You don’t need much money or experience to start your own business!
You can start any of these businesses with very little money and usually little, if any, experience. Many you can start part-time, while keeping your day job. A couple of these businesses I successfully operated on summer vacations from college. Don’t hold back … these are fun and easy businesses. Check out them out, and decide which is right for you!
Business Idea #1: Dog Walking Service
This might sound like a small-time business idea, but it can become huge if you stay with it and keep your clients happy. A friend in Georgia started a dog-walking business and ended up selling it for $500,000! A coworker’s friend made extra money dog walking while attending dental school in New York City. Enjoying the work, he continued even while practicing dentistry, walking dogs before and after work and on lunch breaks.
With a good pair of shoes, some patience and a love for pups, you can make someone’s day a lot easier. Walking dogs is a great way to make cash and stay fit. And since pet owners in neighborhoods often know each other, networking is quick and easy. You can start part-time with just one dog and build it from there! Remember, even a simple business like this can benefit from a solid business plan or at least a one-page plan, if you’re in a rush.
Business Idea #2: Professional Organizer
People are messy. Offices, garages, kids’ bedrooms, kitchens—they all have a tendency to get out of control. Nonetheless, people love the idea of being organized! And they want your help!
If you can manage to keep your house tidy and organized, you can do the same for others. Organize a room in your house, or offer a discounted rate for a friend to get started. Take pictures of the before and after.
As is the case with many of these business ideas, you could start small—even just yourself working on weekends. Get started by offering to organize a few friends’ rooms for free. That will lead to word-of-mouth advertising and turn early clients into evangelists. Then, as you ramp up your client base, you could go to full time and eventually hire other people. I know a woman who was successful enough at this business to hire several other organizers and then expanded into organizing home businesses.
You could also further ramp up this business by selling ancillary services such as junk removal or cleaning, or even by providing elaborate closet organization systems. And by the way, no matter what business you go into, being super organized is an important ingredient for success!
Business Idea #3: Mobile Auto Detailing
Cars are a great source of pride for a lot of people, but keeping them looking good isn’t easy. Gas station and drive-in car washes don’t even come close to thoroughly cleaning the vehicle. But you can! All you need is a few sponges, a chamois, a bucket of soap and water, and maybe a little wax, and you’re ready to turn a clunker into a sweet-looking ride.
You don’t need a physical location. You can go to clients’ homes or offices. Or you can work out a deal with a parking lot or garage to offer your services to their customers. The parking facility might charge you a small fee, or they might be happy to have you provide you the space for free as an added benefit for their customers.
Begin offering basic detailing for the general public, not car nuts and not exotic cars. Then build your experience, your services and your prices over time. A great model for structuring a service business is offering “good/better/best” service levels.
Business Idea #4: Lawn-Care Service
Again, it might not be the most original idea, but anybody who lives where grass grows appreciates having somebody to take care of the lawn. You don’t have to have an empire of workers or truckloads of equipment. A second-hand mower and a way to get it from yard to yard (one friend’s landscaper puts it in the trunk of a sedan) is all you need to get started. Yes, it’s hot, hard work, but it can pay handsomely—sometimes $50 per hour or more. The only limit is how much work you’re willing to do and how quickly you can do it.
Over time, think of added services that you can provide for your clients. Spring and fall yard cleanup services, adding flowers or bushes, fertilizing. Over time, you can build from a single lawn-mowing machine to a full-fledged landscaping service.
How do you get customers? Check out the Multi-Channel Marketing Plan on a $2,000 Budget that I put together for a lawn care service.
Business Idea #5: eBay Selling
I am a model train nut, and I’ve bought a lot of really cool stuff on eBay. Often, I’m buying from people who run professional eBay selling services. They typically start selling some of their own items and then add friends and then other clients. They don’t actually own the merchandise they sell; they just sell it for a commission or a flat fee. So, it’s a service business. It’s a low-risk way to make good money over time.
You could also run an eBay trading business, which is something quite different. Here, you are buying goods and reselling them for higher prices. I know some people who have done very well at this. One high school student I knew was able to earn enough to pay for much of his college tuition.
I particularly recommend you focus on a niche—some sort of collectible or genre, such as Precious Moments figurines or soccer jerseys. Remember to account for shipping costs in your pricing, and let eBay do most of the work from there. Just be sure to ship on time and respond promptly to customers, and your network will build itself.
Business Idea #6: House Painting
I started a house-painting business one summer and made good money at it. When I started the business, I had never painted a house before, but I had painted a few small boats—how hard can it be? Well, as any experienced exterior painter will explain, the key is good preparation work, and that is something you can learn. But it took me a little while to become good at re-caulking old windows!
As you get started, the pressure is on to submit low bids to get the job, and like me, you will probably underbid a few jobs and live to regret it. But, so did everyone else in the business, so complete each job well and move on. You will soon learn to make your estimates as carefully as possible.
It is amazing how much different the bid prices can be from one painter to the next for the same job—I have seen bids vary by as much as 300 percent. It shows how important bidding is. And it also shows how much upside there is in this business, if you can develop a good reputation and earn solid referrals.
You could start this business on the weekend, but that’s difficult—customers really want to see that this is your full-time business. Another way to get going is to paint your own house as an advertisement for everybody to see.
To get started, you won’t need much: a few ladders, rollers, brushes and sandpaper. You’ll buy paint for each job and include it in your bid.
Don’t forget you need decent weather for outside painting. I ran into week after week of rainy weather, and my income temporarily dried right up. That being said, there are always plenty of people who need their houses painted!
Business Idea #7: Social Media Specialist
There’s more to doing this than just enjoying goofing around on Facebook or Twitter. You need to know how to reach audiences, when and where to post, and how to meet your clients’ needs. But the nice thing about being a social media specialist is that those skills are relatively easy to acquire, and there’s no cost whatsoever to getting this business started.
A very cool aspect of offering social media services is that your clients may need you on an ongoing basis. Yes, you could just come in and recommend a social media plan, but clients will likely ask you to do their social media posting for them, resulting in ongoing revenue.
As you become more experienced you will want to offer your clients additional services such as helping them place promoted posts and ads. Increasingly social media platforms are becoming “pay to play” with more companies paying for exposure in an increasingly crowded market.
You could become adept enough at social media on your own to offer basic services to small businesses. Perhaps offer to provide services to a friend’s small business to get going and get your first testimonial. BusinessTown offers a number of free expert videos on social media that will jumpstart your learning.
Business Idea #8: Jewelry Designer
The tools for designing jewelry should be fairly inexpensive; you might already have them around the house. Outside of that, starting this business is just a matter of being creative and making looks people will buy. Go to some craft fairs and get an idea of what your competition is doing, and see if you can do something better and cheaper.
I have seen people start a jewelry business in their home and make a good living at it. And I have seen other people build it into a larger enterprise.
One of the keys to this business is to think not just in terms of producing great-looking jewelry but jewelry that is sellable. So, that means you must be able to produce the jewelry at a price that you can make money at even with all of your marketing costs including a steep discount if you are selling it through retailers. Also, your jewelry will be much easier to market if your pieces can be displayed as a differentiated brand and/or collections. So, make the turn from a hobby to a business by building in a plan for marketing and sales, and away you go!
Business Idea #9: Bicycle Rentals
My very first business was Bob’s Rent-A-Bike, which I started when I was 19 years old and on a college summer vacation. Try to find a bicycle trail near you that people love to ride on. Then partner with a gas station or other local business near the trail.
You provide the bicycles to rent along with a bicycle rack and a sign, and the gas station handles the transactions. Don’t forget a lock and a chain! I would suggest offering the gas station a 30 percent cut, but be willing to negotiate higher if they have a great location.
My bicycle rental business was most successful in renting to people at campsites. I offered “free delivery” right to your campsite if you rented a minimum of 2 bicycles for 2 days.
No need to buy new bicycles for this endeavor. Get good, safe used bikes and shine them up! You can also make some extra pocket change buying and selling used bicycles. I carefully bought bicycles from both individual people and from other rental companies that were looking to upgrade their fleets. Then, at the end of the season, I sold most of the bicycles for the same or even more money than I paid for them.
My Sample Business Plan for Bob’s Rent-A-Bike and Sample Business Plan Financials for Bob’s Rent-A-Bike will help you develop a comprehensive plan and make projections for this, or just about any other, small business.
Business Idea #10: Bartending Service
Party hosts love to hire a professional bartender so they can mingle with guests. Typically, the customer provides the alcohol. You just pour it!
But remember this business is about providing the total experience. What you wear, your manners, saying a few polite words to guests—these are all an important part of what you are selling.
Never poured a mixed drink before? No worries. Just sign up for one of the many bartending classes offered at local education programs. Serve responsibly, but you still may want to look into liability insurance. You might also need a safety certification depending on the state you’re in, but that won’t cost much, and you might be able to get it with a quick online class.
I would print up a flyer for this business and talk it up with local liquor and wine stores. I would also promote online, such as in search engines, targeting your local area. And, of course, reach out to every friend and acquaintance possible, online or off.
Try on your tux or your fine dress, practice making a core list of drinks, hang out your shingle and you’re in business!
Business Idea #11: Event Organizing
Weddings, anniversary parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, graduation parties—life is full of celebrations, but they’re hard to plan. Most people don’t have the time or the inclination to contact caterers, DJs, bands, decorators and all the other people it takes to put a good time together. So, do it for them! Event organizing can really take off once you build a local network. A little word of mouth from a job well done can go a long way.
If you are thinking of just breaking into this space, you may want to start with simpler events, such as small, home-based children’s parties. Wedding and bar/bat mitzvah organizing is a big business with lot of competition even in smaller markets. These larger events also can be quite complex and logistically demanding. These are major life events, causing customers’ emotions to run high. Stick with the small kiddy parties to begin with and then plan bigger events as you gain experience.
Business Idea #12: Moving Service
How can you start a moving service without a truck? You rent one!
Using rental trucks for this business is highly advantageous. You can rent exactly the size you need for the load you will be carrying. And you won’t have any operating costs for it on the days it is sitting idle.
A friend in Texas lived in the same house for more than 30 years in a town he never really liked just because he didn’t want to move again. Moving is tough—it’s a physical and emotional beating. And it can be expensive.
If you can establish a service that provides packing, shipping, and unloading services for a reasonable fee, you’ll find lots of takers. Think of students moving into and out of dorms every year—and families not wanting to deal with the stress of packing up a house while dealing with all of the other aspects of switching homes.
Most moves are local. Getting started, I would probably charge on an hourly basis, including the time traveling to the customer’s locations plus the rental fee for the truck. This way, if the customer changes the amount of items to be moved or if it takes longer than you expected, you still earn the money that you expected.
If you have a driver’s license and don’t mind doing some lifting, this could be the business for you!
Related: Turning Your Idea into a Business
Business Idea #13: Room Rental
Yes, this is basically the Airbnb model, and you can use Airbnb to pursue it. Or you can put an ad on Craigslist or on a travel Website for your local area. You don’t need a swanky house or separate space in order to make money renting a room. You just need a clean facility and the patience to deal with people sharing your home—most of whom will be very easy-going, anyway. Disrupt the hotel industry by offering a cheaper, friendlier alternative.
Room rental offers solid revenue that is almost pure profit, especially if you live in or near a sought-after destination. Take your best photos, try different ad copy and don’t be afraid to adjust your pricing: hotels use local surveys to change their pricing every night.
Business Idea #14: Genealogical Service (Family History Writer)
If you’ve watched TV at all lately, you’ve likely seen ads for services such as Ancestry.com that help people find their family roots. But those services often still leave it to the individual to piece together records and stories from different generations.
You can insert yourself into this process as a writer of family histories. You can do research in local libraries and houses of worship, and an inexpensive subscription to an online service can help you get started, too. You provide value by connecting the dots and writing a formal history of your client’s family. If you’re capable of making attractive books with photos and the like, that’s even better. With the aging population, genealogy is huge and growing.
Business Idea #15: Mobile DJ
If you have a laptop and know a little about music, there are lots of opportunities to play tunes at all kinds of events. You don’t have to be an expert in anything but how to play one song after another and keep people dancing (or whatever it is they want to be doing with music in the background). You can build a nice setup for $2000, or many of your clients will likely already have audio systems of their own that you can use.
I met a young high school student who did very well as a DJ. He wasn’t old enough to have a license, so to get to his customers, he would either catch a ride with a friend or take a taxi.
You can use all of my marketing tricks on BusinessTown to jumpstart your customer base. But to really build that, you’ll need happy customers. To do that, show up on time, dress well, be polite and most of all play the music your customer wants to hear, not what you want to play!
Business Idea #16: Content Marketer
Today, almost all businesses of any size need content marketing! They need articles on their Website and elsewhere that help educate their consumers about their space. That’s the new way to market! We’re not talking about sales pitches here, though. We’re talking well-written, well-executed articles and videos on current topics that just happen to be related to whatever it is your client is trying to sell.
Have a client who sells office furniture? Write an article on the latest trends in office décor or maybe something about how studies show employees work better when sitting in comfortable chairs. Whatever draws people in and gets them to share, that’s what you want to create. Content marketing is very hot and very marketable right now.
To get started, build up your knowledge about content marketing, starting with the videos on BusinessTown; polish up your writing skills, and start contacting potential clients! Over time, you can build your expertise, such as how to maximize search engine placement for your articles, but you don’t need to be a super expert to get going.
Business Idea #17: Office Cleaning
I played racquetball once with a fellow who told me he made his living cleaning the offices of small businesses. I asked how many employees he had and he said that he did all the work himself—the business worked better that way. Furthermore, he did all his cleaning in about 5 hours a night and made good money at it. He said his clients were willing to pay him a premium because they totally trusted him to be in their offices alone at night and because he was highly dependable.
Cleaning might not be glamorous, but if you can make great money at it just working part-time, why not? You’ll need a vacuum, a mop and bucket, and some basic cleaning supplies to get started. After that, it’s all about hard work and keeping good relationships with clients.
Business Idea #18: Knitting/Crocheting Lessons
Knitting is making a major comeback as a hobby, especially among Gen-Xers and Millennials. If you know how to knit or crochet, there is a waiting base of people who would love to learn from you.
Offer a class at your local community center or house of worship, perhaps even for free, and then start prospecting for private lessons. Or go on Pinterest or a few knitting forms online and promote your services as is appropriate. You might be surprised by the response you’ll get.
Business Idea #19: Garage Sale Coordinator
Plenty of people would love to get rid of their junk but never take the time to clean and organize it. Putting together a garage or yard sale can be a major undertaking, and the opportunity exists for you to make some money by sorting, cleaning, arranging and tagging the old treasures people would like to sell.
This business requires virtually no overhead, and once you get a taker in a neighborhood, the other neighbors are sure to be interested in their services. Take a cut of the proceeds as your fee. You’d be surprised—you could make hundreds of dollars for just a few hours of work.
Business Idea #20: Apartment Preparation Service
Every time somebody moves out of an apartment, the place needs some sort of work. In some states, for instance, the law requires a landlord to paint an apartment every time someone new moves into it. In any case, an apartment changing hands will likely need some simple maintenance—say, filling nail holes in the wall, slapping on a coat of paint—and a lot of cleaning. Put your handy skills and your elbow grease to work, save a busy landlord a day or two of labor and make yourself some nice income!
To get going, target small to mid-sized apartment complexes that have work to be done but are unlikely to have their own staff to do it. It will take a while and some sales effort to develop a client base, but assuming you do a good job for your landlords, they will stick with you. And if you ever got tired of this business, it could be very sellable.
Business Idea #21: Chef for Hire
One of my friend’s sons started this business when he was about 12 years old and expanded and grew it until he went away to college. He started serving simple foods to his parents’ friends and grew both the quality of his offerings and his customer base from there.
As with so many businesses, you can start small and grow big. Start with a simple product or service that you can deliver exceedingly well; delight your customers, and build repeat business and word-of-mouth.
With people looking to hire a chef for weekend parties, you can hold onto your day job until you build up a steady clientele. And you can staff up with friends or temps when you land larger assignments.
Business Idea #22: Clown Service
Maybe not the first business you were thinking about, but the money you can make as a clown is nothing to laugh at! I spoke with the owner of a clown service who told me his base rate is $200 an hour.
He started out by himself and added additional clowns over the years. He actually went to “clown school,” but with the main activities being blowing up balloons and putting on a clown suit, how difficult can it be? Practice up on a core list of bits, hang out your shingle, and you’re in business. Demand for this business overwhelmingly centers on the weekends, making it an excellent part-time business.
Related: Is There a Market for Your Product?
Business Idea #23: Local Marketing Service
With myriad choices of both online and offline marketing to consider, local businesses need help with their marketing more than ever!
Digital marketing can work great for small local businesses! Options include: Websites, blogs, content marketing, search engine optimization, pay for click search engine ads, email, social media and more. Traditional marketing is still important too! Options range from local cable ads to couponing to publicity. (See the more than 200 free marketing videos on BusinessTown).
With so many options, businesses need help deciding where to put their media effort. You can help! Brush up your knowledge in any marketing area you are weak in, hang out your shingle and start helping your local businesses! But remember there is no sure thing in marketing so test! test! test!
Business Idea #24: College Application Consultant
Kids are more stressed than ever trying to get into the right school. There’s both an art and a science to filling out college apps. Maybe you already have expertise in this area, or maybe you can read a couple of books and know more than most parents and students know. In either case, you can save some 17-year-olds a lot of stress and make some money for yourself by writing a few heart-wrenching essays and cleverly answering a few questions.
To get started in this business, I would recommend specializing as much as possible. For example, I might specialize in writing application essays just for engineering schools or just helping students boost their scores on the math portion of the SAT. Over time, you could add more services, and you could subcontract other people with different expertise from yours. For example, a woman from my class in business school offers her clients a highly extensive package of college admissions services priced at $50,000.
Business Idea #25: Commercial Plant-Watering Service
Plants are everywhere, in offices, in people’s homes and in public parks and squares. And although they sometimes blend into the scenery, taking care of them can be a hassle and more than busy office managers and homeowners can handle. That’s where you can step in with a simple, inexpensive but very valuable plant-watering service.
So, you start with plant watering, with a plastic watering can being your core expense! But then you read a couple articles and add little packets of plant protein. Then maybe you stop by a couple plant stores and bring back pictures of new suggested plants to add. Eventually, you may even offer suggested plants for entire office facilities.
Business Idea #26: Courier
Need to send something physical (not an email, for instance), but you have to get it somewhere local within an hour or two rather than overnight? This isn’t a job for FedEx or the post office. It’s a job for a courier, who delivers packages around town all day. In New York City, bicycle couriers are still a common sight. In most other cities, however, they’re much less common.
However, that’s not to say that they’re not needed. There’s a gap in the market in many places for people who can bike or drive around and make quick deliveries. You can make some money by filling that gap.
While you can start this business on a small budget, it is a substantial undertaking. You’ve got to be ready to take on assignments during all business hours and offer reliable and quick services, or you won’t be able to build a clientele.
I met three young high school grads who were starting a business like this and I can see that it would be a good business for several partners, so that each person would be totally committed to meeting customers’ delivery demands all the time.
Business Idea #27: Resume Writing
Even in this age of online databases, people still need a great resume and also compelling “cover letters.” For years, the book publishing company I founded (Adams Media Corporation) became the leading publisher of resume books in the country. The number one difference between a great resume and a weak one was that a weak resume was like an attendance record showing where you worked and what the job responsibilities were.
A great resume was more like a sales pitch emphasizing what you accomplished and what you were capable of. No wonder resume writing is so important. The key to great cover letters is keeping them very short but compelling to the target reader.
Anyone who can write well can become a great resume writer. Just get some great examples of resumes and learn from them.
Business Idea #28: SEO Specialist
Small businesses need Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in order to stake out a place near the top of Google and other searches.
There are many, many ways that you can make Web pages more likely to turn up in search results. This information is readily available and much of it published by the search engines, but to really use a lot of this information in the optimal way can require some thought and knowledge.
You can become relatively good at search engine optimization relatively quickly, and you can learn about it on your own. Get started by creating your own website and demonstrating your results in search engines.
Business Idea #29: Personal Trainer
Are you in shape? Can you motivate people? Do you have boundless energy? Put those positive traits together and get to work helping others get fit. See if you can advertise at a local gym, or post an ad on Craigslist or even a video on YouTube.
Consider specializing in particular categories of clients—pregnant women, for instance, or people older than 50. If you can make someone feel comfortable doing exercise, you’ll quickly build a network of clients. You could hold lessons right in your home or sublet a small studio space. Be aware, though, that you will likely need to be certified as a personal trainer before starting this kind of business.
Business Idea #30: House Cleaning
It might be cliché, but people need it. Gather some cleaning materials, put an ad on Craigslist on in the local paper, tell your friends what you’re up to, and get started. Trustworthy cleaners are in high demand in neighborhoods with households where both parents work. Once you get your first couple of references, which could come from friends or even family, use them to get the word out about your services.
Business Idea #31: Private Tutor
All you really need is to be good at one subject and then pursue clients whose kids need help in that subject. If it’s math or science, great. But English, history and foreign languages make great tutoring areas, too. Get in touch with your local school principal, spread the word about your services at school events (think football games and science fairs) and talk to parents at your house of worship or any other place where families gather.
You can make good money doing only a few hours of tutoring per day. Furthermore, this is a great service. I have seen kids learn dramatically faster and easier when they are tutored one-on-one.
Business Idea #32: Logo Design
Selling graphic arts services can be very competitive and require a lot of expertise. But if you just focus on creating logos for businesses, you could do quite well and become very good at it.
The design software you need may be expensive to buy outright, but some of the best packages you can license monthly. Practice up on the design software, get your imagination in gear, and start having fun creating logo ideas for new businesses and products!
Related: 5 Things Your Logo Needs
Business Idea #33: Interior Decorating
This is one of those businesses you can start for absolutely nothing and with no experience. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you’re comfortable choosing colors for paint and arranging furniture in a room, you can get started as an interior decorator. Just undercut the high-priced companies in this area and listen to your clients. This is a subjective endeavor—act like know what you’re doing, and you really can’t go wrong. That being said, it is highly competitive, and even if you have a knack for it, it may take a while to build a clientele.
Business Idea #34: Floral Arranging
People love flowers, but they don’t always love dealing with them. Flowers are popular at weddings and funerals, of course, but they’re also a pleasant part of our everyday lives. Get in touch with a local wedding planner or funeral home, and you could quickly have a gig arranging flowers for ceremonies. Keep going, and you could wind up putting together bouquets for offices and private homes, too. Also, keep in mind that you can arrange silk flowers as well as real ones.
Bob Adams is the founder of BusinessTown.com