So you want to know what type of business you can start with $500? Or maybe you're asking, what business can I start with $0? The good news is that starting your own business doesn’t have to cost a lot of money upfront.
You have many options for businesses you could start for under $500, and just as many you can start for no money at all. Below, we’ve listed out 21 businesses you can start for under $500, with 10 ideas that will require no money upfront.
What Business Can I Start with $500?
While many people might think that starting a business will require a significant investment upwards of $1,000 or more, some key businesses can take off with a minimal investment of $500 and some as low as $100. Read our list below to see which businesses you could start with less than $500.
1. Personal Trainer
Becoming a personal trainer is one of the great low-cost business ideas for those who have a passion for fitness. The physical fitness industry is worth $96.7 billion worldwide. It’s a consistently strong market that presents a strong opportunity for success, and it doesn’t cost much to get in the door either. To become a personal trainer, your main expenses will be:
A space to operate from (could be your home or your clients’ homes)
Marketing to recruit your clients
2. Mobile Notary Public
With the rise of remote work, people have come to rely on many conveniences from their own homes, including mobile notary services. The total cost of becoming a notary public comes in under $100. Once you officially become a notary, you will be required to purchase a notary stamp or seal and a surety bond.
3. Senior Home Care Aid (Non-Medical)
Becoming a non-medical home care helper for seniors requires a minimal upfront investment but is an increasingly high-demand business. Consider the growing number of seniors in the U.S. By 2034, there will be more seniors in this country than children. Due to the rising cost of nursing home care, more and more seniors are staying at home for longer and longer. And these seniors are in need of in-home services.
If you are someone who loves the holiday season and decorating, then you might consider starting a business as a holiday decorator. Becoming a holiday decorator does not require certification. Your clients will pay for the supplies you use to decorate, plus your time and ideas. Therefore, this business idea does not require much money to invest upfront.
You will need some supplies in your toolbox before you start decorating, and these items may include a ladder, extension cords and other tools. After you have the necessary supplies, all you will need to pay is whatever amount you want to spend to market yourself.
Many people don’t realize that there is an opportunity to start a lucrative business that doesn’t entail much more than listening to some of your favorite content. Online content creators are looking for people who can transcribe their videos and podcasts so that they may use the transcriptions for further content.
To start a business as a transcriptionist, you will only need a few pieces of equipment, some of which you might already have, including a computer and a good pair of headphones. Transcription software will cost a few hundred dollars and make you more efficient at the job.
6. Start a Small Rental Business
If you already own property, then renting out a portion of it can be a lucrative small business to start. And this doesn’t require you to outfit an entire vacation rental or get a new roommate, either. You can start a small rental business with just a parking spot, a storage closet or a backyard.
Starting a rental business on such a small scale is a great way to get into the rental property business to see if it’s something you might want to grow into. You won’t need to pay much if you already have the space, but costs could include some minimal cleanup charges and paying a website or app to help market your rental property to potential customers.
7. Home Repair Business
For under $500, you can invest in some good tools to get yourself started with a home repair business. Marketing costs will be minimal, with the old-fashioned flier method or some homegrown social media posts on neighborhood groups being the most affordable and effective options in the home repair industry.
Around 76 percent of American adults shop online, and the online shopping market is expected to hit $5.5 trillion in 2022. If you want to get in on this market, you don’t have to invest in a ton of inventory and set up an online shop. You can start an ecommerce business with a little bit of money through dropshipping.
Shopify and Amazon are the most common dropshipping platforms, and they charge anywhere between $1.00 and $40 to start. Other than the cost of creating your website, there really isn’t much more you will need to spend initially to start selling goods online.
9. Personal Concierge
If you are a task-oriented person who likes to help others, you can start a personal concierge business for less than $500. The investment to become a personal concierge can even be less than $100 if you already have a reliable computer.
The website TaskRabbit is an excellent resource that helps personal concierge businesses market their services directly to people who are looking for help. The site charges as low as $25 to register.
10. Cleaning Business Owner
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.
It doesn’t cost much to buy the supplies you will need to start a home painting company. Most project prices will include the price of paint, but it is expected that a house painter will provide their own paint brushes, rollers, buckets, drop cloths and ladders/scaffolding. These supplies can be purchased for less than $500.
What Business Can I Start with $0?
There are plenty of businesses that can be started with no money upfront. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best ideas you can start with no money. By leveraging your skills, interests and experience, you can start a business doing what you love with no money upfront.
12. Pet Sitter
In 2022, 70 percent of homes reported owning at least one pet. If you love animals, you can turn that interest into a lucrative business with no initial investment by becoming a pet sitter. The client will often provide all of the supplies needed for their pet, including food, a leash and a pet’s bed or crate. That means all you need to provide as a pet sitter is a safe and comfortable home, the attention the pet requires and the ability to communicate with the pet owner.
13. Dog Walker
If you love animals and exercise, then you might consider starting a dog walking business. With more and more people returning to work in 2022, there is an increased need for help with the dogs everyone adopted during the pandemic. That means your dog walking business, which requires $0 to start, is going to be in high demand.
Owners will provide their own leashes and any other dog walking equipment needed. You would be smart to bring your own bags for cleaning up dog waste, but these don’t even have to cost anything — you can repurpose plastic grocery jobs to get started!
A babysitting business can be started for no money. If you are a reliable person who is good with kids, then word will travel quickly among potential customers and you could find yourself with a thriving childcare business in no time. If you start by providing your babysitting services in other people’s homes, you become more convenient for them, plus you avoid having to pay licensing fees that most states require for in-home childcare services.
This business is pretty straightforward, and while it is a high-responsibility business that requires a very specific type of individual, if you have the right stuff, you can become successful without investing any startup costs.
You might already have a set of skills, experience and knowledge that can really help other businesses. Becoming a consultant might sound intimidating, but really it’s all about leveraging your existing skill set and expertise to help others.
The key expenses to set out as a consultant are just a computer and a phone. If you already have those, then you can start your consulting business with $0 right now.
Remote schooling and school closings due to the pandemic have created a demand for tutors as students continue to struggle to catch up. As a tutor, you have the ability to meet with students in the home (yours or theirs) or at a public place such as a library.
If you have an education background and some school supplies, then this could be the perfect small business for you to start for $0.
17. Print-on-Demand Business Owner
There are some print-on-demand businesses that started for $0 and are making incredible profits today. All they really needed was a great idea, like a funny saying or a unique take on a popular meme.
After you have your great design, you partner with a printer that can make your product. Some printers, like Canva, have a free option to get you started. Or you might be charged per item sold by the printer.
18. Social Media Manager
Many companies choose to hire independent contractors to help run their social media accounts. If you are social media savvy, this cheap business venture will allow you to take your expertise and help businesses build content, drive interactions and increase followers to drive up profits.
Being a social media manager is more time and knowledge-heavy than cost-intensive. All you need to do to get started is to introduce yourself to customers — and social media savvy entrepreneurs can surely find a free way to do so!
19. Freelance Writer/Editor
If you are a great writer or a detail-oriented editor, freelancing could be a great small business option for you. The type of writing you will do can be almost anything — from writing video scripts or training manuals to writing email newsletters or blog posts.
If you already have a laptop and an Internet connection, the investment in this business will be nothing. All you need to do is start writing an email, a blog or some social media posts to let potential customers know that you are taking on assignments.
20. Published Author
You don’t need an agent or a contract with a big publishing house to earn passive income off of a book idea. Now, with the help of Amazon, you can write a book and then upload it directly to the Amazon Kindle Publishing platform — for free.
Then you sit back and collect the proceeds every time your book is downloaded. Amazon takes a percentage, but you have a source of passive income with no money upfront.
21. Professional Organizer
Decluttering is de rigueur, but many people are too busy to clean out their own closets. If you love to tidy spaces and have a knack for organization, then you might consider starting a business as a professional organizer. To start a business as a professional organizer, you will need $0 upfront. Your clients will pay for the supplies needed to organize their homes, so all you need to bring to your appointments is the plan!
Does one of these business ideas spark excitement for you? Incfile can get your new business started for $0 + state fee, so you can get going for less than $500. And once you’re up and running, we’ve got the resources to help you keep your business growing.
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.