When you decide to start a business, sometimes the plan is more focused on the overall lifestyle of being your own boss rather than having a specific industry or type of business in mind. If you want to get started quickly and inexpensively as an entrepreneur, one great business idea is to consider options where you can start an online business with no inventory.
An inventory-free business is a good low-risk business to start to get your feet wet in the business world and frequently coordinates well as a side gig if you aren’t quite ready to quit your day job. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best small business ideas that you can start with no inventory cost.
What Are the Benefits of Not Having Inventory?
No inventory means no inventory costs, no inventory hassles and no time required to manage the details of your inventory. But beyond the cost and time savings, there are a variety of less obvious perks to starting a small business where no inventory is required:
Inventory requires a place to store it. With a no-inventory small business, you won’t need to maintain warehouse space for your inventory. You’ll save money not having to lease space, as well as not needing to insure the contents of the warehouse.
If you don’t have inventory, you won’t need to monitor your inventory levels. This means you won’t need to invest in a tracking system, nor will you need to maintain a minimum level of inventory since there isn’t any.
No need to worry about shipping. No inventory means no shipping to customers, which saves you the worry of keeping track of packages, dealing with lost packages and maintaining an inventory of shipping materials.
Low Inventory Business Ideas
When it comes to the most successful small business ideas, you don't have to take on a lot of financial risk. Not every business requires you to invest a lot of upfront money on inventory or pay the overhead costs of a brick-and-mortar business model.
Here are a few options for good low-risk businesses that you can start with little or no inventory costs:
This is a popular new ecommerce business model where you can sell customized printed products without having to maintain an inventory or printing press. A great option for beginning graphic designers and artists, all you have to do is create the custom art designs and find a printing vendor. Options range from mugs and T-shirts to cards, invitations and posters.
When an order comes in, the supplier will print your provided image on the selected product and ship it out directly to your customer.
If you have professional skills in copywriting, editing, graphic design, web development or any other digital skills, you can make money and start your own business as a freelancer. With nearly all gigs being done online, you won't need any inventory on hand as your work will be completed with a computer.
Starting a consulting business is a great way to take your career in a new direction by building upon your previous career experiences. What problems can you help companies solve? Businesses need creative problem-solvers more than ever; your consulting business could help deliver massive value for your clients.
There are several options for getting involved with ecommerce. Since you will be focusing on low-risk business models with no inventory, the most important first step will be to find a reputable supplier that can accommodate your business model. Once you have the supplier set up, you can get your website up and running and be selling in no time!
Life Coach/Career Coach
Many people are looking for help to navigate challenges and make big improvements in their personal and professional lives. There are ways to start a business as a life coach, career coach or other professional adviser.
Real Estate Professional
There are many opportunities to start a real estate business, depending on your skills and interests. Would you love to fix up old houses and flip them for a profit? Or could you become a professional property manager for other real estate investors? Getting your real estate license and becoming a professional real estate agent can also be a great route to starting a real estate business.
Dropshipping is a great way to start a business with very little startup cost. In this business model, product fulfillment takes place with your vendor or supplier. As with the other no-inventory ecommerce scenarios we have discussed here, your business will not keep the physical inventory in stock. The client will come to your website, order the product and your vendor will fulfill the order. As long as you have a reputable vendor/supplier, there is minimal risk and minimal cost to this model. You can work from just about anywhere since your piece of the business is the virtual portion.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
The Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) model is a bit different from dropshipping and other no-inventory models because you have to store your products in an Amazon fulfillment center first. Once Amazon has your products on hand, they will be available for your customers to buy from the Amazon website. Once ordered, Amazon will take care of packaging and shipping the items to your customers for you. With the FBA process, your products will be eligible for the popular Amazon customer perks such as Amazon Prime with two-day shipping, as well as Amazon’s customer service and returns.
Start an Online Business with No Inventory
Ecommerce businesses can be a great fit for your entrepreneurial dreams because these business models can be low-risk, low-cost and remote-friendly. Take the time to research the products you want to offer on your website and really get to know your chosen niche. Create a marketing plan to attract customers, and think about how to give your business a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
There are a few potential downsides to a no-inventory business model; you might be working with slimmer profit margins and have less control over the quality of your customer experience. However, if you take the time to choose reputable suppliers and vendors and negotiate the best deal for yourself, you can still build a profitable, growing business that can help you live a comfortable entrepreneurial lifestyle for years to come.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.