We researched the best low-cost business ideas you can start this year, and we’re happy to say that you may already have the skills and stuff to get started right away!
Many people believe you need thousands of dollars to start a business, but that’s not necessarily true- some online business ideas on our list can be up and running with as little as $3.
Online businesses are thriving, and this is your chance to use your internet and computer to make more money for yourself.
This blog post is packed full of great ideas that you can start today with little to no money, so let’s get started:
Quick Picks: Best Business Ideas
Before we get into our 41+ low-cost business ideas, here are our top picks for the best side hustles and careers you could start with little to no funds:
- Best Overall Business Idea: Blogging
- Best Flexible Business: Freelance Writing
- Best For Readers/Booklovers: Proofreading
- Best For Fun Lovers: Dog Walking
Low-Cost Business Ideas
Startup Costs: $1,000+
Proofreading can be done anywhere in the world with as little as a computer and an internet connection.
As a proofreader, you review texts for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors and make corrections. It’s a great business idea with low startup costs for those with a keen eye for detail and a passion for language.
You don’t need much experience to be a proofreader, but taking a class could help you know what to do as a proofreader, provide certification to impress clients, and even give advice for starting your business and finding clients.
To learn more, Proofread Anywhere offers a free workshop to learn more about proofreading and how to start your own proofreading business.
Startup Costs: $3+
We think this is the best of all the low-cost business ideas! We started our blog with Bluehost for only $2.95 and bought some helpful blogging tools– here we are, years later, making thousands per month.
Blogging is a great way to share your passion and connect with like-minded people. It’s also a great platform to build an audience for your business ideas.
As we said, you need a web host like Bluehost to get a free domain name and use WordPress to the fullest. Other than that, it’s all about your hard work and writing skills!
If you’re unsure where to start, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to start your blog, plus we have a list of some of the best ways to make money blogging.
You can also join our Blogging Boot Camp to get a rundown on starting your business today!
Startup Costs: $1,000 – $1,500
Thanks to modern technology, being a bookkeeper is one of the low-cost business ideas that you can easily do from the comfort of your own home.
To become a bookkeeper, you’ll need to use accounting software such as QuickBooks or FreshBooks to track financial transactions and create business spreadsheets.
Most costs you have come from buying these programs, getting a good computer, and even taking a bookkeeping course.
If you’re interested in this business idea, we recommend taking some online courses like Bookkeeper Launch, which offers 3 free classes to help you get started.
4. Freelance Writer
Startup Costs: $100+
Starting a freelance writing business can be a great way to make extra money for anyone with a knack for writing. And best of all, this is one of the business ideas that doesn’t cost a lot to start.
It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to get started as a freelance writer. You probably already have a computer and word processing software like Word or Google Docs.
There are a few other things you might want to invest in, such as:
- A good quality printer
- A reliable/better internet connection
- A writing course
Startup Costs: $50 – $200
Transcribing is listening to audio or video and typing the text into a computer program. It can be used for various purposes, including creating closed captions or subtitles for videos and transcripts of speeches or interviews.
The startup costs for a transcription business are minimal. To become a transcriptionist, you’ll need to invest in a good-quality headset and transcription software (some of which are free!).
If you want to start gaining experience, you can take a course and get certified. Transcribe Anywhere is a great place to start, and you can take their free 7-lesson mini-course to get a feel for your transcription business.
6. Virtual Assistant
Startup Costs: $0 – $100
If you’ve been considering starting your own business, but the high overhead costs have been holding you back, then a VA business might be the perfect business idea.
Chances are you already own what you need to get started as a virtual assistant. All you need is a computer with internet access and a quiet place to work.
As a virtual assistant, your job will be to provide administrative support to clients, including scheduling appointments and managing email and social media accounts- all of which your clients give you access to, meaning you don’t pay for many resources.
If you don’t have any experience as a virtual assistant, plenty of online resources and training programs can help you get up to speed. Check out the free workshop from $10K VA to learn about starting your VA business!
7. Dog Walking Business
Startup Costs: $0 – $30
Dog walking is a great side hustle idea for animal lovers who want to be their own boss and set their own hours. The startup costs are relatively low, mostly gas for your car and some good walking shoes, and there’s a consistent demand for dog walkers (and pet sitters), especially in urban areas.
You can sign up with Rover to connect with clients and become a dog walker in just a few minutes. Simply create a profile and start accepting walks in your neighborhood.
Rover provides insurance and 24/7 customer support for dog walkers, so you can rest assured that your business is in good hands.
8. Affiliate Marketing
Startup Costs: $200+
Affiliate marketing is one of our favorite low-cost business ideas that you can work from home or anywhere!
Promoting products and services you use and love is a great way to earn a passive income, whether on a blog, social media, or videos.
You can start a blog, join affiliate programs like Amazon, and share product links for people to buy from. When followers click on your link and buy, you earn a commission- easy as that!
When we first started, we had no clue what we were doing and wound up taking a course to get some help. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing taught us everything we needed to know about joining affiliates, how to promote ourselves, and get a better click-through rate, so we earn more commissions.
Plus, their course has affiliate suggestions depending on your niche!
9. Social Media Manager
Startup Costs: $500+
In today’s digital age, nearly every business needs someone to help them navigate the ever-changing world of social media marketing. And best of all, you can start this recession-proof business from the comfort of your own house!
As a social media manager, you’d create and manage a company’s social media accounts. This would involve crafting posts, responding to comments, and engaging with customers online.
You can use programs like Jasper to write engaging content that stands out to readers and is unique without spending hours at the drawing board. It’ll be one of the business costs, but it can help you save time and money down the road writing for social media.
Surfer SEO can also provide guidelines so you write content that will rank better on Google and reach more people.
10. Facebook Ads Manager
Startup Costs: $500
As a Facebook Ads Manager, you will be responsible for creating and managing campaigns for your clients. This can involve researching target audiences, creating ad copy and images, setting budgets, and monitoring results.
To be successful with this small business idea, you will need strong analytical skills and experience writing Facebook Ads.
11. Online Tutor
Startup Costs: $200+
If you have expertise in a particular subject, why not start your own online tutoring business?
Most people think of math and science when it comes to turning, and those are good options, but you can tutor in anything you have skills in. You could start tutoring online if you know how to cook, crochet, knit, or whatever else.
You don’t need any expensive equipment or office space – all you need is a computer and an internet connection. We recommend signing up with BookNook to find students quickly and get more business for your business!
12. Create An Online Course
Startup Costs: $200+
If you have expertise in a particular topic and are considering tutoring, creating courses can also be a great way to share your knowledge with others and start a profitable business doing so.
You can create and sell your courses on platforms like Shopify or even create your own website to host them.
You can learn from Course By Number about creating courses for buyers and marketing them so you can make a profit on courses every month- making it a more lucrative business for you!
13. Food Delivery Services
Startup Costs: $50+
Food delivery services are a great option if you’re looking for a small business idea. If you already have a bicycle or car, you’re already halfway there!
There are many different ways to get started, from partnering with local restaurants to starting your own home-based business.
Here are some of our favorites food delivery services:
14. Start Streaming Channels
Startup Costs: $0 – $2,000
Starting a streaming channel can be one of the best home business ideas, as you can record DIY videos, record yourself reading interesting stories, vlog your daily life, and more.
Starting a YouTube channel costs $0, but there are some initial costs that you may have to create high-quality videos:
- Video camera
- Ring light
- Editing software
You may also want to create a logo or branding for yourself and even a website to promote yourself more and get more income from affiliate marketing.
Some YouTube channels don’t go far because they don’t upload engaging content, but we took the course Mastering YouTube to help us improve our channel- the course creator, Erika, makes thousands per video, and so can you!
15. Become A Social Media Influencer
Startup Costs: $100+
As a social media influencer, you can connect with people worldwide and make money with your views on TikTok, YouTube, and more.
You can also make money through affiliate marketing or brand deals. You could even get paid with free merchandise or products to test out on social media.
To be a successful social media influencer, you must have good writing and photography skills. You must also be active on social media and regularly engage with your followers.
16. Printables Business
Startup Costs: $20+
Who doesn’t love a good printable? From wall art to notebook inserts, there’s something so satisfying about finding the perfect printable and printing it out at home.
You can create printables for many users, from to-do lists to coloring sheets. Rather than printing and mailing things to people, which costs you more, you can make downloads available for $1+ and make money passively.
To start, you need a computer, Canva Pro or another design program, and some artistic creativity to make your document or design.
17. Personal Chef
Startup Costs: $200
If you’re a good cook, you can become a personal chef. And since you will be cooking in your clients’ homes and charging them for groceries, renting commercial kitchen space is unnecessary, and food costs are covered.
To get started, you may need to invest in cooking classes, some kitchen appliances, or utensils you can’t live without (a.k.a your air fryer!). You may also want to create a website and social media platforms to connect with clients and showcase your food.
18. Flea Market Flipping
Startup Costs: depends on the cost of the items you find
Have you ever browsed through a flea market or thrift store and found an interesting item you weren’t quite sure what to do with? If so, you may be interested in the business of “flea market flipping.”
This involves finding unique, old, rare, or popular items at low prices from garage sales or thrift stores and then selling them for a profit online.
The cost of this business is whatever money you’re willing to spend on stock for your business. If you only have $40, you need to look closely to find items you can buy for $40 and turn it into $50+ profit- so you can buy more items next time!
We’ve made some money on eBay with eh help of Flea Market Flipper, and we recommend taking their free workshop so you can get insider info on starting a profitable flipping business.
19. Publish An eBook
Startup Costs: $30+
Besides being a freelance writer, you could make good money from publishing your own book. Thanks to retailers like Amazon, it can be low-cost to publish, and the only thing you need to account for is your writing hours.
eBooks are cheaper to produce since you don’t need to worry about printing, and they reach more people globally.
All you need is a computer and an internet connection to get started. You can write the book yourself or hire a ghostwriter to do it for you.
20. Data Entry
Startup Costs: $40+
Many businesses need data entry workers, from small businesses to large corporations. And with the advent of online services, it has never been easier to get started doing freelance data entry.
All you need are good typing skills and programs like Word or Excel to read and edit files from clients, making it relatively low-cost.
Data entry is also a flexible way to earn a living. You can work from home, set your hours, and do as much or as little work as you want.
21. Dropshipping Business
Startup Costs: $50+
Dropshipping is a business idea that can be started with little money upfront. The basic concept is simple: you’re the middle man so people can buy products.
You sell products on your website, but the products are shipped directly from the manufacturer/supplier to the customer instead of having stock at your house or in a warehouse.
There are no upfront costs other than a website people can visit and marketing materials so people can find your store.
22. Start A Creative Etsy Shop
Startup Costs: $10+; Depends on what you are selling
You can sell all sorts of things on Etsy, from handmade jewelry to vintage finds. If you’re like us, I’m sure you have craft supplies just sitting around unused- you can turn them into money-making products!
I have an aunt who makes quilts, friends who crochet plushies, and Etsy is full of other creative things to sell.
Your costs all come down to what products you want to create. Check out DIY videos online and do some math- see what the supplies will cost and how much you can sell things for, and then add on any Etsy listing fees for posting your products.
23. Open A Shopify Store
Startup Costs: $30+
Shopify is a platform that lets you create your online store selling any type of products you want, including printables, online courses, jewelry, and more. It’s an excellent option for entrepreneurs who want to start eCommerce without much upfront investment.
Setting up a Shopify store is relatively quick and easy, and you can get started with just a few dollars. Once your store is up and running, you’ll need to promote it to drive traffic and sell online.
24. Personal Training Business
Startup Costs: $100+
Personal training is a great way to make money while helping others achieve their fitness goals. And with some creativity, it can be done on a shoestring budget.
You can pay for a gym membership and meet clients at the gym, buy your equipment and rent a space for clients to use, or you can work with clients who have their own equipment already.
You may also need to get certified as a personal trainer depending on where you live, so be sure to pay for whatever certification you need.
25. In-Home Care Assistant
Startup Costs: $60+
In-home care is one of the local business ideas that provide vital services for seniors, disabled adults, and others who need assistance with daily activities.
Some overhead costs to get started include training and certification, which vary based on where you live. You’ll also need insurance to protect you while working with clients.
26. 3D Printing Services
Startup Costs: $400+
If you’re interested in starting your own business, but don’t have much money to invest, consider starting a 3D printing service.
To start a 3D printing service, you’ll need essential equipment, including a 3D printer, filaments, and software. A machine can cost $300+, but you’ll be able to find free designs or create your own if you’re willing to learn.
3D printing services can be used for various applications, from creating prototypes to manufacturing end-use parts or even making your own items to sell.
27. House Cleaner
Startup Costs: $50
Are you looking for a low-cost business idea that you can start quickly? If so, you might consider starting a house cleaning business.
Your business structure as a cleaner can be relatively inexpensive to start up in a matter of weeks. You’ll need to purchase cleaning supplies and equipment to get started.
28. Wedding Planning Business
Startup Costs: $2,200
With so many details to orchestrate, it’s no wonder many brides and grooms turn to professional wedding planners for help.
You’ll need a few things to get started, including a solid understanding of the wedding industry, strong attention to detail, and excellent customer service skills. Some office supplies are also needed, including financial software, word processing, and wedding planner software.
Startup Costs: $500
Many successful musicians have found that they can make a good living by playing smaller gigs closer to home, even at local restaurants and events.
Becoming a local musician could be a great option if you’re looking for a low-cost business idea. You’ll need to purchase some essential equipment, including an instrument and a sound system for gigs like weddings.
30. Create Podcasts
Startup Costs: $50
Podcasts are another inexpensive way to reach a broad audience with your message. And best of all, they’re relatively easy and inexpensive to produce. All you need is a computer, a microphone, and some stories, and you’re ready to go.
A good podcast should be well-organized and entertaining, focusing on providing value to the listener. Whether you’re sharing your expert knowledge on a particular topic or simply sharing your stories and observations about life, a good podcast will keep people coming back for more.
Startup Costs: $1,500+
Photography is a popular hobby and also one of the small business ideas that many people are passionate about.
You only need a camera and some basic editing skills to get started. You can take pictures for local businesses, weddings, and more or sell your photos online for easy and quick cash.
32. Graphic Designer
Startup Costs: $2,000+
If you’re looking for a low-cost business idea, graphic design might be the right fit. All you need is a computer and some graphic design software like Canva Pro or Adobe products, and you can start designing logos, websites, and other marketing materials for businesses.
33. Tour Guide
Startup Costs: $2,000+
As a tour guide, you would be responsible for leading groups of tourists around locations of historical or cultural importance.
You would need to have a strong understanding of the area’s history to provide engaging commentary, and you would also need to be able to keep your group safe and on schedule.
Most costs you would have would include printing pamphlets for tourists, possible transportation for a group of people, a uniform for you to stick out in crowds, and some general marketing stuff.
34. Landscaping Business
Startup Costs: $5,000+
Starting a landscaping business is a great way to become your boss and make a healthy income. You can purchase the needed equipment and start marketing your services with just a few thousand dollars.
You may need a license to start your business; otherwise, you need a lawnmower, truck and ramp, and a website and business cards to get your business out there.
35. Become A Notary
Startup Costs: $100+
There is a growing demand for notaries as more and more people conduct business online. As a notary, you would be responsible for witnessing parties’ signatures on documents, such as contracts or mortgage documents.
To become a notary, you must complete a training course and pass an exam. Once sworn in, you can purchase a notary stamp and seal and put your services on websites like Fiverr.
36. Event Planner
Startup Costs: $100+
Whether you’re planning a wedding, a birthday party, or a corporate function, your goal will be to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch.
You’ll need to buy things like planners, word processing software, business cards, and whatever is needed for the party. Most event planners buy party favors and coordinate catering, but the clients pay back or do the majority of buying.
37. Vending Machine Business
Startup Costs: $1,000+
Vending machines are everywhere, and they can be a great business opportunity as people are always in need of a quick snack and drink when they’re out and about.
You only need a little startup capital to buy the vending machine and stock it with goodies. Then you need a business license and a good location. You can stock your machine with drinks, snacks, laundry detergent, and other household items.
Startup Costs: Varies by state licensing and the equipment you already own
Being a handy-person is a great way to enter the entrepreneurial world- think of it as a jack of all trades! The overhead is low, and there is a steady demand for all kinds of services, from yard work and cleaning to moving furniture and painting rooms.
To start, all you need is a truck or van, some tools, and a willingness to work hard. You can decide what services you want to offer and purchase your equipment from there.
39. Start An In-House Daycare
Startup Costs: costs vary state by state
In-house daycare is one of the best small business ideas. Not only do you get to stay home with your kids, but you also get to help other parents out by providing quality child care.
Most of the costs will depend on the services you offer and the license you’ll need in your state. You’ll have to buy food for the kiddos if you offer meals. Plus, kids get messy, so you’ll need extra cleaning supplies, including body wash for the little ones to clean up!
40. Become A Nanny
Startup Costs: $0+
One low-cost business idea is to become a nanny. Nannies provide child care for families on an as-needed basis, which can be a great way to earn extra income.
It’s a low-cost business idea because most nannies drive to clients’ houses, care for the children there, and drive home- just like any job. The only difference- some clients will include meals and even gas money if you drive the kids around!
41. Start Voice Acting
Startup Costs: $250+
Voice acting is a unique and exciting way to make money from home. The initial investment may be low, and the potential for earnings is high. Voice actors can find work in various industries, from video games to educational videos!
You only need a good-quality microphone and a quiet space to record if they don’t have you come into a studio.
BONUS! Other Money-Making Ideas
1. Freelance On Steady
The Steady App is an excellent job platform if you’re looking for a way to make some extra cash. With Steady, you can choose from various freelance gigs, ranging from dog walking to event planning.
And best of all, you can set your own hours and work as much or as little as you want.
Payments are made through the app, so you don’t have to worry about chasing down clients for pay. Plus, the app will track your income and has suggested Income Boosters to help you earn more.
Learn more about the Steady app from our Steady Review!
2. Airbnb Host
Do you have an extra room in your house that you’re not using? If so, you could earn extra cash by becoming an Airbnb host.
Airbnb is an online marketplace that allows people to list their homes for short-term rental. Hosts can set their rates and house rules and choose when to make their listings available.
3. Storage Renting With Neighbor
Have you ever wished you had extra money in your pocket without guests staying with you? Well, now there’s a side business idea to make extra cash by renting out space in your home with Neighbor Storage.
Neighbor Storage is a new startup that allows people to rent out extra space in their homes to people in their community who need storage space. You can charge people for storing things in your shed, garage, closet, or even parking vehicles in your driveway.
Check out more about what you can rent out and how much money you can earn from our Neighborhood Storage Review!
4. Investing With Robinhood
It’s a great investment platform for beginners to start investing with, and if you use our link, you can get 2 free stocks for signing up!
The app makes buying and selling stocks easy, and there are no fees or commissions. Plus, you can set up alerts to always know when your stocks are doing well.
Read more about it in our Robinhood Review and see why over 15 million people use it today!
5. Share Opinions With Survey Sites
Sharing your opinion has never been more lucrative! With our favorite survey sites, you can earn money to express your views on various topics.
Some of our favorites include:
6. Get Paid To Test Products
Companies always look for people to try out their new products and give feedback. As a result, they are willing to pay individuals to use their products and provide honest feedback.
You can sign up for product testing with a few sites- and you’ll get paid in PayPal cash, gift cards, or free products!
7. Test Websites
Website testers provide valuable feedback to site owners that can help improve the user experience. In most cases, website testing involves completing a series of tasks, such as registering for an account or filling out a form.
Once the tasks are completed, the tester provides their thoughts on the overall experience, including what worked well and what could be improved.
Website owners can then use this feedback to make changes that lead to more conversions and higher customer satisfaction.
FAQs On Low-Cost Businesses
What upfront costs do I need for an online business?
Setting up an online business can be a great way to earn a living, but it does require some initial investment. Here are a few of the upfront costs you may need to consider for your new business:
1. Domain name and hosting: Your domain name is your website’s address on the internet, and hosting allows your website to be accessible to others. We use Bluehost, which costs only $2.95 per month.
2. Website design and development: Unless you’re planning on building your own professional website, you’ll need to hire someone. You should expect to spend at least $500 on website design and development.
3. Marketing and advertising: Marketing and ads can include social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid advertising. You can do most of it yourself, but you may need to learn how first.
4. Business licenses: With whatever business you start, whether it takes office space or you do t from home, you need to look up whether or not you need a business license to run your business legally.
Do I need business insurance or any business licenses?
Depending on your starting business, you may need a business license from your city or state.
Some business licenses start at only $25, but the bigger the business, the bigger the cost, so consider that when researching small business ideas.
While not all businesses are required to have insurance, it’s something you should seriously consider.
Business insurance can protect you from liability if someone is injured on your property or if you’re accused of professional negligence.
Is gig work like owning a business?
Gig work is often compared to owning your business, but some key differences exist.
For one, gig work doesn’t require startup costs or overhead expenses. You can also typically get started much more quickly than you could with a traditional business.
And if you’re unhappy with the gig you’re working, you can simply move on to something else.
Do I need a business model to create my business?
No, you don’t need a business model to create your business. But it can certainly help!
A business model is a roadmap for your business that outlines how you plan to make money. It includes information about your target market, unique selling proposition, pricing strategy, and costs.
It can also be helpful in terms of clarifying your business goals and determining whether or not your business is viable before you start investing money into it.
What websites can I use to sell online?
There are many great websites that you can use to sell products online.
One popular option is Etsy, which specializes in handmade and vintage items. You can start a business there for free and just pay to list the item for sale.
Another option is eBay, which is excellent for selling new and used items and connects you with a vast customer base. It’s easy to sell on eBay, and the costs are relatively low per sale.
Shopify is also an excellent choice for selling products online. We started a Shopify store and can tell you how to make money on Shopify if you want to use this platform.
With all the changes in our economy and the new technological advances in the gig economy, thousands of new business ideas are out there! From online businesses to service-based ventures, there is something for everyone on our list of low-cost business ideas.
Research the business ideas that stick out most to you and go off on your own entrepreneurial adventure!