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25 Low-Investment Business Ideas

25 Low-Investment Business Ideas
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated October 12, 2022
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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 (and, some cases, no) capital to get off the ground. Here’s a look at 25 business ideas that require minimal up-front investment yet can yield significant profits.

What Are Low-Investment Businesses?

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, so long as you are motivated and willing to put in some good-old-fashioned hard work. In fact, low-investment businesses can potentially yield higher profits than costlier ventures since the overhead is low.

25 Business Ideas With Low Investment

What follows are 25 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 $15 to $70-plus per hour, depending on their qualifications and experience.

 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. While the average wedding planner makes around $32,000 per year, those that are experienced and successful make $100,000 and up 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 a 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? A graphic designer? A programmer? 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.

5. Gym or Fitness Center

This business idea is one that requires a little more capital, though you can typically start a gym for as little as $50,000. While it may take a year or two to start seeing real profits, it can be worth the wait. In 2021, the market size of the gym, health, and fitness club industry in the U.S. was estimated at over $35 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 highYou’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

Love dogs? This 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 $34.45 per hour. You might even consider adding dog sitting to your business to generate even more 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 median cost of the truck is 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. This business has the potential to earn anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 a month. 

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. The U.S. automotive service market is expected to reach $75 billion by 2026.

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

The housing market is hot, and real estate agents are clearly benefiting. Much of the $5,000 to $10,000 to start a business as a real estate agent goes toward getting your real estate license. Overhead, however, should be low, especially if you don’t rent out an office. How much can you make? It depends on your location and experience, but average salaries range from $58,000 in Arkansas to $102,000 in California.

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 $29 to $43 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). You may be able to charge, on average, $80 per repair. If you repair 10 devices a week at that rate, you can have a revenue of $800 per week.

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 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.

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 $60 cents 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.

21. Handyman

If you’re super handy around the house, you may want to consider starting a mobile 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 a handyman license. 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 $50 to $125. Most jobs are between $65 and $1200, with an average of $390.

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. The costs to get started are relatively low. Getting certified as a personal trainer can run between $500 and $2,000. You’ll also need  liability insurance (about $200 to $300 a 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 suggest charging around $85 an hour.

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 cheap 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, $26.43 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 marketing experts. 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. For example, social media consultants can earn anywhere from $75 to $500 an hour.

Pros and Cons of Low-Investment Businesses

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

 Pros 

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 a lot of 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.

Cons

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, 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 Startup Business

Even if you have a low-investment 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.

Crowdfunding

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.

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 can access offers from multiple small business lenders with just one short application, and without making any type of commitment.
Photo credit: iStock/filadendron
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Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the president of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. She enjoys writing about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
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