Starting your own 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 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 works (and our business checklist might come in handy).
Here are some ideas for businesses that don’t require much in up-front costs:
Freelance in your area of expertise
You’re much more likely to find success in a field where you have experience and skill, with modern employers increasingly keen to hire those with a certain skill set. 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 consult with fledgling businesses and help them build their brands.
If you have a passion for animals and you’re at home during the day, dog walking can be a great way to make some extra cash along with getting exercise, a welcome bit of socialising and spending time with adorable pups. Start small with just a few clients — preferably people you’re already familiar with through the neighbourhood or local park. You want to make sure that you can handle the workload and keep your clients happy. People are passionate about their pets, and if they don’t feel like you’re doing a good job, bad word-of-mouth reviews can sink your business before it gets off the ground.
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 make people’s lives easier, so market your services as being able to manage the day-to-day tasks office workers struggle to accommodate and tackling their to-do lists.
If you’re a neat, organised, Type A personality, share your talent with others as a professional organiser. Take on closets, pantries and even home offices to help people streamline their lives. You can also market your services to people who are moving or trying to sell their home.
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.
Selling items online
There are so many online outlets now for selling everything from furniture to designer shoes, but what keeps so many people from utilising these services is that they just don’t have the time to catalogue their items, take decent photos and post them online. If you have a flair for selling your stuff online, start a service where you take care of posting and coordinating the delivery or shipping of people’s unwanted items. You could even start your own online shop to sell and market your products.
If you are already good at cleaning, the start-up investment 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 around on weekends.
If you live in a tourism-friendly area with a lot of vacation homes, you can start a business looking after these properties during the off season or while the homeowners are renting out their places. This type of job doesn’t require much in terms of start-up costs, but you are the homeowners’ eyes and ears on the ground, so it’s most important that you build and maintain the trust of your clients.