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10 Great Low-Cost Small Business Ideas

If your plan to achieve financial independence is to work for a company for 40 years and then retire, you had better be a Ph.D-level superstar in a financial or technology field. Otherwise, the salary and benefits you will need for a comfortable lifestyle and secure retirement won’t be forthcoming.

Starting a business, on the other hand, can make you master of your own destiny, not to mention how you spend the hours of your day. While it is certainly not for everyone, it really is something everyone should at least consider. If you are willing to take risks, work hard, examine your circumstances objectively and – most importantly – take responsibility for however it all turns out, the following list might be of interest to you.

We’ve collated some of the best ideas for new small businesses, and selected ten on the basis of the following factors:

Amount of starting capital required
Amount of time required (i.e. can you start it as a second job)
Potential rewards, both in terms of profit and growth.

Online Retailing
For a novice in this field, one option to consider is dropshipping, which works as follows: some factory, probably abroad, is better at making consumer goods than selling them. You design a website showcasing their products, and customers order through you. Your role is simply to forward the information and payment to the actual manufacturer, who takes care of the rest.

Though this is certainly a viable option, requiring little time and no more investment than designing and running a website, bear in mind that you will likely earn little on each individual sale. If you already have a hobby like pottery or jewelry design, you can start offering your handmade crafts for sale online, making a much larger profit doing what you love.

Event Planning
If you enjoy working with people, have an eye for fine detail and can improvise when the unexpected happens, helping people and companies plan their weddings, conferences and other events may be just your speed. A large part of this job involves building up contacts who can help with anything from flowers to guest speakers, so it’s advisable to start small and always be friendly and professional. You will need to be available both during the workday and at night, but your costs are limited to transport and phone calls.

Language Tutor/ Life Coach/ Career Coach
While these may seem to be different things, they all have two things in common: (a) the personal touch, and (b) a certain level of experience. They can also be done online through video chat; many foreign language students will pay just to speak with you. English is the most popular second language to learn, but you will also find students if you are fluent in Tagalog, German or Cantonese. If you have a few years’ life experience, you will also find that many people are simply looking for advice and an objective opinion on which choices they should make.

Home Cooking
Whether baking fresh cookies or delivering microwavable dinners in your neighborhood, this is a great, low-overhead option for those with the skills.

Interior Design and Landscaping Consultant
If you know how colors work and how carnations should be watered, you can leverage these skills by simply charging an hourly fee to give advice. Unless you can also offer to do the necessary work, this is likely to remain a part-time thing, rather than a new profession.

Errand Service
Many professionals work long hours and don’t always have the time to pick up their own laundry and do their own shopping. If you are dependable and available seven days a week, they will pay you for your time and often recommend your services to friends and colleagues. You only need a car and a phone.

Technical Services
Even if you’re not highly skilled, knowing how to install a hard drive or fix a leaking tap puts you above 80% of the population. A computer technician, or a general contractor who can do most of what a qualified artisan can do, can easily find sufficient odd jobs to keep themselves busy.

Photography
While you will need to spend several thousand on the right equipment and many hours learning to use digital editing software, being able to take photos better than most people is a marketable skill. If you’re not quite up to professional standards, specializing in niche markets, such as photographing properties for sale, might still bring in enough work to make a living off of.

Social Media Consultant
Though most people and businesses use Twitter and/or Facebook, few have taken the time to find out about online reputation management. Most business managers would love to have this time-draining chore taken off your hands, and you can recruit clients form all over the world, managing dozens of accounts simultaneously.

Leverage Your Skill Set
If you’ve recently retired or been laid off, think of how you can apply your abilities from the corporate world in your current situation. Do you know accounting or web design? If you’re an engineer, you may be surprised at how much money you can earn repairing domestic appliances. Similarly, retired business managers can often find work as consultants.