Home Business Ideas with Low Startup Costs
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If you’re thinking about starting a business out of your home, you’re not alone. Sixty-nine percent of all U.S. business owners start their business out of their home. For many, that’s just a stepping stone to moving to a separate space if their business grows, but for others, the home business is the end goal.
Starting your own business is appealing for many reasons. There’s the chance to be your own boss and to do something you love and do it the way you think it should be done. Businesses run out of your home usually offer more flexibility than an office job. You have more control over what hours you work and how much work you take on.
The challenge is to find a viable business model that doesn’t take a lot of cash to get going. Here, we’ll look at home-based businesses that don’t require much money to get off the ground. In general, that means jobs where you won’t need a specific degree, or tons of equipment or inventory.
Do what you know (and love)
The best kind of business to start is one you’re genuinely passionate and knowledgeable about. That will also probably save you some money since if it’s a passion or a skill, you probably already have some of the necessary training, connections or equipment.
So think about what you’re good at and what you love to do. Do you have skills that are in demand? Is there something people in your life constantly compliment (like your cooking) or ask your advice about (like finances or technology)? There’s a good chance that if your skills and talents are in demand with friends and family, they might be in demand with a wider market, too.
Do some market research to size up your competition and see if there’s a need for the type of business you want to run. The Small Business Administration offers an in-depth look at how to do market research and analysis.
Do you need to incorporate?
Starting a new business, even one you run out of your home, isn’t easy. Depending on the type of business, you’ll need to think about things like insurance, permits, licenses and registering your business. Many cities and counties require a home occupancy permit if you’re running a home-based business. You’ll also need to choose a structure for your business. The three main types are sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations, with different categories in each. A sole proprietorship is a business with one owner. A partnership means there are two or more owners and a corporation is owned by its shareholders, managed by a board of directors, and run by its officers.
Then you’ll need to decide to incorporate or not. If you choose a sole proprietorship or partnership for you business structure, you won’t be incorporated. That means your business assets and your personal assets are not separate. Therefore, you can be held personally responsible for any business debts or liabilities and things like your house or car could be at risk of there’s a judgment against the business. Deciding to incorporate means setting your business up as one of several types of corporations. Whether you need to incorporate or not probably depends on what type of business you’re running. If it’s not a very risky business, it might not necessary.
The main benefit of incorporating as an LLC or corporation is protecting your personal assets. A few additional perks include:
- Putting an Inc. or LLC after your business name can give your business a credibility boost.
- In most states, you’re not allowed to file the same exact corporate or LLC name. That can help you stand out and also protect you against competition and protect your reputation.
- Corporations and LLCs are allowed to deduct normal business expenses, like salaries, before allocating income to owners.
If you don’t know much about setting up your business structure or whether to incorporate, talk to a financial adviser and a lawyer.
Need business funding? Learn more about small business loan options here.
12 home business ideas with low startup costs
Here are 12 home-based businesses you can start without much startup cash. You won’t need a special degree or excessive amounts of equipment or supplies to run these businesses, but being certified or trained certainly will help give you an edge on the competition.
To get a dog-walking business off the ground, or rather on the ground, you really just need a good pair of comfortable shoes. And quality referrals. If this is a new role, offer your services free of charge to friends, neighbors or family to build up some references. Most dog walkers do more than just potty breaks. They also often play with and feed pets. A natural extension of this job is also pet setting. To give yourself a leg up on the competition, take some dog training or behavior classes or even become a certified dog trainer through an organization like the Canine Club Academy. You can try to find your own clients or register with sites like Wag.com or Rover.com. The average hourly salary for a dog walker is $13.04.
Do you have a knack for writing resumes? Are you up-to-date on the latest resume trends? Are you good at interviewing people and have experience with hiring? Resume writing comes with the flexibility of being a freelance writer, but less competition because of the niche angle. You won’t need much beyond typical office equipment to do your work. Credibility is big in this field, so you’ll probably want to get certified through an organization like the National Résumé Writers Association. Once you have several projects under your belt, word-of-mouth will probably be your best source of work, but you can also find jobs on sites like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.com. The average hourly rate is $23.96.
Upholstery and furniture repair
Reupholstering and repairing furniture are skills that you can definitely turn into a business. If you’re considering making it your job, this is probably something you already know how to do, but it’s also a skill you can learn if you’re the handy type. You’ll need tools, of course, and enough space for large pieces of furniture and space to work around that furniture. A good economy isn’t always the best friend of a furniture repair or upholstery business (people tend to buy new when the economy is better) but the industry has seen small (2.2 percent) growth in the last five years. The average hourly rate for an upholsterer is $15.65.
If you have an eye for detail, work well with vendors, are quick on your feet and in general are a logistics pro, event planning might be for you. There are endless options for the types of events you can get involved in from anniversary parties, corporate outings and charity fundraisers to conventions and weddings. Excellent referrals, a professional portfolio and strong relationships with venues and vendors will be your biggest assets. The average hourly salary is $17.54.
Just about every business needs someone to design a flyer, newsletter, company logo or advertisement. If you’re interested in starting a graphic design business, you probably already have the skills and the training. The business will require a fair amount of equipment, including a computer, printer and software like the Adobe creative suite, but these are one-time expenses. Having a professional-looking portfolio and website will help prove you have the skills to deliver a project. If you’re looking for clients, sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com are good places to start. The average hourly salary is $16.75.
Are you a natural at organization? Do the employees at the Container Store know you by name? People will pay good money for help with organizing and decluttering their lives and spaces. This is a business you really don’t need much in the way of equipment or training. You can either organize the clients’ homes yourself or act as a consultant and design a plan to wrestle their own messes into submission. You’ll want to spend money on a professional looking portfolio of projects you’ve done. And if you haven’t done this kind of thing professionally before, volunteer your skills to friends, family and neighbors to build up your resume. The average hourly salary is $16.75.
Maybe you want to turn your crafting hobby into a business, selling your products on sites like Etsy. Or you’re a fixture at thrift stores or used book shops and know what sells well on Amazon or eBay. Depending on the business, online selling usually isn’t a major financial investment. If you’re making your products, you’ll need to pay upfront for supplies and also shipping materials regardless if you’re selling or reselling. You also may need to figure out how to charge sales tax and if you need insurance.
You don’t need a special degree to be a tutor, but having strong knowledge in a specific field like science, language or test preparation, will make you more marketable. You’ll need current knowledge of your subject matter and a flair for teaching. Beyond that, you won’t need much else except a phone, internet connection and teaching materials and the ability to use video chat systems like Skype or FaceTime. You’ll also probably want to become certified through sites like the National Tutoring Association and the International Tutors Association. The average hourly rate is $17.43.
Are you really good at running errands and juggling schedules? Do you have a way of getting people to do your bidding? There are plenty of busy people out there who need help managing tasks like picking up dry cleaning, booking travel, buying gifts or making reservations. Your clients will probably be busy professionals who work long hours and don’t have time to manage those necessities. Aside from a phone, access to the internet and a car, you probably won’t need much else to run your business. The average hourly salary is $14.89.
If you’re a skilled musician with a flair for teaching, consider giving music lessons. You won’t need much to do the job except for providing musical instruments and sheet music, which you probably already have. You can teach lessons out of your own home, your clients’ homes or contract with an organization or music school that offers lessons. The average hourly rate is $29.39 for a music teacher.
If you have experience and training in a certain field or expertise, and you’re good at sharing what you know, being a business consultant could be a good fit.. Most likely this is a field you already work in or have previously worked in, so the barriers to entry are a little lower. You probably already have connections and access to potential clients. You also might already have all the training and certification you’ll need, but don’t forget to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in your field. That might mean taking the occasional class or attending conferences. The average hourly pay is $38.28.
Babysitting isn’t just a job for teenagers. It can be the perfect business for someone who likes kids. This is an especially practical job if you don’t need the more steady and predictable income that would come from being a nanny or daycare worker. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home parent who wouldn’t mind making some extra money by adding someone else’s kid to the mix. Or maybe you’re interested in being that go-to sitter for date night or after-school care that so many parents desperately need. There isn’t much capital outlay needed to become a sitter, but many parents will want you to be CPR and First Aid-certified. You might be able to find all the business you need with little effort by reaching out through your social media network, but you can also look for work on sites like Care.com. The average hourly rate for a babysitter is $10.19.
You have to spend money to make money, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of it. If you’re smart about forming a business where you already have a head start — training, equipment, access to clients — that can keep your costs down. Running a business out of your home, even if you do much of the work elsewhere, also saves money. Your best bet is to find something you love, something you’re good at and something that’s in demand or lacking in your area.