Industries like hospitality, healthcare, digital marketing, IT and cybersecurity, and personal care services are expected to have the biggest growth over the next decade — all with low start-up costs and low barriers to entry.

With the right idea and a little bit of gumption, starting your own business can be incredibly rewarding. And if you’re thinking of striking out on your own, you may be wondering, what are the most profitable small businesses?

Lucky for you, we’ve done the research and compiled a list of 20 businesses that are projected to be successful over the next few years. So, whether you’re looking for small business ideas or just a list of industries on the upswing, read on for some inspiration.

1. Leisure and Hospitality Businesses

Over the next decade, the leisure and hospitality industry is expected to experience the fastest growth of any other industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And with so many people looking for ways to relax and have fun post-pandemic, the possibilities for business growth are virtually limitless.

For instance, you could become a:

  • Private tour guide (for bike tours, food tours, wine tours, walking tours, eco-tours, etc.)
  • Outdoor adventure company
  • Glamping host
  • Airbnb host
  • Translator for tourism and hospitality companies
  • Local cooking class host
  • Travel planning agency

2. Home Healthcare Businesses

Another industry that’s expected to experience significant growth in the coming years is home healthcare, particularly the demand for personal care aides. The aging baby boomer population is driving this demand, as more and more people are choosing to receive care in their homes rather than in nursing homes.

The BLS expects employment in this industry to increase by 1.1 million jobs over the next decade. And while medical care experience is a plus, it isn’t required. Many personal care aides help patients with daily living activities such as bathing, brushing their hair, running errands, and washing clothes.

3. Physical Therapy Practices

According to the CDC, over 61 million American adults live with a disability that limits their ability to participate in everyday activities. For many of these individuals, physical therapy is an essential part of regaining their independence. So if you’re looking for a profitable small business idea, starting a physical therapy practice could be a great option.

The BLS predicts that physical therapy will be among the fastest-growing industries through 2031. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily need to be a PT to start your own practice — but you will need to hire the right professionals to work with patients.

4. Personal Care Services

The demand for personal care services is high, especially as more people head back to the office and begin some resemblance of pre-Covid life. In fact, the BLS projects that this industry will be among the fastest growing through 2031.

So if there are any personal care services you’re particularly good at, someone may be willing to pay for them. Some popular services people typically pay for include:

  • Organizational services for people’s homes or lives
  • House sitting
  • Pet sitting
  • Wellness coaching
  • Career coaching
  • Financial coaching
  • Childbirth coaching
  • Doula or post-pregnancy services

5. Cybersecurity

As businesses increasingly move their operations online, the need for strong cybersecurity measures to protect against data theft and other cyberattacks grows.

In fact, cybersecurity as a whole is expected to see the third-largest employment increase over the next decade, according to the BLS. So if you have an IT background and a knack for security, it could be worth looking into. Specifically, you could start a profitable business in

  • Ethical hacking
  • Network architecture
  • Information security analysis
  • Security engineering
  • Cybersecurity consulting

6. Consulting

Speaking of consulting, businesses often need expert advice on a wide range of topics, from marketing and financial planning to human resources and IT support. Consultants are able to provide this expertise.

If there’s an area of business you’re knowledgeable in, starting a consulting business could be a great way to earn a living. And as you may have guessed, it’s another industry expected to experience high growth this decade by the BLS.

7. IT Support Businesses

Another booming industry? Technical services. Nearly every business relies on some form of IT support. But for small businesses, the cost of hiring a full-time IT staff can be prohibitive. That’s where an IT support business could come in.

By offering IT support services to other small businesses, you can tap into a lucrative market while maintaining the flexibility and independence of being your own boss.

And best of all, you don’t need a degree in computer science to get started. As long as you have a basic understanding of computers and networking, you can start building your IT support business today.

Read more: 13 Job Skills That Are in High Demand Right Now (No College Required!)

8. Data Analyst Businesses

Big data is becoming increasingly important as businesses seek to gain a competitive advantage by analyzing customer trends and behavior.

But what good is all of this data if it isn’t properly analyzed? This is where a small business providing data analytics services can be extremely profitable.

By helping companies make sense of their data, a data analyst can provide a valuable service that’s in high demand. So “in demand,” in fact, that it’s projected to have the third-largest industry growth this decade.

9. Software and Web Developers

Software and web developers are in high demand across a wide range of industries, making them a profitable small business opportunity. And the reason is obvious: as more businesses move online, they need professionals to create and maintain websites and develop software applications to meet their needs.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you’ll need to have strong coding skills and be comfortable working with a variety of programming languages.

10. Graphic Design or Web Design

Graphic and web design are also high in demand, as businesses of all sizes need help with everything from creating logos and marketing materials to designing websites and apps.

And with the proliferation of DIY design tools like Canva, you don’t need to be a master designer to get started. As long as you have an eye for aesthetics and a willingness to learn, you can start your own graphic or web design business with little more than a laptop and an internet connection.

11. Freelancing

It’s projected that freelancers will make up 50.9% of the U.S. workforce by 2027 — and it’s easy to see why. More and more businesses are turning to freelancers for specialized skills and services they don’t want to hire full-time employees for, including:

  • Copywriting
  • UX writing
  • Website design
  • Videography
  • Photography
  • SEO support

Read more: 3 Ways to Make More Money Freelancing This Year

12. Digital Course Creation

The internet is saturated with online courses — and for good reason. People are willing to take an online course for almost anything they want to learn, whether it’s how to start an Etsy shop, become a UX writer, or get your newborn to sleep through the night.

Of course, creating a successful digital course takes more than just recording a few videos. You’ll need to put together an engaging and well-structured program that meets the needs of your target students. But if you have expertise in a particular area and you’re passionate about teaching, digital course creation could be a great way to turn a profit.

13. Marketing Research and Analysis

Marketing research and analysis is projected to be one of the 10 most popular professions through 2030. Businesses need to know their target market in order to sell their products or services. Marketing research firms help them do just that.

If you’re interested in starting your own marketing research firm, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • First, you need to have a strong understanding of marketing principles and know how to conduct surveys, focus groups, and interviews.
  • Second, you need to be able to gather and analyze data.
  • And third, you need to be able to communicate your findings to clients in a way that is persuasive and convincing.

If you have these skills, then starting your own marketing research firm can be a great profitable business idea.

14. Digital Marketing Firms

Along those same lines, there are a lot of small businesses out there that need help actually implementing their marketing plan — think creating marketing calendars, writing blog posts, planning campaigns, and more.

That’s where a marketing agency could come in handy. By offering affordable, high-quality marketing services, you can help these businesses take their game to the next level.

15. Social Media Management

Some 67% of small businesses use social media for digital marketing — and this number is expected to grow as more businesses move online.

However, managing social media accounts can be time-consuming and requires a strategic approach. Enter: your social media management business.

As a social media manager, you would be responsible for creating and executing a plan to grow a client’s social media following, interact with customers, and create engaging content. It’s best suited to individuals who enjoy being creative and working with people.

16. Virtual Assistants

If you’re well-organized, efficient, and have good people skills, then starting a virtual assistant business could also be a profitable business idea. There are many benefits to starting a virtual assistant business:

  • It’s a relatively low-cost business to start up. You can work from home, which means you don’t have the overhead costs of renting office space.
  • There is a growing demand for virtual assistants as more and more businesses move online and need help with tasks like appointment setting, customer service, and social media management.
  • You can also set your own hours and rates, which gives you the freedom to work around your other commitments.

17. Repair and Maintenance Services

The repair and maintenance industry is expected to be among the 10 fastest growing professions through 2031. So if you’ve been looking for a sign to start your very own handyperson business, this could be it.

I have a friend who started a handy business during the pandemic and was consistently making $10k a month within five months of being open — all from word-of-mouth advertising!

You could offer a variety of services such as yard work, odd jobs, painting, repairs, and more. You can also offer package deals for customers who want to use your services on a regular basis.

18. Professional Cleaning Businesses

A professional cleaning business is a great way to earn a steady income while enjoying the flexibility of being your own boss. But you’ll find the most success if you tailor your services to fit the needs of your clients.

For example, if you have experience cleaning commercial buildings, you could offer your services to office tenants or property managers. Or, if you prefer working with homeowners, you could offer housekeeping services such as dusting, vacuuming, and mopping.

19. Pet Boarding Services

Nearly one in five households adopted a dog or cat during the coronavirus pandemic. With roughly 123.6 million U.S. households, that’s an influx of 24.7 million more pets! 😲

As Covid restrictions lift and families start traveling again, they’ll need a reliable place to board their pets until they return home. If you love caring for animals, starting a pet boarding or kennel business could be a good business idea.

20. Delivery Driving Companies

In today’s world, convenience is key. More and more people are ordering everything from groceries to clothes online, and they want those items delivered as quickly as possible. That’s precisely why transportation and material-moving occupations are expected to create over 1.1 million new jobs by 2030.

If you want to capitalize on this growth, consider starting your own local delivery business. This could involve picking up orders from businesses and delivering them to customers’ doors. Or, you could deliver goods or materials to other businesses (such as restaurants or construction companies).

How to Start a Profitable Business

If you’ve always dreamed of being your own boss, but you’re not quite sure where to start, here are a few tips to get you going:

  1. Find something you’re passionate about. Choose an industry you love — that way you’ll have the motivation to keep going even when things get tough.
  2. Identify a niche market you can tap into. This will help you to stand out from the competition and attract customers who are willing to pay for your products or services.
  3. Create a business plan. A business plan helps you map out your goals and forces you to think through the potential risks and challenges associated with your new venture.
  4. Do all the legal stuff. This includes obtaining any necessary licenses and permits, registering your business name, and choosing a business structure.
  5. Start marketing and selling your services. Create your marketing plan and stick to it. As you find clients, keep them happy by overdelivering on your promises.

Read more: How to Start Your Own Business — A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

Methodology

When curating this list, we turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics to pinpoint which industries are expected to experience the biggest growth over the next decade. Then, we honed in on those with low start-up costs and low barriers to entry. The result? A list of the 20 most profitable businesses.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a profitable small business idea, one of these 20 options could be a great fit. Many of them are low-cost to start, which means you need very little money (if any) to jump in.

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About the author

Cassidy Horton
Total Articles: 44
Cassidy Horton is a finance writer who specializes in banking and insurance. She earned her MBA and bachelor’s degree in public relations from Georgia Southern University — and has since published hundreds of finance articles online for Forbes Advisor, The Balance, Money, Finder.com, and more. When she's not helping Millennials and Gen Zers gain control of their finances, you can find Cassidy hiking around the Pacific Northwest, cuddling her two cats, and eating way too much fried chicken. Connect with her on cassidyhorton.com or LinkedIn to see what she’s up to next.