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11 small business ideas with low startup costs

11 small business ideas with low startup costs

By Wil Chan
Aug 11, 2022
12 min read

If you've ever dreamed about being your own boss but don't have much saved up, there's good news for you. You don't need a fortune to start a business. You might consider one of these 11 small business ideas with low startup costs.

These professions don’t require years of expensive education. They require little equipment. And you can get started all by yourself. 

As with all businesses, you should check your local requirements around licensing, permits and registration. And you should get covered by insurance — which will protect you at every step of your journey. 

Here’s our low-cost small business idea list to get you inspired: 

1. Handyperson

If you have a knack for fixing things around the house, you might be well-positioned to launch a handyman business. 

Many homeowners are short on time, don't have the skills or don't want to fix things themselves. They're willing to pay a handyperson to make minor repairs and do odd jobs around the house. A set of tools and a way for people to contact you is enough to get started.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), general maintenance and repair workers employment is projected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030. The median pay is $43,180 per year.

You may need a handyman license to get started, but for bigger jobs or projects that exceed a specific cost, you may need a contractor license

Learn how to protect your business with handyman insurance.

2. Residential cleaner (Housecleaner)

Many people would gladly pay someone they can trust to take housecleaning off their “to do” list. Some cleaning supplies, a little elbow grease and a reliable means of transportation are all you need to get started as a cleaner.

Good news: the BLS forecasts that this occupation will grow 11% from 2020 to 2030. The average annual pay is $55,730.

You typically don’t need a license to be a cleaner beyond a general business license. However, there may be other cleaners requirements to be aware of in your area.

When you’re ready, spread the word to people you know and ask for referrals — your cleaning business will grow in no time.

Here’s why it's wise to have cleaning insurance.

3. Fitness instructor

Personal trainers and fitness instructors develop exercise programs and provide nutrition advice to their clients. And this career is skyrocketing: the field is expected to grow 39% from 2020 to 2030. The median salary is $40,700 per year.

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 homes or yours. Or you can offer your services online.

Most states don’t require fitness instructors to have a specific personal trainer license. But getting a certification could level up your skills and help clients feel relaxed and safe. 

Injuries are common in the fitness industry, so carrying fitness instructor insurance can help protect your business from lawsuits or costly medical expenses.

4. Tutor

Tutors provide academic support to students outside of a standard classroom. That could include helping students understand particular subjects, preparing them for standardized tests and helping them craft admissions essays.

While the BLS doesn’t have a specific category for tutors, the teaching assistant field is projected to grow 9% through 2030. Most tutor salaries range from $28,838-$59,983 annually.

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 can even do it from home. You don’t need a license, although having strong academic credentials always helps get clients. 

Learn more about how private tutoring insurance provides a safety net for your business. 

5. Freelance writer

You don’t have to be a best-selling author to be a writer. With the explosion of content marketing in recent years, businesses are often looking for good writers to produce articles, newsletters, website copy and much more to help promote their companies.

All you need to launch a freelance writing business is a solid grasp of the written word and an internet connection. You don’t need a license, certification or formal writing education to be a freelance writer. 

But prospective clients will often want to see samples of your work, so creating a simple online portfolio is a good idea. 

Salaries depend on a lot of things: your expertise, skill and specializations. On average, freelance writers average $66,935 yearly.

6. Virtual assistant

Virtual assistants perform various tasks for entrepreneurs and small businesses to save time. Typically, VAs handle clerical work that may include scheduling meetings, answering emails, booking travel arrangements, making phone calls and more.

ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual pay for work-from-home virtual assistants is $58,057 a year.

If you’re organized, detail-oriented and have a reliable internet connection, you already have what you need to start. As you gain experience, you can start specializing in certain areas and take on even bigger clients. 

You don’t need a special license or certification to be a virtual assistant, but many training courses can help improve your skills.

7. Social media consultant

Many businesses are looking for a social media consultant: someone who can run social media campaigns to generate leads, drive sales, and ensure customer loyalty. 

If you’re someone who already lives and breathes social media, this person could be you. The best part? It costs virtually nothing to start: no formal training or certification is required.

As a social media consultant, you’ll help businesses develop a content strategy, determine the best channels to use and create a posting schedule. And as you help their businesses grow, so will yours.

Pay ranges vary depending on what state and industry you work in. But you can expect to make around $36,551-$56,121 annually.

While being a consultant isn’t as risky as other professions, it’s not completely risk-free. Learn more about business consultant insurance

8. Dog walking or pet sitting

Love being outside and giving furry pals some much-needed exercise? Dog walking might be the job for you, and you'll find no shortage of owners who need help caring for their pooch.

Or maybe you prefer something more sedentary. Pet sitters help take care of pets when their owners aren't home. There are many tasks, including walking and feeding the animals, and checking in on them during the day or even keeping them overnight.

If you're an animal lover, the cost of starting a dog walking or pet sitting business is minimal. Most places don't require you to have a dog walking license, though some big cities have additional rules. 

This occupation is growing fast: Animal care and service workers will grow 33% from 2020 to 2030. On average dog walkers make $31,585 per year.

Since animals can be unpredictable, getting dog walkers insurance is a great idea.

9. Event planner

Event planners help put on weddings, anniversaries, birthday celebrations, holiday gatherings, conferences, trade shows and more. 

If you’re organized, love throwing parties and know where to find the best venues and vendors, you could launch an event planning business right away. 

And there’s no shortage of need for these skills. Employment of meeting, convention, and event planners is projected to grow 18% from 2020 to 2030. The median salary is $49,470 per year.

There's no specific license required to be an event planner beyond a general business license. However, event planner certifications can help you land more significant contracts.

Events have a lot of moving parts and often cost a lot of money. Getting event planner insurance can help protect your business from a variety of risks and financial losses.

10. House painter

You don’t need an expensive formal education to paint houses. If you’ve ever painted walls in your own home, you already know the basic principles of the job. The median salary for painters is $45,590 per year.

Startup costs are relatively low: you’ll need basic supplies like paint rollers, roller covers, stir sticks, drop cloths, paint trays, paint brushes and a ladder. You’ll also need a vehicle to carry your equipment to each job. 

Some states require painters to have licenses, and you may need a contractor’s license for bigger jobs. It’s highly recommended — and often required — to carry painter insurance.

11. Grounds maintenance worker

Grounds maintenance workers keep outdoor spaces tidy by mowing grass, weeding, mulching, raking leaves, planting plants, trimming hedges and more.

The BLS projects that overall employment is projected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030. The median annual pay is $35,460.

You don’t need special training to become a grounds maintenance worker, but some states require a license for landscaping — which is a part of grounds maintenance. Many states also require workers to be licensed if they apply fertilizer or pesticides. 

You'll need to purchase equipment like a lawn mower and edger and protective gear like goggles and earplugs to get started. 

And you’ll want to look into landscaper insurance to protect your business in case of flying rocks or equipment theft.

Why new small businesses should get insured

Ready to get your small business idea off the ground? Nice. But let's talk about protecting your hard work and efforts.

Some jobs are required by law to be covered by business insurance before operating. But many of the jobs on this list don’t have any requirements. You’re probably thinking, “Why would I get get insurance if it’s not required?”

Here’s the thing. Even when it's not mandatory in your industry or by state laws, you're taking a big risk of being sued and having to pay costs or settlements out of pocket without it.

While certain business structures, like LLCs and corporations, may protect your personal assets against financial losses, your business assets may still be at risk. Insurance can ensure that accidents and mistakes don't cause your business to go under because of an unfortunate series of events.

Here are some of the most common types of insurance small businesses get

General liability insurance

General liability coverage (aka slip and fall insurance) provides financial protection if you are held responsible for some of the most common accidents that can occur at a business, such as a customer injury or damages to someone’s property. It also provides coverage if you’re forced to defend an accusation of libel or slander. It’s one of the first coverages business owners get because it covers a broad range of risks.

Commercial Property insurance

Commercial property insurance helps protect all the physical items you need to operate your business: inventory, business equipment and furniture, as well as brick-and-mortar structures.

Business Owner’s Policy (BOP)

A business owner’s policy (BOP insurance) combines two important types of business insurance — general liability insurance and commercial property insurance — into one package that is usually less expensive than buying the coverage separately. You save money by bundling two policies into one.

Workers’ Compensation insurance

If you have employees, you’ll probably need workers’ comp. It helps cover employees if they get hurt or become ill from business-related tasks. This insurance is often mandated by states.

Commercial Auto insurance

Whether your vehicle is essential for your daily operations or something you only occasionally use for work, you need commercial auto insurance customized for your business. Even if you use your own vehicle for your business and have personal auto insurance, it probably won’t cover accidents that happen while you are driving for your business.

How NEXT helps you launch your small business

Our mission is to make getting the small business insurance you need as simple and painless as possible.

We offer insurance customized to all kinds of small businesses, so you only pay for the protection you need. 

You can complete our online application, see policy options, buy coverage and get your certificate of insurance in less than 10 minutes.

Get your free instant quote today.

11 small business ideas with low startup costs

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About the author
Wil Chan is a content writer at NEXT and has been a professional writer for more than ten years. His work has been featured in publications including Forbes and Greatist. He has run a freelance business since 2016 and feels passionate about helping self-employed people in all industries succeed.
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