You want to start your own business, but you don't have a lot of money to invest.
There are plenty of businesses you can launch for well under $10,000 (or even less than $1,000).
First, review our list of “12 Best Part-Time Business Ideas,” many of which are also low-cost. Then, check out the low-cost business ideas below. Most require little more than a computer, smartphone, and enough of a marketing budget to set up a basic website, print business cards or brochures, and place some online ads.
- House sitting/pet sitting: Watching over clients' homes, pets, or both while they're on out of town requires literally no equipment. You will want to get insured and bonded to give your clients peace of mind, but other than that, your startup costs are very low. Word of mouth is the best way to grow your clientele, but you can also list your services on a site like the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or HouseSitter.com.
- Consulting: Turn your previous work experience into a low-cost business by starting a consulting service. You can often tap into previous connections — or even your former employer — for your first clients. (Just make sure you're not breaking any non-compete agreements with your ex-employer.) Your biggest expenses will be marketing your business and joining professional and industry organizations to meet potential clients.
- Ecommerce store: Launching an eCommerce website is a low-cost way to get into retailing. Use drop shipping to save on startup and operating costs: This means you don't buy or store inventory but have products shipped directly from a third party when the customer makes a purchase. Want to keep it really low cost? Set up a store on Amazon or eBay.
- Event planning: If you have a flair for events, are good at managing details, and have connections among musicians, caterers, florists, furniture rental companies, and other event-related providers, consider an event planning business. Since vendors provide the equipment and customers pay for it, your upfront costs are minimal. Get started by offering to organize a few events for free or at a reduced cost to build your portfolio, then use social media and word-of-mouth to grow.
- Accounting/bookkeeping service: If you have a way with numbers and experience as an accountant or bookkeeper, it doesn't cost much to turn your job experience into a business of your own. All you need is a computer and accounting software tailored to your clientele. Specializing in a particular type of client, such as restaurants, retailers, or manufacturers, can help you gain an edge.
- Mobile automotive detailing: Who has time to take a car in to get washed and detailed? That's where your mobile automotive detailing service comes in. You can start small by targeting residential customers at home, or you can service corporate clients — either by detailing their fleets or by providing mobile detailing services they can offer to their employees at work as a perk.
- Non-medical senior home-care provider: Aging Americans prefer to keep living in their homes, and as a senior home-care provider, you can help them do so. You won't provide medical care but help seniors with tasks of daily living, such as cooking, light cleaning, and transportation. Make connections with organizations that work with seniors, such as rehabilitation centers, doctors, and senior day-care centers, to get referrals to potential clients.
- Admissions consultant: College and postgraduate education are becoming more competitive by the day, and parents are willing to pay for admissions consultants who help students get into the school of their choice. If you have experience as an admissions officer, you're ahead of the pack, but many admissions consultants learn the ropes by getting their children into college. Specialize in a particular niche, such as obtaining financial aid or helping with medical school admission, to make your business stand out.
- Residential cleaning service: Busy two-income families mean ongoing demand for housecleaning services. All you need to get started is transportation, cleaning supplies, and a budget for marketing, such as setting up a basic website and printing brochures and business cards. Most housecleaning customers prefer to get recommendations from friends and family, so use referrals from satisfied customers to grow your business by word-of-mouth.
- Mobile massage services: Check with your state’s requirements for massage training and licensing; you’ll also need to obtain insurance. However, once this is handled, your equipment needs are few--a portable massage table and/or chair, linens, and lotions or oils. You can target individuals and go to customers’ homes, take the corporate route and offer mobile massage services to businesses as a perk for their employees, or specialize in areas such as pregnancy massage or sports massage.