5 Low-Cost Business Ideas You Can Start Today

by Miranda Marquit

Economic troubles, combined with recent leaps in technology, have provided unprecedented opportunities for entrepreneurs to step out on their own.

The idea of owning a business is a powerful one. When you own a business, you have greater control over your income, and the ability to boost your earning power in accordance with your business acumen.

Some would-be entrepreneurs become discouraged, though, when they consider the costs of starting a business. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to buy into a franchise. If you want open a brick and mortar store, you need to be able to secure financing for premises, equipment, and other necessities. Even if you “only” lease your location, you still need to come up with funds.

The good news is that there are opportunities to make money with low-cost business ideas. Here are a few business ideas you can start on a shoestring:

1. Freelancing


Freelancing is a great option to bring in some extra money!

Freelancing, is what I do. Whether you provide writing, graphic design, web development, or photography services, freelancing can be a great, low-cost business . . . if you have the requisite skills. With writing, all you need is a computer and a reliable Internet connection. A graphic designer or web developer can start out with the right software, along with the computer and Internet connection. With a good camera and editing software, a freelance photographer can start out.

Depending on what you already have, it’s possible to start a freelance business with no additional cost beyond what you’re already paying for your Internet connection and your hobby – especially if you start out using free web hosting for your business website. Even if you need to buy a few things, it’s possible to get started for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to less than $5,000.

2. Consulting

Why not get paid for all that knowledge in your head? Offer your services as a consultant on a subject at which you are considered an expert. From gardening to statistics (my husband did this) to social media, your expert knowledge might be valuable to someone else.

It helps to have a website so that others can find you. The costs of buying a domain name, paying for hosting, and even buying a theme you can use aren’t usually very high. You can start a professional blog or other website less than a few hundred dollars. A professional design can be more expensive, but isn’t always required. It’s even possible to do it for no cost beyond what you pay for your home Internet service, depending on what services you use. Promote your services on social media and establish your expertise with a blog, and you can bring in consulting work.

3. Sitting

Another option is to provide sitter services. Whether you are babysitting children, or providing services for the elderly, your care and companionship can be valuable. You can do fulfilling work and earn money at the same time. However, you do need to check into requirements from your state. There are states that limit how many children you can babysit, and you also need to look into caregiving requirements if you are involved in sitting for adults.

You can also offer your services for house-sitting. If you live in an area where people are gone for an extended period of time, consider providing house-sitting services. You can keep the house clean, watch for problems with water lines, keep up the yard, and provide other house-sitting services. You can start out using your own household cleaning equipment, and then buy other items later. It’s possible to start out for less than $3,000, even taking into account tools, cleaning supplies, and limited advertising.

4. Selling Handmade Items

If you are a crafty person, you can sell handmade items. From vinyl cutouts to crocheted items to woodworking to just about anything that you can make by hand, it’s possible to sell it and earn money. It is a little more expensive this way, since you have to pay for supplies. However, you can start small, buying a few supplies. As your items sell, you can order more supplies later. You can usually start selling for a low cost, since sites like Etsy, Amazon and eBay offer cost-efficient storefronts.

5. Selling Using a Drop-Ship E-Commerce Store

You can also start an e-commerce store through drop-shipping. Instead of carrying inventory, you arrange to have the vendor ship it to the customer. It’s fairly cost-efficient to set up such an e-commerce store, since you don’t have to buy the inventory up front; instead, you pay for what you have shipped to customers. The details of doing this are beyond the scope of this article, but here is good starting point to learn more about starting a niche store online.

What other low-cost business ideas can you think of? Leave a comment!

Photo Credit: racheocity

Published or updated May 3, 2013.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle

These are all great ideas! I’m in the process of starting a new business, and wish it were more low-cost, but it won’t be too bad.


2 Jake Erickson

I love all of your ideas. I know it’s kind of like owning your own store, but a friend of mine went to garage sales and bought books that they could sell for more. With barcode scanners on just about every phone nowadays they were able to use that to search for current prices online to determine if they could make money or not. You may only make a few dollars a book (which means you’d need to sell a bunch), but it’s better than nothing.


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