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10 Profitable Small Businesses With Low Startup Costs

October 24, 2022
Kevin McGrath
9 minute read
10 Profitable Small Businesses With Low Startup Costs
10 Profitable Small Businesses With Low Startup Costs

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Swyft Filings is committed to providing accurate, reliable information to help you make informed decisions for your business. That's why our content is written and edited by professional editors, writers, and subject matter experts. Learn more about how Swyft Filings works, our editorial team and standards, what our customers think of us, and more on our trust page.

Kevin McGrath
Written by Kevin McGrath
Written byKevin McGrath
Updated June 01, 2023
Edited by Zachary Ace Aiuppa
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Happy National Small Business Week! 

Small Business Week is an annual event held by the US Small Business Administration to honor the contributions of America's entrepreneurs. We love small businesses, and we're on a mission to remove barriers and help create as many new small business owners as possible. That's why we're celebrating the event with this small-business startup guide. With spikes in unemployment and an unstable stock market, it might seem like a risky time to open shop, but a down economy can be a great time to start your own business.

You don't need a house-sized stack of cash or an overflowing bank account balance to achieve your dreams of starting a business. While startup costs can be daunting for any entrepreneur, several industries require very little capital to get started. If you've longed to be your own boss, but a lack of funds is holding you back, then we've got 10 profitable small business ideas you can try today.

What Are Startup Costs?

Startup costs are the expenses you incur to get your business up and running. For example, if you open a retail store to sell clothing, you first need to rent a space and purchase inventory before making your first sale.

Common Startup Costs to Consider

Startup costs often include one-time and ongoing expenses. A one-time expense might include the costs of forming an LLC, while an ongoing cost might be paying rent for an office space or storefront. For a small to medium-sized business, common startup costs may include:

  • Equipment

  • Furniture

  • Insurance

  • Inventory

  • Legal Services

  • Licenses

  • Marketing

  • Payroll

  • Permits

  • Rent

  • Signage

  • Utilities

  • Vehicles

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How To Calculate & Plan for Your Startup Costs

Whether you are starting a brick-and-mortar business, online business, or plan on offering a service, there will be costs you can plan ahead for. To start, estimate your costs by writing everything down on paper or a digital spreadsheet. List the expected costs for each item.

For some things like a license and permit, costs will be straightforward. For others, you may have to estimate, such as an employee's starting salary or utilities that vary month to month. Use your list to begin to estimate future profits, and even just figure out what you'd need to make to break even.

How to Pay For Startup Costs

There are several ways entrepreneurs can pay for startup costs. If you have done a thorough job at laying out your anticipated expenses, estimated profits, and done a comprehensive breakeven analysis, you can take this information to apply for a small business loan or grant. In addition to borrowing, other business owners secure the funds they need by attracting investors who provide capital in exchange for shares in the company. If startup costs are low, small business owners use their own cash or savings to get started.

Top 10 Profitable Businesses With Little or No Startup Costs

But let's say loans aren't an option and your savings is lower than you'd like. Even if you don't have a dollar to your name, with a little bit of hard work and know-how, you too can start your own business. Here are the top 10 business ideas for hard-working entrepreneurs who want to make an extra buck without going deeply into debt or putting their life savings on the line.

1. Offer Your Services as a Virtual Assistant

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A virtual assistant, or VA, helps businesses or individuals with a variety of tasks. Specifics depend on the client, but in general, virtual assistants answer emails, perform data entry, schedule appointments, answer calls, and provide customer support. Usually, these tasks can be done remotely through phone calls, text messages, and emails. You can offer your service as a VA by creating your own website or looking for clients through a third-party that advertises your services.

What You'll Need to Get Started

To be a good VA, you will need to be a somewhat tech-savvy multitasker. To start, you'll need a reliable internet connection, a computer, and a phone. Some clients may also require word editing software to complete their required tasks.

Earning Potential

Your earning potential as a VA will depend on your clients and how much you charge for your services. On average, a VA with one or two clients can expect to earn between $21,134 and $59,901 annually.

2. Create & Share Content Online

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Whether you want to create for yourself or start your own agency, online content creators have an opportunity to share their services to create blogs, videos, imagery, and more. These skills can often be acquired with a little hard work and practice and can be honed over time to create income-generating pieces.

For example, bloggers can write about a subject or topic they are passionate about to find an audience and receive revenue from ads or brand partnerships. Other services and social media sites, like YouTube, will pay creators based on views. Many companies are also looking for freelancers to provide these specialized skills to create content for their products and services.

What You'll Need to Get Started

Entrepreneurs often turn their hobbies into a business and already have the film, video, or editing equipment needed to start. If not, usually, a computer and an internet connection are enough to get your online content business up and running. You may even be able to create, share, and do business from your smartphone.

Earning Potential

If you are creating content as a creative, the pay varies greatly depending on experience, audience, and client. However, the average pay for a blogger, designer, videographer, and photographer are as follows:

3. Manage Social Media Accounts & Ads

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Starting your own social media consulting business can be another great way to turn your passion into profit. Often, small local companies simply do not have the time or money to run their own social media accounts. By offering your services as a social media consultant, you can help provide a much-needed service that is sure to help improve their bottom line.

You can help your clients streamline the look and feel of their posts, along with creating a posting schedule that is sure to engage with their audience. Learn how to run ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and you can charge for these additional services. Many social media platforms will give you analytics on how your accounts and ads are performing, which should make it easy to communicate your ongoing value to new and potential clients.

What You'll Need to Get Started

You will need a phone, a computer, an internet connection, and a plan on how to advertise your services to potential clients to get started. Be sure you know your stuff before offering your services. Many platforms, like Facebook, offer free training and courses on how to get started using business accounts and ads.

Earning Potential

To get started, list out what services you provide and set your price. The more accounts you land, the more money you could earn. On average, a social media strategist can earn between $32k and $80k annually.

4. Walk & Groom Pets

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About 67% of US households own a pet, and many are looking for services like dog walking, grooming, and sitting. Entrepreneurs are creating businesses to meet these demands, and if you love pets, you could have a win-win business idea. You can start by offering your services as a dog walker to build up a client list. Many dog walkers will also offer obedience training, sitting, and grooming as add-on services.

What You'll Need to Get Started

People love their pets, and you'll need to make sure you have everything in place to care for them responsibly, including pet business insurance, which may cost between $200 and $400 monthly. You'll also need to spend some money to advertise your services through online websites, business cards, or flyers.

Earning Potential

Experienced dog walkers can earn up to $20 an hour. Offering additional services can help bring up your rate significantly. Annually, pet care professionals can expect to earn between $20,420 and $61,593.

5. Open an Online E-Commerce Store

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Online stores offer a quick and inexpensive way to start selling online. Unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar store, you won't have to worry about rent, utilities, or employees to work the register. However, you will need some basic understanding of the web and the products you plan on selling.

While you may need to spend money on a domain and website, some online platforms, like ETSY, will help you set up a storefront to sell your goods online for free. Suppose you don't want to worry about inventory and shipping. You can also start an online store by offering products through a dropshipping company or an affiliate marketing program that handles all that for you. All you need to do is find the customers and make the sale.

What You'll Need to Get Started

Besides your internet-connected computer, what you'll need to start will depend on your business type. Dropshipping, for example, lets you focus on marketing and having a website to make the sale. If you plan on selling your own products, you'll need to figure out inventory, warehouse, and shipping logistics to fulfill your orders. Many small online businesses do most of this from their home or garage until their inventory is large enough to necessitate a warehouse or office to work from.

Earning Potential

With online e-commerce, the sky's the limit for your earning potential, but pay varies. Your earning potential as a new online business owner may be small at first but can increase as you learn the ropes, make connections, and earn regular customers.

6. Learn To Resell & Flip Something for a Profit

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Resellers and flippers exist in almost any industry. From cars and real estate to online domains and social media accounts, there is money to be made by buying and reselling something for a profit.

Young entrepreneurs often start with something as simple as candy or sports cards. At the same time, real estate flippers can make hundreds of thousands of dollars being able to find a deal, invest time and money into a project, and then sell that property for a profit. Online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Facebook have made reselling furniture, toys, shoes, and collectibles big business for many. Popular items to resell online include:

  • Shoes

  • Vintage Electronics

  • Video Games & Consoles

  • Collectible Toys

  • Books

  • Brand Name Clothes

What You'll Need to Get Started

Becoming a reseller is not for everyone. It often requires extensive knowledge about a particular product or hobby. In other instances, like cars and homes, it may also require permits and licensing. Resellers will often use nothing more than their smartphone to find deals, take photos, and list items for sale.

Earning Potential

Like selling online, resellers vary in earning potential. Your pay will largely depend on what you are flipping and your experience. With some determination and luck, you should be able to grow your business with time.

7. Teach Something You Love

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Is there a subject you love, like music, math, or English? You can turn your skills into a business by helping teach or tutor others. Be sure to do your research about what parents, teachers, and potential students are looking for regarding your particular skill set.

While you may not always need an expert level grasp of the subject, you should be prepared to offer a curriculum and learning plan to help your students succeed. In some cases, such as music lessons, various books, and instruction manuals can help you guide the learning process.

What You'll Need to Get Started

Besides a basic understanding of the subject you'll be teaching or tutoring, you will likely require a phone and computer to help schedule, create lesson plans, and communicate with students. Likewise, if you plan on teaching music, other specialized equipment may be required to get started, such as instruments, stands, and instruction books.

Earning Potential

Tutors will often charge by the hour. What you can charge depends on where you live and your experience, but pay typically ranges between $10 and $40 an hour. For musical instruction, students usually pay per lesson, and the pay can vary. Be sure to research what other teachers are charging in your area.

8. Sell Your Art, Crafts, & Homemade Goods

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For centuries, farmers' markets have been a place for local artisans and craftsmen to gather and sell their goods. Thanks to the internet, the possibility of selling your crafts has expanded dramatically. Today, there are countless online stores, like Etsy and eBay, where aspiring artists can advertise and sell their creations. Some popular hand-made and one-of-a-kind products sold online include:

  • Custom Drawings & Paintings

  • Digital Art & Prints

  • Jewelry & Accessories

  • Photographs

  • Soap & Beauty Products

What You'll Need to Get Started

Your supplies will depend on your craft. However, your products will need to stand out to sell. Research what is already being sold and see how it compares to what you want to make. Many online artists rely on a high-quality camera to take photos of their goods and market them to potential customers.  

Earning Potential

Income will depend on your particular niche and profit margins. While some people have made millions selling their art online, your earnings will likely be much more modest to begin. For some creations, like jewelry, you may be able to make more money as you buy supplies in bulk and expand your customer base.

9. Flex Your Muscle as a Personal Trainer

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If you have a passion for fitness, becoming a personal trainer is a great way to stay in shape while helping others achieve their fitness goals. You can help your clients train at their home or even meet up at a local gym or park, helping keep your operating costs low.

What You'll Need to Get Started

You'll need to complete your personal trainer certification to get started as an independent trainer or get a job working at a gym. The cost of this type of certification varies between $400 and $600. You may also need a smartphone or computer to reach clients, schedule workouts, and advertise your services.

Earning Potential

Your pay as a personal trainer will depend on your list of clients, but a personal trainer's annual income can range between $23,269 and $103,629.

10. Help Others Thrive as a Life Coach

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A life coach helps clients struggling to make improvements in their personal and professional lives. The coach encourages others to set achievable goals, navigate obstacles, and follow through on their plans. This usually occurs over several coaching sessions. Life coaching is different from giving advice, counseling, or therapy. Often, individuals hire a life coach to help with a professional project or a personal goal.

What You'll Need to Get Started

Almost anyone can become a life coach. To get started, you should secure your certification or training. Certification programs are offered by a variety of organizations and start at range anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000, putting this option at the higher end of what we consider low startup costs. You will also need a way to communicate with your clients, such as a computer or smartphone.  

Earning Potential

Life coaches usually start small with a few clients. As you refine your skills and develop a method, you can charge clients more for your services. Annual income for a life coach ranges between $27,359 and $262,231.

Make Your New Business Official by Forming an LLC

After starting your new business, you may want to make it official. Save time and money when you use Swyft Filings to form your LLC. This is an essential step for any entrepreneur, which will give you added protection and advantages when filing taxes. Best of all, it only takes about 10 minutes to complete and costs less than $50. Click here to get started.

Originally published on October 24, 2022, and last edited on June 01, 2023.
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