Despite what subscription-based job sites tell you, a good salary isn’t the surest path to financial security — a successful business is.
Even with generous raises, your earning potential with your employer is limited — but a well-run business that solves problems and adds value can experience exponential growth that makes its owner rich.
That, of course, is only the preferred outcome.
Many businesses fail, and since founders typically pour all their efforts and savings into their pursuits, entrepreneurial endeavors can be all-or-nothing ventures. But those who succeed break the chains of W2 living and control their own financial destinies.
The following is a look at attainable business ideas with low startup costs and relatively forgiving learning curves — and the proof is in the real-life success stories you’ll meet who found ways to make each one work.
Lawn Care Specialist
- Initial investment: $3,000
If you want to make more money without a 9-to-5 job, you can get into lawn care with little more than a lawnmower and a good work ethic.
It doesn’t take much of an initial investment to start a lawn care business, according to Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal.
“I started a lawn mowing company in college for less than $3,000,” he said. “My trailer was $1,000 and my equipment was $2,000.”
The payoff was worth it.
“I did that for more than 10 years, and it paid for college and my MBA,” Caballero said.
Owners and operators can earn up to $30 to $70 per hour mowing grass.
Court Transcript Proofreader
- Initial investment: Free to $2,600
Technically, you can start a court transcript proofreading business with a free email address and free access to software that allows you to markup documents, like Google Docs. You can, however, make some investments to market your services better, speed up client acquisition and improve your proofreading skills.
Freelance business coach Adrienne Luedeking invested in a course called Proofread Anywhere for $1,000 to start her proofreading business. Next, she purchased Eclipse court reporting software for $1,600. During her first year working part-time proofreading court transcripts, Luedeking said she made $32,000.
- Initial investment: Less than $2,000
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.
Pomerantz said she 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.
Real Estate Agent
- Initial investment: $1,500
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.
Licensed realtor Rhett Struve 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.
- Initial investment: Less than $100
You don’t need much to start this business 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 earns 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.
Natural Childbirth Educator
- Initial investment: $1,000
Natural childbirth is a growing trend. If you’re game to teach others about it, you might want to consider this business niche.
To start this business, you’ll need Childbirth Educator Certification, which costs anywhere from $700 to $1,000. Depending on your local market, you can expect to earn $40 to $400 per client.
You can offer classes online and in person, according to Katie Griffin, a registered nurse and founder of Kopa Birth. “Income varies depending on the type of class taught, the location and the instructor’s willingness to market their services,” said Griffin.
Retail Arbitrage Pro
- Initial investment: About $3,000
Retail arbitrage involves buying products on the cheap and reselling them at a profit. Platforms like Amazon make it easy to open an account and start selling with very little money and inventory.
Serial entrepreneur and eight-figure Amazon vendor Andrew Tjernlund, owner of Tjernlund Services, started a ping-pong paddle company with $3,000. He used his initial investment to purchase the paddles for $1 each, then sold them on Amazon and eBay — and earned six figures in the first three years.
- Initial investment: $300
Starting a website or blog is relatively inexpensive and you don’t need any special certification. You can blog on free platforms or spend $100 to $300 a year on web hosting services. Bloggers typically earn money by selling products related to a niche market or hosting ads on their site.
Caroline Vencil started blogging and paid about $4 a month for web hosting — and she didn’t make more than a few cents a month initially. Vencil took a popular blogging course, Elite Blog Academy, for about $500 — there are several different price tiers — and began to earn more than $1,500 per month just four months after the class.
Vencil now earns $7,000 to $8,000 per month from her blog, “Caroline Vencil — Live Fully, Budget Fiercely,” which features articles on frugal living, recipes, making money and finding deals.
Photographer or Videographer
- Initial investment: $5,000
Starting a photography or videography business requires experience with high-end imaging, and the internet is a great resource for courses and information on visual arts. Plus, photography is a money-making skill you can learn in less than a year.
Slavik Boyechko, editor of the site Alaska Video Shooter, is a videographer who maintains a thriving business by selling videography equipment to professionals. You don’t have to start out with a huge investment, according to Boyechko.
“You can rent equipment for shoots, so really all you need is a good computer for editing at home,” said 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.”
- Initial investment: $200
The ever-growing crop of online entrepreneurs is driving an increase in demand for virtual assistants — and starting a VA business takes nothing more than knowing how to get things done.
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.
Info Product Salesperson
- Initial investment: $300
You can make extra money in your spare time by selling information products, most of which come in the form of e-books or e-courses. The more specific your area of expertise, the better. From horse grooming to Pinterest marketing to urban farming and tiny house living, you’ll find niches with marketable content.
You can create a document to sell or package video content on platforms like Vimeo, YouTube, Teachable or Udemy. Some of these platforms are free. Others require a monthly subscription to host your videos.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, owner of the personal finance blog Making Cents of Sense, offers an e-course on internet affiliate marketing. Since she launched it in July 2016, Schroeder-Gardner’s info product has earned her $400,000 in revenues.
Dog Walker and Sitter
- Initial investment: $600
Pet sitting is a low-cost venture that you can start small and scale as your customer base grows. You can get clients by marketing your services through email or social media, or you can use a platform like Rover to connect with clients.
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 in Spring, Texas, takes care of all types of pets. Her business has grown so much that 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.
- Initial investment: $6,000
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. However, 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 typically costs $500-$1,100.
In addition to certification, you’ll need to pay for a website — or use a free social media 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, said John Romanelli, physical trainer and founder of the fitness website Make It Train.
It’s perfectly feasible to clear at least $6,000 per month in revenues with this type of business, said Romanelli, who is a fan of the free but efficient nature of social media.
“It costs you nothing in terms of monetary value and it will allow you to get exposure outside of your sphere of influence,” he said. “When used correctly, it can be a highly effective strategy at a minimal cost.”
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