Taking risks and reaping the rewards is what high risk, high reward business ideas are all about. Some businesses are more unstable than others, but with the right driver behind the wheel, you can overcome any obstacle.

Now, these businesses don't have to start as high risk, high reward; some of them can even start as side hustles and grow from there. But if you want to put it all on the line these businesses offer some of the highest potential profits. 

36 High Risk, High Reward Business Ideas

We’ve broken down our top high risk high reward business ideas and ranked their startup costs, required skill level, and earning potential to help you decide which side-hustle is right for you.

1. Real Estate Investment

Close-up of a "sold" property sign.

Entrepreneurs with high problem-solving skills may consider starting a real estate investment business. This path often requires a high up-front investment into properties, but with the right research and timing, it can have a high return on investment.

Real estate investing can be broken down into three primary categories: wholesaling — purchasing property to sell or lease — house flipping — buying low-cost homes to renovate and then sell at a higher price — and buy and rent — buying low-cost properties to renovate and then rent out. In any event, your business will need adequate capital to get started, but luckily these businesses can start as a supplement to your current income and/or end up as a passive income opportunity. 

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2. eBay Store

Woman holding a tablet with the eBay app loaded

This job is great for motivated self-starters who want a flexible schedule and are already familiar with eBay. Knowing what sells well, how to best price products, and how to get your listings noticed will promote success in this business. It’s also a business you can build around your personal interests and experience, making it both fun and lucrative.

Growth potential is limited only by the time and scope of the seller. Finding a specialty or niche area selling popular products you’re passionate about is a great strategy for success. With low startup and maintenance costs, there is virtually no limit to your earning potential once you get things rolling.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

3. Etsy Store

A tablet being held with the Etsy application loaded

Anyone who enjoys making handmade goods or finding vintage items may enjoy running an Etsy business. This is an excellent outlet for artists looking to sell their work, or anyone who’s passionate about producing and selling well-crafted goods. Sellers must have the skills required to find or create the products they sell, basic computer skills, and experience with marketing and/or advertising to help promote their products.

These basic skills plus a strong entrepreneurial spirit can convert your hobby into a lucrative business opportunity. While you may opt for a limited part-time gig, earning potential is real, with some sellers bringing in six figures. Etsy even offers a program to help sellers launch an independent website as their business outgrows the platform.

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4. Ecommerce Store

A man holding a credit card typing its information into a laptop

If you are looking for a way to provide people with goods and services they need, an eCommerce store may be the right business for you. eCommerce stores make a real difference in people’s lives by creating access to a variety of goods and services at low prices. You should have some knowledge of web design, marketing, internet security, and computer programming to get things started, and you’ll need a moderate amount of seed money to cover your website, servers, any employees, marketing, and other business services.

However, with online shopping growing more popular by the day, there are few limits to the growth potential of an eCommerce business if you find the right product or niche.

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5. Tutoring Business

Child doing homework looking at her tutor

This business is ideal for current and former teachers looking for part-time or full-time work, but anyone who enjoys working with people and has knowledge or skills to share can succeed as a tutor. Tutors should be skilled and experienced in the field they choose and have the ability to effectively market themselves to find clients.

While tutoring side hustles are limited in their growth potential, depending on your field of specialization, experience, and skill level, you can bring in respectable profits with minimal ongoing expenses. Depending on your hourly rate and number of clients, you can expect to bring in between $40,000-$60,000 annually.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

6. Music Lessons Business

Closeup of a row of piano keys, with a pair of hands playing them

People who are passionate about music and can play at least one instrument may be interested in starting a business giving music lessons. Music teachers and band members are great candidates, but must have enough time to dedicate to their lessons. You will need to be highly skilled at playing the instrument you choose to teach and able to market yourself effectively to bring in clients.

Getting started, however, requires little more than an instrument and a place to hold lessons. Many instructors teach right out of their homes, making startup and maintenance costs extremely low. You may choose to remain small or expand to include several instructors specializing in various instruments. In this case, the potential to grow your business locally, and even nationally, is great.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

7. Art Lessons Business

Pair of hands brushing a large amount of orange paint onto a canvas

Teaching art lessons is an excellent business venture for artists of all kinds looking to share their talent with others. Art instructors should also ideally have some teaching experience and enjoy working closely and connecting with people. While formal education isn’t a requirement, a degree in an art-related field can be helpful for finding clients.

Startup and maintenance costs will vary depending on where you teach and what materials are necessary, but generally, costs are low. The art industry is expected to grow slowly but steadily over the next decade, making art instruction a fairly stable business choice. Because instructors can charge fairly high hourly rates to share their expertise, there’s the potential to make significant profits, with some instructors earning six figures annually.

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8. Life Coaching Business

Any motivated and people-oriented person who has found effective ways to achieve their goals can make a good life coach. The success of a life coaching business depends entirely upon the business owner’s ability to connect with and assist other people, so experience working with a broad range of people is important. Obtaining relevant certifications can also help establish credibility and expertise.

Many life coaches start their businesses by working part-time during non-business hours while staying employed part- or full-time. They may then transition to coaching more as the business grows. Because you are your brand, the growth potential is somewhat limited. It’s common to garner a reputation within a geographic region or an industry, which will ultimately define how large a business can become.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

9. Relationship Coaching Business

A counselor holding a clipboard with paperwork in front of a couple holding hands

Relationship coaching is another business that’s great for the extroverted people-person who enjoys working with others. Good listening skills and an empathetic manner are essential for succeeding in this business. Former coaching experience and formal education in a related field, such as psychology, are generally required. With the national divorce rate around 50%, relationship coaching is a high growth industry.

Couples are always looking for ways to work through their problems to save their relationship, and a successful relationship coach can grow their business exponentially by establishing a good reputation and earning word of mouth referrals. Earning potential is also high, with hourly rates ranging anywhere from $50-$300 per hour depending on your experience, services, and geographic region.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

10. Personal Training Business

A personal trainer assisting his trainee with lifting dumbells

Personal training businesses are an excellent opportunity for people who are passionate about fitness. Being able to work with a diverse clientele at various places on their fitness journey is essential. Compassion, understanding, and the ability to tailor workouts to your specific clients can make a personal trainer stand out among the rest. Startup and maintenance costs are manageable.

Trainers will need to receive certification, purchase liability insurance, and advertise their services. If you’re training people at their health clubs, you’ll need to pay any monthly membership fees required, though this cost can easily be built into your hourly rate. The growth and earning potential are good for personal training side hustles, as fitness continues to become a higher priority. Trainers bring in an average of $50,000, with room for much more based on availability, services, and geographic area.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

11. Fashion Consulting Business

A woman showing another woman a green dress from a rack

Fashion consulting is a great opportunity for anyone with an eye for fashion and a desire to share their passion with others. Many clients are simply looking to shake up their wardrobe or stay on trend. However, it’s possible to market to a variety of people from job applicants looking to dress to impress to those simply hoping for more likes on Instagram. This is a great fit for those with previous fashion retail experience.

While not required, a degree in fashion can also be helpful. This business offers modest growth and good earning potential as the fashion industry continues to experience steady growth. The average fashion consultant brings in $53,000 per year, with the opportunity for much more depending on your client base.

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12. Grant Writing Business

Hand holding a pen reviewing a spreadsheet printout

Grant writing can be a rewarding business venture for skilled business writers with experience in the nonprofit world. You’ll need strong attention to detail and the ability to be flexible and creative to write successful proposals. There is a great deal of competition for grant money, so those who can make a name for themselves as particularly effective will be best positioned to win new business.

For those able to earn a positive reputation and build a solid client base, there are significant opportunities for growth and respectable earning potential. The average annual income for grant writers is $45,000.

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13. Technical Writing Business

Two people standing at a desk in front of a laptop

Anyone with technical knowledge and writing skills may consider starting a technical writing business. It’s not an especially competitive market, so those with the necessary skills should be able to break into the field fairly easily. While formal education isn’t required, those with degrees in relevant fields will have a greater chance of earning clients.

More important though, is experience in technical writing. Building a solid portfolio of quality work is the key to success in this field. Someone who loves to write and can easily adapt and conform to a company’s style has a potential for growth limited only by their own schedule and workload capacity. Once you’ve established yourself in the business, there’s the potential to average around $70,000 per year with enough work and the right clients.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

14. Proofreading Business

Hand holding a red pen making corrections on a printed document

For the grammar lovers among us, a proofreading business can prove both satisfying and lucrative. As a proofreader, you are concerned not with what your clients are trying to communicate, but rather how accurately they convey it in terms of spelling, punctuation, typographical errors, and word usage.

This is one of many great side business ideas for those with writing and editing experience, both academically and professionally. While a degree can help, it’s not required. Professional proofreading has picked up with the advent of self-publishing since independent authors cannot rely on their publishers for this service. With extremely low startup costs, those able to carve out the right niche and client base can build a successful career in this field.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

15. Transcription Business

A pair of headphones sitting on top of a laptop keyboard

This side hustle is great for those who like to work at their own schedule and pace. While certain transcription services, such as court reporter, may require stricter scheduling requirements, most of the work involves transcribing audio or video that has been provided to you. The job is also ideal for those who type fast, have strong attention to detail, and are comfortable using computers and other related software and technology.

The growth potential for a transcription business can vary significantly by industry. Medical transcription, for example, has boomed in the past decade. But, no matter the subject matter, if you provide fast, accurate work you can build a successful transcription business. Your speed and accuracy will also largely determine your earning potential since many transcription projects are billed by the project. The faster you work, the more you can earn.

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16. Data Entry Business

Hands typing on a keyboard

Data entry businesses are great for detail-oriented people looking for a stable business venture with the potential to expand. Whether you hire employees or go it alone, you should be extremely comfortable using a variety of popular spreadsheet and word processing programs.

A small business with just one or two people will typically take on a handful of clients and establish a relationship with them that lasts for years. Many businesses remain small like this forever, while others can grow into highly profitable global ventures.

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17. Freelance Writing Business

Someone writing in a notepad

Freelance writing is a great business venture for both established writers and those hoping to break into the field. Self-starters with the time, skills, and motivation to seek out clients and meet tight deadlines will thrive. The vast number of online publications means that no matter your writing style or area of expertise, you are likely to find clients who can use your services.

There are also still plenty of opportunities for freelancers looking to write for more traditional offline publications like newspapers, magazines, and journals. Beyond the cost of your computer, wifi, and advertising the startup and maintenance costs are almost nonexistent. With low costs and great growth potential for those able to find constant or long-term clients, earning potential is good. Established freelance writers can bring in an average of $30,000-$50,000 annually.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

18. Social Media Marketing Business

Closeup photo of an iPhone with many social media app icons

Social media is almost certainly here to stay, and those with marketing experience and the savvy to understand and navigate multiple platforms are great candidates for a social media marketing business. This venture requires more than just an enthusiasm for social media. Successful social media marketers have a deep understanding of people, how and when they interact with various platforms, how to reach specific demographics, what type of content works best where, and how various platforms evolve over time.

Startup costs are low, and most can begin with their computer and a small advertising budget. With social media ever on the rise, the opportunities to grow your business and make a solid profit are great. The average social media marketer brings in $50,000 per year, with the highest earners reaching up to six figures.

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19. Live Streaming Business

A man in headphones staring at a screen while playing a video game

For many gaming enthusiasts, earning extra money while playing video games is living the dream. For the most enthusiastic and driven among them, it can become a reality. To do so, gamers should register with a major streaming service, such as Twitch.TV, and be prepared to spend several hours each day streaming their gameplay and working on building followers. Those who acquire enough followers to become partners (500+ on Twitch, for example) will begin earning money for the traffic they generate.

Earning and keeping a sufficient following requires very strong gaming skills. You will also need to be adept at navigating social media to promote yourself, respond to comments, and build a broad online presence. Those who stream full-time and succeed in becoming partners on their streaming sites can average $3,000-$5,000 per month. Most also earn a portion of the ad revenue they bring it, increasing their earning potential. Some of the best streamers out there are able to earn up to $300,000 annually, but when it comes to this type of business, the sky's the limit.

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20. Airbnb Business

Phone sitting next to a wallet with the AirBnb app loaded

Running an Airbnb is a great way to earn some extra income. You can rent out extra space in your home on a regular basis or open your entire house or apartment when you’re out of town. Some people with an additional property have opted to go the Airbnb route rather creating a traditional rental property.

For those with properties in popular locations, this can be a very profitable venture. Generally speaking, though, the earning potential of an Airbnb varies considerably based on frequency of rental and geographic location.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

21. Personal Concierge Business

Person sitting at a desk typing on a keyboard

Personal concierges, or personal assistants, perform a wide range of activities depending on their clients. No matter what work is needed, though, a personal concierge must have excellent people skills, be highly organized, and be willing to be on call for their client(s) whenever they’re needed. If you are a detail oriented person with a great deal of energy, this can be an excellent business venture.

Since this is largely a luxury service, the success of personal concierge services can ebb and flow with the economy. As long as the local economy stays fairly strong, there’s an opportunity for growth. The salary for a personal concierge ranges from around $20,000-$40,000 annually, but independent business owners have the opportunity to bring in even more than that.

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22. College Planning Business

A paper graduation cap sitting on top of many one hundred dollar bills

Planning for college can be an extremely daunting experience, so anyone who can provide quality insight to make this process even slightly less stressful will be in high demand. Starting a college planning business will require a sizable investment of your time, but the payoff can be great. It will require a commitment to learning and keeping up with admission processes, getting to know a wide range of schools, and building relationships with university administrators. While a background in higher education can be helpful, it’s not required.

Most important will be your ability to personally identify with each client and build a list of potential schools that suit them. Your annual income is largely defined by how many clients you’re able to take on, how many consultants you hire, what your customer’s individual needs are, and your fee structure. Experienced consulting firms report earning $40,000 to $80,000 annually per consultant, with the potential for more as your agency grows in experience and reputation.

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23. Virtual Assistant Business

Woman with six arms performing many tasks

People who are organized, attentive, and responsible will do well in this position. It can be an excellent opportunity for anyone with administrative or personal assistant experience looking for reliable remote work. As businesses look to cut costs, more and more are opting for virtual assistants, making this a growing industry that may reach $8 billion by 2020. The landscape is very competitive, though, with many businesses opting for lower-wage overseas assistants.

To stand out, those hoping to make a living as a virtual assistant must be flexible, offer a wide range of services, and put a great deal of effort into marketing themselves. Earning potential can vary widely depending on the nature of your clients, hours worked, and payment structure. While there are certainly some who many well into the six figures, most virtual assistants should expect to earn between $30,000 and $50,000 per year.

Learn how to a real estate investing business.

24. Professional Organizing Business

A well organized closet with clothing

If you love to organize or have perfected the minimalist lifestyle, sharing your talent with others as a professional organizer can be a profitable and personally satisfying business venture. You’ll need to be a compassionate, understanding people-person who others will feel comfortable welcoming into their messy or disorganized homes. A professional organizing business offers flexible hours, but owners will need to be able to stick to project deadlines.

The growth potential for this type of business is very good due to people’s increasingly busy schedules that make cleaning and organizing more difficult. Since this is a fairly new industry, there are still excellent opportunities to grow in the market. As a fairly specialized, luxury service, professional organizers can charge a decent hourly rate, making as much as $115,000 per year with very little overhead.

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25. Wedding Planning Business

Bride and groom kissing out-of-focus behind and in-focus bouquet

If you love planning great events, a wedding planning business may be the best side hustle idea for you. Much of the planning business is visual, so those with a flair for style and design will do well in this field. Previous event planning experience is a big plus, but a solid reputation built on continuous customer satisfaction will be your biggest marketing asset.

The wedding industry is enormous, and with over 6,000 weddings taking place each day, a well-marketed and reliable wedding planning business has a great chance for success. What you can charge for your services will vary widely based on geographic area and even time of year, with peak wedding season (spring-summer) justifying higher rates. Most established wedding planners can charge anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 per wedding, making the earning potential substantial.

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26. Sports Photography Business

Camera sitting on a tripod above a sporting event

If you have photography training and a passion for sports, starting a sports photography business can be a very rewarding career. Your side hustle can range anywhere from a weekend photographer for local youth sports teams all the way to an official event photographer for professional sporting events.

Successful local sports photographers are able to maintain long-term contracts with schools and sports leagues. The average income for a photographer ranges from $45,000 and $62,000 per year.

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27. Photo Editing Business

Woman drawing on a design pad, with various photography and design tools on her desk

A photo editing business can be a great addition to a photographer’s work, especially during slower seasons, or a stand-alone business for anyone with an eye for great photography and the skills to use a range of editing software.

Growth potential in this area is modest, but a creative person able to market themselves well, especially on social media, can build a good business. With low costs and high flexibility, this can be a lucrative part-time or full-time venture, with the most successful photo editors earning six figures annually.

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28. Illustration Business

Hands drawing an illustration of a woman in a dress

Starting an illustration business can be challenging, but for those with the talent and drive to persevere, it can be an incredibly rewarding career. Illustration opportunities are always expanding, with new media creating more niche fields every day. The options are vast, ranging from cartoons to book jackets to digital storyboards.

When first starting out, it’s a great idea to send your work to a variety of places to see where your style fits best. It’s difficult to gauge the earning potential of an illustration business since the category is so broad. However, the annual salary or fine artists -- which include illustrators -- is $57,000 per year. Those able to find steady work can build a solid career around their talent.

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29. Graphic Design Business

Various design tools sitting in front of a computer

A graphic design business is an excellent pursuit for creative people with artistic and technological prowess. You should be able to work alone and in a collaborative environment as you grow or work alongside clients. Formal education can boost your credibility, but talented self-taught designers can do just as well.

Many studios are sole proprietors or small partnerships. They operate on their own, hiring project help when needed. However, there’s virtually no limit to growth potential except your sales success. You can hire talent and support staff as your reputation and your business grow. The largest are multinational firms with offices in major cities across the world and clients among Fortune 500 brands.

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30. Portrait Photography Business

Model with done up hair and makeup

A portrait photography business is a great niche market for anyone with photography experience. These businesses can be particularly successful if you’re able to get consistent work through schools and other community organizations that routinely require photography services.

While the growth potential is modest, established portrait photographers can expect a fairly stable income of at least $34,000 per year. This number can grow much higher depending on geographic region and client base.

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31. Makeup Artist Business

Makeup artist applying makeup to a model with a brush

Anyone who enjoys working with people and has especially good makeup application skills may enjoy running a makeup artist business. Previous work in a cosmetics field can help, but ultimately your talent will speak for itself as you earn satisfied customers. Making a name for yourself on social media can be extremely helpful.

You may choose to specialize in one niche area like weddings, or offer your services to a broad range of clients. Startup costs are fairly low since most makeup artists work out of their home or travel to their clients. Depending on your workload and client case, a makeup artist can make a sizeable profit, with the most successful even achieving six-figure incomes.

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32. Custom Prints Business

Painted photo of trees in a pond

A custom prints business can accommodate people from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill levels. It can make a great side or full-time business for just about anyone with technological know-how and good customer service skills. There is good growth potential for this business because you can start small and build your way up.

Many start off using third-party services to print their products before eventually acquiring their own equipment. Similarly, a business may start out focusing solely on t-shirts and add additional product lines as they grow. Profits will vary significantly across the industry depending on the size and scope of your business. However, it may be possible to net up to $100,000 annually once fully established.

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33. Furniture Upcycling Business

A pallet that has been renovated to be a desk organizer

Creative people with an eye for design may enjoy running a furniture upcycling business. Previous sales experience can also be very helpful in this venture. Furniture upcycling involves finding old or forgotten pieces in thrift stores and elsewhere and converting them into a new and improved item. You’ll need to invest a great deal of time into locating and upgrading each piece individually, which can put a limit on how far your business can grow.

However, this market is appealing to a variety of consumers, from the environmentally conscious to those looking to upgrade their home decor for a reasonable price. Plus, because you’ll be selling one-of-a-kind pieces, earning potential is quite high. Though it may take several years, a successful upcycling business can eventually see six figures.

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Learn more about starting a business by visting the U.S. Small Business Administration.

34. Cleaning Business

A pair of hands in rubber gloves and a desk full of cleaning supplies

Anyone with an eye for detail and a strong work ethic can excel with a cleaning business. You should also ideally be physically fit and comfortable with a good deal of manual labor each day. You’ll be working long hours and interacting with a variety of people, so energy and good customer service skill will be quite useful.

The smallest cleaning businesses are run as one-person shops. Larger operations employ staff or hire subcontractors. Some businesses franchise their model and collect franchise fees. As such, earning potential can range anywhere from $50,000 per year into the millions.

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35. Handyman Business

A handyman holding his hat and work gloves, with a full toolbelt

If you are in great physical condition and are ready to take on a career that allows you to set your own hours and be your own boss, starting a handyman business may be the perfect fit. In addition to having the knowledge and skills to repair and replace household items, a passion for helping others is very important.

Many handymen enjoy working alone and choose to keep their business small and local. With the right knowledge, skills, and crew, however, there is significant growth potential in this industry. If you possess a background in business, starting a handyman franchise would be a very lucrative way to grow your business.

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36. Roof Cleaning Business

A roof with lots of moss growing on it

The roof cleaning business is great for any previous roofing contractor, cleaning, or household maintenance worker. It has high profit potential, and it’s great for eco-lovers, explorative types, and hard workers alike. A roof cleaning side hustle can grow quite a bit. That said, local cleaning businesses will likely have to compete against other providers. A cleaning business’ growth potential can be attributed to its credibility, benefits, qualified leads and special deals.

Additionally, you’ll need to have a solid insurance plan. Communities don’t hire companies who aren’t properly insured, and they’ll avoid any company without a solid track record. Luckily, your insurance policy is one of the only startup costs involved, beyond cleaning supplies and advertising. The owner of a roof cleaning business can expect to make an average of $44,000 per year once established.

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