1. Sales Consultant
Avon, Pampered Chef, and Arbonne all enlist the help of local sales representatives to get the word out to shoppers about their products. If you're comfortable talking to people about a product, this side hustle could be for you. So, what is perhaps the cheapest business to start from home? Starting Avon costs just $5 to register, while Pampered Chef is $80, and you can begin building an Arbonne business for as little as $99.
Beverly Kemner of Pottstown, Pa., sees being an Avon representative as a way to earn money to supplement her income and has been running her part-time business for about four years. To get started, she paid $5 to register with Avon.
"I could do it out of my own home on my own time," she says. "They give you everything you need to start the first campaign ... I think it's perfect for this economy."
Kemner says the harder you work at building your customer base with your sales skills, the more sales you can likely make, and that flexibility appealed to Kemner, who suffers from a chronic illness. "You do the best when you can put the time in to it," she says. "You need to give it a little bit of time, but it's not as time-demanding as some other (businesses)."
2. Lawn care
This is a seasonal job that can be lucrative if marketed to time-crunched homeowners who have better things to do on their days off than mow their lawns. It is a good job for someone who likes to be outdoors, and can be started inexpensively with fliers, business cards and a lawnmower. Also, it's a business that you can easily scale into a bigger operation.
3. Create your own gourmet delights at home
A love of cooking turned part-time business ideas into a thriving full-time business for Nancy Neal of Melbourne, Fla. She makes jams, jellies and spreads right in her home kitchen, now has about 50 products including soup mixes at her Nancy's Pantry Corner in a variety of markets.
If you're just beginning, starting costs to be considered include cooking supplies, packaging, and basic marketing materials, and depending on where you're going to sell your goods, either the cost to set up a website or rent a retail store.
Babysitting isn't a teenager's job anymore. If you like children, then this is one of those weekend business ideas that can make a great side hustle. Network in your community and make sure you're prepared to be available for work at night and on the weekends.
Build a customer base by creating relationships in your community and ask for client testimonials and online reviews.
5. Cleaning services
Where there are people, there will be a need to clean. Whether you focus on cleaning houses or go after business from companies, this can be one of the cheapest businesses to start, since it costs as much as supplies and the fliers needed to get your name out in the community. The hours for the cleaning service could dovetail nicely with a standard Monday through Friday job too, since businesses usually want their buildings cleaned at night and on weekends.
In many areas, you can make as much money with your own solo 20-hour-a-week cleaning services as you can with lots of full-time entry level professional jobs. Why? Simply put: because most people don’t want to do this work.
6. Catering and bartending service
If you like to cook and can plan out a meal from beginning to end, this could be one of the best weekend business ideas for you. Offer party catering as well as business lunches as a way to keep business opportunities available.
Build a customer base by creating relationships in your community and ask for client testimonials and online reviews as a way to show potential new customers what you have done at past events. Costs would include making fliers and possibly having samples of your cooking available for tasting by future clients.
If you like helping people, you may like running errands for people in your community. Market to those in your community who don't have a lot of time for chores or may be housebound.
8. Handyman business
If you can fix a rain gutter, do simple electrical repairs or know how to spackel, why not turn those home-improvement skills into a side hustle – this can also be one of the cheapest businesses to start. Make sure to check with your state about any possible permits or licenses needed to work first though.
9. Virtual assistant
If you like organizing things, weeding through e-mails, posting to social media and keeping people on a schedule, market those skills to small-business owners who are too busy growing their own businesses to take care of those things themselves. This one makes for a great part-time freelancing gig, with the costs of starting this business including a computer and stable WiFi to stay connected with your clients.
You can expect to be required to have basic knowledge of simple computer programs like Word, Excel, Google Docs and Sheets, but usually nothing too specialized. You’ll also need to be highly organized and responsive to the work requests that you are given.
10. Marketing consulting for local businesses
Maybe you've changed careers during your working life. But did you ever consider marketing your skills from that former industry as a paid consultant? Since you worked in the industry, you already have contacts you could market to as being available for freelance hire.
11. Snow removal
This seasonal business can be lucrative, but is dependent upon the weather. When looking for potential customers, think houses as well as small businesses. The costs for starting this business can be as little as the price of fliers, business cards and a shovel—or higher with more equipment.
12. Online content production
If you have a knack for grammar and love to write, content production for websites could be a cheap business startup for you. Cost to kick off this business includes a computer and an Internet connection. Market your skills on sites including elance.com, where potential employers look for contract workers.
13. Launch your pet business
With the American Pet Products Association finding Americans spent $136.8 billion on pets in 2022, it just goes to show people are willing to spend big on their furry friends.
You could combine a love for animals and a love of the outdoors and get into dog walking. Many people leave their pets at home alone most of the day while they are at work, but are willing to pay people to check in on their pets and walk them during the day.
Costs to start a pet business could include marketing materials, a love of animals, as well as any permits, insurance and equipment required.
14. Personal trainer
Starting a business in the personal training world may require you to take a certification course. However, you can do so from home in just a few months. Some courses even help you to find clients and launch your part-time PT business.
Once you have your certifications in hand, you could consider establishing a social media presence where you share your exercises, creating an engaging website to showcase client reviews and results, and developing a brand identity that aligns with your vision.
Helping your clients find enjoyment through movement and improve their health they're at it can be very fulfilling, too.
15. Delivery service
Do you like going to different locations throughout the day? A courier business may be a good fit for you. You could market your services to local businesses, or do some research into vacancies within courier services such as these:
16. Create an Etsy business
With websites like Etsy now at our fingertips online, you can not only find a place to sell your goods but also get an idea of what other people on there are making money on. One big benefit of this kind of side hustle includes avoiding the expensive overhead of paying for a storefront.
Before you begin, think about who you want your target market to be, what will appeal to them, and how you’ll stand out from your competitors. You can do your own marketing to drive traffic to your online shop too, by putting together a website and establishing a strong presence on social media.
If you excel at a certain subject, you could use that skill to help start an online small business as a private tutor for students of all ages.
It could be worth finding a niche, for example supporting adult learners with their school subjects, or helping students prepare for their SATs – these have become so crucial to college acceptance that parents are often willing to pay high hourly rates for these types of services. Costs to get started would include marketing materials.
18. Home day care
Parents look for alternatives to big day care centers where their children are grouped with many other children. Fill that need by offering home day care. Check with your state on regulations for these start-up businesses—licensing may be required depending on the number of children you hope to have at your home.
Speak another language? That valuable skill can easily be turned in to a business by offering your services to businesses and government offices.
20. Elder caregiver
With a growing older population, this service-based business is filling an important need.
Market to senior citizens who may not want to live in assisted-living communities, but could still benefit from help with minor day-to-day activities including light house work. Cost includes marketing materials and a reliable car.
Level Up Your Part-time Business Ideas
So, now you've got some inspiration for affordable part-time businesses, you might want to take a look into how you can balance a traditional job with your new side gig.
Linda is an award-winning journalist with more than more than 22 years' experience as a reporter, editor and blogger. Linda blogs via Contently.com.
A version of this article was originally published on December 28, 2012.
Photo: Getty Images