Want to start a business, but don’t have a lot of cash to invest? That’s OK. You’ve likely got a hidden talent or two that could help you make extra money by running a service business — one where you get paid to play a certain role or conduct a certain task.
Do you have a special passion, interest or skill? It could be a head for finances, a flair for communicating, a special way with animals or vast knowledge of American history. You might not even realize that your skill or talent is in demand, but it could be your ticket to a profitable business.
If you’re not sure where to start, make a list of things you enjoy doing and excel at, then brainstorm possible businesses. For a little inspiration, take a look at these eight low-cost business ideas.
1. Specialty Tour Guide
Where do you live? If it’s in an area rich with culture, history or natural beauty, and you enjoy imparting knowledge, you may be sitting on an opportunity to provide specialty tours.
For instance, with a degree in geology you could launch a business leading tours of the Canadian Rockies and pointing out dinosaur fossils. Maybe you’re a history or culture buff with extensive knowledge of little-known spots in Chicago or New York City. Or you’re a Frank Lloyd Wright expert like March Schweitzer, who guides tours of Madison, Wisconsin with a focus on the architect’s life. If you love nature and want to do good for your community, check out The International Ecotourism Society to learn more about sustainable ecotourism.
If you don’t want to launch your own business, consider partnering with a tour guide company such as ToursByLocals or Shiroube. You’ll need to pass a thorough application process, but if accepted, you will become part of a network that offers its guides support, including marketing tools and payment processing.
Earning potential: ToursByLocals rates vary, but four-hour, U.S.-based tours are often listed in the $200 to $300 range. Remember to take your expenses into account, such as bicycle rentals.
What you need: An in-depth knowledge of your niche, a computer and a phone.
2. Educational Supplement Writer
If you excel as a writer and are interested in higher education, consider becoming a college textbook supplement writer.You could write instructor guides, lecture outlines, study guides and test questions for educational publishers like Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Higher Learning and Prentice Hall.
Earning potential: John Soares, owner of Productive Writers and author of Writing College Textbook Supplements, earns an average of more than $50.00 an hour — though he has a lot of experience, so you may want to plan to start at a lower rate.
What you need: Surprisingly, you don’t necessarily need teaching credentials to do this work. But you will need at least an undergraduate degree, knowledge of your niche subject and excellent writing skills.
3. Personal or Business Concierge
You may equate concierges with hotels, but these providers also offer services to an assortment of organizations, including hospitals, businesses and even families.
Your job as a concierge is to make your client’s life easier. Depending on your chosen niche, you’ll perform any number of tasks, from planning events and making hard-to-get dinner reservations, to shopping for groceries.
Earning potential: You can charge anywhere from $25 to $125 per hour, according to personal concierges interviewed by Entrepreneur.
What you need: You don’t generally need any specialized training to become a concierge. You’ll definitely need a cell phone and a computer to communicate with your clients and carry out your tasks. For more information as well as mentoring for beginners and educational conferences, check out the National Concierge Association.
More Low-Cost Business Ideas
4. Animal Daycare Provider
You’ve likely heard of doggie daycare, but birds, cats, reptiles and other types of animals need loving care, too. This is a potential business to consider if you’re a responsible, caring person with specialized knowledge of certain types of animals.
Most resources about starting an animal daycare tend to be dog-centric, including ASPCA’s, but they may help you investigate this potential business.
5. Senior Moving Manager
If you love chatting with seniors and want to help them through the transition of downsizing and relocating to new homes, this may be a good fit. Look into information from the National Association of Senior Move Managers.
6. Private Bartender
This is a good business to consider if you’re skilled at dealing with a wide range of personalities. Clients may include hotels, caterers or private companies. Check with your state about any required certifications or training. To find jobs, try following companies like Bartenders411 on Facebook.
7. Medical Claims Assistant
Understanding the intricacies of the healthcare system can be a challenge. In this role, you’ll advocate for clients and act as an intermediary in conversations with insurance providers. Check out Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals for additional information about this industry.
8. Coupon Book Organizer
This business requires more of an initial investment for printing and graphic design, but it’s still less than you’d spend on a traditional product-focused business. The idea is to create a collection of coupons from local vendors, including restaurants, salons and other businesses, that you can sell to your community. City Tins is a great example of this innovative business.
One way to gain more visibility and give back to your community is by partnering with a local nonprofit organization and donating a portion of the proceeds.
Will You Start One of These Businesses?
Some of these businesses may require small up-front investments like training, licenses, membership dues or a website, but their costs will generally be lower than a business that requires you to manufacture products, stock inventory or rent office space.
It takes time to develop a new business, and before you dive in, make sure to do your research into any local rules and regulations. Free and low-cost resources that can help you plan your venture include the US Small Business Administration, SCORE and Small Business Development Centers.
Your Turn: Have you run or are you considering a service-based business like one of these options?
Paula Fitzsimmons is a freelance writer, passionate about animals and sustainable living.