40 Business Ideas with Low Startup Costs

Starting your own business is the American Dream, but unfortunately, many Americans don’t believe they can make it a reality. Most people think you need a massive amount of capital to start a business, but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, according to the Small Business Association, most micro-businesses (businesses with fewer than ten employees) are started for less than $3,000.

Given that micro-businesses make up 92% of all companies in the U.S., it’s clear that minimizing initial investment and maximizing profits is totally possible in America today. In this article, we’ll outline our top 40 business ideas with low startup costs to help you find a low-cost business idea that aligns with your interests and goals.


We’ve broken down our top 40 low-cost business ideas into seven categories and evaluated each one based on ongoing expenses, required skill level, and earning potential.

Teaching & Consulting

These business owners enhance their clients’ lives by imparting knowledge of a particular skill set, whether it’s related to their personal or professional lives. These are business ideas for veterans of the relevant industries who are looking to change pace and pass on their wisdom.

Acting Classes Business

Startup Costs

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Earning Potential

This career is for dedicated actors or directors in the performance industry, so you will need at least a few connections within the business. Students will only want to enlist in your courses if you have some kind of credible performance reputation, but you’ll also need the teaching chops to instruct a class of acting hopefuls.

If you don't have one already, you'll need to rent or buy a proper space for teaching, including room the class can walk, run, or deliver dramatic monologues in. A small management and registration staff may be required as your business grows, but by some accounts, you can charge around $500 per student for eight weeks of classes at a rate of three hours per week.

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Art Consulting Business

Startup Costs

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Earning Potential

Consultants in this business are art enthusiasts who work with both artists and collectors to get the right art to the right folks. Due to the huge variety of artistic tastes and styles, this is a career for people with extensive artistic backgrounds, from practicing artists to formally educated graduates with advanced art history degrees.

Ideally, you will want a presence within artists’ networks in order to connect with gallery directors and collectors. In terms of cost and compensation, a consultant will only need to maintain a low-cost professional website, and you will earn via commission, accepting 10%-15% of the art they buy or sell.

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Art Lessons Business

Startup Costs

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Earning Potential

The world of art is fiercely competitive. Although art appreciation is subjective, you will nearly always need a sizable foundation of natural artistic skill to make a name for yourself. But teaching side gigs can help, so that’s why some artists advertise themselves as teachers. You can instruct in small groups or tutor individual students, but the demographic is up to you, depending on whether you prefer to instruct adults or children.

Between few necessary ongoing costs (students can bring their own supplies and undergo lessons in your home) and a standard teaching fee of $40-$100 per hour, a growing art lessons business has the potential to earn you quite a bit.

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Relationship Coaching Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Since it’s a form of therapy, building this business will require solid listening skills and an advanced degree in psychology. Some couples you’ll be working with will be attempting to repair a failing marriage, while others may simply be trying to hone their communication strategies.

Either way, due mainly to student loans, this one can be pricey to jump into. Once you have the degree and the counseling license under your belt, it’s not unusual to make about $130 per hour during a single session.

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Home Tutoring Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

A current or former teacher who identifies as a “people person” is the ideal fit for this job. Many tutors end up with a customer base made up exclusively of children, so it helps to be good with kids. You’ll want to spend time between sessions reviewing your next student’s progress and preparing for their upcoming lesson.

Self-organization and motivation are key in this job, so profitability depends on your work ethic and how quickly your business grows. If you are focused and persistent, $30 per hour could add up to solid profitability.

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Personal Training Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

To earn client confidence, a personal trainer should be a walking advertisement of their own successful diet and exercise regimen. You’ll be developing individualized sessions for your customers, taking note of their goals and cross-referencing those with optimal dietary advice and physical activity.

On average, personal trainers make $50,000 per year, but steady customer flow and dedication could see that price rise even higher. You may need to put forth an initial effort into acquiring a certification, plus $1,000 for advertising and a few hundred for liability insurance.

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Nutritionist/Health Coaching Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

People who love giving practical advice are often a great fit for this business. In this career, you’ll be working to find healthy goals that fit individuals. Consultations with clients will center around personalized plans and discussions of the latest trends in nutrition and exercise.

Regarding ongoing costs, there may be website upkeep, state licensing fees, and maintenance of exercise equipment. The average salary of nutritionists and health coaches is about $43,000 per year.

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Online Dating Consulting Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

People who genuinely care about interactions between other human beings may find themselves right at home running an online dating consulting agency. These business owners will meet with clients to help them write and edit their dating profiles, craft written responses, and even take pictures for their profiles.

Costs are pretty low to start, mainly just requiring a computer and a personal website. Profits for this business are definitely impressive, reaching as high as 95% on services.

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Career Coaching Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

This career is best suited to great communicators, motivators, and those who love being around other people. Career coaches often possess advanced degrees, using these along with in-the-field business knowledge to enhance a client’s professional value or resolve challenges in the workplace.

As with any personal consulting service, you will need a certificate from a qualified program, along with liability insurance. Between these items and advertising, it may cost several thousand to begin down this career path. However, with the right clients, this job is a six-figure earner.

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College Planning Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

You can excel in this business if you possess a thirst for knowledge and a passion for helping other people. This job entails getting to know young adult clients on a personal level and determining where they’ll fit in the collegiate world. In this business, you’ll be meeting with families, analyzing student records, arranging college-visit itineraries, and strategizing through the admissions process.

This is a low-cost career to jump into, requiring little more than a computer, a website, and marketing materials to get your name out there. Experienced college consulting firms report salaries of $40,000-$80,000 annually.

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Project Management Consulting Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Highly experienced business owners and other advisors with high-level business experience will be right at home in this career. Project management consultants will assess performance indicators, review project goals, and generally assist other businesses in making sound decisions about which projects to undertake.

The size of the agency will decide much of the overhead costs, including office space, computer & software maintenance, and upgrades to project management applications. Consultants in this agency can earn as much as $50,000 per year per client business, and it is not unheard of to accrue $1 million or more from large corporate clients.

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Test Prep Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Some people have turned test-taking into an art so skillful that it has become a profession all its own. Current or former teachers may feel right at home in a business that emphasizes quizzing techniques, study guides, and familiarity with test prep books.

Between a professional website and gas money to visit your clientele wherever you agree to meet, the ongoing costs of this business are very easy on the wallet. If you advertise well and are good at what you do, you might end up hitting an upper-level five-figure salary.

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Music Lessons Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Any musician skilled enough to make it in the world, from band instructors to symphony-quality violinists, may be qualified to conduct private lessons on the side. This will involve working with students, mostly of a younger demographic, to improve their skills with individualized lesson plans and practice music that challenges them at the right ability level.

Homes are a very normal place to conduct lessons, although some music stores offer discounted rental spaces to teachers who encourage students to make on-site purchases. You can charge an average of $45 per hour, and at 40 hours per week, you will approach six figures annually.

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Stress Management Training Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Stress management is a line of business well suited to psychology enthusiasts with personally practiced regimens of cognitive techniques for easier, more fulfilled living. Expect to conduct engaging seminars for clients, prepare stress level reports, produce and/or distribute mental health literature, and market yourself to businesses as an essential HR asset.

Ongoing costs are on the low end, demanding only basic presentation software, printed pamphlets or small books, and refreshments for seminar attendants. If you market yourself well, you should be able to serve a steady clientele at an 80%-90% profit margin.

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Web-Based Businesses

These businesses are accessible, digitally-driven avenues of income for entrepreneurs of all walks of life. The fact that they are run completely online keeps startup and ongoing costs low and allows their owners to keep incredibly flexible schedules.

eBay Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Studious, business-minded folks with an eye for marketing trends can do quite well through eBay sales. You’ll need to be well aware of your competition, what their prices are, and how to create compelling product offers through imagery and effective ad copy.

Your main source of ongoing costs will be Ebay fees, insurance fees, shipping fees, and acquisition prices -- assuming you are buying your stock from other providers. Generating decent revenue will require a business plan that incorporates frequent transactions and higher-end prices for quality goods.

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Etsy Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Etsy is all about handmade goods and vintage paraphernalia, making it an exciting prospect for artists who want to sell their creative works or other unusual collections. Etsy sellers will spend the bulk of their working hours producing art to sell, shipping it, listing new items, and addressing administrative issues like billing and restocking.

Etsy’s cut from your sales is relatively low, with 3.5% being approximately the highest amount you will have to pay for anything like listing fees or transaction/processing charges. The potential profits are extremely variable, depending entirely on what you sell and how often you sell it. Exposure through art blogging can greatly increase your exposure and hike your profits.

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Social Media Marketing Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Social media users with an intimate knowledge of platforms and a robust familiarity with internet marketing practices are ideal candidates for this line of work. There is an entire world of internet marketing strategies, including search engine optimization, digital sales monitoring, and ad campaign management.

Ongoing costs may include software and hardware upgrades, and time /money invested in keeping up with the rapidly advancing world of internet advertising. At the very top of the social media consultant payscale, you can expect $100,000 per year.

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Data Entry Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Talented managers with strong logic and organizational skills will be comfortable in data entry, processing requests and organizing customer data. However, if you manage a data entry business with employees beneath you, most of your time will actually be spent acquiring new clients and managing client relationships.

With few ongoing costs particular to this business, you’ll mainly need to take care of internet costs and computer maintenance, which will depend on the size of your operation. This is a potential high-earning business, with the most efficient and talented agencies claiming 20% profit margins.

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Writing & Editing

These businesses focus on writing and editing content for a diverse clientele. They’re best run by people who are proficient with English grammar and familiar with various genres and writing styles.

Freelance Writing Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Writers with adaptive style, strong research skills, and a head for time management will probably enjoy the complete autonomy of freelance work. Various websites like Upwork or Freelancer make entry into this business incredibly simple, allowing writers to search and apply for interesting writing projects offered by a variety of different employers.

From web articles to editorial projects and ghostwriting, freelance writers are free to pursue a wide assortment of tasks with only a few basic ongoing costs like internet and freelance platform fees. Breaking in, you can expect to earn about $20,000 per year, but with a few years of hard work and resume building, you can expect to reach somewhere around the $50,000 mark.

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Proofreading Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Professional proofreaders are meticulous writers with a keen eye for detail and a firm grasp of linguistic mechanics like grammar and punctuation. The daily routine of a proofreader involves carefully reading a great deal of content, and making revisions to help the content reach its full potential.

Ongoing expenses are very minimal and revolve mainly around internet provision and the maintenance of a work computer. Some wage estimates place average proofreader salaries at about $48,000 per year, although that does not include freelance proofreaders.

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Digital Art & Design

These businesses require the use of digital tools to create and edit art and other media for clients. This can involve anything from editing family portraits to designing company logos.

3D Printing Design Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Artists familiar with three-dimensional mediums like carving or sculpting can combine their expertise with digital 3D modeling to capitalize on the growing trend of 3D printing. You will spend a good deal of your time designing 3D objects and selling them to consumers who own 3D printers.

Ongoing expenses may include re-stocking materials (if you are printing them yourself), maintaining a professional website, or if you are printing through a third-party like Shapeways, the printing fee that they will charge. The profitability of a business like this is comparable to other online specialty retailers, so it will depend on your ability to target the right demographics and advertise yourself effectively.

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Graphic Design Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Graphic design is perfect for artistic entrepreneurs with an intuitive sense of business aesthetics and lucrative design choices. This line of work is all about executing projects for clients, collaborating with illustrators and other artists, and finding effective ways to represent client franchises in ways that will appeal to targeted demographics.

Graphic design software can become costly, but as you begin, the ongoing expenses are pretty low given that you’ll probably be working from home. Talented graphic designers with plenty of experience and positive client reviews can ask for as much as 50% profit margins, although your own business will earn a good deal less than that when you first begin your work.

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Photo Editing Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Modern photographers tend to know all about image editing, but anyone familiar with editing software like Photoshop may be a candidate for photo editing. The job itself is pretty straightforward -- you simply receive client photos and edit them.

There aren’t many overhead costs to run a photo editing business, so internet, advertising, and editing software are most of what you need to pay for.

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Specialty Craft

These businesses rely on the allure of good old-fashioned, hand-cultivated specialty items. For some entrepreneurs, these business ideas may present the opportunity to turn an existing interest, hobby, or skill into a profitable venture.

Candle Making Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Lovers of arts and crafts with a head for marketing may be a great fit for candle making. Aside from the creative process itself, candle makers will be ordering materials, photographing their creations, and finding new ways to market their products online.

Purchasing the materials and shipping them will be your primary ongoing costs, with online platform service fees cutting a little into your earnings. Earnings depend on the rates at which you make sales, but expect profit margins of 50% as you continue a steady candle-making business.

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Soap Making Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

To excel in this business, you’ll need to love creating handmade products, but you’ll also have to pair that enthusiasm with strong marketing instincts and business acumen. As with any homemade product sales, you’ll spend most of your work life marketing online, running a social media business page, creating your product, and shipping it to your customers.

Consumable product materials will make up the majority of your ongoing expenses, and these expenses will increase in proportion to the size and success of your business. Profits will mainly be determined by your creativity, commitment, and long-term vision for success.

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Furniture Upcycling Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Thrift store hunters and yard sale veterans can combine their sense of creative potential with carpentry or similar skill sets to begin a furniture upcycling business. Your time will mainly be spent searching for and acquiring new furniture, then working your creative magic to not only refurbish it but improve upon its original value.

The furniture itself will be an ongoing cost, as will any shipping fees, online sales platform fees, and tools/material components necessary to complete your individual projects. This is potentially a very profitable line of work, but ease into it as a side gig before making sure you’d like to turn your full attention to it.

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Bonsai Tree Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Gardeners, herbology enthusiasts, and people who love all things miniature may want to consider starting up a bonsai tree business. Bonsai trees are beautiful and challenging to properly cultivate, so ongoing costs may include plant-growing equipment, formal training courses or other instructive resources, and rent for a quality storefront.

Online sales are probably out of the question given the delicate nature of a finely developed bonsai tree. Despite some heavier upfront investments and ongoing costs, bonsai trees can sell anywhere from sixty to hundreds of dollars if correctly grown and pruned.

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Lifestyle

Our lifestyle category is populated with business ideas that focus on improving customers’ quality of life. Whether the job centers around planning an event or providing day-to-day assistance, these businesses help people take a load off in the midst of their busy lives.

Personal Shopper Service

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Extroverted helpers with good memories and navigational skills will excel at personal shopping. The timely delivery of select goods is the primary function of a personal shopper, making sure the client is satisfied and trusts your ability to deliver everything on their list.

The only ongoing costs you’ll be managing are gas prices/occasional car maintenance and as much advertising as you feel like you need. There is tremendous variability in profits earned through personal shopping, since your pay will generally depend on the quantity of good procured for clients and how quick and efficient you can be.

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Personal Styling Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Skilled cosmetologists and other friendly fashionistas are all set if they have a reliable network of media personalities or other public faces. As a personal stylist, you’ll consult with clients about their desired image, utilizing a savvy intuition for the art of appearances paired with an up-to-date familiarity with modern fashion.

Ongoing costs are few and far between, as any clothing or cosmetic products will typically be charged to the customer or otherwise reflected in your prices. Profits may climb as high as $78,000, but this depends on your service fees and the needs of your clientele base.

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Fashion Consulting Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Fashion consultants keep up with the modeling world and all the latest cosmetic trends. Clients rely on their fashion consultant to help them pursue the right aesthetic by offering practical ways to adopt a natural, personalized self-presentation.

A fashion consultant won’t deal with much overhead beyond routine car use to meet with clients and maybe a professional website hosting fee. Fashion consultants enjoy an average annual income of $53,000.

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Personal Concierge Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

A personal concierge is a highly organized creative problem solver with an excellent memory. The daily activities of someone in this line of work are difficult to describe because of their variety from person to person. From schedule management to grocery pickups and finance handling, this job’s daily services run the gamut of services performed, thanks to the concierge’s jack-of-all-trades adaptability.

Ongoing costs are low, including personal grooming, transportation, and self-marketing. The average salary for this position is tough to nail down, but it will depend on your employer’s finances and the difficulty of tasks assigned.

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Professional Organizing Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

To succeed in this role, you’ll need to be a creative developer of custom organizational systems, and you’ll have to help clients adopt your systems through personal instruction. As you meet with clients, you’ll be helping them to organize and manage time more effectively, install a new system for the organization of household objects, or efficiently organize important business paperwork for easy access.

Advertising and transportation are your only real ongoing costs here. Typical annual income ranges from $30,000 all the way to $115,000/year.

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Nanny Service (Babysitting Business)

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

The necessary traits for this job are no secret -- you need to love kids. If you are planning on developing a bigger operation, your time may be spent managing calls and reservations for clients, developing unified standards for your babysitter employees, and ensuring a proper fitting of babysitter to family.

Overhead costs will be the same for this business as most others, depending on office rent, company vehicles, rates charged, and an online marketing campaign. An individual babysitter will profit at about minimum wage, but employing other babysitters in your growing company can substantially improve your earnings.

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House-sitting Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

This is an accessible job with a low-key work atmosphere for folks looking to supplement their existing incomes. In this job, it’s typical to take care of normal housepets, water the plants, shovel the walkway, and generally act as a guardian while the owners are away.

There are few ongoing costs beyond transportation, so you can enjoy almost the entirety of whatever fee you’re charging the homeowners. This business tends to be the most lucrative during holidays, but with a reliable reputation you can get work at any time of the year, making this an excellent side gig.

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Pet-sitting Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Animal lovers who like to interact with a diverse range of creatures might consider starting up their own pet-sitting business. Compassionate, responsible folks can enjoy high levels of autonomy as they follow individualized pet routines to keep the animals under their care happy and healthy.

The job may come in tandem with house-sitting, so it doesn’t hurt to be generally familiar with home upkeep procedures like plant care and minor plumbing. You can charge flat fees or work by the hour as you see fit, and annual incomes will typically range from $30,000-$57,000.

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Dog-walking Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Another job for animal lovers, this one focuses on canine companion care and the exercise they need. On a given day, a dog walker will pick up the dogs, take them on whatever routes have been agreed upon by clientele, return the dogs home, and manage appointments with new and existing clients.

Ongoing costs may include a variety of dog accessories such as treats, chew toys, quality harnesses and leashes, or transportation crates. Profits are dependent on how many dogs you can get onto your daily schedule, and how much you can reasonably charge -- running a dog-walking business with your own employees will earn you a cut of all profits.

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Event Planning Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Creativity, an eye for detail, and good planning skills all come together in the professional event planner. In this career, there is a great deal of customer interaction, marketing, and PR work to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and the occasion leaves all attendees satisfied.

Some ongoing costs may include office rent, insurance, business licenses, and advertising. Profits depend on whether you are acting as an individual or an owner with employees. And individual event planner may average $75,000 per year, but an owner can rake in $80,000 per year.

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Wedding Planning Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

For all the matchmakers and romantics out there, this business takes your sweet approach to life and transforms it into a lucrative endeavor. Helping happy couples establish realistic budgets, explore wedding locations, select catering, find the right music. Design invitations, and more.

Ongoing costs are low, consisting mainly of advertising, and you can avoid renting an office by meeting your clients in their homes. Profits depend on your location -- wedding planners in urban areas are more likely to earn upwards of six figures annually. Wedding planners can usually charge several thousand dollars per wedding.

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Cleaning & Maintenance

When people’s homes or yards fall out of shape, it’s common for them to call a pro to avoid the physically taxing cleaning or restoration process. The labor specialists who run these businesses save their clients time, and even money, by providing reliable home maintenance services.

Lawn Care Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Physical stamina and a love of the outdoors meet skilled maintenance in the lawn care specialist. This is exclusively daytime work, so the job begins early in the morning with equipment check-ups followed by on-site work as specified by the day’s contracting lawn owners.

Equipment maintenance, insurance, advertising, and labor assistance are some of the ongoing costs to which a lawn care business must attend. A single lawn care specialist will work very hard to earn $30,000-$50,000 per year, but running a larger business with multiple crews will earn you a good deal more.

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Poison Ivy Removal Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Gardeners, hikers, or other wildlife enthusiasts can put their experience to work by identifying and removing poison ivy from client homes. Communicating with clients and scheduling appointments are an important part of this labor service, but the core of the work is the actual removal of dangerous or harmful plantlife from customer property.

Ongoing fees consist of restocking costs for equipment like trash bags, gloves, goggles, and other personal protective items. Profits in this line of business depend pretty strongly on how much poison ivy is within reasonable travel distance, and how much of it homeowners will consider worth paying to have removed.

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Pool Cleaning Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

To run a pool cleaning business, you should be self-motivated, comfortable working long hours alone, and ideally, you should enjoy working outside. If you’re marketing your own pool-cleaning company, this will occupy a good chunk of your time. But mainly, your duties will consist of chemical manipulations for clean swimming water, pool pump management, vacuuming, and pool basket emptying.

Supply costs are on the higher side for pool cleaners and may consume up to 20% of their revenue. Pool cleaning is fairly lucrative for a labor job, however, offering as much as $50-$60 per hour.

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Handyman Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Independent, hard-working people in robust physical condition can put their problem-solving skills to use by starting up a handyman business. There is a massive field of possibilities for someone in this business, depending on their knowledge of various domestic appliances and home improvement practices.

Ongoing costs can be troublesome for a handyman business, as it requires the right licenses and quality tool replacement. The profits may justify these deductions if your company targets a more challenging or unusual field of repair, which will permit you to charge accordingly for the value of your services.

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Cleaning Business

Startup Costs

Skill Level

Earning Potential

Highly motivated people with energy to spare can be well suited to a cleaning business, which demands a great deal of physical exertion for long periods of time. Cleaning businesses can operate as general services, or specialize in a certain type of cleaning, like residential or office-oriented services.

Ongoing costs for cleaning supplies and equipment maintenance may prove higher than is desirable, but fast, efficient work makes for more customers and more money earned in a day. A smaller cleaning business can still make between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, which can really motivate you to remain on your feet those long hours.

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