- Launching a business can be a low-risk opportunity that brings high returns
- Online business ideas like becoming a virtual assistant or influencer require little to no startup costs
- Pay attention to terms and conditions if you rely on a third party to operate your business, such as offering pet care services on Rover
For many aspiring business owners, financing a startup is the most daunting part of bringing their ideas to life. However, entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be high stakes.
There are hundreds of small business ideas with low investment—and some can offer high returns. Take a look at these realistic pros and cons about six business ideas that can help you be your own boss without spending a lot of money upfront.
1. Virtual assistant
Virtual assistants are remote workers who perform administrative tasks, such as making appointments, answering calls, and bookkeeping for clients. If you’re organized, tech savvy, and great at communication, this home-based business idea might be a good fit for you.
This business is low investment because your most significant startup cost is a computer. Since many virtual assistants work as sole proprietors, you don’t have to go through the business registration process to create a business entity separate from your person, meaning a lower barrier to entry and fewer startup costs.
To connect with potential clients, you can use freelancing sites like Fiverr and Upwork to find your first gigs—no experience required. But if you have niche or technical skill sets like language translation or graphic design, you can make significantly more than the average virtual assistant, who makes $21.78 per hour.
Many businesses also seek virtual assistants on standard job listing sites like Indeed or SimplyHired; although, you can always pitch your services directly to businesses or busy professionals. Virtual assistant jobs are available as freelance, part-time, full-time, and even temporary roles. Companies that offer professional services, like marketing firms and real estate agents, commonly seek virtual assistant support.
Virtual assistants don’t always get as much flexibility as other business owners. Since your clients will be the ones assigning you tasks, you’ll have to follow their deadlines and often work on their schedules. Plus, if you’re frequently making calls to schedule appointments or meetings, you’ll need to work during traditional business hours.
2. Dropshipping business
Dropshipping is an ecommerce business model that lets you run an online store without any inventory. When customers put in an order, you forward it to your dropshipping supplier, and they take care of your entire order fulfillment process for the cost of the product and a set fee. You can price your products based on your supplier’s fees to ensure you make a profit. Your role—which involves marketing and customer service—can all be done from home.
To bring this online business idea to life, start by finding a dropshipping supplier. Opt for a supplier that offers the specific types of products you want to sell, like beauty supplies or kitchenware, so you can build a niche brand. Then you can set up your own website using an ecommerce platform like Volusion or Squarespace.
Alternatively, you can set up virtual shops on online marketplaces like eBay, but pay attention to each platform’s terms and conditions. Sites like Etsy prohibit dropshipping, while sites like Amazon have strict policies against dropshipping. Dropshipping can be a controversial practice due to the massive markups charged by some sellers, as well as the abundance of counterfeits and low-quality goods on the market. Ethical dropshipping requires sellers to do market research to charge fair market prices. It’s also good practice to get samples of products, which many suppliers on platforms like AliExpress offer, to evaluate their quality before selling them.
Dropshipping can be a low-cost business idea with high profits. But it also comes with some logistical challenges, including changing supplier inventories and delivery inefficiencies when customers order items from multiple warehouses.
Another way to make money online with low investment is by building an engaged following on social media platforms or blogging. Both allow you to get paid for sponsored posts or earn a commission through affiliate marketing. After reaching 1,000 followers, you can become what is known as a micro-influencer (a social media personality with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers). Since micro-influencers tend to get more engagement than those with hundreds of thousands of followers, your services may be in high demand.
Online influencers can build successful businesses with little to no startup costs. First, choose your niche. This can be a topic you’re interested in, like sustainable skin care or organic gardening, or it can be a topic you’re an expert on, like digital marketing or real estate. Once you’ve identified your niche, develop a content plan that includes what you’ll post about, which platforms you’ll post on, and when.
As your following grows, you can land your first sponsored posts by reaching out to relevant local or online businesses. Micro-influencers earn an average of $10 per 1,000 followers for a single social media post. If you reach 10,000 followers, you could earn $100 per post on the low end, which means you can potentially turn influencing into a profitable part-time or full-time venture.
However, keep in mind that becoming an influencer doesn’t always lead to positive results. Burnout is increasingly common in this industry. Plus, if you’re not careful about your business expenses—for instance, if you’re constantly eating out at fancy places to start your foodie account—you may end up spending more than you earn in the early stages of your growth. In fact, nearly 30% of millennials have gone into debt for the sake of Instagram.
4. Pet care service provider
Love animals? From dog walking and training to pet sitting and basic mobile grooming, there are plenty of pet services you can turn into lucrative business opportunities without a huge investment.
An easy way to bring this low-investment business idea to life is offering your services on existing pet care sites like Wag! or Rover. There’s no need for a brick-and-mortar doggy daycare. However, you’ll need to pay close attention to the terms of service on your chosen pet care site; for instance, on Wag!, caregivers are expected to keep dogs on a leash for all activities and maintain a 4.75 star rating or higher.
Creating a Yelp Business Page can also help promote your brand to people actively searching for pet care services in your area. Keep your service area, contact information, photos, and other business details up to date to maximize leads. 97% of Yelp users make a purchase after visiting Yelp, so this can be a powerful way to spread the word about your new business. Note that not all business types can be listed on Yelp; check for eligibility.
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Be aware that pet care can be a difficult industry to get started in due to the saturated market. Since pet providers aren’t licensed, pet owners often gravitate toward those who already have ratings or professional facilities.
5. Event planner
If you know how to organize every aspect of an event and excel at maintaining a professional network, becoming an event planner could be a good business idea for you. Planning events is hard work—and outsourcing to a professional event planner can be a huge relief for clients.
Before offering your services, first identify your niche, whether it’s weddings, corporate events, or birthday parties. You’ll also need a network of vendors—caterers, venue owners, and DJs—to make the event-planning process seamless. Connect with local business owners on LinkedIn to initiate professional relationships.
Word of mouth can also drive a lot of traffic to your event planning business. Potential clients want testimonials and referrals that demonstrate you can throw a great event. Consider offering a reward (like a gift card) to clients who make successful referrals. To start building your portfolio, ask friends, family, and neighbors if you can help them organize their events for a reduced cost (or for free). This way, you can gain valuable experience and happy customer reviews at the same time.
Event planning isn’t without its difficulties. It’s ranked as one of the most stressful jobs in America, in part due to its abundance of tight deadlines. However, well-organized professionals can still thrive in this career.
6. Personal trainer
If you love fitness and working with people, becoming a personal trainer can be a great business opportunity—even if you don’t have workout equipment of your own. Many personal trainers work with clients by renting space in a fitness studio or paying a per-hour fee to train in a gym. You can also contract with a gym, which can help your personal training business get a steady stream of clients. Keep in mind that most gyms will not allow you to train clients in their facilities with a standard membership.
If you do have your own equipment, you can also turn personal training into a home business idea by offering virtual workouts. These can be live or pre-recorded workouts so clients can schedule appointments or have on-demand access.
Personal trainers can earn certifications to stand out from the competition from trusted organizations like the National Federation of Professional Trainers or Cooper Institute before they start marketing their services. Personal training certificates often require a high school diploma or GED, a CPR certification, and about 2-4 months of in-person or online courses. Many accredited companies offer certification packages for under $550, and most require renewals every 2-4 years.
Competition is tough in the fitness industry since clients can have more options than ever for workout guidance. Some gyms help develop fitness plans, while YouTube videos help people learn new workouts for free. The good news is, the job outlook for personal trainers is rising much faster than average with a 39% growth rate.
Choose the best business ideas with low investment
Launching your own business doesn’t have to be financially draining. There are hundreds of profitable business ideas with low investment required, from dropshipping and dog walking to becoming a blogger or event planner.
Once you’ve selected the best small business idea for your own interests and expertise, learn how to write a business plan to successfully launch and operate in the long term.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.