With the growing popularity of side hustles and work-from-home jobs, more people are looking to break free from their careers, ditch the commute and stop answering to someone else — all with a goal of becoming their own bosses. But the prospect of investing money you might not have to spare — without knowing when (or if) you’ll turn a profit — can be terrifying.
Although starting a business can be a huge investment, it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re looking to start a side hustle that can eventually turn into a replacement income or you’re ready to go all-in and build a new business, don’t let a lack of money put your plans on hold. Plenty of business opportunities are out there that you can start for $20 or less. You just need to know where to look. Here are 13 terrific business ideas that you can implement on the cheap — or even for free.
- Cost to start: around $10.95
People with a knack for organizing can carve out a living in the professional organization niche. Professional organizers often specialize in one specific area. For example, you could choose to help people organize their closets, kitchens, kids’ bedrooms or garages. Another option — and one that might help you gain clients quicker — is to try your hand at different kinds of organizing services. You could also offer decluttering services for people who aren’t interested in having you create a custom organization system but instead need to get rid of unnecessary items that are taking up space.
How To Start Professionally Organizing
Referrals from your network of family and friends can help you pick up professional organization jobs, which you can use to build your business. Social media is another good way to let people know about your services. You can also spring for business cards, which might only set you back $5.95 in shipping charges for a couple hundred cards. Another way to spread the word is to write up and publish a Craigslist service ad for $5. To get your creative juices flowing, Pinterest offers tons of organization ideas.
- Cost to start: $0
With all of the different items available for resale — books, brand-name clothing, home goods, collectibles — starting your own business as a reseller is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to branch out on your own. If you are able to resell items locally, you won’t even have to worry about buying shipping materials to pack up the items you sell. Start by finding items around your home to resell. Next, use some of the money you earn to purchase deeply discounted items at retail stores such as Big Lots, Ross, Walmart and Target and resell those at higher prices for a profit.
How To Start Reselling
Although some sites charge fees to list and sell items on their platforms, including eBay, other options are free to use. LetGo and Facebook Marketplace are a couple of platforms that let you list and resell items free of charge. All you need is a smartphone to take pictures of your items, upload them to the platform and wait for customers to make an offer.
- Cost to start: around $18.95
If your strong suits are being a good listener, having empathy for others and offering great advice, consider launching a life-coaching business. Life coaches help people gain new perspectives, create life plans and achieve goals in all different areas of life. You can choose to specialize in one area as a life coach — such as personal finance, health or relationships — or be a general life coach. Life coaches are not required to be certified and they work mostly online or over the phone.
How To Start Life Coaching
To gain clients as a life coach, sign up for an About.me Pro page at $8 per month, which will help you capture leads and book appointments with a connected Google account. Next, leverage your social networking channels to let people know you’re offering life-coaching services. Look for guest posting opportunities on relevant blogs to help get your name out there. You can also place an ad on Craigslist for $5 and order business cards for only a $5.95 shipping charge.
- Cost to start: less than $20
Starting your own housecleaning business can put some quick cash in your pocket. You might have to provide your own cleaning supplies at first, though, in some cases, homeowners may furnish them for you. If you have to furnish supplies, consider charging more to cover your costs. Different types of housecleaning services exist, such as standard cleanings, deep cleanings, move-out cleanings and after-event cleanings. Housecleaners can choose to specialize in one type of cleaning or take on all types of cleaning jobs.
How To Start Cleaning Houses
Word-of-mouth is a good way to get cleaning gigs, so tell your friends and family members that you’re starting a housecleaning business. You’ll need reliable transportation to get to the jobs, so factor in gas or transit costs. If you need to buy your own cleaning supplies, you’ll have to get basics such as a mop, broom, dustpan and various cleaning solutions. You should be able to get all that for under $20. If you’d rather put money toward business cards or an ad, start out using supplies you already have on hand. When you begin earning money from your cleaning business, you can use that money to buy supplies.
- Cost to start: around $5
A virtual assistant works from home completing tasks for clients, such as answering emails, booking appointments, ordering supplies and creating presentations. If you have experience working in an office setting, you might be able to turn that experience into a full-fledged business. Advantages of this type of business are that you can set your own hours and pay rate and choose the clients you want to work with.
How To Start a Virtual Assistant Business
Although working as a VA does offer quite a bit of flexibility, you might have to take jobs that aren’t ideal at first to get some experience under your belt. Various freelancer sites are available that let you find these types of opportunities. One such site is Upwork, which requires you to purchase connections at 15 cents each to connect with clients. On average, you can expect to spend around $5 per month on connections, according to Upwork.
- Cost to start: $0
If you’re interested in starting an online business, are well-versed in sentence structure and grammar and have experience writing and designing resumes, you might be able to build a business around these talents. Skilled resume writers are always in demand and are paid on a per-project basis. You can add on other services as well for an extra charge, such as cover letters or LinkedIn Profiles.
How To Start a Resume Writing Business
To get started, set up a free profile on a marketplace like Fiverr to advertise and price your services. The platform even allows clients to give you gratuities in addition to your fees. To help you stand out as a freelancer, Fiverr recommends that you make a short video about what you offer, create a gig title that will attract the most eyeballs and select an appropriate delivery time. Try to get friends and family members to book you through Fiverr to get started and then have them post reviews about your work.
- Cost to start: around $18.95
If the thought of being a professional Cupid sounds like fun, starting a dating consultant business might be perfect for you. As a dating consultant, you’ll help singles successfully navigate the dating scene. You can choose to consult with clients via phone, Skype or email and offer helpful tips and advice that relate to getting a date, planning the perfect date and having an enjoyable experience. If you’re skilled at writing, you could also offer to help people manage their online dating profiles. Or, if you want to work on a more personal level, consider serving as wingman for your clients by accompanying them to social events or settings and offering relevant advice in real-time.
How To Start a Dating Consultant Business
To get your feet wet, offer to help out a friend who needs dating advice in exchange for a review. To promote your business, create a low-cost information page to showcase your services and book appointments. About.me lets you set up a page for $8 per month. Use your social networks to spread the word about your service and drive people to your About.me page. To reach even more potential clients, buy a $5 service ad on Craigslist. Business cards are a good idea, too. Take advantage of offers where you might only have to pay a $5.95 shipping charge for as many as 200 cards.
- Cost to start: $10.95
If you consider yourself an animal lover, this might be the best business to start. Pet sitters take care of people’s pets while they are away at work or on a trip. Responsibilities include making sure the pet has food and water, taking the pet for a walk and cleaning litter boxes and cages. Adhering to the pet’s regular schedule and providing a daily dose of attention are also important duties of a pet sitter.
How To Start Pet Sitting
To get the word out, advertise your pet sitting service on Craigslist, which has a $5 fee for service ads, and promote it on social media. You also might want to order business cards. Post your business cards on bulletin boards at hospitals, restaurants, bookstores, pet stores and libraries. Don’t hesitate to hand cards out whenever you see prospects for the service you’re offering.
- Cost to start: $5.95 + cost of fuel, which is optional
If you’re a musician, you likely already have the equipment to teach your craft. If you enjoy teaching others and have the ability to create music lessons that will help your students reach their goals, this might be the business for you. As a music teacher, you can choose to teach lessons from your own home, which will keep you from having to pay transportation costs. Or, you can travel to students’ homes and charge a bit more for lessons. If you are targeting school-age children as clients, keep in mind that you might only have a limited number of hours per day during the school year, which might make it hard to scale this business.
How To Start a Business Teaching Music
Business cards are an effective (and cheap) way to promote your business. Put these up around your community, such as at the library, bookstore or music store. To find clients in a hurry, get the word out on your social media channels. This works especially well if you decide to offer music camps during spring break or summer vacation when parents are looking for ways to keep their kids occupied.
- Cost to start: $0
Although you don’t need any money to start an editorial services business, you do need editing skills and a strong grasp of grammar and syntax. There are numerous jobs you can take on in this role, including editing books, web content, research papers, business presentations and legal documents. As a freelancer, you can take on as much work as you can handle and possibly even hire other editors to work under your supervision when you’re ready to expand your business.
How To Start an Editorial Services Business
Start by setting up a free profile on Fiverr to advertise your editorial services. Fiverr recommends creating a specific and memorable brand and then writing your ad in a way that makes you stand out among the thousands of other freelancers who use the platform. Be sure to communicate promptly with clients and deliver on time so you can rack up positive reviews on the platform. Use your social media channels to promote your business and create a free LinkedIn profile to let people know you’re offering editing services.
- Cost to start: 5.95 + cost of fuel
If you live in an area populated with businesses that need courier services, all you need is reliable transportation and a smartphone to get this business going. Couriers deliver parcels and packages to homes and businesses — often on short notice, so it’s important to be organized and punctual. If you don’t want to spend money on gas, consider riding a bike, although this will limit the items you’ll be able to transport.
How To Start a Business as a Courier
To get the ball rolling, order some business cards and drop them off at nearby businesses that make deliveries and let them know what you offer. Also, use your social media accounts to spread the word about your courier business.
- Cost to start: $5 and up
When people or businesses need to move from one location to another, one of the most time-consuming tasks is packing. As the owner of a packing business, you can provide the service of packing boxes for clients and let someone else take care of the moving part. This kind of business would do especially well in areas where families move a lot, such as near military bases.
How To Start a Packing Services Business
If you have a computer and a printer, you can print out low-cost flyers to hand out around town. You can also place a Craigslist service ad for $5 and look in the Gigs section of Craigslist for available packing jobs. Ideally, your clients will provide the packing supplies for you. If not, consider adjusting your pricing to cover supplies. If your first job doesn’t include supplies, you might be able to get moving boxes for free if you check with liquor stores and other retailers in your area. You can also register on Freecycle to find people who have free moving boxes or packing supplies.
Senior Companion Business
- Cost to start: $5 + cost of fuel
As a senior companion, you’ll offer nonmedical companionship and assistance to the elderly. Tasks might include grocery shopping, opening mail, paying bills, arranging for repair services, driving clients to appointments, watering plants, preparing meals, caring for pets and serving as a patient advocate during medical appointments and while picking up prescriptions. This type of business works best in an area with affluent elderly residents, as this is normally an out-of-pocket expense.
How To Start a Senior Companion Business
To find jobs as a senior companion, set up a free profile on Care.com or run an ad in the services section of Craigslist for $5. You can also print up flyers on your home printer and visit senior communities in your area to find people who are looking for these types of services. Networking with people who are responsible for discharging senior patients from rehab services or who work with seniors in different capacities is helpful in gaining client referrals.
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About the Author
Cynthia Measom is a Texas-based writer specializing in finance, business, parenting and education. With almost a decade of online writing experience, her work has appeared on websites such as Chron.com, The Bump and The Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.