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30 businesses to start with little money

Need to make some cash? Here's a list of small businesses you can start with no money or little money. Plus, what you'll need and some useful tips.

professional dog walker walking the dogs of his clients for payment in city. From "30 businesses to start with little money in 2024".

You can definitely start a business with little cost or even no money upfront. For most, it’ll likely be a service business since you won’t want to worry about managing inventory. For these, you’ll just need a website, some hustle and creativity.

Starting your own business is a great way to control your own time, make some extra cash with a side hustle, and even have a chance at turning your hobby into a successful business. So as you go through this list of business ideas consider your existing skill set and personal interests to find the small business idea that fits you best.

Here are some of the best low cost businesses you can start with no money or very little money.

1. Concierge business

What you’ll need: Website, business cards, transportation.

If you live in an affluent area or neighbor to one, you would be amazed at what some people are willing to pay to not have to do boring chores themselves.

From grocery shopping to dry cleaning runs to handling travel booking and scheduling doctor’s appointments, you can become a personal assistant. Someone who is super busy and finds their time too valuable for these more mundane tasks would gladly pay for this concierge-level of service. That’s where you come in.

You may need some connections or some recommendations to get started. Then, you can build a successful concierge business by being reliable, trustworthy and fast.

2. Auto detailing business

What you’ll need: Vacuum, cleaning supplies, power/water supply, transportation.

You’ve likely seen the TikTok videos about this one. With a vacuum cleaner you may already own and a few cheap bottles of automotive cleaning products, you can offer to come to anyone’s home or work and make their car’s interior look like new.

You’ll need to commit your time and be willing to get a little dirty but you can get started with minimal startup costs, then look to expand if it’s something you find you like doing (and is profitable).

3. Consulting or coaching business

What you’ll need: Something to manage clients, a personal expertise to share.

If you’re an expert in a particular field, you can start your own consulting business. Depending on what you’re consulting in (financial, legal, cybersecurity), this can be among the most profitable small business ideas.

If you have marketing experience, you could help entrepreneurs grow their small businesses while growing your own. And, on the other end, there’s coaching. If you played minor league baseball, look into coaching kids on how to clear their hips when they swing. These go hand-in-hand as they both involve sharing some degree of expertise.

All you need is a form of contact, possibly a website (which you can set up for free) and some level of marketing to get the news out there about your service. You’ll want to share why potential customers should trust you as an expert worth paying.

4. Podcasting

What you’ll need: Microphone, recording and editing software.

Starting a podcast can be a great way to build an audience and earn some extra online income. You’ll need a microphone and some recording software. In most cases, you can get started with just a few hundred dollars if you’d like a more professional set-up than just the mic that comes with your computer.

Once you’ve recorded a few episodes, you can look into submitting your podcast to iTunes and other directories for free. Those who have something they enjoy talking about, such as fantasy football or the adventures of cooking, might find this to be the perfect option. Even better if it’s a podcast you can commit to with friends.

Success rate can be low as building an audience versus existing competition is challenging but positive endeavors can attract sponsorships and even donations.

5. Local tour guide

What you’ll need: Local familiarity, promotional materials and possibly a tour guide license.

If you live in a tourist-friendly area, why not become a local tour guide? You can create your own walking tour or offer guided bicycle tours. All you need is some knowledge of the area, a few promotional materials (which you can create yourself for free) and possibly a tour guide license depending on your area.

That’s how the famed Scott’s Pizza Tours started out based on their familiarity with the NYC area and love of pizza. They now have grown to offer walking tours, bus tours and even online classes all about pizza. Approach some businesses for potential partnerships and let them know you’re thinking about using them as a stop to make it beneficial for all involved.

6. Bookkeeping

What you’ll need: Business accounting software, client management software, certification (optional).

Bookkeeping and accounting is perhaps one of the most in-demand services that small businesses will farm out to part-time contractors. And you don’t need to be a CPA to keep a company’s books — most of this work is routine data entry and management of bills.

You can find evening or online training for bookkeeping pretty easily if you have no experience and even certify with the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB).

7. Dog walking or pet sitting business

What you’ll need: Website or some ads to share, CPR and first-aid certification.

If you love animals, there are plenty of people who will pay you to do some pet sitting for a few hours. Depending on your schedule, this could be a part-time way to make money while you’re in college or a very full-time gig. You could probably start working without spending a dime.

Pet sitting can sometimes mean having a dog stay at your house, or staying in the house of a stranger or family member while they are out of town. For even less commitment, consider dog walking business. You can charge $20 or even more depending on your area for a 20 or 30 minute walk. Or do both! Offering both services could turn into a lucrative business. Some dog walkers have worked up to hustle to $100k a year without a college degree!

Check out sites like Care for pet care and Rover for sitting/walking, but like with any job websites, be wary of scams. It’s also highly recommended to know the life-saving techniques specifically designed for dogs. There’s CPR and first aid courses specifically for dogs for you to receive certification in.

8. Window washing business

What you’ll need: Flyers, window washing cleaning supplies and possibly transportation depending on where you live.

This is a great business idea if you’re handy and don’t mind working outdoors. You’ll need some supplies, some of which you’ll already have (ladders, buckets, rags, etc.), but the total investment shouldn’t be more than a few hundred dollars.

To get started, walk around and ask local businesses if they need their windows washed. If you’re in a city there will be plenty of potential but you might need a car out in the suburbs. After a few jobs done, ask past customers if you can post non-obtrusive flyers. You can also promote your business online and through various social media on the local level.

9. House sitting business

What you’ll need: Quality references would help.

This is a great way to make some extra money if you’re responsible and trustworthy. Homeowners (even those without the furry friends we mentioned) would have some peace of mind if someone was watching their house while they’re out of town for an extended period of time. All you need to do is take care of the property, like maybe water the plants, and follow their instructions, like setting the security alarm.

To get started, create a profile on matching services like Trusted Housesitters or Mind My House and start applying for jobs. You may even have friends and family reach out for when they’ll be out of town.

10. House cleaning business

What you’ll need: Cleaning supplies, transportation and possibly state licensing.

Think about all the people in your neighborhood who work long hours and don’t have time to clean their houses. If they’re not using a cleaning service already, they may need someone reliable who’s local to clean their house once a week or month.

Starting a house cleaning business is a great way to get started in the business world with very little overhead costs or commitment. All you need is a vacuum cleaner, mop, and some other basic cleaning supplies. You’ll make more working individual jobs for a set fee than working for a company that pays hourly.

11. Home painting business

What you’ll need: Painting supplies, transportation.

A home painting business is another low-cost option for entrepreneurs with some minor experience to be their own boss. To get started, all you need is some basic painting supplies and a vehicle to transport them to the home you’re painting.

Once you’ve built up a reputation for quality workmanship, you may want to consider investing in ladders and other equipment to help with larger jobs.

12. Landscaping or lawncare business

What you’ll need: Website, transportation, plus supplies like a lawnmower, edger and weed eater.

With a lawncare or landscaping business, the sky’s the limit in terms of potential earnings. To get started, all you need is some basic lawn care equipment like a lawnmower, edger, and weed whacker. That’s why it’s one of the highest paying summer jobs for college students that can end up becoming a long-term career once the potential’s uncovered.

As your business grows, you may want to invest in additional equipment like a truck or trailer to bring in equipment or haul away debris. If your clients want any particular landscaping done, they can foot the bill for any plants or vegetation.

13. Snow removal business

What you’ll need: Website, reliable transportation, shovel, snow blower, salt sprayer.

Snow removal is a low cost business idea for entrepreneurs who live in snowy climates. To get started, all you may need is a basic shovel. You can walk around city sidewalks and offer to shovel for businesses. As you grow, or if you live in the suburbs where it falls heavy, a snow blower, and salt spreader would be great tools. You may also want to invest in some good cold weather gear so that you can work comfortably in the winter months.

If you get busy enough you can invest in a plow for your truck and increase your client base, perhaps handling the clearing out of parking lots.

This is a great business to pair with a landscaping business as they’re seasonal small businesses. In the warmer months, you could offer secondary services, such as lawn maintenance or handy work, to your existing clientele that you removed snow for.

14. Delivery service business

What you’ll need: Transportation and commercial car insurance.

You’ve probably heard of some of the best food delivery apps, like Ubereats and Grubhub, but there are plenty of other opportunities as well. For example, apps like Roadie and GrabMyBag take luggage from the airport and deliver it to the customer – either because the bag was lost or for customer convivence when flying. There’s also Instacart and whole list of jobs like Instacart to make money.

Many businesses also need professional courier services. Real estate companies, lawyers, hospitals and more use couriers to move important papers and other items from one place to another. If you have a truck or van, you can start your own small delivery service business relatively easily and cheaply after getting the necessary insurance.

15. Catering, baking or personal chef business

What you’ll need: Website or social media like Instagram, kitchen supplies, permits, commercial kitchen space (optional).

If you love cooking, why not turn your passion into a profit? A catering service for parties or personal chef business for a private client is a great way for foodies to make some extra money on the side (or even turn it into a full-time job). If you’re an excellent baker, consider selling your baked goods on social media or getting started at local markets by renting a table.

To get started with these, all you need are some basic kitchen supplies. As your business grows, you can consider moving into a commercial space to help with food preparation or hiring staff.

If you do have some funds right now and like the food industry, a food truck can be an option as a business you can start with less than $20k. With proper research on licenses and permits for starting a food truck, you can look at setting up at places like concerts and sporting events to sell your food.

16. Senior transportation business

What you’ll need: Website, transportation, insurance.

As the population ages, there will be an increasing demand for transportation services that cater to senior citizens who can no longer drive themselves around town or take public transportation.

If you have a car or van that can accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, then you’re already a step-ahead. In addition to the vehicle cost, you will also need insurance.

17. Online store

What you’ll need: Website, account on an eCommerce platform, inventory, shipping supplies.

With the rise of eCommerce, starting your own online store is easier than ever before. There are several platforms you can use to set up your store (such as Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, eBay, etc.), and many of them offer free trials or have no to low monthly fees depending on your level of selling.

You will also need to invest in some inventory (if you’re not selling digital products, like NFTs), but other than that, the startup costs for an online store can be quite low.

18. Freelance business

What you’ll need: Website or other internet profile, accessible portfolio of work (maybe).

If you have a skill that others are willing to pay for (such as writer, editing, graphic design, web development, etc.), then starting a freelance business could be a great way to earn some extra cash.

The best part about freelancing is that you can work from home or anywhere in the world and most than likely set your own hours. All you essentially need to start is a laptop and an internet connection!

Although there are no startup costs per se, you will need to invest some time in marketing your services and finding clients. Starting small, building clientele and sharing an accessible way for clients to view your past work and positive reviews can make this into a lucrative small business idea.

» MORE: How to make $100k+: Advice from 6 millennials who’ve done it

19. Fact-checking or researching business

What you’ll need: Website or profile, like on LinkedIn, and a computer.

Did you know that nearly every major magazine and many websites obsessively check and recheck every fact and source in their story? Even more so if they’re advertising a service or product.

Best of all, very few employ in-house researchers to do this critical task, sometimes even contracting it out (to your potential benefit). Yes, it’s tedious, but it only requires a device that connects to the internet and the ability to focus on the verification process.

20. Association manager

What you’ll need: Website, client management software.

Every day, people form new professional networks, community associations, or groups of like-minded hobbyists. The only problem is groups like these take a lot of administrative work to maintain.

There are websites to build and update, newsletters to write, dues to collect, meetings and events to schedule, and mailing lists to maintain. Think you’re up to the task? By creating templates and shared protocols, you could easily begin managing several groups and start raking in the dough.

21. Property manager

What you’ll need: Website, phone, software for handling maintenance and service requests, real estate license (maybe).

The grown-up version of classic teenage jobs like shoveling snow and mowing lawns, property managers help small to medium-sized landlords everywhere take care of their real estate. The responsibilities can vary, from simply taking calls from tenants and arranging for maintenance to handling the fixing and landscaping yourself. Property managers are also a frequent need for Airbnb owners, letting you make money off Airbnb without owning property.

If you want to go full-service, you can even offer to show apartments, screen tenants, and collect the rent, but you may need a real estate license for certain aspects.

If you enjoy doing handyman work around the house and you’re reliable, then starting your own property management business might be a great business idea.

22. Freelance writer

What you’ll need: Website, some way to share prior work or expertise

Expanding on Freelance business above, there is a huge variety in the world of freelance writing exclusively so if you like to write you can likely find clients in an area that is of interest to you.

There are a lot of different types of writing jobs available including, books, articles, sales pages, social media posts, and product descriptions. Most businesses need some kind of writing done that they can’t have done in-house and most of those jobs are contracted out to freelancers.

23. Garage sale flipper

What you’ll need: Selling platform, transportation, space to store inventory

This is definitely not one of the most traditional businesses out there — but re-selling can be surprisingly profitable! If you enjoy hunting and negotiating for good deals and have ample storage space in your home, flipping items from garage sales, estate sales or flea markets like could be a great way to make some extra income (or even find it so lucrative to become a full-time endeavor). You can end up selling an assortment of finds like video games, vintage clothing, tupperware, sports cards and Pokemon cards for extra cash.

You will need some money upfront to buy the item and any necessary supplies to flip it. You’ll also likely need a car to get to most sales and transport items from sales if you have any finds. The only other dedicated investment for this type of business is time — you’ll need to dedicate some hours each week to scouring garage sales and flea markets for potential items to flip. But all in all, this can be a very low-cost and fun small business venture or side gig!

24. Online blogs, courses, or memberships

What you’ll need: Website or other platform to share content.

If you’ve got something you love to write about, you can definitely earn use that as a side hustle to earn extra money — or even launch a full-time business — on the internet. Although I went the blogging route, it’s getting increasingly difficult to just throw up a blog and start collecting advertising checks. Today’s online entrepreneurs are finding faster (and bigger) success by creating smaller amounts of premium material and charging for that content as a course, ebook, newsletter or membership site.

I strongly recommend Ramit Sethi’s courses. At least check out his free guide, 30 Successful Online Business Ideas, and start brainstorming what you might be able to accomplish.

25. Personal stylist

What you’ll need: Transportation, website or social media and possibly liability insurance.

A personal stylist business is a great idea if you love fashion and helping others (and have a knack for it). The only real cost you would need to cover to start this business is any transportation costs to get to and from your clients, such as your own car or Uber fare.

Ideally, your clients will pay a deposit upfront for any clothing or beauty items you buy for them as part of your recommendations. Consider professional liability insurance that protects stylists from lawsuits brought by dissatisfied customers.

26. Event planner or wedding planner

What you’ll need: Website, social media, planner certification (optional).

If you love planning events and have experience making things beautiful, then starting an event planning business might be the perfect business for you. Share past events you’ve helped with on Instagram and other social media to generate buzz.

To start this business, you’ll need to cover the cost of marketing (e.g., creating a website, printed materials, etc.), as well as any fees associated with becoming certified as a wedding planner to help you stand out from the competition.

27. Interior decorating or home staging business

What you’ll need: Website, transportation, furniture (maybe).

Do you have an eye for design? If so, then starting an interior decorating or home staging business could be perfect for you. To get started in this business, you’ll need to cover the cost of marketing (e.g., creating a website) and any design software you need to make your clients’ dreams come to life.

That said, if you go with home staging over interior decorating, there may be added startup expenses as you’ll most likely be “renting” the furniture to your client. But if your primary focus is interior decorating, your clients will pay for any items you recommend they would like.

28. Tutoring business

What you’ll need: Website, quiet place to work.

Do you love helping people learn? A tutoring business is a great way to make some extra money while helping others towards their success. All you need to get started is a knowledge of the subject you want to tutor in, like math, and a quiet space where you can work with students.

A tutoring business can be run from your home or the home of the student you’re tutoring (or a common place, like a library), so there’s no need to rent office space or buy expensive equipment. Those looking for travel-friendly work opportunities can also look into tutoring online.

29. Resume writing business

What you’ll need: Website, portfolio of samples.

Are you good at writing resumes? Believe it or not, there is actually quite a demand for professional resume writers, especially if you can provide a quick turnaround for those in need. Job seekers need a powerful resume with a human touch that can pass the AI checkers and catch a hiring manager’s eye as they sift through piles of resumes.

To get started in this business, you won’t need much. A website and documentation proving you’re good at what you do (e.g., samples of your work) works as a jumping off point. Then work on networking and connecting to those who can benefit from the service.

30. Personal training business

What you’ll need: Website or other social media, gym partnership (optional).

If you enjoy working out and it visually shows, then becoming a personal trainer is a great business idea with very low startup costs. You can run group sessions or have individual one-on-one training sessions with clients in public spaces or online.

Focus on workouts and session types you can do outside a paid gym to keep costs down for both you and your clients. You can also look for clients that will have their own equipment or personal home gyms that just require the guidance you can provide.

Tips for starting and managing a small business

Consider drafting a small business plan to get started so you have your own guide on how to proceed and budget to hit your goals. It is also a good idea to connect with other business owners for useful tips on how to run and grow your business. It’s always nice to have support of other business owners who have been through similar issues you’ll face if you’re able to get it when launching your own business.

And, if your small business takes off and you would like to separate your finances to help keep track, consider a choice from some of the best business checking accounts. Some immediate benefits include protection and convenient ways to receive payments without mixing finances, creating headaches down the line.

» MORE: Why you need a bank account for your business

Small business legal requirements and protections

When starting your own small business look into the legal requirements in your area. Some states require a business license or registration of some sort depending on the business.

Also, contact an insurance agent and make sure that you are covered legally. You may want to consider liability insurance or errors and omissions insurance. Also, if you enter people’s homes you may need a bond – which covers you in case you are accused of theft. You may also need commercial car insurance if you driving as your business or side gig. You can also consider forming an LLC for your small business for some legal protection.

Summary

If you have no or little money right now, you may need one of these easy small business ideas and advice on starting a business with no money. With some creativity and resourcefulness, there’s no reason why you can’t turn your dream of a small business or ideas for a side hustle into reality — even if you’re just working with a small amount.

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