10 Low-Cost Businesses to Start on the Side

Many people dream of owning their own business but are discouraged by potential startup costs. However, if you combine a little creativity with the resources and skills you already have, you can come up with plenty of moneymaking ideas that cost very little to get off the ground.

To help get your gears turning, here are 10 businesses you can start with low or no startup costs at all, other than any licensing requirements that may be required by your city or state:

  1. Dog Walker/Pet Sitter. Lots of pet owners hate to leave their pets alone while they are at work. A reliable person who will visit and exercise their pets, or even just sit with them for a couple hours, is something many people would find useful. Dog walkers and pet sitters usually charge by the hour, and dog walkers can walk several pets at a time. If you have a pet-proof home with a secure yard for exercise, you may even offer to look after pets in your own home while their owners are on vacation.
  2. Professional Finder. If you have great research skills and love to shop, a professional finding service could be the business for you. For a finder's fee, you can track down almost anything, from the mundane to the truly bizarre. Rare books, old vinyl records, vintage cars and classic wines are just some of the items you could offer to track down. The fee you will charge depends on the value of the item and the time required to find it.
  3. Cleaner. Even in this economy, the demand for cleaning and janitorial services has remained intact. Take advantage of this market by offering your services as a domestic cleaner. Local cleaning jobs are often advertised in newspapers and on notice boards, and once you have built up a few regular clients, you will have a healthy little business.
  4. Social Media Manager. Social networking is essential for many businesses today. If you know your way around the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, you could utilize your skills by managing social networks for local businesses. You will be working with your clients to develop and maintain a presence on major social media networks, increase their followers and regularly update their networks with news and information. It is usual to negotiate a monthly management fee for this type of service.
  5. Auction Lister. If you have a camera, reasonable photography skills and an Internet connection, you could make money listing items on online auction sites for other people. It is estimated that 30 percent of all households in the United States do not have Internet access, particularly households containing older occupants. You can photograph and list items either for a fixed fee, a percentage of the final sale price, or a mixture of both. Remember to take into account any listing fees and commissions on the auction site when setting your prices.
  6. Secretary for Hire. Many businesses require occasional secretarial support, but not enough to justify employing a full-time secretary.  If you have reasonable clerical skills, you could outsource yourself by offering secretarial support to local businesses. Add in a Skype number, and you could also offer a telephone answering service.
  7. Leaflet/Coupon Distributor. If you enjoy walking, starting a leaflet or coupon distribution service could be the ideal way of keeping fit and earning some extra cash at the same time. Although many leaflets and coupons are distributed with newspapers and magazines, some clients prefer their leaflets to be distributed door to door. Approach local businesses -- particularly restaurants and home repair services -- as they often require leaflet and coupon distribution.
  8. Genealogist/People Finder. If you enjoy research, your work as a genealogist would involve compiling family trees, researching lost ancestors, and tracking down missing people. There are a number of genealogical and ancestry sites online that can help with your research, though you will still need to do some legwork of your own. Depending on where you live, you may need to be licensed in order to act professionally, so check into the local laws where you are based.
  9. Writer. The Internet always needs new content, and if you have a flair for writing, then you could make money online writing articles and blog posts. If you have expertise in a particular subject, you may also consider authoring an eBook. You can sell your work on freelance writing sites or if you have a specialty subject, you can approach website owners directly. Pay is usually per article or hourly, although if a particular client likes your work, they may be willing to pay you a retainer.
  10. Gardener. If you have a green thumb, then a gardening business may be perfect for you. Have some flyers printed or get some business cards made up and distribute them to surrounding neighborhoods. Cutting grass and doing basic yard work are popular services, particular for elderly residents who may not be able to manage their gardens on their own anymore. You should charge for your services by the hour or by the project.

Hopefully, this list has offered a few ideas you can use, and maybe even sparked some of your own. Going into business for yourself doesn't have to cost a fortune -- all you need is a little creativity and motivation!

Robert Sofia is a nationally recognized author, award winning public speaker, and practice management thought leader. He has developed marketing strategies for Fortune 500® companies, personally coaches hundreds of financial advisers nationwide, and is the COO and co-founder of Platinum Advisor Marketing Strategies.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

About Robert Sofia

Robert Sofia is a best-selling author, award winning public speaker, and financial industry thought leader. He is the cofounder and C.O.O of Platinum Advisor Strategies - ranked #362 on the INC 5,000 list of America's fastest growing privately owned companies, and #10 on the Agency 100 list of the nation's fastest growing agencies.

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