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30 Low-Cost New Business Ideas

25 Low-Investment Business Ideas
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated October 16, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
If you like the idea of starting a business but don’t have much capital, you aren’t necessarily out of luck. There are many small business ideas that require little to no capital to get off the ground.Here’s a look at 30 low-cost business ideas that require minimal up-front investment yet can yield significant profits.

What Are Low Startup Costs for a New Business?

Many would-be entrepreneurs assume that to make serious profits in a business, you need to invest serious capital. But that’s not necessarily the case. There are numerous high-profit businesses you can launch today with low (or even no) startup costs. In fact, low-investment businesses can potentially yield higher profits than costlier ventures since the overhead is low.

Our List of 30 Low-Cost New Business Ideas

Below are 30 ideas for startup businesses you can launch with little capital. 

1. Tutoring

If you did well in school and love teaching others, you may want to consider starting a tutoring business. This can be a particularly good option for college students because it’s flexible, doesn’t require much time, and needs no money to get started. You can promote your tutoring business with local schools and in your local coffee shop. Tutors can earn anywhere from $25 to $80-plus per hour, depending on their qualifications and experience.Recommended: 11 Remote Tutoring Jobs

2. Wedding Planner

If you are highly organized and love the idea of making a couple’s wedding dreams come true, you could launch a wedding planning business. Generally, all you need to get started is a computer, software, and office supplies, which could run around $2,500. That small investment can potentially pay off big over time. The average wedding planner makes $112,000 per year, but those with more experience can make more than $500,000 annually. 

3. Teaching Cooking

Cooking classes are popular right now, so if you’re skilled in the kitchen and love teaching people to cook, this could be a lucrative business idea. Startup costs vary widely, but can be low if you opt to offer one-on-one instruction in a student's home kitchen or already have access to a restaurant or commercial kitchen. You may also be able to offer classes in your own home. Just be sure to contact your local health department and ask about requirements for a cooking class facility.

4. Freelancing

Are you a natural-born writer, graphic designer, programmer, or editor? If so, there’s no reason you need to work as an employee at a 9-to-5 job. Instead, you can take on freelance work and produce results for multiple clients.If you already have a computer, you may have no startup costs. You might, however, choose to invest money in marketing to get the word out about your services.Recommended: 18 Freelancing Business Ideas

5. Gym or Fitness Center

This business idea is one that could require a little more capital, with typical gym startup costs being $50,000. However, there are other options for starting a gym that don’t involve costs in the thousands, such as offering individual or small group classes in your own home gym, training someone in their own home, or starting a virtual gym.While it may take a year or two to start seeing real profits, it can be worth the wait. As of 2023, the market size of the gym, health, and fitness club industry in the U.S. was estimated at close to $31 billion. 

6. Dropship eCommerce Website

Another low-investment business idea is launching an e-commerce site that utilizes dropshipping. With the dropship model, you don’t purchase a product until you’ve already made the sale and been paid by the customer. Without significant up-front inventory investments, it’s possible to start sourcing products and become a successful dropshipper with very little money. While technically you can start a dropshipping company with just $100 or so, you may want to budget $1,000 to cover the e-commerce tool subscription, marketing, and fees to launch.

7. Design and Print Shirts

Have you ever had a good idea for a t-shirt slogan? It could be a business! You can sell your custom shirts online or at events like festivals and fairs. Overhead is low and profits can potentially be high.You’ll want to budget about $1,000 to start a shirt business, which includes the equipment needed to make the designs.

8. Publish Digital Books

If you love books and have a flair for writing, a digital publishing business could be a good fit. Since you have no costs to physically print a book or ship it, every digital book you sell is pure profit. Ebooks are sold on a variety of sites and marketplaces, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google.Technically, you don’t need to invest any money into a digital publishing business, though you might want to hire a designer who can format the books to fit the ebook reader requirements and design appealing book covers.

9. Dog Walking

Dog walking is one of the business ideas with low investment requirements you might want to consider. It’s completely free to start, and there are many dog-walking websites like Rover and Wag! that you can sign up for to get new customers.According to Indeed, the average dog walker earns $18.06 per hour. You could even consider adding dog sitting to your business to generate extra revenue.

10. Food Truck

If you are a great cook but don’t want to fully invest in launching a brick-and-mortar restaurant, opening a food truck business might be a good fit. You can travel where the customers are and have flexible hours. The biggest investment you’ll have to make is the truck itself. Costs vary widely depending on the condition of the truck and the equipment included, but the starting price is typically around $50,000. There are restaurant loans you can use to open a food truck business.

11. Mobile Detailing

While opening a physical car wash can require a sizable investment, a mobile detailing business tends to be more affordable. Because you won’t have to pay rent on a physical space, you cut down on your costs drastically. Typically, all you need to start a mobile detailing business is a van (costs vary widely depending on whether you buy new or used) and supplies, which run about $1,000. The average salary of a mobile detailer is currently $91,000.

12. Auto Repair

If you love to tinker with, fix, and repair cars, you may have just what it takes to build a low-investment, high-profit business. You may be able to do it from your home (no overhead), work around your schedule, and get paid well. Average salary for mobile mechanics is $53,000 per year, but you can charge more for complicated services or last-minute requests, upping your annual salary.Recommended: 11 Most Expensive Car Repairs

13. Catering

Another business that is ideal for someone who enjoys cooking is a catering business. You’ll need access to an industrial kitchen to prepare food for parties and events, and this, along with the tools of the trade and marketing, can run you anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to get started.

14. Real Estate Agent

To become a real estate agent, you first must get your license. This costs $400-$1,000 depending on the state you live in. You then must also pay for a background check, brokerage fees, marketing and business expenses, and continuing education. How much can you make? It depends on your location and experience, but those who have been in the business for years and have a solid network can make multiple six figures per year.

15. Bookkeeping or Accounting

Virtually all businesses need accounting and bookkeeping. And, since it can be tedious and complex, owners will often outsource this task. If you have expertise in accounting or bookkeeping, consider launching a bookkeeping business. There is minimal overhead if you work from home or in your clients’ offices, and freelance accountants can charge anywhere from around $50 to $150 per hour.

16. Podcasting

Have you been told you’re a great storyteller or that you have a great voice? Some people make a living from podcasting. Typically, revenues come from ads that play during the podcast. On average, a podcaster with around 10,000 downloads per episode can expect to earn roughly $500 to $900 per episode.This is a very affordable business to start; you can record your first podcast with a low-priced mic (or even your phone) and audio editing software for a few hundred dollars. Even if you want to invest more, you can likely still launch for a few thousand.

17. Cell Phone Repair

Do you know anyone who has never broken a cell phone? That’s why cell phone repair shops are popping up and making money, and it’s an industry that will always be in demand! Opening a storefront business can be a great way to get customers, but may not be ideal for an entrepreneur with little start-up capital. If you opt to start a mobile cell phone repair business, on the other hand, the only startup costs will be part inventory (which can range from $100 to $500) and tools (around $50). Repairs can range from $20 per repair to $300+. If you repair 10 devices a week at an average rate of $80 per repair, for example, you can have a revenue of $800 per week.Recommended: 10 Steps for Starting a Small Business

18. Ice Cream Parlor

Pretty much everyone loves ice cream, and opening an ice cream parlor could be your ticket to making it as an entrepreneur. It costs between $20,000 and $50,000 to open a shop, though if you wanted to spend less, you could open an ice cream truck.Just remember to factor in the seasonality of an ice cream business, particularly if winter is cold where you live. You may make most of your money in the summer when it’s hot.

19. Landscaping

Landscaping is a business that is ideal for starting with a small investment and then ramping it up over time. You can launch your landscaping business with as little as $500. If you want to go bigger and invest in equipment, marketing, and hiring help, you can likely get your landscaping business off the ground with $5,000 to $8,000, not including the price of the truck.Salaries for owning a landscaping business can range from $50,000 to over $500,000. To be on the higher end of the spectrum, you’ll need to scale your business by hiring employees, purchasing more equipment, and getting more customers.

20. Daycare

If you have a passion for children, this can be a great industry to start a business in because the demand is high. If you run a daycare in your home, you won’t have to pay commercial rent, though you will have to allow for increased utility use. If you rent commercial space for your childcare business, expect to pay from $0.60 to $2.50 a square foot.There are many requirements for business permits and licenses, so you’ll want to investigate what’s required in your state for this type of business. You’ll likely need a business license, tax ID, and potentially some other licenses, which can run a few hundred dollars a year.Take home salary is typically $60,000-$100,000 per year for daycare business owners, but can vary based on where you live, how much you charge, and how many kids you’re able to accommodate.

21. Handyman

If you’re super handy around the house, you may want to consider starting a home repair service. You can fix broken fences, repair windows, install televisions, or any other number of tasks that many people are willing to hire help to get done. State requirements vary, but you can typically take jobs under $1,000 without becoming a licensed contractor. If you already own the tools and vehicle you need to start providing handyman services, the startup costs can be fairly low. As for how much you can earn, the average hourly rate for a handyman is $60 to $75. 

22. Personal Trainer

If you don’t want to sit in an office all day and you value physical fitness, consider becoming a personal trainer. Getting certified as a personal trainer can run between $400 and $2,000. You’ll also need liability insurance (around $400 per year) and, possibly, equipment. If you meet clients at areas where they choose, however, you won’t have any overhead. How much you can charge your clients will depend on where you live and your experience, but many trainers charge $25-$100+ per hour.Recommended: How to Open a Gym With Limited Funds

23. Vacation Rentals

With Airbnb rentals hot right now, you may want to consider renting out part of your home, particularly if you live somewhere desirable. That could mean being in a resort area or simply being close to a college, hospital, or major employer. Consider fixing up and renting out a guest house, room above the garage, or even a bedroom or attic space in your home.   

24. Teach Language Courses

Do you have an aptitude for languages? One inexpensive small business idea is to become a language tutor. You can meet with clients in person or online, meaning you will likely need nothing more than a computer (and maybe a foreign language dictionary) to get started. There are language teaching apps like iTalki where you can find your customers. Language tutors make, on average, $26.54 an hour, or nearly $55,000 a year.

25. Consulting

There are a wide variety of types of consultants, from IT pros to social media strategists. The role of a consultant is to provide advice and strategies people and businesses can use to improve. Consultants have few, if any, startup costs, and often get paid well. Average hourly rates charged by social media consultants are $49 per hour, but experienced consultants can earn anywhere from $75 to $500 an hour.

26. Cleaner

Everyone needs help with cleaning from time to time, and many people are willing to pay for it on a regular basis. To become a cleaner, all you need are a few cleaning supplies and a means of transportation, but some households and businesses may even be willing to supply you with the cleaning supplies. To be successful as a cleaner, you will need to post your services on websites (such as Home Advisor or Care) and social media, and you could also consider cold calling businesses and companies. Real estate agents and Airbnb hosts, for example, often need the services of cleaners and may need fast turnarounds.Professional cleaners determine what they make, but typically charge $25-$90 per hour, per cleaner.

27. Blogger

To start a blog, you’ll need to purchase a domain name, hosting, and a website template from a site such as Squarespace. While you could spend thousands getting your blogging business up and running, taking courses, and using paid ads to market your business, that’s not a requirement and can always be done once your blog is more established.To have a successful blogging business, you will need to post regularly. Bloggers typically make money through Google Adsense and affiliate marketing. To have your site rank well, you will also need to make use of SEO tactics. It takes work and time, but once you’re established, the income potential is unlimited.Professional bloggers with an established website and dedicated community make an average of $52,000 a year, with some making much, much more.  

28. Tour Guide

If you love your city or town and know about its history, you may be able to make a living as a tour guide. Advertising your services will likely be your biggest expenditure, but local businesses may be willing to let you advertise on their shop windows or checkout counters. You may even be able to partner with them if you feature them on your tour.The average hourly pay for a tour guide in the U.S. is $19, but can be as high as $35 per hour. 

29. Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are in high demand as both the gig economy and remote work options continue to move forward. As a virtual assistant, you help other professionals for a set amount of time each week and accrue as many clients as you can comfortably manage. Depending on what services you want to offer, you may need to purchase a new computer, accessories, or additional software (such as Microsoft Word).The average annual salary for a virtual assistant is $70,393 per year, with top earners bringing in $170,000+ per year.

30. Life Coach

A life coach helps people reach their goals, improve their mindset, and ultimately change their lives for the better. The biggest hurdle to becoming a life coach is acquiring the appropriate training and certification, which can cost a few thousands dollars depending on the program. However, once you have your certification, you can work from home and conduct meetings over the phone or zoom. Many professionals seek out life coaches even if they are already successful, so it’s possible you could work with highly influential and powerful people as a life coach.    The average salary for a life coach is close to $90,000 per year.

Pros and Cons of Starting Up a New Business

Is starting a low-cost business right for you? Consider the benefits and drawbacks.


Starting your own business provides you the opportunity to be your own boss. You can work whatever hours you want, and all the profits will be yours. Also, starting a low-investment business means you won’t need much money to get started. And, if startup costs are low, profits can potentially be higher. Over time, however, you may want to invest more into the business as you bring in more revenues.


The biggest con is that there is no guarantee that a business will succeed, and it may require months or even years to reach profitability. There are also some costs associated with starting a business, such as getting a business license and insurance, that you will need to cover regardless of the type of business you start or its size. If you take out a loan to start your business, you will have that, as well as your other business expenses, to budget for each month. 

Methods of Funding a New Business

Even if you have a low-cost new business idea, you may need to seek outside funding to get your venture off the ground. Here are some funding options to consider.

Small Business Loans

One of the most common ways to fund a startup is to get a small business loan. There are many different types of business loans, including short-term loans, online loans, and equipment financing. So, no matter what credit score you have, there may be a loan for you. Some loans need to be repaid within a few months, while others have a repayment period of years.Keep in mind if you are starting a new business, some lenders, particularly banks, may not be willing to lend to you without a proven history of revenue.


Another option, particularly if you don’t qualify for a loan, is crowdfunding for small businesses. By posting your business or project on a crowdfunding website, anyone who’s interested can donate or invest. Some sites require you to provide a token of appreciation to donors, such as early access to the product. One of the biggest draws to crowdfunding is the money you receive does not have to be repaid.

Startup Grants

If getting a small business loan doesn’t appeal, you may want to consider applying for a small business grant, which provides funds you don’t have to pay back. Competition tends to be fierce, so you’ll want to find ways to make your business stand out when applying.

The Takeaway

With so many business ideas with low investment, the question is: which will you choose? This list proves you don’t necessarily need a lot of money (or any at all) to start a business.If you’re thinking about getting financing to bring your business vision to life, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare rates and terms to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal. With Lantern by SoFi’s online loan comparison tool, you get access to a small business loan that’s best for you, all with a simple application and no obligation to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Which businesses don't cost a lot of money to start?
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Photo credit: iStock/filadendron

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
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