10 Small Business Ideas with Low Start Up Costs

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as legal or financial advice. Always consult a knowledgeable professional advisor.

Starting a small business can be risky. But the risk decreases dramatically when your venture requires little financial investment from you. The beauty of a low-investment endeavour is that you can experiment without the pressure of needing to be successful for the sake of your livelihood (or the payment of any employees). You could even start a small business at home.

But it’s hard to tell if a business will be successful, especially if your venture hasn’t really been tested in your target market. That’s why it’s important that you have the freedom to take risks and make mistakes in a relatively low-stakes environment. Once your business is consistently successful, you can start to think about expanding, making it a full-time job and possibly even hiring employees. Until then, focus on testing and adjusting until you find a formula that (and our business checklist might come in handy).

Here are some ideas for businesses that don’t require much in up-front costs:

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Freelance in your area of expertise

Independent consulting is one of the best business ideas with low investment. With modern employers increasingly keen to hire those with a certain skill set, you’re much more likely to find success in a field where you have experience and skill. For example, if your culinary experience doesn’t extend beyond watching cooking shows on TV, becoming a personal chef isn’t a great idea. But if you have experience in something like marketing, you could start consulting with fledgeling businesses and help them build their brand.

Start a cleaning business

Are you especially good at a certain type of cleaning, such as general janitorial cleaning, carpets, or windows? The initial investment to start a cleaning business is reasonable, especially when you consider that some clients prefer that you use their products. Also, cleaning is something you can do in off hours, like after businesses close for the evening or when homeowners are not around on evenings or weekends, which makes it one of the most successful small business ideas.

Open a corner shop

Corner shops are the foundations of UK neighbourhoods—they’re friendly one-stop-shops for last-minute groceries, cleaning supplies, a bottle of wine, toiletries, and more. Have you noticed a local need for a corner shop in your neighbourhood? If so, why not start a corner shop yourself? Once you create a business plan, rent a space, get the required permits and insurance, and purchase the shop’s merchandise, you’ll be set up for success. Learn how to process credit cards and enable contactless payments at your new business with Square.

Start a coffee shop

If you love coffee and have a knack for customer service, starting a coffee shop could be the perfect endeavour. Before you start a small business, consider locations in your neighbourhood that are central and have a lot of foot traffic. Write a business plan that includes market analysis, products, sales strategies, finances, and management. When you’re in the process of getting your coffee shop ready for customers, create social media accounts to promote your business and garner interest in the community. With Square, you’ll be able to accept online payments and offer curbside pickup, making each coffee order contact-free.

Open a salon

Being a hairdresser is a low-investment business idea that allows you to have a flexible schedule, as most people with day jobs want to get haircuts in the evenings and on weekends. But if you’ve built up a great reputation in your city and have made enough revenue, why not have a space to call your own? Square’s guide to opening a salon will give you tips on what types of equipment you’ll need and advice on finances. To keep costs down, consider starting a mobile salon—like douce, which has mobile trailers in Cambridge and London—so that you can save on rent, reach clients right where they are, and keep your hours flexible.

Start an online store

Do you craft hand-made goods and want to reach a wider customer base? Starting an online store is a great new business idea with low start-up costs. Create a free online store with Square, where you can easily sell your products and ship to customers stress-free. You’ll be able to provide easy online checkout for customers so your crafted goods get into their hands more quickly.

Start a retail store

Starting a retail store will require more small business start-up costs than some other businesses will, but, if done right, the payoff will be worth it. Think about what you’d like to sell: clothing, art, home décor, or other goods. You could start your business online first to garner interest and build profits. Then, build up sufficient funds to rent a space in your desired location, purchase insurance, and keep up with your inventory.

Read about the founders of The Little Shop in Bristol, who integrated Square’s bespoke ePOS system to help their new retail shop with merchandising, sales, payments, and more.

Start a home business

If you’re spending more time at home these days, you might want to start a home business. Whether it’s freelancing your skills—think writer, editor, graphic designer, and so on—or renting out a space in your home for people to stay or work, there are many options for making money at home. You can set your own schedule, charge your own rates, and use Square to create invoices for free.

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Become a social media manager

In case you were wondering if all the time you spend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest could translate into a job, you’re in luck. Social media managers are in demand; small businesses need to keep up with things like responding to reviews on Yelp and Twitter, answering questions on Facebook and building a brand presence on Instagram. An added perk is that becoming a social media manager has very low small business start-up costs.

Become a virtual personal assistant

Picking up dry cleaning, calling to make appointments, waiting for service professionals—there are endless tasks that become nearly impossible when you work in an office all day. But if you have a flexible schedule or work from home, you can start a small business that makes people’s lives easier, so market your services as being able to manage the day-to-day tasks that working parents or busy people struggle to accommodate and tackle their to-do lists.