Cash Flow Solutions

Low-Cost Small Business Ideas

Female business owner talks on phone and takes notes

Some of the most successful companies had humble beginnings in dorm rooms and garages. While it certainly helps to have venture capital to start the business you have always dreamed of, the reality is that most entrepreneurs hit things off with little to no funding. Fortunately, there are numerous businesses you can start for less than $5,000. You just need to be creative and stay focused enough to establish your brand and build your clientele.

These are just some of our favorite low-cost business ideas.


Are you already experienced in a specific area with plenty of knowledge to share? You might be able to open your own consulting agency from a home office. Consultants have already worked in their respective industries for years, so this isn’t exactly something you can do straight out of college, but it is a great option when you’ve already put in the time and want to leave the 9-to-5 grind.

To start a consulting agency, make sure you have the appropriate licenses and certifications. From there, you should research your target market and build your network. This is the time to reach out to former colleagues who may know someone who needs your services. The great thing about consulting is you can handle all the tasks on your own, but if you want to outsource certain aspects you can, so there’s virtually no overhead.

Pet Training, Sitting and Walking

Do you love animals? Consider starting your own pet-based business. As people spend long hours outside the home for work and travel, pet sitters and dog walkers are in higher demand than ever. And if you already have experience training your dog, you can get certified to put those skills to good use as a trainer.

When forming a pet-based business, you will need to register for your business license and consider getting insurance tailored to pet-centric jobs. This type of insurance will protect you if a pet causes injuries or damages while under your care. Create a solid contract that spells out the service agreement terms for your clients and have them sign before taking on any job. You may also want to invest in extra leashes, baggies, wipes and treats to keep your clientele safe and happy.

Delivery Service

Door-to-door delivery services have sprung up all across the country in recent years. Many businesses allow customers to order products online, but they don’t always deliver, which is where you come in. Consider how many grocery stores, restaurants, pizzerias and specialty stores in your town don’t deliver. If you own a reliable vehicle and a GPS, customers can call you to pick up their goods when they’re unable to.

A good way to spread the word about your new delivery business is to print flyers or brochures and pass them out at area businesses. Many offices order food for their employees on a regular basis, so networking with them can help you build a client list fairly quickly. Keep in mind, however, that you may need to outsource drivers as the business grows to keep up with demand.


Starting your own blog is easy and cost-effective, but it requires patience if you ever want to see revenue. Although some of today’s top bloggers and vloggers earn six-figure incomes, the reality is that few make a living from their efforts, even after putting in years of hard work.

Still, there’s no reason you can’t try blogging or vlogging if you’re charismatic and have something to offer nobody else does. You can help support your blog by combining content with affiliate marketing, which allows you to earn a commission off sales. Many bloggers and vloggers do this by linking to products on their own product reviews, so consider this idea a mix of content creation and promotion. The more you put into it, the more likely you’ll see results.

Tour Guide

Do you live in an area that attracts a lot of tourists? Consider starting a tour guide service. You will need to be outgoing and good with people, plus have an intimate knowledge of your area, but that’s really all you need to get started.

Work on building up your confidence and reputation by offering free walking tours. This is also a good chance to take photographs for your website and pass out business cards. When you’re ready, price your tour guide services and frequent top tourist sites to get your name out there. At some point, you may want to invest in a minibus to offer driving tours, including lengthier day trips.

Cleaning Service

One of the best things about starting your own cleaning service is that you can choose your own hours and the type of environments you wish to work in. For example, you might choose to clean houses during the day or commercial offices in the evening. How you focus your cleaning business is up to you.

Startup costs associated with this type of service are practically limited to the cleaning supplies themselves. You may want to invest in a high-quality commercial vacuum, but it’s not required. You don’t even need to put much effort into marketing since cleaning services tend to be advertised via word of mouth.

Lawn Mowing and Snow Removal

Would you prefer a career that allows you to work outside with your hands? There’s always a place for lawn care companies no matter where you live. As long as your area isn’t saturated with competitors, you should have no problem building a client list and getting referrals.

Most people who go into lawn care and snow removal services already have the tools required to get the job done, but if you don’t, you’ll need to purchase a commercial-quality lawn mower and weed eater or snow shovel and blower. Aside from tools of the trade, the main costs for starting your own business involve marketing and advertising. While you don’t need to print business cards and start a website, per se, doing so can help. Plus, they make you look more professional than simply hanging up a flyer at the local grocery store.


Did you always make straight As in school? You may succeed in providing tutoring services. Whether you’re still in college, a recent graduate or you’re a teacher looking for part-time work, tutoring is a rewarding job that’s more lucrative than you might think.

Individuals charge for their tutoring services based on their experience and education. High schoolers and college students should charge anywhere from $12 to $20 per hour, while certified teachers can charge as much as $85 per hour or more. If you’re qualified to work with special needs children, you can charge even more. To make your business official, join a tutoring association and get licensed when possible, then set your rates and start advertising.

Personal Chef

Do you love cooking delicious meals? Do you have any culinary experience or training? Then a career as a personal chef may be the low-cost business opportunity you’re looking for. Many of today’s families find it difficult to cook and sit down to a meal after working eight hours a day. As a personal chef, you provide this much-needed service and charge them for it.

There are a couple of ways you can approach a personal chef business. You can schedule an in-home cooking service for clients and serve them a hot meal fresh from the kitchen, or you can prepare tasty meals off-site in a commercial kitchen and deliver. There are more startup costs associated with having a kitchen space, but cooking for people in their own homes requires virtually no investment aside from advertising, so you can get started in your new career right away.

Event Planning

If you’re outgoing with an eye for detail and a love of parties, you might succeed with an event planning business. Party planners are almost always self-employed, so it’s easy to find resources on how to get started. There’s also a high earning potential and you can work your own hours to an extent. Just keep in mind that most events happen on weekends or even holidays, and you’ll be on your feet for extended hours. While you can plan the party on your own time, you will need to make yourself available on the actual party dates to ensure everything runs smoothly.

The downside to event planning is that it can be stressful. It also takes time to build a client portfolio. The good news, however, is that every party is a chance to network with potential clients who are impressed with your work. Since clients have high expectations for wedding receptions and other events, consider meeting with an attorney to draft a legal contract to avoid issues that may arise with unsatisfied customers.

Flipping Websites

It may sound silly, but buying up outdated websites, redesigning them and selling them for profit is actually a lucrative business if you know what you’re doing. You will need to build up your website design and content skills before investing, but there are clear advantages to buying websites over starting new ones.

An established website already has an audience and is indexed by search engines. This fact is beneficial if you already have a product or service you want to offer. Simply direct traffic to your own business through the existing website and take advantage of any email lists.  Some people even purchase established websites to generate advertising revenue. There’s also the fact that some domain names sell for thousands, so if you can snag a site with an in-demand URL, you could turn around and sell it for a nice chunk of change.

Personal Training and Health Coaching

If you have a fitness background and love working out, why not start your own personal training business? Becoming a personal trainer doesn’t take much in the form of startup costs. You will want to get certified to prove to clients you’re reputable and skilled at what you do, but aside from that, you can start personal training sessions with little equipment.

Depending on where you live, you may want to see if area gyms partner with personal trainers. The gym may take a cut of your money for the referral, or require you to clock in as a part-time employee during your training sessions, but this is a great way to build your clientele and network with other fitness enthusiasts in your city. As for health coaching, you can provide your services online, in-person or over the phone.

Life Coaching

If you love people and feel you have something to give back to society, life coaching may be the career you’ve been looking for. Life coaches help people set personal and professional goals and take the necessary steps to reach them. A life coach serves as an advisor, mentor and cheerleader, offering support and wisdom however the client needs them.

Most life coaches establish a niche business, meaning that they focus on one particular area of coaching. You may consider areas related to dating, marriage, health, business, career, spirituality or life purpose. Once you’ve established your niche, you may choose to provide your services in an office, online or over the phone. Setting up a virtual meeting space is a low-cost solution that allows you to see your clients without either of you having to commute.

Moving Service

Have you ever wanted to purchase a new sofa or other large pieces of furniture only to realize you have no way of moving it? If you have a pickup truck and trailer, you can make a living moving other people’s stuff for them.

Starting a moving service is one of the easiest things you can do because you can pretty much start right away. Price your services and advertise online and around town. Check out your local marketplace listings on social media and let others know you’re available to move furniture for a fee and you’ll start getting work quickly.

As your low-cost startup grows, you may find yourself needing extra money to take things to the next level. Consider taking out a small business loan from an online lender to enjoy competitive rates and keep your costs low.

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