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30 low-cost business ideas for the budget-savvy entrepreneur

Low cost business ideas

Looking for a way to break free from the nine-to-five grind? Starting a business can present benefits and opportunities that tending to someone else’s business doesn’t. It’s also a venture that typically requires a big investment. But not to worry—there are plenty of low-cost business ideas out there that can set you on the path to financial independence. Let’s discuss a few to spark your inspiration and help you find one that’s right for you.

Once you choose an idea to run with, use Wix to build a business website to keep costs low without sacrificing the integrity of your online business.

01. Home-based bakery

With a home-based bakery (as well as many business ideas for stay-at-home moms), you can have your cake and eat it, too. In addition to making around $30,000 per year, you won’t have to worry about the pressures of running a brick-and-mortar business.

Unlike wholesale or retail bakeries that focus on mass-producing baked goods to turn a profit, a home-based baker has the freedom to experiment and tailor their offerings to each customer.

If you want to start this business but have little baking experience, begin by baking for your friends and family. Start small with little experiments and get feedback. Consider whether offering pre-made or made-to-order goods will make it easier to scale your business and predict cash flow. Once you get into the groove, starting a home-based bakery will be a piece of cake (and you can consider things like pursuing pop-up shop ideas or selling subscription boxes of your delectable treats).

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Note: Some state and city governments have regulations that bar home-based food businesses, so be sure to check with yours before pursuing this idea.

02. Dropshipping

Looking for a low-cost business idea but don’t have the space to stock up on inventory? Dropshipping may be your answer. Dropshipping is when you set up an online store and promote products from suppliers who fulfill orders on your behalf. This means you don't have to worry about managing inventory, handling payments and shipping orders. All you have to do is forward the customer's order to your vendor and they will take care of the rest.

This business model has gained a lot of traction in recent years for being a passive income idea that doesn’t require much investment. Because of that, the profit margins are relatively cushy at 15%-20%.

Since the barrier to entry is so low, there is a lot of competition in dropshipping. Therefore, you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd by creating a unique brand identity and promoting your products effectively.

Paid marketing is one way to get ahead of your competition, but that’s capital-intensive. Alternatively, you could build up your brand through content marketing, which costs less but is a long-term commitment.

Learn more:

Tip: Wix’s Business Elite plan includes unlimited Wix dropshipping capabilities, but you can start small with the Core plan, which allows you to dropship 25 products per month.

03. Uber driver

If you're a social person who enjoys driving and wants control over your schedule, becoming an Uber driver could be a good low-cost business idea for you. Registering as an Uber driver is simple, as long as you have a vehicle and can pass the background checks. In some cities like New York, getting a ridesharing license and commercial auto insurance is also required.

It’s important to note that earnings are not static and they largely depend on seasonality, competition and location. For example, the median income is $47,502 for drivers in San Francisco, California and $34,902 for drivers in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Consistency is key, so setting a regular schedule that suits your hours will provide a steady stream of income. If you maintain a high average rating, you will unlock higher-fare options like Uber black. To rack up five-star ratings, focus on maintaining a clean vehicle and getting your riders to their destinations quickly.

04. UberEats driver

Even if you're more introverted, you could still make a good living with Uber by doing UberEats delivery. There’s more flexibility in your method of transport since you can deliver via a bike, a car or a scooter.

Uber Eats couriers make between $12 and $24 per hour. Assuming you work eight-hour shifts, you could earn at least $2,080 per month or $24,960 per year.

05. Professional organizer

Can't stand the sight of clutter? You could get paid well for your obsession with organization. As a professional organizer, you would help clients transform their living or work spaces into organized and efficient environments by implementing customized systems tailored to their specific needs.

The demand for professional organizers is on the rise, with a recent survey from Good Housekeeping revealing that 52% of working adults would pay for the services of a professional organizer.

You can begin by offering your services with minimal startup costs. However, if you are interested in gaining a solid foundation in the field, you may choose to take a professional organizing course offered by organizations like the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO), which costs $299. Or, get certified as a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) from the National Association of Professional Organizers.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average pay for professional organizers is around $857 per week or $44,564 per year. The income can vary based on factors such as experience, location and the number of clients you serve.

06. Personal shopper

If you love shopping and know the latest trending products, offering personal shopping services could be a great low-cost business opportunity. As a personal shopper, you interview clients on their likes and dislikes for certain categories of shopping (e.g., work clothes and groceries) and buy products on behalf of clients.

Besides promoting your brand and services, there are no significant financial investments required to get started. The key challenge lies in attracting clients to avail of your personal shopping services. To overcome this, show your expertise in the niche or specific categories you cater to.

There are several niches you can focus on, such as:

  • Store discounts

  • Visa sponsorships

  • Health insurance

  • Limited-edition sneakers

By positioning yourself as an authority in a particular area, you can attract clients who value your knowledge and trust your fashion or product recommendations. The average personal shopper makes $33,053 per year, and there’s room to earn more if you niche down in high-margin services.

07. Resume writing and career coaching

A job posting receives 250 resumes on average, which means people may be willing to pay you to help their resume stand out from the crowd. Resume writing and career coaching are great businesses to start with little money because all you need in order to get the job done is a strong attention to detail and a head for strategy.

Starting is straightforward, since you just need a computer or laptop with an internet connection. You'll need a site or some way to show off your portfolio to interested parties, or you could start by freelancing on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr to build your reputation.

According to Glassdoor, this low-cost business idea could earn you as much as $83,000 per year. Of course, your earning potential depends on your own professional experience, as clients will pay more for senior-level expertise.

08. Photography

While many people can take a decent picture with their smartphones, few have the ability to capture a story in a single photo. If you’re one of them, starting a photography business could be a great opportunity.

As a photographer, your responsibilities typically include arranging photoshoots, attending events, capturing high-quality images, editing them and maintaining clear communication with clients. You can also choose to sell your products online as digital products for extra income.

According to Indeed, the average photographer charges around $18 per hour, though those with over 10 years of experience make around $24. Startup costs involve investing in a quality camera, lenses and editing software. You'll also need a photography portfolio to showcase your skills and attract customers.

09. Gardening and landscaping

Offering gardening services is a great option if you enjoy spending time outdoors and working with plants. These low-cost outdoor business ideas can range from small-scale gardening to larger landscaping projects, depending on your expertise and interest.

You could start small by offering a basic gardening service in your free time, which could include planting, watering and weeding. According to ZipRecruiter, gardeners make $17 per hour, so you could earn a few hundred dollars per month if you ran this side hustle in your spare time.

If you have a good eye for design and want to upscale the business by providing landscaping services, you could take formal training to grow your landscaping business. Although a certificate is not required to work in the field, applying for a certificate from a landscaping organization can build your credentials and open the doors to new connections.

Some states require you to get a license if you plan to work with fertilizers, but it’s always important for gardeners to understand the proper methods for doing so to avoid harming plants or the environment. Contact your local county extension office or state agriculture department to get more information on specific requirements for fertilizer application in your state.

10. Online tutoring

Tutoring has become a popular career choice for individuals looking to share their expertise and knowledge. As a tutor, you would create customized lesson plans and interact with clients through video chat. This could be a great part-time gig, since tutors can earn $31 per hour on average. If you don’t have a background in math or science, you might consider offering language tutoring to non-native English speakers.

To begin, you’ll need equipment like a computer with a camera and a stable internet connection. It’s also important to have a quiet, distraction-free environment for conducting lessons effectively. Notably, no specific license is required to start a tutoring business, making it a straightforward endeavor.

The easiest way to embark on your tutoring journey is by joining a tutoring platform. While this may reduce your income initially, it allows you to get started right away. As you build a reputation and gain experience, you can eventually venture out independently and create your own online community.

Tutoring offers several advantages, including flexible working hours, the ability to work from home and the gratification of helping a student learn and grow. It presents an excellent opportunity to supplement your income and contribute to the lives of students. With the expanding market for online tutoring, the potential for success in this industry is immense.

11. Social media consulting

Many business owners recognize the benefits of social media marketing, but don’t have the time or background to take advantage of it. That’s where you come in. As a social media consultant, you could help brands manage their social media accounts by analyzing their audiences and posting relevant content at the right times.

The challenge lies in staying current with trends and algorithms to maximize their exposure. And one of your biggest hurdles will be showing clients how your social media strategy will increase engagement while maintaining the brand's image.

Startup costs are minimal as you just need a phone, a computer and an internet connection. You might also want to purchase tools that help you manage different social media platforms. While many tools in today’s market have similar functions, choose one that gives you the ability to work with multiple clients, such as Sendible.

Social media consultants charge an average of $25 per hour, but more experienced consultants typically ask for $50 to $250 per hour.

12. Painting contractor

Picture this: a dynamic business that allows you to transform spaces with vibrant colors, leaving a lasting impression on clients and their surroundings. Starting a painting contractor business can be an exciting venture, especially if you have a passion for creativity and a knack for detail. The best part? It's a low-cost endeavor that can offer flexibility, scalability and an evergreen demand for your services.

As a painting contractor, your responsibilities would include preparing surfaces, helping clients choose the right paint, applying the paint and ensuring a high-quality finish. On-the-job training is the most common route into the trade, but you could also get training from the Association of Materials Protection and Performance.

In addition to painting supplies, you’ll likely need a painter’s license and liability insurance before you get started. Consider making business cards that you could pass around to paint stores, hardware shops and other neighborhood businesses that could refer you to customers.

The average painting contractor earns nearly $41,000 per year. As your own boss, you get to decide whether to charge a fixed, hourly, square-footage or cost-plus rate. Make sure to calculate which would be most advantageous for you before you start advertising your services.

13. Auto detailing

Car detailing can be a highly profitable business idea with low overhead. All you need is space to service cars and basic cleaning equipment, like cleaning cloths and soap. Depending on the size of vehicle and level of service, you could charge between $60 to $450 per car. If you want to charge on the higher end of the scale, consider investing in more expensive equipment, like a pressure washer and buffers, to provide more in-depth services.

Formal education isn’t required to start a car detailing business, but it's a good idea to invest in a course like Auto Finesse's detailing course if you don’t have prior experience in this role. With new skills under your belt, you can upscale your services by taking your detailing services on the road.

14. Event planning

If you have a flair for coordinating memorable events from start to finish, you could have a strong business opportunity. Event planning requires time and energy, so many people will pay you to take over the logistics. The median salary is $53,325, but you could optimize your profitability with a fixed rate.

There aren’t many startup fees involved with becoming an event planner. Since you don’t need any licensure or office space, you can get set up from home with a computer and an internet connection.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for new event planners is a lack of experience. Those who want to pursue this career path typically work for hotels or hospitality organizations to learn on the go. If you don’t mind volunteering, you could build up your portfolio by helping nonprofits and charities. Also, consider taking courses to cover any knowledge or skills gaps.

15. Translation

Given that most businesses are now online, there’s a growing demand to cater to audiences outside of the United States. If you're proficient in multiple languages, you could make a good amount of money by providing translation and interpretation services. Translation costs vary from $0.08 to $0.40 per word. If you translate a 5,000-word article per week at $0.20 per word, you could earn over $50,000 per year.

You don’t need any formal education for translation, but clients will want to see if you have experience under your belt. When starting off, you can volunteer on platforms like Duolingo to build your confidence before advertising your services.

If you prefer face-to-face client work, consider becoming an interpreter and providing translation services during speeches, conferences or events. Keep in mind that there’s less flexibility for interpreters because you need to be available during the event.

By offering both translation and interpreting services, you can cater to a wider range of clients and maximize your earning potential. With increasing globalization and cross-cultural communication, the demand for skilled translators and interpreters is on the rise. There are ample opportunities for those with language proficiency and a passion for facilitating effective communication between different languages and cultures.

16. Virtual bookkeeping

Unlike accounting, you don’t need a degree or certification to provide bookkeeping services. You learn by doing, and Freshbooks says it takes around six months to pick it up. In order to learn without jeopardizing someone’s finances, you might consider taking an online course or working for someone who can supervise your work before offering your own services.

Whereas accountants help business owners make sense of their finances, bookkeepers record and manage financial records. If you pursue this low-cost business idea, your responsibilities would be to track income and expenses, reconcile bank statements and prepare financial reports for your clients.

On average, a starting salary for a bookkeeper is $41,502. To get started, you'll need a computer, accounting software and a reliable internet connection. If you enjoy working with numbers but don't want to get an accounting degree, bookkeeping might be the perfect fit for you.

17. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketers have transformed word-of-mouth marketing into a strategic science, enabling them to generate substantial profits for both the brands they represent and themselves. This powerful strategy revolves around affiliates promoting products or services on behalf of a brand in exchange for a commission. Affiliate marketers make around $51,700 per year, but the sky's the limit in this business.

While anyone can get started as an affiliate marketer, success doesn’t come easy. Before you even start to sell, you need to build an audience that will trust your recommendations. Once you cultivate that trust, you have to work to keep it by sharing honest, high-quality reviews.

The key to being successful at affiliate marketing is your ability to empathize with your target audience. Customers can detect if someone is hard-selling a product, usually by waxing lyrical about its features without mentioning its shortcomings. If you keep it real, your readers are much more likely to convert and buy a product.

18. Writing and editing

If you have a knack for wordsmithing and a passion for precision, starting a writing and editing service could be an excellent low-cost business idea for you. As a writer or editor, you would be responsible for creating or refining content for a diverse range of clients, including bloggers, businesses, and individuals. According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelancer makes around $61,000 per year.

While AI is the talk of the town, there’s no replacement for real-world expertise and specialized knowledge. In fact, it might become all the more necessary as more and more companies start generating AI content and lack differentiation.

Because this is a home-based business idea, startup costs are minimal. All you need is your computer and an internet connection. Your biggest investment will be working at a lower rate than you would prefer in the beginning in order to build your portfolio and client base.

The best way to scale quickly is to focus on a topic so that you can eventually charge a premium for your expertise. It’s best to focus on a niche you’re already familiar with because you’ll already have the background necessary to write efficiently. If you don’t have that knowledge, consider focusing on finance, tech or health, as those industries tend to pay the most for writing and editing.

19. Mobile personal fitness trainer

Personal fitness training is a growing field that offers people the opportunity to work one-on-one with clients to help them achieve their fitness goals. As a personal fitness trainer, you’d be working with clients to help them achieve their fitness goals by designing customized workout plans, tracking progress and providing guidance on proper nutrition.

While you could start without accreditation, you might find opportunities limited. Gyms typically require trainers to have a certification to prove they have the knowledge and experience to work with clients. It’s also important for insurance purposes.

Thankfully, you don’t need a sports science degree to get started. You can get an entry-level certification starting from $399 with the National Federation of Personal Trainers. Once you have this under your belt, startup costs are relatively low since you can partner with gyms or provide one-on-one services with clients in their homes.

Assuming you’re already a fitness junkie and you have equipment like dumbbells, yoga mats and resistance bands, you can bring them with you on the road.

If you can travel and work as a mobile personal trainer, you could earn $1,133 per week, according to ZipRecruiter.

Motivation plays a big part in this job. Many clients will continue working with you if you’re great at providing positive feedback while keeping them on track with their fitness plan in the long run.

20. Parking lot litter removal

Let’s face it—commercial parking lots will always have litter no matter how many bins you place. Yet, you can turn one person’s trash into your treasure by offering cleaning services for parking lot owners. All you’ll need to get started is a few tools such as gloves and trash bags. Most of the work is done after office hours, so you can easily take it on without quitting your day job.

There aren’t many barriers to entry in this business besides the need for a reliable vehicle to transport the litter and debris to a disposal site. Marketing your services can be as straightforward as calling management companies to let them know you’re available; if you notice their parking lots are cluttered with rubbish, there’s your opportunity to offer your services.

As far as low-cost business ideas go, this is one of the easiest to start. You don’t need any previous experience or training and there aren’t any special licenses you need to get. Pay rates will vary depending on the employer and location, but you can make good money doing this work. One litter removal business makes $650,000 a year. The owner, who has been doing this work for over 40 years, recommends charging between $30-50 per hour.

21. Graphic design

Have a talent for design and an eye for aesthetics? You could start a low-cost business by creating logos, advertisements, brochures, social media graphics and other visual content for businesses and individuals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average graphic designer makes $64,500 per year and the highest earners make around $100,000.

You can get started with graphic design work with your laptop and a graphic design software. For more intricate and resource-intensive projects, you may need a computer with more processing power and higher-end software that offers advanced features and capabilities.

The graphics design industry is competitive, but you can set your business apart by establishing a unique style and cultivating a strong personal brand. Focusing on one industry is helpful, as it’ll be easier to find clients when you have a solid reputation for providing specific services for certain industries.

Continually hone your skills, expand your client network and stay up-to-date with design trends. With the right blend of skills, experience and determination, you can build a thriving business that showcases your talent and leaves a lasting impact through compelling and visually stunning designs.

22. Personal chef

Personal chef services are a perfect low-cost business idea if you have excellent culinary skills and a passion for cooking. You'd be working with clients around their dietary needs, planning meals, grocery shopping, cooking and keeping the kitchen clean.

That said, the barrier to entry for this idea is fairly high. You'll need a strong culinary background and be able to provide personalized menus tailored to your client's preferences if you want to stand out in this industry. You don’t need any specific certifications, but you will need relevant experience.

Beyond gaining experience, your startup costs will vary depending on what tools you need to meet your client’s needs. To scale up and provide catering to larger groups, you may need to invest in transport and larger cooking appliances.

Most chefs earn their stripes by working in the culinary industry and steadily making their way up the ranks. Working with experienced chefs can help you learn different techniques, how to manage a kitchen and how to cater to individuals with specific diets. Once you strike out on your own, you can expect to earn around $87,000 per year as a personal chef.

23. Babysitting

Because 53% of U.S. households are dual income, there are plenty of parents who need someone reliable and trustworthy to look after their kids while they’re at work. Once you get your first aid and CPR certification, you have everything you need to start a babysitting business.

As a babysitter, you have the opportunity to set your own rates and schedule, making it a flexible option that can fit well with your lifestyle and other responsibilities. You can make around $23 per hour babysitting one child, with slight increases for multiple.

To promote your business, start by letting local friends and family know and asking them to spread the word. You could also join online babysitting platforms or local community groups to expand your reach. Once you build a reputation and trust within your local community, more leads will come your way as word-of-mouth spreads.

Learn more:

24. Walking tour guide

If you love sharing the history that’s embedded in your city, become a walking tour guide. Showcasing the hidden gems, fascinating history and unique culture of your city to curious travelers and locals can be rewarding and profitable. Tour guides typically earn around $16 per hour, with the potential for additional income from tips and commissions.

In order to get started, you’ll need to submit a guide license application to your local government and acquire some basic touring equipment, such as maps and a megaphone. You should also dedicate some time to developing your tour to ensure that your customers leave glowing reviews and tell all their friends.

25. Usability testing

For an early-stage startup, customer feedback can be hard to get when an app is in pre-launch and a company still needs further testing to validate the idea or iron out any issues with workflows.

That’s where you’d come in. For someone with a passion for technology and testing new software, you could test these apps for user-friendliness, bugs and other issues. You’d pass your feedback to developers so they can improve their product. All you need to do the job is a computer and an internet connection.

Usability testers earn an average of $98,000 per year by making sure everything works as intended. If you already have a job and want to start this business idea on the side, you could offer your services as an unmoderated tester. Some of the best usability testers on Upwork charge more than $50 per hour, so this could be a very lucrative side hustle.

Although you don’t need any certificates to get started, you’ll need experience on how to stress-test software and sites so you can provide useful intel for developers. To gather more information on user interactions and experience, you may need to subscribe to usability testing software like Hotjar.

If you care about the little details and know how to find and replicate errors, this could be a suitable low-cost business for you to start. The SaaS market has grown three times larger than it was five years ago, so demand for testers is booming.

26. Start an online thrift store

More customers are moving away from fast fashion and becoming open to the idea of buying pre-loved items to minimize waste. In fact, experts expect the global secondhand market to double by 2027, reaching $350 billion in value. That’s why it’s a great time to start an online thrift shop. You could earn over $30,000 per year and contribute to this eco-friendly movement of secondhand shopping.

Most secondhand retailers start by selling their own goods, but it’s easier to build your brand if you focus on a specific type of goods, such as vintage sunglasses or quirky kitchenware. You could test the waters by posting product pictures on social media to see what the reception is like before committing to the category. After that, you just need to create an online store with an eCommerce platform like Wix.

Learn more: How to sell online

27. Pet sitting

If you have a genuine love for animals, starting a pet-sitting business could be very rewarding. In addition to staying active and forging meaningful connections with pets and their owners, you can also expect to make $12 to $18 per hour.

When you start out in pet care, cast a wide net. Rather than just offering overnight care, offer walks and transport to grooming and veterinary visits. This will give people the chance to get to know you so they can feel comfortable leaving their pup alone with you for an extended period.

While formal accreditation is not necessary to start a pet-sitting business, getting training or certificates from organizations like the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters can give you an advantage. These credentials enhance your skills, enabling you to provide a broader range of services and instilling confidence in potential clients, setting you apart from the competition.

28. Virtual interior design

Interior design businesses traditionally involve bouncing around time from client to client with hefty binders full of design samples and material options. If that sounds like a hassle, virtual interior design might be a better choice for you. This business model offers the added benefits of reducing overhead, expanding your client base and making your schedule more flexible.

This low-cost business idea is most accessible to people with a relevant degree or experience in the field. If you have an innate knack for design, you can certainly learn on the job as long as your state doesn’t require a special license.

Although you don’t need any special accreditation to become a virtual interior designer in all states, having one enables you to charge more. In general, virtual interior designers charge $28.50 per hour, but that varies based on your location and years of experience.

Since you’ll be working from home from home, the only equipment you’ll need is software for creating digital mock-ups of functional, aesthetically pleasing design spaces. Besides that, it’s worth investing in a website that allows you to promote your services and build a portfolio of your past work.

29. Professional packing and moving

Starting a packing and moving company can be a rewarding venture, particularly if you have access to a van and are physically fit. The primary responsibilities include organizing and packing clients' belongings, managing the loading and unloading, transportation, assembling and disassembling furniture and ensuring the safety of the items during transportation.

It’s best to start a packing and moving company with a friend, as you’ll need an extra pair of hands when lifting heavy furniture. On average, movers charge between $25 and $50 per hour per person.

Most moving companies operating within a 100-mile radius are required to have an American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) license, while those handling international moves need a USDOT number.

30. Sell handmade crafts

Thanks to eCommerce platforms such as Etsy, Amazon and Wix fostering the passion economy, making money off your crafting skills is no longer a pipedream. Starting a crafts business doesn't require significant upfront costs, and there’s plenty of demand for unique, handmade items.

To succeed in this business, it's important to focus on quality craftsmanship, attention to detail and customer service. Building a powerful brand and creating a cohesive product line can help you stand out from the competition. Leveraging social media platforms, taking part in craft fairs or local markets and collaborating with influencers or local businesses can further help you promote your handmade creations.

A recent survey by Artisan Shopper found that full-time Etsy sellers make around $54,000 per year. The potential income from selling handmade arts and crafts can vary depending on various factors, such as product uniqueness, pricing and marketing efforts. However, with dedication, creativity and a strategic approach, you can turn your passion for arts and crafts into a thriving business that brings joy to both you and your customers.

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