You don’t need a ton of money in the bank to start a business. In fact, many of today’s largest companies started in garages or basements — bootstrapping it until they made it big.
That being said, there are a number of business ideas with low investment required that you can start for as little as $1,000. These 20 business ideas can be your side hustle or your main gig.
Photographers see the world through a different lens than the rest of us. They love capturing special moments by snapping photos and sharing those images. If this sounds like you, then it might be time to turn your photography hobby into a business. To become a professional photographer, you’ll need a camera and editing software. Professional grade cameras can be fairly expensive, but you can still start a photography business with $1,000.
After you have your equipment, it’s time to find a niche and start getting your name out there. From wedding and party photography to family portraits, there are plenty of options. Once you know what subject you’d like to focus on, try offering your services to friends and family for free to build up your portfolio.
Make sure you have your best photos published to a website, Tumblr or your social media profile. The best way to market your services as a professional photographer is by allowing potential customers to browse your work.
2. Senior Home Care Aid
Non-medical home care helpers for seniors are in high demand. As more and more seniors choose to stay home rather than live in nursing homes, there is an increased need for people to support them. You do not need to have a medical degree or be trained to provide in-home services to seniors.
In fact, there is a growing demand for the following services:
Accompanying seniors to doctor’s appointments
Concierge services include personal shopping, running errands
Light housekeeping and food preparation
Helping to pay bills, home administrative tasks
To get started, try posting your services on a website that helps promote home caregivers like Care.com.
3. Personal Trainer
As a personal trainer, you can take your business in many different directions. You can work with clients in a gym where you pay the gym a fee, or you can start your own in-home personal training. In this case, you'd need to purchase some basic equipment.
From there, you can move to meeting clients in the privacy of their own homes to help them reach their health and fitness goals. This is one of the great low-cost business ideas for those who have a passion for fitness.
To start, you’ll need to complete some training, including CPR training that is required of most personal trainers in most states. Next, you may want to invest in a personal training course before developing your own fitness program to market to potential clients.
Do you have a great imagination and a gift for the written word? You might be able to start your own business as a writer. This can be anything from publishing your own books to creating engaging content and copy for clients across the globe.
The only true expense you'd have to start this business would be a laptop with a word processing program. However, joining a local writer’s guild or attending weekly workshops at your library, or even an online writing workshop will help to hold you accountable, give you a group of supporters and editors, and keep your ideas churning.
5. Virtual Assistant
This is one of the great low-cost business ideas, in part because you get to solve someone’s problems. We all have a set number of hours in the day and completing tons of tasks cuts into how much we can really accomplish. Busy individuals are looking for virtual assistants to help take some work off their plate. Not everyone wants to pay for an actual on-site assistant (employee), and many people are in search of a good virtual assistant they can count on.
To get started, find some online training to help prepare you for the virtual assistant marketplace. You might not even need to invest in a workshop, there are plenty of free ebooks and video content online tailored to help aspiring virtual assistants learn the ins and outs of the job.
Next, create a website, update your LinkedIn profile and consider working with an online platform like Upwork to help match you with jobs. You could also spend time applying to virtual assistant job descriptions through online platforms like Upwork and LinkedIn.
6. Auto Detailer
If you love cars and find cleaning them satisfying, you might have a very lucrative business on your hands. This is one business you can start for under $1,000 and begin making money almost immediately.
To become an auto detailer, you will want to invest in some mobile detailing equipment, which includes a good vacuum that’s easy to maneuver, a hose, microfiber cloths, buckets and the chemicals needed to wash the car. This can cost about $500.
Next, you will need to make sure you have the basic business licenses and permits necessary to operate. Make sure to check your local and state business offices to find out what is required. If you operate your auto detailing business without the necessary permits, you could be fined heavily. Incfile has a service that can help you search your business license requirements for only $99.
Are you an expert in your field or industry? Your set of skills or knowledge might just be worth a lot of money to someone else. You can start a consulting business, offering your time, knowledge and skills to those who need the help for an hourly fee.
For instance, if you have sales experience and are savvy at seeing potential solutions, you could be a consultant for companies building out sales teams and processes. As with many of the low-cost business ideas already mentioned, key expenses to start your consulting business would be a laptop and phone.
Once you decide to start a consulting business, you’ll want to get your name out there. Try marketing through your contact list by putting out an email, updating your social media profiles and tailoring messages to potential customers to let them know you’re available and taking new clients. You might be surprised how valuable your insights and experience can be to the right customers!
8. Social Media Manager
Everyone wants a large presence online to build up their followers and help sell their product or service. But not everyone has the time to invest in managing their social platforms — that’s where social media managers come in.
If you wanted to simplify your business, you could always purchase social media scheduling tools to use with your clients that would allow you to automatically launch content on their behalf. Many of these tools, like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Buffer, charge only a small fee to provide users with valuable scheduling tools that can help launch your social media management firm.
Of course, the first step toward becoming a social media manager will be to ensure your own business’s social media presence is A+. Invest some time in creating a killer social media brand and messaging that will double as your portfolio and marketing materials to earn you new clients right away.
9. Wedding Planner
Do you love a good wedding? Maybe you are one of those wedding guests who appreciates the small details and has lots of suggestions to bring an event from good to great. Why not take your party vibes to market and become a wedding planner?
This is an in-demand job that won’t cost much in terms of an upfront investment. (Or, you could invest in a wedding planning franchise to get started with some robust support.) You’ll want to start by building up contacts with local vendors, like florists, DJs, musicians, caterers and venues. Set up meetings with those you know in the field and get to know them while building out your contact list.
Once you get a lay of the local land in terms of wedding power players, you’ll have something valuable to offer your clients. Next, advertise your services through some of the big wedding planning websites like The Knot, get the local paper to publish a press release about your business and use the power of social media to get your name out there!
10. Personal Chef
If you love to create recipes, cook for loved ones or share food ideas with friends, then you might be the perfect personal chef! You can turn your passion for food into a serious business without attending Le Cordon Bleu!
Try signing up with an online platform like Hireachef.com or Table at Home to get matched with a family or an organization seeking a chef. You can also build a following by photographing your recipes or taking videos of your food prep and posting it to social media like Instagram and TikTok. Sharing recipes will build you a following.
With more and more people working from home, there is an increased demand for residential cleaning services. To start a cleaning business, you will need a minimal investment that includes some basic cleaning equipment, such as a mop, vacuum, microfiber cloths and some cleaning products. Some home cleaners even charge their clients for cleaning products or use products purchased by their clients, which will keep your upfront costs even lower.
In addition to the upfront investment in cleaning supplies, you may want to spend a little bit of money to market your services, such as paying a subscription to be listed on a website like Care.com.
Are you an educator who wants to focus more on one-on-one or small group tutoring? Do you specialize in reading, writing, math, English or another area? If so, starting your own tutoring business could be very lucrative. Some people need a little extra attention to allow them to progress, and you could be the one to help them.
Many tutors either work out of the client’s home or meet in a common area such as a library. You would need to narrow down the subjects you'd like to cover, but this could be a great low-cost business idea: The only expenses you'd incur would be teaching materials.
If you are more comfortable tutoring virtually, there has never been a better time to get into that! Try platforms like Outschool, which can help match you with multiple students and allow you to design creative classes that showcase your interests and areas of expertise to students across the globe.
13. YouTuber or TikToker
You might be asking yourself how the heck "YouTuber" made the list of business ideas with low upfront investments. But truth be told, this can be an amazing source of revenue with an extremely low cost. There are people who use only a smartphone to shoot and edit videos.
Yes, some influencers invest in a fancy camera and use costly editing software before publishing on YouTube or TikTok. But overall, the expenses required to make a career out of producing videos for YouTube or TikTok are low. You can get sponsors for your channel, get paid to promote products, use affiliate marketing and even monetize your content by allowing YouTube to put ads before or during the video.
14. Online Workshop Host
The proliferation of virtual meetings, online workshops and cyber training has made it very easy for experts in a topic to access students and audiences from far and wide like never before. This means you may be able to start a business as an online workshop host with much less than $1,000 upfront.
The topics you could choose to focus on in your workshop can be just about anything, from knitting to math tutoring to wellness. If you have a particular area of expertise, talent or niche, then this side hustle is the perfect low-investment business for you!
Zoom and Meta both have platforms for hosting events like educational webinars and workshops. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, also offers an option to monetize online events through its social media platform. It does not appear to cost any money at the moment, but there are a series of steps that you will need to follow and comply with to be eligible to host paid events on the platform.
A blogger simply produces written content that gets published online. As a blogger, you could publish content on your own blog and monetize it, or you might create content for other people’s blogs. With just a laptop and internet, you can start producing content immediately without really having any other expenses to worry about. The great thing about being a blogger is that you set your own schedule, and you can work virtually anywhere you have an internet connection.
Now that all those people are returning to the office and starting to travel again, their pets need care. This business requires a very minimal upfront investment. Your clients will provide their own food for their pets if you are sitting them, which cuts back on costs. You will really only need a few good leashes, some dog treats and bags for cleanup. This will cost less than $75 at any pet store.
To start, you will want to become a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International. These organizations will offer valuable resources to you, like education, networking and the ability to market your services through their trusted search platform. In addition, to market your services to a wide range of new clients, you may consider listing on a website like Rover.com at first.
17. Ecommerce Reseller
If you are thinking about starting an ecommerce reselling business, you should be aware that it will take some research on your part. However, if you have a grasp of what to look for, you can make quite a bit of money with your business. Why exactly is ecommerce reselling on our list of low-cost business ideas? Well, where else can you purchase something and then sell it for more than double what you paid?
For instance, if you find an item that's on sale online, you can purchase it and then sell it at full price. Or, you can start a business on eBay or Amazon where you buy items at garage sales and then sell them for huge profits. Some people don’t understand the value of their items or simply want them gone (with a quick sale you can capitalize on).
18. Landscaping/Lawn Care Service
Depending on the equipment you decide to buy, you can easily start small with a landscaping and/or lawn care business. Not many people find it fun to cut their own grass, seed a lawn, manage weeds or plant trees/bushes. There will probably be a number of competitors locally, but if you can differentiate yourself from them, you might build a lucrative operation and help your business grow from word-of-mouth referrals.
Not everyone has the time or patience to paint areas of their home that need a little TLC. That’s where your business comes into play. For a small investment, you can purchase all the equipment you would need like ladders, paint brushes and rollers, paint buckets, drop-cloths, scaffolding, masks, etc.
Next, start putting flyers up in local paint stores, making contacts with local builders and getting your name out there. You’d be surprised how many people are looking for reliable help in revamping their homes, and nothing does a better job at refreshing a room than a fresh coat of paint!
Do you have a talent for making homemade goods? Then it might be time to build your Etsy empire. Whether you have a love for crochet, a watercolor habit or enjoy printing sayings on T-shirts, there is a market for your wares. A platform like Etsy can get your products out there.
Start your very own Etsy shop selling items made to order or from your inventory to customers who can use the platform’s advanced search capabilities to find you. All you need to get started is your talent or idea and a secure Internet connection.
Does one of these business ideas sound like a winner? Once you've chosen your business and taken the first few steps to get it started, you're ready to download our easy-to-understand Start Your Business Guide. We've learned a thing or two about starting and running successful businesses, and we've put it all together in this complete business checklist, designed to make it faster and simpler for you to get your business up and running successfully.
Nicole Bowman is a freelance writer who thinks turning research into stories is the best gig ever. She started writing billboards back in 2002, worked in book publishing in New York for many years and now she creates all sorts of engaging content for the web. Nicole lives in Rehoboth Beach, DE, with her husband, two sons and their poodle, Tootsie. She loves the great outdoors, bookstores and tennis.