Starting a business can be intimidating. Finding the right idea, dealing with the financials and getting it up and running successfully can add up to more than a standard full-time gig.
And simply knowing how to start a business is just the beginning — one day, you may want to think about setting up the best 401k plan for your employees.
Business ventures that are lower in risk, however, take some of that worrying out of the equation, so try looking for the cheapest business to start. Enter the “$10K or less” business idea. Fortunately, there are plenty of small businesses you can start that won’t break the bank.
The key is to find a business you can start with your current skills and scale without a lot of initial investment. Here are 10 small businesses that you can get up on their feet for less than $10K.
- Example initial investment: $1,000
- Potential expected earnings: $1,000 to $5,000 per month
Provided your home meets day care requirements, you can get a child care business started for very little money, especially if you live in one of America’s best cities to open a new business. Basically, you’ll need a license, insurance and supplies. In addition, you’ll have to check with your state’s department of family services for home day care requirements and permission to operate.
You can even start a home daycare business and use it to supplement your other income, according to Rosemarie Groner, owner of the website The Busy Budgeter. “You can make this a side gig by offering only before-and-after school care or ‘date night’ care for a group of children,” said Groner.
Lawn Care Specialist
- Example initial investment: $1,000 to $3,000
- Potential expected earnings: $2,000 to $5,000 per month
You can get into lawn care with little more than a lawnmower and a good work ethic. Even if you don’t have your own lawnmower, you can start a lawn care business by either using your clients’ equipment or renting equipment until you can purchase your own.
It doesn’t take much of an initial investment to start a lawn care business, according to Gene Caballero, co-owner of GreenPal. After all, a big chunk of the $1,204 Americans spend every month maintaining their homes goes toward their lawns.
“I started a lawn mowing company in college for less than $3,000. My trailer was $1,000 and my equipment was $2,000,” said Caballero. The payoff was worth it. “I did that for more than 10 years and it paid for college and my MBA. Owners and operators can earn up to $45 to $60 per hour mowing grass,” said Caballero.
- Example initial investment: $1,000 to $2,000
- Potential expected earnings: $3,000 to $4,000 per month
You don’t need a business or accounting degree to start a bookkeeping business — but it doesn’t hurt to invest in training at a local community college or online. Sites like Udemy and Skillshare offer a number of accounting and software classes for common bookkeeping programs like QuickBooks.
Katherine Pomerantz, founder of the website The Bookkeeping Artist, learned the ropes via online courses. Next, she spent $1,000 to get certified as an enrolled agent through the IRS — currently, the cost to take the exam itself is under $200.
Pomerantz spent $400 on liability insurance, $50 for a business license and $300 on her website. After she signed her third client, she became profitable — and still continues to invest in her business growth, according to Pomerantz.
Real Estate Agent
- Example initial investment: $1,500
- Potential expected earnings: $2,000 to $10,000 per month
Depending on your state’s requirements, you’ll likely need to take classes and pass a licensing test to start this business. There might also be a franchise fee if you are an agent working for an established company, which can help you get access to insider real estate secrets.
Rhett Struve, a realtor with Keller Williams, paid about $1,500 in startup fees — which included his coursework, license and agency costs. “Other than marketing expenses, there’s not much more overhead as a real estate agent,” said Struve.
- Example initial investment: $0
- Potential expected earnings: $2,000 to $3,000 per month
You don’t need much to start a business as a freelance writer other than a computer and internet connection. You should know how to write well, be professional, meet deadlines and follow editors’ specifications for copy.
You’ll find plenty of classes available to help you improve your writing, create better pitches or increase your client base. For example, you might explore a course that focuses on marketing and productivity like Earn More Writing, designed by Holly Johnson, a freelance writer who touts her earnings at more than $200,000 a year.
Additionally, consider creating your own portfolio website through a free service like WordPress, to showcase your work and better attract clients. At the very least, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.
- Example initial investment: $200
- Potential expected earnings: $3,000 to $6,000 per month
When businesses grow, a virtual assistant can instantly boost your productivity. And because they’re so valuable, virtual assistants can make a solid income. Still, the job takes little more than knowing how to get things done, and then doing it.
You might want to be a general VA who answers emails and arranges travel, or choose a specific path like specializing in social media or data scraping. Gina Horkey, owner of Horkey HandBook — a site designed to help people start and grow their own freelance businesses — started off as a freelance writer and later added VA services.
Horkey estimates her initial costs were around $200. Eventually, she became so successful that she started a VA referral service and training program.
- Example initial investment: $5,000
- Potential expected earnings: $6,000 to $12,000 per month
There is no shortage of moving in America — in fact, the average American will move about 12 times in their lifespan. You could be making money by helping them bring their stuff from one home or business to another.
A few boxes need to be checked, such as getting a business license from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for your moving vehicle or fleet. You will also definitely need general liability and commercial auto insurance policies to cover $750,000 to $5,000,000 in liability and cargo insurance.
The good news is that one moving employee makes between $25-$50 per hour on local jobs. If the typical in-town move takes around 10 hours and your company works six days a week, that’s some serious money boxed up by the end of the month.
Dog Walker and Sitter
- Example initial investment: $600
- Potential expected earnings: $1,500 to $3,500 per month
Pet sitting is a low-cost venture you can start small and scale as your customer base grows — and you can get clients if you market your side hustle via flyers, email or social media. Or, use a website like Rover to connect with clients for free.
You won’t need certification to get started, but it’s a good idea to have references and get a background check done. You might also want to opt for pet-sitting insurance.
Crystal Stemberger of Crystal’s Cozy Care takes care of all types of pets, and her business has grown so much she needs three to four extra helpers to cover the demand. She started with a $600 investment and almost a year later headed up a $30,000 business.
- Example initial investment: $4,200
- Potential expected earnings: $2,500 to $7,500 per month
Becoming a personal trainer is a good way to help people reach their fitness goals. You won’t find a hard and fast rule regarding what kind of certification you should get or even if you need any. That said, it’s generally recognized as a best practice to obtain some sort of certification to start working with clients in a gym.
Fitness training certification can come in as low as $400 and go up to a few thousand dollars. In addition to certification, you’ll need to pay for a website — or use a free Instagram account. Many personal trainers provide coaching services online and sell customized exercise and eating plans for additional revenue.
A person should budget $700 to $2,000 for initial certifications, $600 for a web presence and another $1,600 for liability insurance each year. It’s perfectly feasible to clear at least $6,000 per month in revenues with this type of business — and certainly, the rich and famous have even more expensive fitness routines.
Professional Media Services For Events
- Example initial investment: $6,000
- Potential expected earnings: $4,000 to $7,000 per month
Parties need people to run the behind-the-scenes operations, from lights to cameras to music. Consider offering your services as a disc jockey for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras, and office parties.
The initial investment depends on how much you want to scale up, but a pair of speakers, professional mixer, laptop, and cables will run between $3,000-$4,000. However, one gig can be anywhere from $1,500-$2,000, which will sound like sweet music.
If you are more into visuals and less into audio, consider starting a photography or videography business. This requires experience with high-end imaging, so give yourself some practice-the internet is a great resource for courses and information on visual arts.
Slavik Boyechko is a videographer who also maintains a thriving business selling videography equipment to professionals. Income depends largely on a number of factors, according to Boyechko. “Income is determined by how much you decide to charge, how much demand there is for your services and how much hustle you have in you,” he said.
Jake Arky contributed to the reporting for this article.
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