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12 small business ideas with low start-up costs

12 small business ideas with low start-up costs

By Next Insurance Staff
Nov 18, 2019
9 min read

You don’t need to have a giant nest egg saved up or get millions of dollars in investor funding to start a business. If you’ve ever dreamed about being your own boss but worried you didn’t have enough money to get started, check out our list of 12 home business ideas with low start-up costs.

Many of these businesses require nothing more than a computer, internet connection and phone. You won’t need special education or certifications for most of them, but your state may have registration, permitting and licensing requirements. Be sure to check with your state, city/county and local departments of labor to find out what you need before you get started.

1. Cleaner

Some cleaning supplies, a little elbow grease and a reliable way to get to and from client appointments are all you need for this low cost start-up business. Many people would gladly pay someone they can trust to take housecleaning off their “to do” list. Spread the word to people you know about your new endeavor and ask them to refer you to possible clients to start building your business.

2. Fitness instructor

Fitness instructors develop exercise programs and provide nutrition advice to their clients. If you’re passionate about helping people stay fit and healthy, you’ll need some exercise equipment if you plan to work with people in their home or yours. Or you can offer your services online.

Most states don’t currently require fitness instructors or personal trainers to be certified. But your clients will probably prefer it. It’ll give them confidence in your ability to help them get in shape without getting injured. The cost to get certified ranges from around $400 to $2,000, depending on the type of certification you get.1

3. Tutor

Tutors provide academic support to students outside of a standard classroom. Traditionally, tutors worked with students who were struggling in school. But today, more and more kids are working with tutors to better understand a particular subject, get ready for standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT and prepare college admission essays.

If you have expertise in a particular subject and a healthy dose of patience, it doesn’t take much to get started as a tutor. You need a place to meet, a way to communicate and a computer — if you want to conduct sessions virtually.

4. Handyman

If you have a knack for fixing things around the house and you’re interested in launching a low startup cost business, working as a handyman might be a good fit. A handyman performs general maintenance and repairs — both indoors and outdoors.

Many homeowners who are short on time, don’t have the skills or don’t want to do it themselves are willing to pay a handyman to make small repairs and take care of odd jobs around the house. In general, you don’t need a certification to become a handyman. A set of tools and a way for people to contact you is enough to get started.

5. Freelance writer

You don’t have to be a best-selling author to be a writer. With the explosion of content marketing in the last decade, businesses are often looking for good writers to write articles, blog posts, website copy, brochures and much more to help promote their companies and educate consumers and other businesses about the products and services they offer.

If you’re a decent writer and have a computer, internet connection and phone, you can get started. Most prospective clients will want to see samples of your work, so it’s a good idea to create a simple website with some information about your services and a portfolio of your work.

Don’t know anything about web design? That’s okay. There are lots of DIY services available, such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace, that make building a website easy and inexpensive.

6. Virtual assistant

Virtual assistants perform various tasks for entrepreneurs and small businesses who don’t have the time or inclination to handle it themselves. Typically, VAs handle clerical work that may include scheduling meetings, answering emails, booking travel arrangements, making phone calls and more. If you’re organized, detail-oriented and have a computer, phone and reliable internet connection, you’ve got what you need to start.

7. Social media consultant

Businesses who want to take their social media marketing efforts to the next level may hire social media consultants to help them boost their results. And it’s easy to see why. According to HubSpot, consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase when referred by social media.2

Social media consultants run and manage social media campaigns to improve customer loyalty and engagement, generate leads and drive sales. Responsibilities may include developing a content strategy, determining the best channel to use to reach customers and prospects and creating a posting schedule.

If you have the social media expertise it takes to get results for clients, you can start your business with a laptop, internet connection, phone and your social media accounts.

8. Pet sitter

Often, pet owners don’t want to leave them home alone all day while they’re working or send them to a kennel when they travel. Pet sitters help owners take care of their pets when they’re not home. Services might include walking and feeding the animals, checking in on them during the day while their owners are at work or keeping them overnight when their owner is away.

If you’re an animal lover, the cost of starting a pet sitting business is minimal. All you need to get started is a business license (if your state requires one) and a way to market your services to attract clients. Letting people know you’re open for business doesn’t have to cost a lot and may include putting up fliers in your neighborhood or nearby pet stores, attending local events to spread the word or creating a simple website. 

9. Event planner

Event planners organize events for individuals and businesses, including weddings, anniversary parties, birthday celebrations, holiday gatherings, conferences, trade shows and more. If you’re organized, love to plan parties and know where to find the best venues, caterers and other vendors, starting an event planning business won’t cost much. All you need is a phone to keep in touch with prospects and clients, a computer and an internet connection.

10. Consultant

Consultants work with businesses to provide expertise in a specific area. There are many types of consultants that help companies improve different business areas, including IT, human resources, marketing and more. To become a consultant, you’ll need to have some expertise that clients are willing to pay for. 

For example, let’s say you’ve spent the last 10 years working your way up the corporate marketing ladder or providing IT support to multi-million dollar corporations and you’re ready to strike out on your own. You can use your experience to start a consulting business that provides subject-matter expertise to help your clients achieve their business goals. 

Getting started requires nothing more than a computer, internet connection and phone, so you can communicate with prospects and clients. You can market your business by creating a website, using social media platforms or reaching out to your existing professional network.

11. House painter

Becoming a house painter doesn’t require any formal education or special certifications. You can learn what you need to know from workshops at home improvement stores. But if you’ve ever painted a room or two in your own home, you probably know enough to get started. Start-up costs are low and include some essential supplies such as paint rollers, roller covers, stir sticks, drop cloths, paint trays, paint brushes and a ladder.

12. Grounds maintenance worker

Rounding out our list of low cost small business ideas are grounds maintenance workers. They keep outdoor spaces neat and tidy by mowing grass, weeding, mulching, raking leaves, planting flowers and shrubs, trimming hedges and more.

You don’t need special training to become a grounds maintenance worker, but most states require workers to be licensed if they apply fertilizer or pesticides.3 To get started, you’ll need to purchase equipment such as a lawn mower and edger as well as protective gear like goggles and earplugs.

How Next helps new businesses find insurance

If you’re thinking about starting your own business, it’s important to have the proper insurance. A single disgruntled client or mishap on the job can lead to a claim that could have a devastating impact on your finances if you don’t have the right coverage.

Next’s small business startup insurance provides the coverage you need to protect your business. We work with 1,100+ types of companies to develop customized insurance packages that provide the right amount of coverage for you.

Our coverage options include general liability, workers compensation, commercial auto and professional liability insurance (also known as E&O insurance).

Next’s online application process makes it easy to see your insurance options, get a quote, purchase the coverage you need and print your certificate of insurance — all within about 10 minutes. If you have questions, our U.S.-based insurance professionals are available to help.


1 What is the cost of a personal trainer certification?

2 71% more likely to purchase based on social media referrals (infographic)

3 Ground maintenance workers

12 small business ideas with low start-up costs


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