following, the amount you can earn varies significantly depending on the number of monthly readers. Many bloggers don’t monetize their site, while others make six or seven figure annual incomes.
5. Virtual Assistant
If you’re good with people and organization, working as a virtual assistant (VA) might be the right fit for you. Depending on the client’s needs, VAs may be responsible for managing their schedule, travel plans, emails, payroll, and bill payment.
You do not need any specific education to work as a VA. However, offering other services such as social media marketing or web design can help you stand out from the crowd.
On average, VAs charge between $10 and $26 an hour when they start, but can end up raising their rates to $40 an hour or more.
6. Walking Dogs or Taking Care of Pets
The need for dog walkers and pet sitters has grown as more people have pets. According to IBIS World , dog walking is now a multi-billion dollar industry. You can start a local business or use pet sitting as a way to have cheap accommodation while traveling using sites like TrustedHousesitters or Rover .
It’s a very inexpensive business to launch, but you may want to consider getting certified. Two of the best certification options are the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International . Expect to pay around $250 to $400 for certification.
As a pet sitter, adjust your rates based on the service you offer. If you go to visit a cat for 30 minutes to change the litter and give it fresh food, charge less than if you spend the night taking care of a puppy. On average, pet sitters may charge clients $25 for a walk-in visit, $20 to $30 per day, and $45 to $85 per night.
Dog walkers typically charge $20-$30 per dog for a 30-minute walk. You can incentivize customers to book more rides by adding a two-ride-per-day discount or a second dog discount.
For example, you can charge customers $30 for a walk or $50 if they hire you to walk their dog twice in the same day.
If you’re a fan of kids (and they’re a fan of yours), babysitting is a great business idea.
Nannies typically only work with one family at a time. In addition to babysitting, the client may ask you to run errands, do the cleaning, or help the kids with their homework.
Let parents know if you speak another language or like to be sneaky. It can help you stand out from the crowd.
Although nanny rates vary by state, experience, and the number of children in the family, nannies earn an average of $12 to $20 per hour.
8. Etsy Seller
Etsy is a good business for artistic or crafty people. Etsy allows business owners to sell handmade items, craft supplies, vintage items, or digital products.
To get started with Etsy , set up an online store and create product listings. Setting up your account is free, but each listing costs $0.20. You also pay a 6.5% transaction fee on every sale you make. This fee comes from the total cost of the item plus any shipping or handling fees.
What you can earn on Etsy varies greatly depending on what you sell, the popularity of your shop, and the demand for your products.
9. Ecommerce Reseller
Some people use e-commerce to get rid of extra things around the house, while others build a business by buying and reselling products online.
If you’re starting an eCommerce business on a site like eBay, Craigslist, or Poshmark , start by researching what others in your niche are selling and think about how you can improve what they’re doing to stand out from your competition. .
Expenses and profits vary significantly depending on what you are selling. For example, you can choose to sell vintage t-shirts on Poshmark . In this case, you need to spend time in thrift stores looking for these shirts, have space to store your inventory, and cover shipping costs.
On top of that, most eCommerce sites charge a flat fee or percentage from sellers. Examples of charges include:
- eBay : $0.35 per listing for more than 250 items; when an item is sold, they take around 12.9%, although it differs slightly by category
- Craigslist : $3 to $5, depending on the category
- Poshmark – $2.95 fee for sales under $15 and 20% commission on anything over $15
These positions help the platform employ workers and keep the site running. Remember to factor these charges into your pricing model to ensure you continue to make a profit from your business.
10. Tutoring or Teaching Online Courses
You may have a skill that you don’t even realize others want to learn; maybe you know how to study effectively, play the piano, or speak a language. You can use this skill to teach online courses.
All you have to do is create the course and sell it to people. Online courses allow you to generate passive income, as people can continue to buy them for years after you’ve created them. Online courses vary in cost. They can range from $10 to several thousand dollars, depending on the value of the program to users.
Once you create your course, you need clients. You can choose to find them through digital marketing or word of mouth referrals. Building a steady stream of income from course sales can take some time.
If you are looking for something with a more predictable income, go for online tutoring. Online tutoring allows you to meet with students from all over the world who want to learn a skill that you have. For example, you could teach English to students online through sites like Italki or Cambly .
You can find work as an online tutor through platforms like Skooli or Tutor.com . Fees vary between online tutoring platforms. For example, Skooli pays teachers $25 per hour. But others may pay more or less.
When working with your own private students, plan to charge them $25 to $100 per hour, depending on the complexity of the subject and how educated you are on the subject.
For example, if you have a high school diploma and are tutoring fifth grade math, you’ll probably charge close to $25 an hour. However, if you have a master’s degree in math and are helping a high school student learn calculus, you can easily charge $75 or more.
11. Graphic Design
Graphic designers are responsible for everything from designing websites to creating logos to making magazine layouts. It is very creative work that also requires some analytical thinking.
As a graphic designer, you need access to some design software. Adobe Creative Cloud costs $52.99 per month and includes the software needed to run a graphic design business, such as Photoshop, InDesign , Illustrator, and Lightroom .
There are plenty of free resources, like YouTube, to help you learn graphic design, but you may want to invest in a certification to stand out from the competition.
Less experienced freelance graphic designers typically start their rates at around $25 per hour. As you gain more experience and build your portfolio, you can charge anywhere from $65 to $150 or more per hour.
12. Social Media Marketing
As a social media marketer, you would market a company’s products or services through social media platforms. Combine organizational skills with creativity and writing. To be an expert in social media marketing, do your research and understand how Instagram , TikTok , Twitter, Facebook , and LinkedIn work.
Many social media marketers have degrees in marketing. However, a portfolio of social media accounts that you have created and managed can also help you find clients. If you don’t have clients yet, you can create mock accounts to demonstrate your understanding of the platforms and how to grow your audience.
When you’re starting out, plan to charge clients $15 to $50 an hour. As you gain experience, you can charge more, up to $120 or more per hour with as little as five years of experience and proven results.
After a while, you can switch to monthly retention packages. Managing accounts takes less time as you get used to working with clients. By offering a package, you can earn a steady income. Packages can range from $150 to $10,000 depending on your experience, the complexity of the campaign, and the caliber of the client. Between $400 and $5,000 is more typical.
13. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO specialists are responsible for optimizing websites to help them perform better in browsers like Google and Bing. It covers everything from on-page SEO, what’s on your website, to off-page SEO, improving your website’s authority through backlinks and other strategies.
Before starting an SEO business, take a certification program to help you learn more about how SEO works. Coursera offers an SEO certification through UC Davis that you can complete at your own pace for $59 per month. Udemy also has SEO courses starting at just $15.99.
SEO fees vary widely depending on the experience of the SEO specialist and the needs of the client. You can charge anywhere from $15 to $250 an hour, though you should expect to earn on the low end when you first start out. That said, it is much more common for SEO specialists like InterCool Studio to offer monthly packages to their clients. These can range in price, with most between $500 and $2,000 per month.
Bookkeepers help businesses track and understand their finances. According to IBISWorld , there is a high demand for bookkeepers as more people start their own small businesses and want to outsource work to an independent contractor.
As a bookkeeper, you don’t need a degree or training. But investing in some certification will allow you to charge higher rates and stand out from the competition.
There is a wide range of options, from earning a higher education degree to taking an online course. For example, Udemy offers Accounting Basics , a course that costs $89.99 at full price but often has promotional offers that make it even more affordable.
Once you’re juggling multiple clients, invest in billing and project management software. These cost roughly $5 to $20 per month each, though they can be more expensive, depending on the features you want.
The cost can increase from there, depending on whether you hire a website designer, rent office space, or spend on advertising. However, if you have a laptop and internet connection and are willing to work from your kitchen table, you should be able to get started for around $125 per month.
Bookkeepers can choose to charge clients monthly, hourly, per transaction, or per bank account. Entry-level bookkeepers can start their rates at $15 to $29 per hour and increase as they gain more experience, education, or increased demand for their services.
15. Cleaning Services
Many people hate cleanliness; If you are not one of them, this could be a great business for you to start.
To start your cleaning service business, you need to purchase some cleaning supplies. At first, you may want to avoid jobs that require a lot of expensive equipment (like a hardwood floor polisher or upholstery cleaner).
Chances are the highest cost item you need to get started is a vacuum cleaner . You can find a good one on Amazon for less than $200.
If you’re trying to keep startup costs even lower, check Facebook Marketplace , eBay , or OfferUp to see if there are people in your area selling their old vacuums. You can also check the Nextdoor selling section .
The average fee to clean a single-family home is $100 to $250, although it can be higher in some regions. If this is your first time cleaning a particular home, it’s best to charge more, as the first cleaning may require extra effort while scrubbing away old stains.
16. Professional Organizer
Professional organization is a great business to consider if you have Instagram -worthy cabinets and a label maker you love.
The National Productivity and Organization Associate offers an annual membership for $299, which includes access to online courses to help you improve your skill set.
When deciding how much to charge clients, consider your time and expertise plus the cost of any organization supplies you purchase. On average, professional organizers charge $50 per hour, although rates range from $30 to $130 per hour.
Most handyworker know how to take care of a wide range of household tasks, such as fixing a faucet, painting walls, or repairing broken doors or windows. If you like variety and problem solving, an installation and repair business might be the perfect fit.
For those who already have some tools, manual labor can be a profitable business as a sideline, or you can expand it into your full-time job.
Finally, if you don’t already have a toolkit, expect to pay around a hundred dollars. You can always upgrade your tools as you earn more money.
Depending on their level of experience, manual laborers can be paid between $40 and $125 per hour plus the cost of materials. But that fee may depend on how specialized the services you offer are.
Landscaping encompasses everything from mowing your neighbor’s yard to designing and planting a garden.
Check your garage to see what equipment you already have. If you have a lawn mower and edger, start your business by taking jobs mowing the lawn or weeding the yard. If you don’t already have them, you can find a basic push lawn mower and edger on Amazon for under $300 combined.
If you really enjoy landscaping and want to grow your business and offer more services, put some of your profit back into your business and buy more equipment, like a chainsaw, truck or trailer, or lawn mower.
As a landscaper, plan to charge your clients $25 to $100 per hour or more, plus the cost of materials.
19. Meal Planning and Preparation
Meal planning and preparation businesses are suitable for people who love being in the kitchen creating and testing new recipes and want to simplify cooking for people with dietary restrictions or busy schedules.
Decide whether you want to send out meal kits for customers to cook themselves or offer convenience foods that customers can heat up when they’re ready to eat. You may also want to specialize in a specific type of meal preparation, such as vegan, gluten-free, or picky eater meals. Deciding on your niche can help you market to your ideal customers.
When creating a custom meal plan for clients, calculate your rates based on how long it will take and how much you want to earn per hour. For example, you might decide to charge $30 an hour and then estimate how long the entire process will take.
Remember to account for all the time spent planning meals, shopping, cooking, and delivering meals. Most personal chefs earn between $20 and $30 per hour; don’t forget to charge your customers for food too.
If you are a nutritionist serving healthy meals, you can partner with a personal trainer. People looking to invest in their fitness may also be interested in improving their nutrition.
20. Event Planning
Whether it’s a wedding or a birthday party, event planning can be overwhelming – people are looking for charismatic, organized and detail-oriented people to help them throw the party of their dreams.
Let your family and friends know that you are interested in starting an event planning business. They may have some events you can work on or may be able to recommend others to get you started. If you can build your reputation as a reliable event planner over time, that translates to more bookings.
When deciding how much to charge for your services, consider the expenses you’ll accrue from hosting the event, as well as the time it will take to plan. For example, planning a bridal shower is a much bigger task than planning a retirement party, and your rates should reflect that.
On average, party planners charge clients between $500 and several thousand dollars per event.
21. Drop Shipping
Dropshipping is a form of business where you, the seller, never physically handle the products you are selling. Instead, it acts as an intermediary between the supplier and the customer.
You can start a dropshipping business on Amazon or set up a website through a site like Shopify . Dropshipping generally has a cost per sale that varies depending on the product. Marketing also adds extra cost, but it can significantly increase sales, so it’s worth it.
of dropshipping vary significantly. Some dropshippers can make six-figure annual income from their businesses, while others make a couple of hundred per month.
A lot of this depends on factors like what you’re selling, how many products you have available, how much you spend on marketing.
Final Words on Low-Cost Business Ideas for Startup With High Profit
Starting a business is hard work. Be patient. It can take some time to build momentum and find your ideal customers. And if this is your first time starting a business, there are a few things you need to know.
First, remember that getting a business off the ground requires spending time you can’t bill. In most cases, people spend a good portion of their time searching for clients, performing administrative tasks, and communicating with clients.
In order to get paid for that time, which you deserve, you need to include it in your rates. If you’re having trouble figuring out how much to charge, check out our guide to setting your freelancing rates.
Also, unless you can reach customers solely through word of mouth, there are costs for things like domain and hosting for a website, advertising to help reach more potential customers, and business cards. These are all things that take time and money. Hopefully they will result in new leads and new customers over time.
You should also research your state’s laws for business owners to determine if you need to purchase insurance. Consider meeting with an insurance professional to ensure you have all the necessary information.
Business insurance typically ranges from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 per year, but it could cost more, depending on the services you offer and the types of insurance you need.
Finally, as a business owner, remember to set aside money to pay quarterly taxes to avoid being penalized by the IRS. Estimated quarterly taxes should be approximately 25% of your earnings.
Building a successful business takes time and a lot of hard work, but having autonomy over your schedule and knowing that you built a business for yourself can be extremely rewarding. But have fun during the process.