If you've been thinking about jumping on the small-business bandwagon, there’s no better time than the present. Small start-up businesses are booming. With the proliferation of online-based businesses and the steady lowering of the bottom line, this is a great time to jump into the small business waters and start up your own little company.
Your ideas for your company may be fully-formed and ready to execute, or they may be just the glimmering of a possibility. Conversely, you may have no idea what you want to do, other than just be your own boss. Whatever the case, choosing to be learn more about small business options is a smart decision.
Businesses, if you do them correctly, are long-term things. So when you’re reviewing your options, find something you enjoy, if at all possible. There's no point in being your own boss if you have to then tell yourself to do things you really don’t want to; there’s no one to delegate to! So play to your strengths: choose something you’re good at, something that’s in your skill set, and something that you won't mind doing for many years to come.
Think outside the box! Some of the options listed here may be completely new to you. And some may be begging to be combined to create something entirely new.
Reviewing what businesses are already up and running in your area is also a good idea. A careful review of what there is out there may show you where there is a gap in the market and a client base that you can reach out to. However, if there are ten dog walking businesses and not enough clients to go around, there probably isn't really a need for another one. That doesn't mean that you can't start up that dog walking business, if that’s really your passion; but it does mean that you would need a serious edge over your competition.
Be ready to sell your services, up close and personal. Starting a business requires a huge amount of time, effort, and dedication, not to mention smart marketing and accurate accounting of the overhead.
Smart marketing, these days, often means choosing non-traditional options, like crowdsourcing or using DIY sites. Sites like DesignMantic.com are also good choices for DIY logos and business cards, all contributing to keeping your overhead low.
So let's look at a run down of fifty ideas for starting a small business, broken up into several categories.
1.Graphic Design, font creation, or logo design: Graphic design in general covers an astonishingly wide range of niche markets, everything from hand-drawn design to solid vectors. There are a ton of applications for each variety of design, with everything from business logos to fabric design. If you have an eye for design but not a great deal of experience, you can check out tutorials on YouTube or step by step instructions for certain niches or individual aspects of design. Design blogs like Creative Nerds also offer a lot of ideas, tutorials on basic skills, and inspiration.
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2. Web Design: a slightly more technical aspect of design, a little more education and training may come into play in order to successfully keep your clients happy. The great news is that a lot of the education that is necessary for good web design can be found in tutorials on design sites, or in instruction books. Sites like Lynda.com offer a huge range of easy-to-follow tutorials, for everyone from beginners to experts who want to learn new skills. There are also a lot of tutorials available on YouTube.
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3. Art: A talent-driven niche that requires a combination of marketing, strategy, and good luck. Sometimes it really is about being in the right place at the right time, but if you have a talent for a particular medium and something original to say, you should definitely give yourself a chance. Taking classes or reaching out to other local artists in your community is a great way to network and get your name out there.
4. Illustration: If you’re keen on creating artwork that helps to tell a story, regardless of the medium in which you work, there’s a good chance that there is a writer out there that is looking for someone like you. For everything from simple line drawings to complex full-page illustrating, the range that is needed in this industry makes it accessible to artists of all persuasions and skill sets.
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5. Photography: A business that is frequently turned to as a side line while you work other jobs, photography has a great deal of potential for growth as your main source of income. With a range of potential client areas, from prom photos and family gatherings to business professional portraiture and selfie coaching, the options are practically endless. As so many people rely on digital formats for their photo memories, this can help keep your overhead down as well. If you don’t want to invest in a high quality printer, you can turn to options like Costco’s photo printing, which gives you a lot of possibilities as far as size and finish, and includes canvas and metal plate printing.
6. Novelist: Traditional publishing may still be incredibly difficult to break into, but the good news is that non-traditional publishing is still on the rise. These days, it’s up to the author to choose how they want to get their voice out there. If an agent and a traditional publishing house isn’t for you, there are plenty of indie publishers to turn to, or even DIY sites like CreateSpace and Lulu, which can help you through everything from the editing, to the cover design, to the marketing.
7. Blogger, pitch writing, ghostwriting, or screenwriter: Starting up a blog of your own may not be as simple as it seems, but with a little research and a careful choice of subject, it’s a definite possibility. What about pitches, and creative fiction or nonfiction writing for others? While it can be intimidating to think about trying to break into something like that, if you have a way with words and can work to deadlines and specifications, they can be very rewarding ways of earning a living through your work, without worrying too much about the marketing aspect. Freelance sites like Upwork are a good place to hunt around for your first few jobs, to give you a taste of what it will be like.
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8. Resume Writing: This may seem like a strange niche to build your business around, but you might be surprised at how many people clam up when it comes to putting words on paper about themselves. They may know the basics, like including their education and job history, but people tend to not be so good at marketing themselves. If you have a talent for turning facts into features, try reaching out to the users of local job market sites to get your feet wet.
9. Book Doctor: Book doctors are editors taken up to 11. If you’re good at seeing the whole picture and the potential in stories, and can pinpoint when a narrative goes awry, this is definitely something to look into. Try volunteering for writer friends, or mentoring young writers, to break into it and get your feet wet.
10. Proofing or Editing: There can be a wide range of specialized skills that you can bring to the editing table. General proofreading, spell check and grammar check are a good basis, but if your writer client wants you to be more involved, it can extend all the way to story development and ensuring the proper progression of character arcs.
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11. Filing and Indexing: If you're an organized person with some basic computer skills, these niches could be a good option. Working along with other small businesses to do remote file management means that you can stay local or go global.
12. Virtual Secretary or Virtual Scheduler: Often, offices need a little extra personnel help without wanting to hire a regular employee. If that’s the case for companies locally, they may want to have a remote scheduler or someone to handle other aspects of the office from home. I know at least three people who are able to do these jobs remotely, working a few days a week for a doctor’s office in the States while they live in Costa Rica.
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13. Office Management: Another possibility for a remote or virtual business is management. If you have the skills and experience, you can offer them to local businesses, handling scheduling, personnel, and other supervisor tasks online.
14. Jewelry, resin, metal stamping, or other niche markets: Crafting and jewelry are hobbies for a lot of people, but it takes a little extra time and effort to turn those hobbies into small businesses. Sites like Etsy and Amazon Handmade have cut out a lot of the extra work, making it easier than ever for a crafter to get their products into the public eye and find their clientele.
15. Paper Goods: Though there is a focus on smooth, virtual graphics, there’s also a boom in the rustic, rough-edged handmade look. Handmade paper, letterpress graphics, hand-bound books, and thick, layered mixed media cards are all enjoying a surge in popularity. So if you have an inclination to get do some cool paperwork, there’s no better time to get your creative on.
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16. Bespoke Wewing or Alterations: Putting together custom clothing and accessories can be a little more complicated online, but as multitudes of Etsy shops show, it is definitely possible. Another idea is to open a small storefront, like Atomica in Ashland, OR, which brings together the upcycling work of three different designers.
17. Selling for others or Managing Accounts: This could include not only sites like Etsy, but Amazon Handmade (and the regular Amazon as well, for used items) and Ebay. Frequently, people have items sitting around in their house or garage that they would like to be able to sell at for at least some sort of profit, rather than hauling it to GoodWill. If you have the time and experience to handle listing large numbers of items, tracking purchases, and mailing the items, then you could easily take a percentage of the profit as your fee as a fulfillment manager, and not have to handle finding or making the products yourself.
18. Event Management: If you have a flair for organizing parties and receptions, starting up a small business as an event planner or manager could be the niche for you. You could choose to store your own event supplies, such as tents, linens, and silverware, in order to be able to offer complete packages to your clients. Or you can coordinate with other businesses that can provide the same such as catering.
Image Source: DesignMantic Business Card
19. Project Coordination: Whether it’s a large-scale office project, a marketing surge, a company merger, or a rebranding, offering your unique skills as a coordinator could be a lucrative, fast-paced small business option. You can reach out to individual businesses, or look for opportunities online through freelance sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
20. Personnel Coordination and Interviewer: Often, businesses may have outside human resource departments to ensure unbiased representation and help. Interviewing prospective employees goes hand in hand with that. In starting your own outside HR, you would have the chance to work with multiple companies, or simply with one, if you want to keep your small business small.
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21. Financial Planning or Financial Advising: As with many of the things on this list, checking into the local requirements for starting a business involving money is definitely one of the first things you should do. But if you’re good with money and have an eye for the future, financial advising may be something to look into.
22. Bookkeeping, taxes, or accounting: Some areas may require more accreditation and schooling than others, but if you’re good with numbers, the odds are that you can find a post as a bookkeeper for local businesses or online.
Image Source: DesignMantic Business Card
23. Handyman: You know those skills that you have around the house that you never really think about? Tons of people don't have those skills. Regardless of whether you call yourself a handyman, handywoman, or handyperson, the point is that you’re handy, and there are clients out there looking for you.
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24. House Cleaning: Not everyone has the time, inclination, or skill to keep up on their housework. So if you’re someone who doesn't mind getting out the mop and getting to cleaning, this is a very easy business to break into. One of the great things about being a house cleaner is that if you’re good, you’ll get clients calling you. Word of mouth is very common with this industry.
25. Jack-or-Jill of all Trades: You may be one of those multi-talented people who can handle anything that comes their way. If you’re good at figuring out solutions around the house, but you can also handle specific trades like small roofing projects, why not market that skill and make it work for you?
26. Roofing, Plumbing, Electrician, or Carpentry: You may have some experience working for a larger company in one of these trades, or perhaps you have gone through a trade school and are eager to find clients and start your own business. Either way, these are some trades which always seem to have a need. If you don’t have the necessary skills but you have the inclination to learn, most community colleges offer courses.
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27. Gardening or Landscaping: Another business that is easy to break into and spreads rapidly by word of mouth, if you’re reliable and good at what you do. Gardening can give you a chance to exercise your design skills, if you have a client who wants to start from scratch and gives you free reign to design their backyard.
28. Personal Shopper: This could cover anything from the weekly grocery shopping to putting together an outfit for a specific upcoming function. One small business in my very rural area is centered around taking orders for the stores in the next largest town (five hours away), doing the shopping there, and delivering to the client's house.
29. Personal Organizer: Everything from the office to the walk-in closet to your datebook needs at least some organizing. If you're good at keeping everything in its place and you don’t get too overwhelmed when faced with a mess, this could be a good option for you.
30. The Gopher: Do you live in an area with a lot of business professionals? Odds are, they’re probably stressing over finding the time to do simple errands, like picking up the dry cleaning and taking the dog to the vet. Guess who could fill that niche need? Yep, you!
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31. Virtual Assistant: Virtual assistants have a lot in common with other things on this list, including the ability to handle schedules and keep things organized, but there’s a perk (for you) and a catch (for your client): it all happens remotely, and you never even have to meet the person you’re organizing for. Maybe those busy business professionals need to have a doctor's appointment made, or be reminded about it once it is made.
32. Personal Trainer: If you’re a fit and healthy person with a talent for motivating others, why not look into becoming a personal trainer? You can find workout inspiration and tailoring on Pinterest and YouTube, and make those routines your own with your own variations. You could choose to work one on one, put together some classes on your own schedule, or even offer your motivation via video chats, like Skype.
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33. Life Coach: If you’re someone with a calm and reasonable manner, who has a healthy and balanced approach to things and is a great listener, offering these skills to others as a life coach may be a good fit for your small business.
34. Dog Walker: This may seem like too obvious of a job possibility, but don’t sell it short. It’s a fact: dogs are the pets of choice for many people. And with the ever-increasing need to work more and more, many dogs are getting left at home for the entire day, without a chance to exercise or get any attention. If you love the idea of hanging out with furbabies all day, put out your fliers and start looking around for potential clients.
35. Baby Sitter: Would you rather play with kids than deal with adults? Are you good at keeping young ones occupied and are you fun to be with? Whether you call it babysitting or being a nanny, this is a job opportunity that always seems to have openings.
36. Tutoring: You may have done some of this when you were in school, but here's your opportunity to turn it into a small business. If you have a skill for math, English instruction, or any other school subject, and you're inclined to try out mentoring, offer your education services as a tutor to students of any age.
37. Pet Sitting: This could easily be combined with dog walking or other general pet services. There are lots of pet motels out there, but people would generally rather their pet get more one-on-one time, or even be watched in their own home. If you’re good with furry friends and have the time to devote to making sure they stay happy, pet owners will go back to a reliable pet sitter again and again.
38. House Sitting: Similarly to taking care of pets, people really want to feel that the person watching over their home is reliable and trustworthy. Make sure you have the requirements for each home owner down, and follow them to the letter. This is also a job that will spread by word of mouth. Depending on your clients and the schedule you're able to keep, this may be more of a sideline business than a main source of income, but if your area will support it, you can make a decent wage just by being reliable and available. And sometimes the house you take care of has a pool. Trust me, it's worth it.
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39. Delivery Services: Whether you have a truck, a car, a motorcycle, or just a bicycle, this is still something to consider. People need all sorts of things moved around on a regular basis, and they don’t always have the time or the vehicle in order to do so. Take into consideration what you are actually able to do, and then reach out to your potential clients! Do you have a truck? Maybe someone needs you for an afternoon to help them move furniture to their new house. Can you pick up sheets of plywood from a lumber store? Do you have a motorcycle? Maybe someone really, really wants Chinese takeout, but the Chinese place across town won’t deliver to their address. Who’s that coming to the rescue? Why, it's you!
40. Esthetician: Requirements vary by state for being a licensed esthetician, but schooling is widely available. If you love to play with hair and makeup and you’re always practicing on your friends, this is definitely worth looking into. It’s a great part-time job option.
41. Beauty Consultant: Beauty consultants offer specialized services, often for specific upcoming functions, such as weddings or parties. If you have the skills needed for doing hair and makeup, and you’re also good at organizing an overall aesthetic (and possibly dealing with meltdowns), check into this option.
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42. Massage Therapist: Again, licensing requirements may vary, and some areas may not require you to be licensed in order to work as a massage therapist. However, it’s definitely a good idea to get some training for this option. But if you want to be in-demand by all of your friends, and you have a deft and soothing touch and strong hands, this could be the job for you.
43. Bakery: Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Do you love coming up with your own unique recipes? The great thing about baking is that, no matter what the trends are as far as diet and fitness, there is always going to be an audience for good baked goods. Make sure to find out what the requirements are for running your own kitchen, as most home kitchens will not be legal for businesses. If you’re opening a bakery, you can usually find used equipment to keep your overhead lower.
44. Cafe or Coffee House: If you’ve always wanted to do Starbucks one better, then opening up your own little cafe might be your dream job. Locally sourced coffee and food items, community events like readings from local authors and music by local bands, and a family-friendly atmosphere are great ways to make your cafe stand out from the crowd.
45. Clothing Boutique: Are you a fashionista who isn't into the whole department store thing? Maybe starting a clothing boutique with your own style inspiration would be a good idea. Working with any local designers and crafters in your area is a definite plus, and being selective in order to offer truly unique items to your audience will make sure that you don’t get lost in the shuffle.
46. Pet massage Therapist: Yes, pets want to be pampered too. You may think this is nothing more than extra petting, but there's more to it than that, and people who love their pets (like, a lot) are often very willing to make sure that their beloved furbaby gets the same benefits from massage that their owners do.
47. Professional Bridesmaid: This is probably something that you haven’t considered before, but some people really want a specific type to stand up next to them on their big day. Or, alternately, they don't have quite enough close friends to fill out their wedding party as they would like, and need to turn to outside professionals. You, for example. If you’re good with people and can wear a floofy dress well, this could be the job for you.
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48. Professional Cuddler: Yes, this exists. Everyone needs a hug once in a while! As a highly-regulated, non-sexual small business service, cuddling can be incredibly therapeutic for the client. For you, as the professional cuddler, it’s just another way to think outside the box.
49. Stand in for Standing: If there’s a big event coming up (think people sleeping outside to get tickets for a huge blockbuster movie), then you have a client base ready and waiting. Nobody likes standing in line, but if someone is paying you to do it for them, then it probably isn’t quite as detestable a task.
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50. Reality Check: Sometimes, people have a great idea — or, at least, they think it’s a great idea, until they start to get down to the nitty-gritty and realize that it’s completely impracticable for a number of reasons. But not everyone has the ability to cut through the fat and examine the true roots of an idea. That’s part of the reason why so many businesses crash and burn. If you’re a logical thinker who excels at market analysis and audience research, offering your services to find out whether an idea or a business will really work could be invaluable to your clients. If you want to have a wide range of services, you could cover everything from naming (such as analyzing the connotation and public associations with words or phrases) to basics (can your upscale business area support a tattoo parlor that only does pictures of kittens?) to aesthetic choices (lime green and maroon striped walls? really?). If you have a healthy relationship with reality, this could be the job for you.