20 money-making small business startup ideas

9 min read
Bryan Caplan

Do you ever watch a show like “Shark Tank” and find yourself yelling at the screen, “Hey! That’s my idea!”? You’re not alone. Over the years, I’ve personally filled notebooks with thousands upon thousands of money making small business startup ideas with high hopes of making the big bucks. From starting a T-shirt and apparel business to planning out a food truck to building an app for expecting and new dads, my imagination ran wild with ways of making a lavish life for my family.

Now that I run my own digital marketing agency and speak for Google on a national stage, I write even more ideas in the Notes app on my iPhone because of the interactions I have with a wide variety of entrepreneurs. I’m sitting on a gold mine of small business startup ideas, but there’s just not enough time in the day.

If you’re looking to start a side hustle or leave your corporate career to go into money making business for yourself, here is a list of 20 small business startup ideas to help you get started.

Related: 10 tips for launching a successful home business

25 small business startup ideas

For the purposes of this guide, I’ve split these small business startup ideas into two separate categories: low-overhead and high-potential businesses.

  1. Landscaping.
  2. House painting.
  3. House cleaning.
  4. Dog walking.
  5. Buying and selling items online.
  6. Interior decorating.
  7. Event planning.
  8. Computer support and troubleshooting.
  9. Tutoring.
  10. Giving music lessons.
  11. Making jewelry or crafts.
  12. Being a virtual assistant.
  13. Copy-writing and editing.
  14. Marketing consultant.
  15. Marketing agency.
  16. Food truck.
  17. Temp agency.
  18. Rental properties.
  19. Child day care.
  20. Commercial cleaning.
  • Play to your strengths.
  • How to get started.

For those of you looking to start a small business, this list should help you on your way to building your next enterprise.

Low-overhead businesses

These are businesses that don’t take too much equity to get them off of the ground.

1. Landscaping

Today, you can buy a used lawnmower or tractor off Facebook Marketplace. One of the most successful landscapers in my hometown started with just a lawnmower and a pair of gloves. He now owns a fleet of trucks, a building full of equipment and a huge landscaping materials yard, and employs a team of more than 30 people.

2. House painting

We recently had our entire downstairs painted by someone and were glad to pay them for the job. Plenty of people need to touch up their interior walls and just don’t have the time to do it. With a steady hand and eye for detail, you can be their new painter of choice.

3. House cleaning

Mop Wood Floor

One of our long-time clients started her business through word-of-mouth and a passion for cleaning. All she needed were some cleaning products and commitment to providing the best cleaning service possible. She offered her clients a free house cleaning for every new customer they referred. She now has four teams serving the Greater Boston area and is looking to expand into Rhode Island.

4. Dog walking

Corgi Walking on Sidewalk

I had no idea this was a business until my mother told me she was paying someone $15 a day to walk her dog. Now one of my cousins runs a successful dog walking business, pulling in upwards of $150 a day. If you can manage your time efficiently, have comfortable shoes and love dogs, this is a no-brainer.

5. Buying and selling items online

There is crazy money to be made if you have the patience and eye for a deal online. You can start with low overhead by buying a few items at yard sales and selling them through eBay or Facebook Marketplace. We have a family friend who does this as a hobby and makes an extra $400 to $500 a month.

Be prepared: You’ll meet some interesting characters.

Editor’s note: Need an E-store? Check out GoDaddy E-Store. It includes a sleek online store, powerful selling tools and flexible shipping and payment options.

6. Interior decorating

Assuming you’ve watched enough HGTV shows, you may have a keen eye for what works in a home. Consulting with homeowners on colors, organization and the overall feng shui is a very low-investment and high-return enterprise.

You’ll want to capture your work in photos and videos and share around the web in places like Google My Business, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and your website.

7. Event planning

If you are good with logistics and can remain calm, cool and collected under pressure, then this is the low-overhead small business startup idea for you. You’ll need to create relationships with venues and vendors and find clients, but then you can be like a kid in a candy shop. You get to spend other people’s money and have a huge party — what’s better?

8. Computer support and troubleshooting

If you throw a rock, you could probably hit someone who has computer issues, whether it’s having trouble logging in to a site or needing help understanding how to create a Word Doc or Google Slides presentation.

This small business startup idea will cost you nothing but the time to build your expertise. And the service you provide can fetch a pretty good hourly rate.

9. Tutoring

If you’re a brainiac, then use your superpowers for profit. From teaching a second language to basic math skills, tutoring is a great way to make good money with no overhead.

10. Giving music lessons

Music is an amazing way for people to express themselves. Sometimes, they need a little help figuring out how to do it so that people won’t cover their ears and cringe.

If you’re a musician or singer and have some down time, giving music lessons is a great way to share your gift and make a little moolah.

11. Making jewelry or crafts

When I was in third grade, I learned to make earrings and necklaces with beads from local shops. I’ll never forget making my first $1,000 by selling to students, teachers and buyers at craft fairs. All this as an 8-year-old!

12. Being a virtual assistant

Organization, promptness and polished communication skills are essential here, but you get to work from home and make your own hours. I’ve seen virtual assistants charging upwards of $40 to $50 per hour depending on their level of experience.

Virtual assistants can help with things like making appointments, reading/organizing email, or even bookkeeping.

13. Copywriting and editing

If you have a good grasp of the English language, understand grammar rules and love to read and mark things with a red pen, then this is your gig. There are business owners out there looking for quality copywriting, and you just have to show up.

Be sure to have some writing samples and client referrals to win the business quickly.

14. Marketing consulting

When I started Bryan Caplan Marketing, I had but a few hundred dollars and a laptop to my name. I was a very small minnow in a huge ocean of fish. Through constant networking and delivering quality work on time, I was able to build a full-fledged marketing agency. All I needed was my know-how to get started.

High-potential small business startup ideas

This portion of the list includes businesses that may take more funding to get started, as well as carry a higher risk. But the growth potential can be much higher as well.

15. Marketing agency

Running a marketing agency is a lot of work, but it also offers unlimited earning potential. You can be a generalist and help anyone and everyone or niche down to a specific industry like HVAC or real estate marketing.

Focus in certain areas like email marketing or WordPress web design, and surround yourself with a team of marketing experts who can bring your clients’ ideas to life.

16. Food truck

If you can secure a dependable truck and have an attractive concept, then you can rake in the dough. Long hours, a love for food and culinary skills required.

17. Temp agency

A good friend saw a need for skilled laborers at a local print shop, so he started a temp agency and approached the shop owner. A year later, he was making nearly $70,000 while helping friends find jobs. He now has three contracts set up and nets over $150,000 — all from connecting people.

18. Rental properties

Being a landlord requires patience, communication and friends in the contracting and home service industries for quick fixes. If you have a good credit score and can afford the down payment for a rental property, then consider renting out a place.

There are also ways to work with existing property owners to rent out their spaces and take a portion of the proceeds. Either way, there is money to be made with this small business startup idea.

19. Child daycare

OK, so you have to have a safe spot, loving and caring adults, and a pretty hefty insurance premium, but you’ll be molding our future leaders. Seriously, there is money to be made in child care. I just met someone who is paying $2,500 for his 1- and 3-year-old to attend preschool. Can you imagine?

20. Commercial cleaning

As opposed to home cleaning, commercial cleaning provides larger, more consistent jobs, but it requires more specialized equipment. Layering services like floor buffing or carpet cleaning can really boost your revenues. If you land just a handful of big contracts, you could be swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck.

Play to your strengths

You’re probably eager to get your business going, but it all depends on your skill set. For instance, if you love food but can’t cook, then a food truck isn’t the best idea. If you want to work from home but need three alarms just to wake up, then being a virtual assistant isn’t going to be your thing.

Playing to your strengths can help you sidestep common startup mistakes.

Identifying your strengths can be difficult, so here’s a helpful exercise, courtesy of Oprah. Once you’ve narrowed down your strengths, compare them to your small business startup ideas and see where you have some overlap. This will help you identify your new business.

Getting started

With your small business startup ideas in hand, you now need to begin building your brand. Here are some initial steps to help you get started:

When your brand is established, you’ll be ready to start selling your goods or services. Just keep in mind that starting the business is only the first mile of a double marathon. Running a profitable business takes time, patience, resilience and constant learning.