You’ve always wanted to start a business. You’re tired of working for someone else, and you’d love the flexibility and responsibility of running your own company. The trouble is, you don’t have a whole lot of starting capital—or any, for that matter. Which probably means you’re out of luck, right? Wrong!
Here are businesses that you can start virtually free (and those that aren’t completely free are quite low-cost). They don’t require expensive training or degrees, fancy equipment, or lots of materials, space, or product.
That being said, plenty of the businesses mentioned below require, at a minimum, regular access to a computer, the internet, and perhaps a car. However, if you’ve got those sorted already, dive right in—you’re bound to find a business idea that suits your skill set if you think creatively!
While not a new concept, monetized blogging is always a popular option for an essentially no-cost business.
There are tons of options when it comes to making money from your blog, such as affiliate partnerships, producing ebooks, offering online courses and webinars. Some of these work better than others, as and certain blog niches will be more popular and easy to monetize than others. For instance, beauty, food, and parenting blogs are some of the most popular niches, and will, therefore, be easier to monetize (though you’ll also face stiffer competition).
It’s worth mentioning, however, that monetizing your blog will work best when you choose a subject that you are actually passionate about and personally invested in to blog about. So, this route works best if you’re thinking, “Yeah! I’ve always really wanted to start a blog about my love of handcrafted artisan chocolates!” (or whatever else gets you going). Merely wanting to make money isn’t enough.
2. In-home child care
If you love children and have a good setup for it, turning your home into an in-home childcare facility might be a great option for you. There will be associated fees and licensing requirements (which vary state by state), but these aside, the costs associated with starting a childcare business are minimal to none.
To start, check out our article on starting a daycare business, which will walk you through all the steps you’ll need to go through to get your business up and running.
3. In-home dog care
In a similar vein, if you love caring for animals, consider setting up a doggy daycare business. You can operate during business hours, for folks who need someone to watch their dog while at work, or you can look after dogs for people while they are out of town.
In addition to being low-to-no-cost, the skill set you need is pretty self-explanatory: experience with caring for dogs, and ability to patiently and carefully look after them. If you’d love to start a dog care business but haven’t spent a ton of time around dogs, consider volunteering at an animal shelter first.
Check out DogVacay to get a sense of what this looks like, and what other sitters are charging in your area. You can even list yourself on the site!
4. Pet services
On that note, why not start a business that encompasses all of the smaller details of pet ownership, such as taking pets to grooming or vet appointments, dog walking, pet sitting, and so on?
Mix and match services depending on what works for you; you could easily start a business involving full-service pet help, including walks, trips to the groomer, sitting during the day, and so on.
5. Freelance writing
Are you a strong writer? This one is a no-brainer. If you have solid writing skills, consider starting a business as a freelance writer.
To build up your portfolio and client base, you may want to start with a site like Upwork.
6. Freelance editing
Similarly, if you have a great eye for necessary structural changes and enjoy editing for grammar and punctuation, you may want to consider starting a freelance editing business.
If you have writing experience and a good eye, freelance editing may be a business idea to consider.
7. Resume building
Maybe you’ve worked as a hiring manager for years, and you know exactly what employers are looking for. Maybe you are a graphic design whiz and love creating a polished, professional-looking resume. Maybe you also have a great eye for detail (and I mean great—no mistakes allowed here!).
If so, consider starting a business as a resume builder. There are multiple ways you could approach this; some services specialize in editing existing documents, while others will build an entire resume—graphics, content, and all—for a considerably larger fee and time expenditure. What you choose will depend on your skill set, but both are viable options for free businesses to start.
8. Logo and image design
If you’re artistic and good with Photoshop, consider starting a logo or graphic design business. You can list your services on sites like Upwork, 99Designs, or any of the number of other freelance sites available to help build a portfolio and a client base to start.
If this sounds right up your alley, check out these resources from How Design, geared toward those interested in freelance graphic design or starting a design business.
Starting a consulting business is always a popular free business to start. The type of consulting you choose to offer will depend on your skill set; do you have a social media marketing background, or maybe you’ve got legal experience?
Look at your skills and your previous job experience and see what you could bring to the table that others might not have your expertise in. Check out Neil Patel’s article on lessons learned starting a consulting business for an in-depth look at the process.
10. Errand runner or jack of all trades
Have you heard of TaskRabbit, the site where you can essentially ask anyone to do any task for you—no matter how menial? (Though I assume you’d get a few funny looks if you asked someone to help you open that tricky jam jar.)
Consider employing a similar idea, and start a business as a jack-of-all-trades or general errand-runner. Someone needs dry cleaning dropped off, groceries purchased, or old clothes donated to Goodwill? You’re on it. For even more specificity, you could consider choosing a niche, such as running errands for seniors.
11. Building websites
If you know how to set up a killer website, you’re in luck—most people don’t, and the demand for high-quality business websites is only continuing to grow.
Before you jump in, check out this article, 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Web Design Business—you’ll learn that the biggest competitor to your web design services isn’t other designers, but business owners who choose not to hire anyone at all. So, how will you make yourself seem invaluable?
While it is possible to teach yourself programming and build your own app, programming services will always be in high demand. If you are a skilled programmer, you can start a business with no money offering your programming skills.
13. Driving for Uber
Do you have a car (more specifically, a 4-door sedan, year 2001 or newer)? That’s about all it takes to become an Uber driver, along with at least three years of driving experience and a clean record.
If you have the above, starting a business as an Uber driver can be wildly lucrative. While you may not reach the heights of the so-called “Uberpreneurs” who make upwards of $200,000 a year, it can be a great free business to start!!
14. Music lessons or tutoring
If you are great at a specific school subject or play a musical instrument, consider starting a tutoring business. The possibilities are nearly endless, enabling you to specialize in your niche skill set or interest (though you may have more luck as a general English tutor and not, say, as a specialist in 19th-century Gothic Literature).
15. Language teaching and practice
If you speak more than one language, you have a golden opportunity to start a business teaching a language, or holding language conversation practice sessions.
In addition to the resources above, check out this article by Tammy Bjelland, who started a language teaching and consulting business. If you’re wondering where to list your tutoring services, there are plenty of options beyond basic Craigslist.
16. Virtual assistant
If you are organized and can easily accomplish tasks in a timely manner, consider becoming a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants handle scheduling, bookkeeping, and various other administrative tasks remotely from their home office; similar to freelancing as a writer, editor, designer, and so on, virtual assistants can build up their client base and experience on sites like Upwork.
For more on becoming a virtual assistant, check out The VA Handbook, a site dedicated to helping others start and manage their own virtual assistant businesses.
17. House sitting
Okay, sure, you’ve done house sitting for friends before—but can you turn this into an actual, profitable business?
Good references are of paramount importance when starting a house sitting business (though experience managing a home, caring for pets, and conducting minor lawn care are also important). That being said, building these up, in the beginning, may be as simple as finding families in your social circle who are going out of town this summer!
19. Home organization
Do you love to keep a clean, tidy home? Does the idea of visiting The Container Store fill you with excitement (don’t worry—you’re not alone)? If so, you may want to consider offering home organization services.
20. Drop shipping
I won’t even begin to get into drop shipping here—especially when Shopify has such an excellent drop shipping guide already.
The appeal of drop shipping is obvious: it involves little when it comes to specific skill set, can be done from anywhere, doesn’t involve startup capital, and can be hugely lucrative.
21. Gardening and landscaping
If you have a green thumb, you might want to consider starting a gardening or landscaping business. If you have basic mowing, pruning, and lawn maintenance skills, you’ll likely find that the bar to entry for starting a landscaping business is fairly low.
The more complex the process (i.e., more complex irrigation techniques and similar) may require additional learning, through a course, degree, or mentorship.
Though the latter does take away from the “free” aspect of starting this business, it’s still worth looking into (and perhaps you can mentor under an expert in the field to learn new skills at no cost). For more on starting a landscape gardening business, read this guide.
22. Sewing and alterations
If you’re a skilled seamstress or someone with a desire to learn, you may want to consider starting a sewing or alterations business. Startup costs are virtually nonexistent, provided that you already have a sewing machine and the necessary skills (and even if you don’t, these one-time expenses are still fairly low in the grand scheme of new business ventures).
For more, check out this extensive guide: Profit from a Home Sewing Business.