21 Low (or No) Investment Small Business Ideas For New Entrepreneurs

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Dreaming of leaving the daily grind behind, but don’t know where to start? The gig economy is on the rise, and finding a side-hustle or contract work is getting easier than ever. But if you want to launch something potentially bigger than a one-(wo)man business, here are some small business ideas for you.

But before we begin sharing small business ideas, let’s recap some basics.

How To Start Your Own Business 101

First, you will need to identify your market opportunity. Fret not, that’s not rocket science, and we already did some digging and lined up some trending products and in-demand services.

Next, you will need to come up with a basic business plan. It should be a 50-page document outlining each and every aspect of your operations though. For a side-hustle or first-time venture a one-page checklist should do the trick for starters. So pounder and jot down the following details:

  • List the product/services you plan to provide.
  • Decide on your main sales channel (website, social media, third-party marketplace, or a physical storefront or office).
  • Consider your pricing. If you plan to sell products, consider calculating your COGS (cost of goods sold) first, it’s simple, and then figure out your markup! For services, check out our detailed explaining how to give an accurate price quote.
  • Estimate a break-even point for your product business. This will tell you when you will start making money from your business (and get a return on your investments).
  • Figure out your payment method, payment terms and invoicing schedule. You can download some awesome free invoice templates from our website too!
  • Setup your accounting to make sure you are planning ahead for the tax season.
  • Prepare a frugal marketing plan for attracting the first few customers.
  • Light up the “open” sign.

You can figure out other facets of your business later into the journey. So don’t fret too much right now. Instead, focus on finding that one business idea that makes you giddy with excitement.

Online Business Ideas To Pursue with no Upfront Investments

1. Dropshipping

If you want to dip your toes in ecommerce, but don’t have startup capital to purchase and store inventory, dropshipping is the way to go. Source goods from other sellers and market them under your own brand for a higher price. Dropshipping is an ideal choice for a small business owners, who don’t want to sweat too much over logistics, shipping and manufacturing. All of these processes are handled by your supplier. All you have to do is:

  • Find unique and trending products.
  • List them for sale on your platform.
  • When a customer purchases one of your goods, place an order with a supplier and have them forward the parcel to your customer.

How do you find a reliable one? Head to AliExpress – a Chinese version of Amazon. We previously shared a bunch of tips for finding and negotiating with AliExpress dropshipping suppliers.

2. Sell T-Shirts with Custom Prints

Got a bit of an artistic knack? Create custom prints and designs, and have them printed on-demand after you make a sale. Similarly, to dropshipping, you do not hold any inventory or deal with shipping/logistics. Services like Teespring and Merch by Amazon will handle all those things for you. Is it even profitable? Yes, if your designs are on-point and trendy. One savvy entrepreneur made over six-figures in just 5 months on Teespring. And Money Magazine recently profiled several other successful “T-shirt” entrepreneurs running their businesses as a side-hustle.

Depending on how your business goes, you can then expand your product line and print your designs on phone cases, hoodies, mugs, tote bags and so on. Or you can take another turn and launch your branded clothing line. Again, several startups can help you manufacture clothes on-demand, so that you never touch the inventory or negotiate with vendors.

3. Affiliate Marketing

Here’s something different. If writing is your talent, or at least you are relatively good at banging words that describe products, you may want to experiment with affiliate marketing. What’s affiliate marketing? In essence, you create a niche website and write relevant content about certain products (e.g. best travel gear), and link out to website’s selling that gear (Amazon). Whenever someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase, you receive an small commission (affiliate payout).

Affiliate marketing requires a certain degree of familiarity with SEO, website development and content marketing. After all, your earnings will depend on the traffic you manage to attract to your affiliate website and the quality of reviews/content you publish. This can be a long game, but the pay-off can be large too. Pat Flynn, one of the top affiliate marketers, makes over $2 million per year in passive affiliate income.

4. Sell Digital Products

Thanks to the Internet, there are plenty of things you can create and sell online:

  1. Music – songs, jingles, ringtones, sound effects
  2. eCourses
  3. eBooks
  4. Stock photos
  5. Templates e.g. PowerPoint templates, resume templates, email campaign templates
  6. WordPress themes
  7. WordPress plugins
  8. Custom patterns, backgrounds and fonts.
  9. Poster designs to print
  10. Stock video
  11. Printable goods such as calendars, checklists, journals etc.

Again, there are no upfront investment you need to make, except for your time.

5. Sell Handmade Goods of Etsy

Etsy is an online marketplace for all things crafty and cute. Whether you are making jewelry or funny postcards, you will find a buyer for your stuff there. Spend a few minutes browsing the goods sold by others to get a better sense of what’s in trend. Beyond selling your own goods, you can also list vintage stuff (popular), craft patterns and all sorts of graphic design items.

6. Set Up a Concierge Vintage/Luxury Store

Selling old clothes (as long as it’s in good condition) on Depop is a fast way to make some extra cash with little effort. But if your sales go well, you may want to expand and start sourcing and selling more unique items from friends, family and your local vintage enthusiasts. Thrifting is now trendy, and people will pay serious cash for cult branded items that are no longer in stock (e.g. Supreme collabs). And if you plan to specialize in luxury goods, sign up with Vestiaire Collective or launch your own e-commerce storefront. How much money you can make selling vintage? Some sellers of Depop make five-figures per month.

No-Investment Online Service Business Ideas (No Experience Needed)

If you’d rather sell your services that some sort of tangible or intangible product, consider the following options. All of them make up for perfect home-based business ideas, or side-hustles you can pursue without quitting your day job.

7. Become a VA

There’s a bunch of busy business owners out there who need help with their day-to-day business tasks. Becoming someone’s remote personal assistant may not sound that glamorous, but the pay is good and it’s an excellent chance to learn from a more experienced entrepreneur. VA jobs are aplenty on freelance marketplaces, job boards and in niche community. Browse around, and you’ll find some good deals.

8. Provide meal planning services

Here’s one of the fresher small business ideas for women. There are loads of people who do not have time to figure out their weekly ration, but who still want to eat well and stay healthy. If you are confident in the kitchen, know how to keep a food budget and avoid overspending, share your expertise with others.

As a professional meal planner you can:

  • Line up a list of ingredients to purchase for each week (based on the customers’ budget and diet preferences.
  • Create or curate easy-to-follow, step-by-step recipes for your customers/
  • Explain the nutritional value of the meals and educate your customers about their food choices.
  • Show how following your meal plan saves them money and reduces the hurdle of food shopping.

Additionally, if you have relevant work experience, you can always consider selling your pro services online:

9. Offer digital marketing services

10. Do website/graphic design

11. Handle application/web development project

12. Become a cybersecurity consultant

13. Offer bookkeeping/accounting services

14. Become a tax consultant

15. Work as a copywriter

16. Offer translation services

17. Become a social media marketing consultant

Trending Offline Small Business Ideas

18. Become a Child Party Planner

The modern ever-busy parents will gladly pay a professional organizer to throw a feast for their little munchkins. The children’s birthday party planning business is a multi-million dollar industry and the average American parent spends $500 per party. And let’s not forget, there are other celebrations too – Bar Mitzvah, Mid-school graduations, Christmas etc.

19. Tap Into Self-Storage Industry

For those based in the US, launching a self-storage can be an incredibly profitable business opportunity. As people keep moving around the country (and accumulate more stuff), the demand for self-storage units has risen exponentially. In NYC, for instance, the demand exceeds supply by 300%.

This business does require some initial investments though. You can use this free calculator to estimate the profitability of your self-storage.

20. Start a Subscription Business

Clothes, beauty products, flowers, shaving supplies – there are a lot of goods people love to receive on a regular basis. Subscription boxes are still in vogue and there are a lot of opportunities worth exploring. The meal kit industry alone is expected to reach $10 billion in sales by 2020.

To succeed with this business model, you will need to carefully calculate your operating income though to figure out appropriate price for your subscription. Later on, you can set your business on cruise-control and merely focus on growing your customer base, while enjoying recurring income.

21. Open a Bike Rental and Repair Business

Pedaling is becoming more and more popular all around the world. According to peopleforbikes, bike commuting in the US has increased by 73% in the largest cities within the past 10 years. And Americans now spend $81 billion on biking annually. E-bikes are also getting more popular than ever, so consider adding a few to your garage.

So here you have it – 21 great small business ideas to help you begin your entrepreneurship journey. All of them require little-to-no investment capital and even less hands-on business experience!

Photos by RawPixel, Daria Shevtsova and RawPixel

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