Low-Cost Business Ideas: Startups under $100, Cheap, and Free!

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Low-Cost Business Ideas

Aspiring entrepreneurs, do you want to start your business but don’t have much money? No worries.

Here are tons of low-cost business ideas that you can launch right away. Some of these business ideas get be started for free with no money ($0 zero dollars)! Other business models are cheap to open at $25. The balance of new business concepts has startup costs of less than $100.

Compare these low startup costs to the average small business startup cost of around $3,000!  The costliest startup investments are office space, employees, materials, inventory, and marketing expenses (such as websites, business cards and brochures). These low-cost startup ideas dramatically reduce startup outlay by eliminating these high-priced purchases.

Most of these business ideas can be started at home and run as a home-based company. This cuts out the expense of monthly rental fees for offices, warehouses, and storefronts. Further, reduce your startup costs by utilizing items you already possess such as your expert knowledge.  Get started in business cheaply by using what is in your head, your garage or other people tools, materials and supplies.

Want to start a business but no idea what? Read my comprehensive guide for the new entrepreneurs

The secret to starting a business on the cheap is to use more hustle and less cash. Instead of buying expensive ads for your new company, make free phone calls or drop by and visit potential customers directly. This low-cost startup strategy requires less money, is often more effective and is dramatically more profitable.

Let’s get started – getting you started in your own business for the lowest cost possible.

Low Startup Cost Business Ideas

Startup Costs $0 – $25

Music Lessons & Singing Instruction – Startup Costs $0 – $25

If you are musical, can play an instrument or sing, your talents can earn you money.

Costs to startups are low because your students will bring their own instruments for their music lessons.  You will need to purchase some sheet music or songbooks for various student levels. Buy them used on eBay to get started on the cheap.

Voice singing lessons are among the most profitable and lucrative. Market your services to local community theater troupes and high schools.

For this business idea, you do not even need a website, since most of your customers will be local. Get a low-cost business card ( $25 for a discount full-color business card at PsPrint) and distribute it in schools, theatres, concert halls, and libraries. your startup costs or even lower as in just a business card or flyer.

>>Check out my list of the safest new business ideas here

Pet Sitting – startup costs $0 – $25

Every community large and small needs pet sitters. You can charge $25 per visit and per animal. Most clients will ask you to come twice a day or to stay overnight for which you could charge $100 0r more.

Almost no start-up money is required besides an inexpensively printed business card or flyer (Get 200 color cards for under $25). Your clients will supply all of the food, leashes and pet toys for you to use while visiting their animals.

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Dog Training – startup costs $0 – $25

If you know how to train dogs you are in an excellent position to start making money. You can meet your client’s dogs at local parks or their homes to train them for basic commands such as sit, down and drop it.

Get new customers by demonstrating your training skills at a local pet store. Distribute your business cards at local veterinary offices, dog daycare, and dog groomers.

Dog Walking – startup costs $0 – $25

Continuing in dog business ideas, dog walking is a profitable and easy cheap business to start. You do not need to be a certain age nor do you need a license to begin walking dogs for profit.

Create a flyer or inexpensive business card and distribute it at local veterinary offices, pet shops, and dog parks.  Moreover, hand out your flyers to busy professionals at offices and apartment buildings.  Before long you will have many barking customers.

Color postcards are a good marketing investment because they can do double duty as a handout, substitution for a business card and also be mailed as direct mail. For under $20 you can get full color, a two-sided postcard from PsPrint here. 

Sell Used Books – startup costs $0 – $20

There’s a strong demand for many types of used books especially textbooks, classic literature and foreign language. It’s an easy and cheap business to get started.  Almost every library, yard sale, and thrift shop have shelves full of used books for purchase at low prices.

In fact, you don’t have to buy any books to start with. Begin by selling the ones you have at home on your bookshelf. You’d be surprised that you can make hundreds of dollars from books on your bookshelf.

As your acumen and capital grow you can buy books in bulk from auction houses and resell them. These are the best places to sell used books 

Need help calculating your startup costs?
Learn how to correctly estimate your startup budget and capital needs – including costs list by industry in my guide here

Cleaning Company – startup costs $0 – $25

This is a low-cost startup because you can utilize all the supplies and materials you already have to clean your own houses – such as vacuums, mops, and brooms. Advertise your services with a low-cost business card (200 color cards for $25) or flyers. Begin by contacting your friends family neighbors and colleagues for referrals. Here are tons of name ideas for your cleaning company. 

Taxi Service – startup costs $0 – $25

Gone are the days you needed to save up and buy an expensive taxi medallion to start making money giving people rides. Now with ride-sharing platforms like Uber (learn about driver requirements here), you can begin profiting from driving people to their destinations today. Assuming that you own a car there is virtually no start-up fee. Your gas expenses will be covered by your earnings.

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Tax Preparation – startup costs $0 – $20

Here you can learn and earn at the same time!  The top tax preparation firm, HR Block will train you to prepare tax returns (for free)  – from your home or offices. Here’s how to enroll at the H&R Block income tax course

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Software Trainer – startup costs $0 – $20

Do you know how to use popular software such as QuickBooks, Microsoft Word or Google Docs? If so, great, because there is a growing market for software training for individuals and professionals.

Consider conducting small group classes in your area. You could operate training classes at your local library or community center to save on office rental fees. Or you could sell private one-on-one sessions held at clients’ offices or homes.

Start-up fees are essentially zero. All you need is a business card,  a flyer,  or neither. The cheapest way to start is to call local businesses offering your software training services. Start your software training business for less than the cost of a pizza – under $25 for a discount full-color business card at PsPrint!

Ebook Author – startup costs $0 – $25

Do you love to write novels, short stories or how-to books? If so, you can self publish them in electronic format, as an e-book, and sell them online in Kindle on Amazon. Get started self-publishing on the Amazon Kindle Direct publishing. Here is how to get started as an ebook author. 

Digital Camera Instructor – startup costs $0 – $25

Digital cameras are expensive and complex. Beginner photographers want to learn how to use their cameras for the best photographic results. If you are a photographer or hobby photo enthusiast you can share your knowledge for a fee. Consider these photography business name ideas

Consider putting up a flyer in your local photo store, art frame store, art gallery, and school to attract customers. Another option could be to conduct a class at your local community center and then offer further one-on-one tutoring for your students. Further target customers are adult ed students.

Ebay Sales – startup costs $0 – $25

You can start listing products on sale on eBay for free tonight! You do need to buy inventory. Start by looking around your home for items to sell. Go ahead and photograph them with your cell phones, upload listing and start selling for cash.

You may be shocked at how many unwanted items you have and how much profit potential there is.  Once you begin to make sales you can invest that capital and purchase items for resale.

Many successful eBay vendors scout thrift shops, garage sales, flea markets and antique shops for interesting items to resell.

When your capital increases, you can buy products in bulk for resale. Look for inexpensive overseas items or liquidation outlets (here is a liquidation directory) as good sources for resale.

Startup Costs  $0 – $50

Event Planning – startup costs $0 – $50

This is a great business start-up idea for people who love to entertain and are highly organized. You help businesses, brides and families to plan special events such as retirement parties, weddings, and business networking.

Use your personal experience of planning large events such as family reunions or birthday parties to develop your skills.  This experience will help build your important contact list of vendors and venues. Find your perfect event planning company name on this list of ideas.

Promote your services inexpensively with social media posts, business cards, and simple brochures.  Color brochures used to be very expensive to print. Happily, for us lean entrepreneurs, that is no longer the case. For under $100 hundred dollars you can get a brochure designed and printed in full color at PSPrint. 

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Dropshipping – startup costs $10 – $50

This inexpensive way to start selling products online does not require any upfront money for inventory. Your manufacturer vendor will ship products directly to your customers upon ordering. Some vendors will even put your company logo on their items.

You can sell on your own website such as my eCommerce recommendation – Shopify  – or on auction sites such as eBay.

I strongly caution you to do thorough research to be sure that you have found a reliable and proven company.  Oberlo is the dropshipping division of Shopify, the best dropshipping eCommerce software.  They have a seamless set up connecting your eCommerce website to their dropshipping products with one click.  I love how they let you start for free to check out the software before you have to pay.

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Etsy Shop Owner – startup costs $0 – $50

Online marketplaces such as Etsy have made it easy for people to open their own online shop. For under $50 you can set up your shop and begin to sell items.

These items could be those that you handcrafted, other artisans work, art that you own or even items you purchase for resale. The cheapest way to begin is to sell other people’s work and get a commission. Once your capital grows you can purchase supplies and create your own crafted items to sell.

Here’s some expert Etsy tips on how to invest low amounts such as 10 to $25 to make your Etsy shop successful.

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Errand Service – startup costs $0 – $50

This business idea is focused on helping busy families and small businesses to get their errands completed. Your services could include, grocery shopping, taking returns back to the store, mailing packages, taking children to appointments and animals to the vet.

Start-up costs include a safe vehicle with proper licensing and insurance plus a simple business card. Assuming you have transportation the startup costs could be under $25 for a discount full-color business card at PsPrint!

Mobile Phone and Device Training – startup costs $25 – $50

Mobile phones have so many features that many users are not aware of. People love to learn about the cool things their phones and tablets are capable of.

If you know the ins-and-outs of mobile devices you can share your knowledge for profit. One of the fastest-growing markets for this training is seniors who have mobile phones that are unaware of how to use them.  Sure you can train people in your town, but with Skype (a free online chat service) you can train people around the world.  Here is how to start an online school step by step

Personal Chef – startup costs $0 – $50

Here you will prepare meals for clients, either individuals or small businesses, in your area.

Personal chef clients usually include busy professionals and want to have weekly or daily meals prepared specially for their dietary needs. Another type of customer is families who want to host parties and events and serve professionally prepared dishes with waiters. Plus small businesses who stage meetings and networking want to buy culinary services.

Consider expanding this business idea into offering cooking classes.  Some local grocery stores or farmers’ markets may hire you to demonstrate recipes using their products.

You do not need to have a storefront or professional kitchen to succeed with these low-cost business ideas. In fact, there is a successful woman in my neighborhood who teaches cooking classes in her home kitchen.

Startup costs are low because your clients will pay for food costs before you begin preparation. Thus your only costs are for promotional items such as business cards or a simple website. I recommend using an easy template website builder. Godaddy offers a free trial of website builder complete with hundreds of professionally designed web templates.

Language Translation Service – startup costs $0 – $50

This is a strong growth industry that is predicted to grow by 40% over the next decade. If you’re fluent in foreign languages you can make money by translating written or spoken words from one language to another. Market your services to businesses, schools, medical professionals, courtrooms, government offices, and event centers.

A simple website (you can DIY a website for free here) and an email address is all you need to begin.  This is how to market your translation services cheaply. 

Startup Costs $0 – $75

Virtual Assistant – startup costs $0 – $75

To get started as a virtual assistant you will need good organizational skills and an eye for detail. Knowledge of popular software programs such as Quickbooks, Microsoft Word, Google Calendar, Doc and Sheet is a plus.

This business helps entrepreneurs and business professionals with administrative tasks such as meeting calendars,  appointment scheduling, travel arrangements, market research, email correspondence, and data entry. All of these admin tasks can be completed online so you can help businesses anywhere in the world with their administrative needs.

Startup costs are relatively low. All that is required are items you probably already own – an internet connection and a working computer (or access to a computer).  Thus your startup costs cost be virtually nothing.

Promote your VA business online and consider joining a marketplace like Upwork. That is the site that I found my best virtual assistant ever! It is free to set up an account (click here to get started) and customers are actively looking for virtual assistants.

If you want to invest a little bit of money, for under $100 you can set up a professional website on Godaddy. Use the new website builder here  It is much easier to use than prior versions and offers a greater number of designer templates with new features.

Learn More:

Personal Assistant – startup costs $0 – $75

This is a business idea you can start locally at any time for very little start-up cost.  Offer people help with various tasks such as correspondence, household organization, filing, appointment scheduling, and telephone calls. It is similar to the above business idea, virtual assistant, except it is focused on individuals living locally.

You could start this business with the price of a handwritten flyer or an inexpensively printed business card.  250 full-color business cards, with 2-sides, can be custom printed for less than $25 at PsPrint. That is less than the cost of a pizza!

Social Media Consultant – startup costs $25 – $75

This is one of the most profitable business ideas with low start-up costs. Many firms hire outside experts to manage their social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  If you have experience in creating compelling online content (written posts, images and video) you can offer your services for a lucrative fee.

Your most expensive service packages can include marketing strategies such as posting schedules, editorial calendar and post type recommendations for their maximum brand exposure.

The startup costs are very low, just internet connection and access to a computer. So it costs almost nothing to start if you already have these items. Other tools such as stock photos, video editing, and graphic design software can be charged to your client as part of their fees.

Thus your only costs are for promotional items such as business cards or a simple website. I recommend using an easy template website builder. Godaddy offers a free trial of website builder complete with hundreds of professionally designed web templates.

Learn More:

E Products and Digital Works – startup costs $0 – $75

Teach others about fitness, health, sports or business by creating a digital course and sell online. For $49 you can open a vendor account at ClickBank, which is the largest marketplace for digital products online.

Here thousands of affiliates will sell your products and give you 50% or more of the profits. You decide the price of your product and the profit-sharing percentage. Some vendors have made millions of dollars on ClickBank.

You do not need costly software to create your ebook. You can use this free online ebook maker 

Startup Costs – Less than $100

Tutor – startup costs $0 – $100

Tutoring is one of the easiest and cheapest forms of business to start.  That is because you already possess subject knowledge and you are selling it to your students.

You can choose to begin on one of the online platforms such as Tutor.com . This site focuses on standard academic subjects such as math, science, English, social studies and SAT test prep. If you want to tutor and teach people in a wider variety of subjects try this site. 

Alternatively, you could tutor students locally. Start out cheap by posting flyers about your tutoring services in your local schools, government offices, community centers, and libraries.  Meet your students at school or in another public facility such as the library. This eliminates the cost of renting an office.

Transcription Services – startup costs $10 – $100

Transcribing is the process of listening to audio or videos and typing the text into a computer program.  Transcription services are in demand in the legal and medical industries.

Start-up costs are low, all you need is internet access, a computer and a foot pedal that allows you to stop or start the audio player while typing. These foot pedals can be purchased for approximately $50 on Amazon.

Business opportunities are good for native English speakers. A friend of mine successful transcription businesses specializes in reviewing files done by non-native English speakers and corrects them to proper American English.

Scrap Metal Dealer – startup costs $50 – $100

There is good money to be made in recycling scrap metal. In fact, you may need no cash to start because you may have metal in your home that you can take to the scrap dealer for cash.

Learn about the business from industry experts on the Scrap Metal Forum. Here you can watch videos, ask questions and correspond with professional scrap metal business owners. You will need some basic tools to remove metal parts and a vehicle to haul to the dealers.

Online courses – startup costs $50 – $100

Sell your knowledge in your field of expertise as an online course. These days people have become accustomed and often prefer the flexibility of online learning.

You could teach anything including fitness classes, baking, embroidery, software usage, and business strategies. The list is almost endless.

You can start for free by using a teaching software platform such as Teachable for up to 10 students. As your course attendance increases, you can upgrade plans t0 $39 per month.

Painting Contractor – startup costs $50 – $100

Most states do not require painting contractors to have special licensing. If you start your painting business with an interior painting you can reduce the amount of equipment needed. Because you will not need to buy costly ladders and safety equipment.

Your startup investment is minimal, just some paintbrushes, rollers, trays and drop clothes. These items could all be purchased for under $100. Ask your client to buy the paint and primer for their jobs.

Promote your business with a nice looking brochure showing attractive homes and interiors. Use one of these professional brochure templates to get started quickly. These do not need to be actual jobs you painted, just a representative of your painting services.

Think about specializing in interior faux finishes if you are autistic and like to learn new techniques. I have an artist friend who makes a substantial income with his faux painting and mural art services. His best customers were interior designers, churches, hospitals. hotels and restaurants. Check out this book on how to get started in the faux painting and mural business.

Window Cleaning – startup costs $75 – $100

Residential cleaning supplies can be purchased inexpensively at your local hardware store. No need to purchase expensive ladders and safety equipment. Instead, rent them with the money from your customer’s deposit payment or borrow them from other friends family and contractors.

Expand your business into cleaning large retail store windows and restaurant storefronts. As your capital and experience increase, you can buy specialized equipment for large-format windows.

Next Steps:

Looking for startup funding? Learn about 17 proven ways to get startup funding here

Want to start a clothing line? Yes you can begin your clothing company with no money! Learn how from the experts at Sewport here

It is important to calculate your launch costs properly. Read these tips for important knowledge about calculating your startup costs.

>>Want more small business ideas? Read this big list of new business ideas

>>Live in a rural area? Check out these business ideas for small towns

>>Start a truck business with these great mobile business ideas

Learn how to sell your business idea to investors or to a company – step by step in my guide here

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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