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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 endeavor is that you can experiment without the pressure of needing to be successful for the sake of your livelihood (and to pay any employees).
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 so 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.
Here are some ideas for businesses that don’t require much in up-front costs:
1. Freelance in your area of expertise
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 consult with fledgling businesses and help them build their brands.
2. Dog walking
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 and spending time with pups. Start small with just a few clients — preferably people you’re already familiar with through the neighborhood or local dog 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.
3. 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 have the ability to make people’s lives easier, so market your services running errands and tackling to-do lists.
If you’re a neat, organized, Type A personality, share your talent with others as a professional organizer. 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 set up estate sales.
5. 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.
6. 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 utilizing these services is that they just don’t have the time to catalog 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.
As long as you are already good at cleaning, the startup investment is pretty 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 startup 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.