Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? This might be the right year for you to start a business.
With the right idea and a healthy dose of gumption, starting your own business can be incredibly rewarding. But which ones are worth your time? What are the most profitable small businesses and how do you get started?
Lucky for you, we’ve done the research and compiled a list of 20 businesses with promising outlooks and industries on the upswing. Keep reading for the most profitable small business ideas of the year and tips for starting a successful business.
20 most profitable business ideas
To put this list together, we went directly to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the latest data about job growth. Here’s how we chose the top 20 most profitable businesses.
First, we turned to employment projections to pinpoint which industries are expected to experience the most growth over the next decade. This is determined by job availability, which means opportunities for both employees and business owners.
From the fields with growth rates highest above the average, we honed in on the options with low start-up costs and low barriers to entry. We prioritized businesses you can start with a high school diploma or equivalent, maybe a Bachelor’s degree or after a couple of online courses. And those that do require more school or experience but are well worth the effort.
The result? A list of the 20 most profitable businesses this year.
1. Leisure and hospitality
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), this sector will see about 1.9 million jobs added by 2031 — especially in the events, amusement parks, performing arts, sports, accommodations, and museum fields.
The small business ideas are virtually endless.
For instance, you could become a:
- Private tour guide (for bike tours, food tours, wine tours, walking tours, eco-tours, etc.)
- Outdoor adventure business owner
- Airbnb or VRBO host
- Bed and breakfast owner
- Glamping host
- Local cooking class host
- Translator for tourism and hospitality companies
- Travel planning agent
- Traveling photographer for events and weddings
From an education and training perspective, leisure and hospitality businesses are pretty flexible. There are many different options for getting into this industry with very little experience. And people don’t just travel for fun anymore. Those able to accommodate both leisure travel and remote work are likely to be the most profitable businesses.
It’s worth noting that some of the growth in this industry will be in the form of recovering from COVID-19 lockdowns, when many in this field were let go. But employment levels should reach levels close to what they were in 2019 (when almost 9% of Americans held jobs in this industry) by 2031.
Read more: 7 ways to make money with Airbnb without owning property
2. Home healthcare
Another industry that’s expected to experience significant growth in the coming years is home healthcare, a sector devoted to providing care for people in their homes.
The aging baby boomer population is driving demand for personal care aides and more and more people are choosing to receive care in their homes rather than in nursing homes. Personal care aides may help patients with anything from daily living activities such as making food and bathing to administering medication and going to medical appointments.
BLS expects employment in home healthcare to increase by about 900,000 jobs over the next decade. If this field seems interesting to you, some of the most in-demand sectors are:
- Individual and family services
- Home health care services
- Health practitioner offices
Although becoming a home health care provider or personal care aide can be rewarding, it won’t be as profitable as running your own business. Consider starting an agency and recruiting a team or a travel healthcare business to offer services where they’re needed most.
Read more: Tips for taking over the finances of an elderly loved one
The job outlook for the photography sector is bright, no flash needed. According to the BLS, photography is growing at a rate of 9%. If you have a way with a camera and like being behind the lens, you might want to think about starting a business.
Photography and videography businesses have relatively low startup costs and don’t require any sort of special degree. All you really need to demonstrate that you know what you’re doing is a great portfolio of work and enough happy customers to boost your word-of-mouth cred.
Although you can specialize in whatever subject matter you’re interested in, some of the most profitable businesses in this space are:
- Commercial and product photography
- Wedding photography and videography (bonus if you’re willing to travel)
- Social media photography
- Fashion photography
- Portrait photography
Another perk of photography is that you don’t have to commit to your business 100% right out the gate. You can start doing it as a side hustle in your spare time and turn it into your regular gig once you get enough work and know what you’re doing.
4. Personal care
The personal care industry is vast, encompassing a mind-boggling number of areas and niches. It’s also in high demand. The BLS projects that this industry will grow at a rate of 14% overall in the next decade.
If there are any personal care services you’re particularly good at, it might be worth giving a business a shot. Some of the most profitable businesses that require little money to start in personal care include:
- Cleaning services
- Wellness classes
- Personal training
- Career coaching
- Financial coaching
- Childbirth coaching
- Doula or post-pregnancy services
- Beauty and skincare services
- Child recreation services
Startup costs for each of these areas of specialty vary, but one of the nicest things about this industry is how vast it is. You can also do almost any of these full-time or as a contractor, and some even lend themselves well to a home business format.
As businesses become increasingly dependent on online tools and systems, the need for strong cybersecurity measures to protect against data theft and other cyberattacks grows.
In fact, the field of information security is projected to boom by 2031, with a staggering growth rate of 35%. This is an industry that’s not likely to fizzle out any time soon.
If you have a knack for cybersecurity or a related field, you could start a profitable business doing any of the following:
- Ethical hacking
- Network architecture
- Information security analysis
- Security software development
- Cybersecurity consulting
While you’d likely need at least a Bachelor’s to open a successful small business in this space, a business in cybersecurity wouldn’t take long to become profitable, especially if you’re able to specialize in a high-demand niche.
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, often on an as-needed basis, for a very pretty penny.
Consulting is an umbrella term for a field where experts get paid to share their expertise with business owners and employees. This is a good option for anyone who’s been doing something in their chosen field for years and wants to use it to work for themselves. As a consultant, you’ll tell other people how they could do things better and recommend changes.
Here are just a handful of different services you can provide:
- Business consulting
- Management consulting
- Marketing consulting
- Operations consulting
- Financial consulting
- Strategy consulting
- Software consulting
- Legal consulting
Consulting is likely one of the most profitable businesses you can start, and running a consulting business could earn you a more than comfortable living. And the more willing you are to travel and flexible you are, the more companies will be willing to pay for your services.
7. IT support
Another booming industry? Technical services. The computer and information technology sector is expected to grow by 15% by 2031, according to the BLS, and the earnings for this field are similarly above average.
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 services to other small businesses, you can tap into a lucrative market while maintaining the flexibility and independence of self-employment.
If you’re interested in IT, you could start a small business doing any of these things:
- IT support
- IT security analysis
- Systems administration
- Information research
- Software development
A degree in computer science isn’t strictly required to work in IT, and there’s no shortage of resources out there for anyone wanting to grow their skills in this field.
Read more: 13 job skills that are in high demand right now (no college required!)
8. Data analysis and science
The field of data analysis is piping hot. As businesses seek to gain a competitive advantage by analyzing customer trends and behavior, they outsource this work to professionals who can condense and examine their mass data sets to parse out useful insights.
For the right person, a company providing data services is one of the most profitable businesses to start. The BLS projects that the field of data science will grow as much as 36% in years to come. Hiring data professionals is a worthwhile investment for almost any business — whether that professional comes from a big corporation or a (probably much cheaper) small business.
There are four main types of data analytics:
All of these areas can then be applied to almost any industry. Depending on your interests and experiences, you might be a better fit for one of these than the others.
Within each of these areas, you can become an independent:
- Business analyst
- Market research analyst
- Operations analyst
- Cybersecurity analyst
- Management analyst
Data professionals and consultants often work together, so if it seems like there’s overlap here, it’s because there is.
9. Software and web development
Software and web developers are needed in every type of business, making this a promising small business opportunity. E-commerce brands, publishing companies, service providers, and more all need developers to help maintain their websites and create custom software applications.
The software development field will grow rapidly in the next decade, at a projected rate of 25%, the BLS predicts. Now is the time to start a profitable business in this industry.
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. Wondering which areas of specialty are the most profitable? Some of these are:
- Systems administrations
- App development
- Web development
- Full stack development
- Cloud development
- Video game development
The rates for software development can be exceptionally high. Don’t hesitate to put your skills to use if you’re a motivated go-getter.
Read more: How to make 0k+: Advice from 6 millennials who’ve done it
10. Delivery services
For a job on the up-and-up that requires very little training or formal education, look to your friendly neighborhood courier. The field made up of Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers is expected to expand by 11% between now and 2031.
Delivering to residential and commercial properties is an often overlooked business opportunity. While massive corporations have most of the country’s nationwide shipping needs handled, smaller delivery companies can offer unique benefits that large companies can’t, like faster, safer shipping and more convenient pickup. And if you partner up with small businesses to be their go-to courier, you should have no problem finding — and keeping — work.
Here are just a few small business ideas for people interested in this field:
- Delivery truck driving
- Luggage delivery
- Grocery delivery
- Laundry and dry cleaning delivery
- Food delivery
- Courier service
- Catering or meal prep delivery
- Flower and gift delivery
To give yourself an edge over the Big Guys, provide expedited or same-day delivery services to local restaurants, corporations, and small businesses around you and extend your availability outside of regular business hours.
You probably know at least one or two freelancers who get to brag about being self-employed while you complain about your boss. 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 can’t hire full-time employees for.
This category is great for anyone who works best alone, and it also probably has the lowest startup costs of any of the options on this list. You can start a profitable business made up of just yourself, without having to hire any employees, find a storefront, or get financing.
And the opportunities for freelancers are as limitless as they come. Specialties include:
- UX writing
- Technical writing
- Editing and proofreading
- Website design
- Graphic design services
- Videography or photography
- SEO support
- Payroll services and bookkeeping
- Social media management and marketing
- Personal training
- Pet training
Depending on the area you want to specialize in, you might be able to get started right out of high school and work your way up to higher rates. And online courses and certifications can seriously help to improve your credibility.
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, how to bake really good bread, or something else.
Of course, creating a successful digital course takes time. You’ll need to put together an engaging and well-structured program that meets the needs of your target students, but there isn’t a “correct” way to do this. Livestreaming or prerecording classes, scheduling one-on-one meetings, or putting together an online course with materials to work through are all great options. If you have expertise in a particular area and you’re passionate about teaching, digital course creation could be a fun way to turn a profit.
Some areas you could teach in your small business include:
- Coding and programming
- Cooking, baking, or mixology
- Writing and editing
- Foreign language
- Data analysis
- Nutrition and wellness
- Art and design
This field is another that lends itself well to small business side hustles. For something passive and hands-off, put together all the material students need including lectures and assignments and post it online. With every new person who signs up, you’ll earn a commission. Virtual classes have low startup costs and you can offer them whenever and however is most convenient for you.
Read more: Are online degrees ever worth it?
13. Market research analysis
Businesses need to know their target market in order to sell their products or services. Market research allows companies to tap into sales opportunities and better understand what their customers are looking for; but usually, this is too much work to handle in-house, so businesses call in experts. Market research analysis is going to grow at a rate of 19% in the next decade, according to the BLS.
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, starting your own marketing research firm can be a great (profitable) business idea. Consider opening a firm, building online learning modules, or contracting for companies yourself.
14. Digital marketing
Another critical area of operations businesses often need help with is marketing. And today, digital marketing is the name of the game. The field of advertising, promotions, and marketing is expected to grow at a rate of 10% in the coming years.
Digital marketing takes many forms, from writing blog posts and sales pages to building and implementing social media campaigns. Large companies often have their own digital marketing teams, but small- to mid-size businesses very regularly outsource this work.
That’s where a marketing agency could come in handy. By offering high-quality marketing services, you can help these businesses take their game to the next level. And because you’re running a small business, you’ll be able to offer more competitive prices than the big firms you’re competing with and more hands-on service.
Here are a few types of digital marketing you can specialize in to give you some of the most profitable business ideas:
- Campaign management
- Sales copy
- Affiliate management
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Paid advertising
Successful small businesses in marketing offer more than one type of service to take the most work possible off of their clients’ plates.
The role of social media in the average consumer’s life has never been more important to businesses. This is often one of the best ways to reach a target audience and the most successful digital marketing platform.
In fact, some 67% of small businesses use social media marketing in some form — and this number is expected to grow as this channel continues to develop more refined tools for driving engagement and conversions.
However, managing social media accounts can be time-consuming and requires a strategic approach. Enter: your social media marketing business or side hustle. As a social media manager, you could be responsible for creating and executing plans to grow a client’s social media following, interacting with customers, and creating engaging content. Small businesses in social media management are best suited to creative-minded people persons.
The most successful social media managers offer a variety of services. These can include:
- Content creation
- Engagement tracking
- Commercial advertising
- Paid and sponsored media
- Influencer marketing
- Consumer engagement management
16. Virtual assistants
If you’re organized and efficient, you could run a successful business as a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants help companies and individuals however they need it most, handling most of the “dirty work” and administrative tasks they don’t have time for and generally making their lives easier.
There is a growing demand for virtual assistants in many fields, especially those managing large teams of people and complicated projects.
This is a relatively low-cost business to start up and you can work from home, saving more money. You can also set your own hours and rates, giving you the freedom to work around your other commitments. In other words, you might not have to quit your day job.
Here are a few tasks you can tackle as a virtual assistant:
- Scheduling meetings and events
- Booking travel
- Customer service and calls
- Arranging reports and data
- Project management
- Email management
- Handling internal communication
- Filing support tickets
- Personal errands
Bonus points if you’re able to offer a bit of support in another area like marketing, copywriting, project management, or hospitality and can jump in to help or make suggestions.
17. Repair and maintenance services
The repair and maintenance industry is expected to be among the fastest-growing professions through 2031. So if you’ve been looking for a sign to start your very own handyperson business, consider this it.
Profitable businesses in this industry offer convenience and specialization that other providers can’t. You can offer any or all of the following services:
- Electrical installations and repairs
- Automotive repair
- Automotive maintenance (oil changes, tire changes, etc.)
- Furniture assembly
- HVAC maintenance
- Wind turbine maintenance and repair
- Aircraft maintenance and repair
- Odd jobs like hanging pictures and painting
And in addition to repair and maintenance, you could provide other services like delivering parts or items people need, traveling for jobs, or scheduling regular maintenance visits. Add-ons like car washing and window cleaning could also encourage customers to spend more. Both residential and commercial repair and maintenance work can make for a very successful business