Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to run a business and make a lot of money?
Entrepreneurs can now start a business with digital tools that are affordable. A website can be started by anyone for as little as a few dollars. There are also readily available marketing, communication, and graphic design tools that will allow entrepreneurs to start their own business. This has led to a boom of entrepreneurship.
According to the Kauffman Index, there were actually half a million entrepreneurs who entered the market each month in 2017. This is a 25% increase from 2009, as reported by the Chamber of Commerce [https://www.chamberofcommerce.org/small-business-statistics/]. According to the SBE Council, 60% of these new businesses are home-based, in part due to the availability of digital tools from home.
We were struck by this thought: What types of businesses are possible to start with minimal capital? Which businesses would make the most money for entrepreneurs? We looked at businesses that cost $500 or less upfront, don’t require extensive experience or a degree, generate income year-round, are easily launched and can be established anywhere in the country.
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These are the metrics that we used to create our definitive ranking.
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- Cost (20%) A business must have a minimum feasible product that costs $500 or less in order to be eligible for our list. This upfront cost covers a business’s investment in materials, tools and labor, as well as a website with a minimum of one year, marketing and any other costs necessary to start selling a product or service. The cost of business registration is not included because it varies from one state to the next. Some states, like Massachusetts, charge $500 for limited liability company (LLC), designation.
- Average income (20%) Each business must have an average income that exceeds the national average adjusted gross of $35,000 according to the IRS Statistic of Income. We did not have data on average earnings for each business type so we used salary information from major job sites such as Glassdoor and PayScale to calculate income.
- Opportunity (20%) – Businesses on our list don’t require any training or advanced degrees. They can also be set up in three months, and they can be operated full-time year round.
- Existing market size (20%) Businesses must be located in markets with existing customers. They will need to spend more marketing than average to get customers and reduce their potential return on investment. We analyzed industry-wide revenue data to determine the market size. Each business that we ranked was located in an industry with a minimum revenue (revenue) value of $1 billion.
- Industry growth (20%) While industry growth does not indicate a business’s success, it does indicate the potential for success. We looked for businesses that had earnings-based growth rates higher than the historical average of 2.5% year-over-year.
Five best businesses to start under $500 in 2019
Here is our top 15 list of businesses that you can start for less than $500, ranked according to income potential.
- 1 1. 1.
- 2 2. Marketing Agency that uses white label services
- 3 3. Auto Detailing Business
- 4 4. Coaching for Birth
- 5 5. Web Design Agency
- 6 6. Shipping & Logistics Company
- 7 7. House painting business
- 8 8. 8.
- 9 9. Life & Business Coaching
- 10 10. Event Planning Business
- 11 11. Web Hosting Company
- 12 12. 12.
- 13 13. Commercial Photography
- 14 14. Mobile Beauty Services
- 15 15. Travel & Tourism Agency
- 16 Methodology
- 17 Bottom line: The Best Business Ideas Below $500
Average annual income $103,000
Minimum upfront costs: $150-$200
Best business to start under $500: Staffing Service
The number one spot on our list is occupied by staffing service companies, which connect employers with qualified employees. Their average six-figure salary hovers at $103,000 per annum, which is 98% higher than the national average income. It’s no surprise that the global staffing industry is worth $466 billion according to Staffing Industry Analys. It forecasts an industry growth rate at 6% for 2019, which is 140% higher than the industry average growth rate of 2.5%.
It is also easy to start a staffing company. Today, it is possible to post job openings, submit resumes, interview and hire without the need for commercial space. Although a website is required, it can be easily built and launched using a drag and drop website builder for around $12 per month. To stand out from other staffing agencies, you might consider a niche job site such as one that staffs for international nannies and children’s summer camps.
2. Marketing Agency that uses white label services
Minimum upfront costs: $300-$350
Best business to start under $500: White Label Marketing Agency
Marketing agencies are very popular these days and are relatively easy to set up. Marketing experience is not necessary. You can instead hire a white-label marketing company that does the work for your business and then you simply present the results to clients. Does that sound too good to be true It’s not. These agency owners have an average income around $100,000. They are also part of the $192 Billion digital advertising industry, with a 7.7% industry growth rate according to Digital.
Another advantage is that you don’t have to pay upfront for staffing. Also, your agency can be run remotely and only requires a website, some basic marketing certifications–which you can easily get online–and good old-fashioned networking skills to get started. These white-label marketing agencies offer services such as search engine optimization, paid search and social media marketing.
3. Auto Detailing Business
Average annual income $75,000
Minimum upfront costs: $35-$400
Best business to start under $500: Auto Detailing Business
Although it is expensive to have your vehicle detailed, you might be surprised to find that the average annual income for an auto detailing company is $75,000, according to Chron. According to CleanLink, the industry has a $78 billion industry growth rate. This growth could be due in part to the rise of ridesharing; after all, rideshare drivers need to keep their cars clean.
This could be a great business idea if you are a detail-oriented person and like to do some physical labor. This business can be quite affordable to start. You will need basic cleaning supplies and tools, a website and some marketing. These can be done using free listing directories such as Google My Business and social media like Facebook. To save money on renting commercial space, many auto detailing companies pick up clients’ vehicles at home.
4. Coaching for Birth
Average annual income $72,000
Minimum upfront costs: $300-$350
Best business to start under $500: Birthing Coach Business
A doula is a non-medical birth coach who supports and comforts the mother after and during childbirth. It’s not an easy business to start, but it is a great business opportunity for people who have had experience in childbirth and newborn care. According to MarketWatch, it has a $72,800 average income and is part of the $23 billion baby industry.
A doctorate or years of experience in hospital delivery rooms is not required to start a doula company. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. It is easy to learn about the role of a doula. You can take an online course like the Doula Owner Certification at IAP Career College for $77. You will need a basic website. It also depends on your professional network and referrals to secure business.
5. Web Design Agency
Average annual income $69,000
Minimum upfront costs: $150-$200
Best business to start under $500: Web Design Agency
A professional website is essential for every business. Although there are many options to build a site online, many people prefer to hire a web developer. The average income of web developers is $69,430, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, illustrating the potential revenue for moderately-tech-savvy entrepreneurs who want to launch their own company. According to IBIS, it’s part of the $38.3 Billion U.S. market with a projected growth rate at 6% in 2019.
You don’t need to be an expert in web design to pursue this entrepreneurial route. It’s now possible to create websites on WordPress without any code, and with drag-and drop website builders such as Weebly. You can also outsource the work to professionals. You will need a website for marketing, business listings on online directories like Upwork and Fiverr, as well as promotion of your services to local networks.
6. Shipping & Logistics Company
Average annual income $64,000
Minimum upfront costs: $250-$300
Best business to start under $500: Shipping and Logistics Business
You may not have thought of shipping and logistics as a career. But it’s happening all around you; the shipping industry handles everything from temperature-sensitive meat and produce to antique barns and zoo animals. Every product has a logistics or shipping company behind it. The high demand for these services means that there is good pay. According to PayScale, the average salary of a logistics manager in America is $64,182 per annum. It’s also a growing industry thanks to booming eCommerce.
Candidates should have experience in the field and a good understanding of logistics and analysis. You won’t need a large warehouse or a fleet of expensive vehicles. Subcontracting drivers with their own vehicles is a better way to get started. You will need to sign contracts with companies that regularly ship products such as auction houses, regional or national ecommerce sites, in order to be successful.
7. House painting business
Minimum upfront costs: $400-$500
Best business to start under $500: House Painting Business
House paint is not a great business idea. It is an established business that has been around for decades, and it keeps many of its employees well-employed. According to PayScale, the average annual salary is just $60,000, but it is still a reliable business. It is part of the $383.3 million home improvement industry according to HomeAdvisor, which has a 3.85% annual growth rate according to Chron.
It doesn’t take a lot to start a home-painting business. A website, some experience in home improvement and painting, as well as a willingness to market yourself and basic tools such paint, tape, ladders, and tape are all necessary. To meet the specific needs of each client, you can purchase additional materials.
Annual income: $57,000
Minimum upfront costs: $150-$200
Best business to start under $500: Property Management Business
As evidenced by the rise of companies like Airbnb, the sharing economy has led to a new way of managing property. Once upon a while, homeowners who owned multiple properties had to manage the maintenance of all of them. Homeowners are now looking for property managers to manage their second home, which they have turned into Airbnb vacation rentals. Salary.com shows that the average property manager earns $57,628, though this number is likely to rise as vacation rental property property managers often receive a commission for bookings.
What does property management look like? Property managers oversee all service providers such as plumbers, electricians, gardeners, and lawn care providers. They also facilitate check-ins or check-outs. They also manage Airbnb rentals. You will need to create a website and market the business online in order to get started. Marketing can be costly, but it can also be cost-effective. You can leverage listings in free directories and social media to reach Airbnb owners directly.
9. Life & Business Coaching
Annual income: $51,000
Minimum upfront costs: $220 to $2500
Best business to start under $500: Life Coaching Business
You may be the kind of person that friends and family turn to when they are having a problem. This could make you a good fit for a life coaching company. Although coaches are similar to mental counselors, there is no formal education and the job doesn’t require in-office visits. According to the Universal Coach Institute, the average life coach’s salary is $51,000. According to Market Research, it’s part of the $9.9 Billion personal development industry. It has a projected annual growth rate of 6.7% between 2016 and 2022.
What does it take to open a coaching business? Although certification is not necessary, life coach certifications can be obtained for as low as $70 via online programs like ExpertRating. However, you will need to create a website and place your business on directories like Coach.me or Noomii. Like most businesses, networking is important. Get involved in your local communities and attend events such as personal development seminars to meet others interested in self-improvement.
10. Event Planning Business
Minimum upfront costs: $200-250
Best business to start under $500: Event Planning Business
Events are big things. Event planning companies are available to help with all kinds of events. According to Chron, the average salary for an event planner is under $50,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that this profession will grow 10% between 2016 and 2026. Socialtables reports that event planning is a $4 billion industry.
It is very easy to start an event planning company. You can work remotely to save money on expensive commercial space. A website is essential for the business, with samples of work preferred. These can be provided free of charge to help you attract your first clients if you are just starting out. Your marketing efforts are key to increasing awareness. Register your business on sites like WeddingWire or Meetingpages. To be discovered by niche-specific people, paid searches on Google might be a good option.
11. Web Hosting Company
Average annual income $48,000
Minimum upfront costs: $300-$400
Best business to start under $500: Web Hosting Company
It sounds complicated and expensive to own a web hosting business. Reseller hosting and server leasing are low-cost options that don’t require a degree at MIT or years of experience. The average income is around $48,000 but many people make six-figures from it, according to Lifewire. MarketWatch predicts that the web hosting market will grow at a rate of 16% per annum between 2016-2022.
All you need to get started is a reseller plan. Reseller programs are offered by all the top web hosting companies. Businesses can offer their hosting plans directly to clients, many under white label. To get started, you can purchase a reseller plan and then create a marketing plan to attract clients.
Average annual income $45,000
Minimum upfront costs: $175 to $-$200 (not including cost of degree).
Best business to start under $500: Education and College Prep Services
College preparation services are designed to help high school students prepare for college success. They offer standardized test prep, tutoring and college advice. According to Recruiter, the average tutor’s salary is $45,600. According to CNBC, tutors can earn between $70,000-$120,000 and tutors can make more than $1 million annually. According to The Journal, the industry is set to grow by 12.75% between 2017 and 2021.
Although there are no formal credentials, the top tutors usually have degrees from well-respected colleges and universities. You won’t be able to understand the college admissions and standardized testing process if you haven’t been to college. You will need to have a degree in teaching and a website. This will allow you to build awareness and promote your business through digital advertising and networking.
13. Commercial Photography
Average annual income $44,000
Minimum upfront costs: $450 to $450
Best business to start under $500: Commercial Photography
It may be easier and more affordable to start a photography business than you think. You might consider starting a business in commercial photography if you are an artist with a flair for photography. According to PayScale, the average salary for a photographer is $44,219 According to Zion Market Research, photography is growing fast–especially in the age digital and social media. It has a 6.1% annual growth rate between 2016-2021.
In the past, professional photography businesses required expensive equipment. This was usually around a few thousand dollars. Equipment has become less costly and it is now possible to rent equipment for a reasonable price. You don’t need an arts degree. There are many online resources that can help you learn photography.
14. Mobile Beauty Services
Annual income $41,000
Minimum upfront costs: $475 to 500
Best business to start under $500: Mobile Beauty Services
You can ditch the salon and go mobile with a mobile beauty service business like a mobile hairdresser. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salon owner in the U.S. earns around $41,000 annually. But that’s before you factor in overhead costs. Mobile allows you to avoid the need to rent commercial space or purchase expensive equipment. This gives you more room to grow your share of the $211.1billion industry, which is growing at a healthy 3.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according Grand View Research.
Blow-dry-only services are a huge trend in beauty. Forbes reports that Drybar salons, which are worth over $100 million, offer this service. You don’t need to be licensed to blow-dry and wash hair. This is a big advantage over traditional salon services. You can also offer a more convenient service to clients by having your business go on the road. This will reduce the cost of salons and help you keep costs down. With a mobile point-of-sale (POS) system, you can even process payments on the go.
15. Travel & Tourism Agency
Minimum upfront costs: $450 to $450
Best business to start under $500: Travel and Tourism Agency
As travel becomes more affordable and accessible, the world seems smaller. While many people choose to book their own travel, others prefer to work with professional agencies. According to Forbes, the average annual salary for a travel agent is $40,840. However, in the $5.29 trillion industry, travel agency owners can make millions according to .
As a third-party agent for major travel companies like Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises, this is the cheapest way to get into the industry. You can sell cruise packages to clients and earn a commission on your sales. You will need to partner with a provider like Cruise Inc. to get started. Once you have an ecommerce site where customers can book their packages, obtain a travel planner certification, and market your business to potential customers, you can then become an affiliate.
The ranking of the 15 most successful businesses to start with less than $500 was based on six categories that included 14 metrics. Then, we weighted each metric according to its relative importance.
These factors were taken into consideration when ranking the items:
Each business must have a minimum of $500 in launch costs to be eligible for our list. These included all costs necessary to launch a business. They include tools and equipment, education costs, licensing requirements, labor, marketing, and a website with a minimum of one year’s worth of content. This does not include the cost of registering a business. These fees vary from one state to another. Some states, like Massachusetts, charge $500 just to file an LLC.
Average Income: 20%
According to the IRS Statistic of Income, each business idea had to earn an income that was above the $35,000 national average adjusted gross. Sites like Glassdoor and PayScale provide information about average income. While these sites are largely indicative of employee salaries and earnings they can also be used to indicate potential profit for new business owners. Average income for the business was used when it was available instead of average employee salaries.
To be eligible for our list, businesses must have minimal requirements for their launch. Each business that we ranked required a minimum of a bachelor’s or two years of experience in the industry. They can be legally started in any state within the U.S., and are not restricted by location. And each one can be run full-time, all year. This helps to eliminate business ideas that are too specific and thus exclusive.
Current Market Size: 20%
Companies must operate in large markets. This is because new and experimental business ideas require significant marketing efforts to gain product awareness and knowledge. It’s unlikely that a startup can be started for less than $500. We looked at each industry’s market value to determine its size. To be included in our list, the company had to have revenues of at least $1 million.
Industry Growth: 20%
We avoided fad-like business ideas and were careful to avoid industry growth. It is an indicator of future profitability as well as business longevity. We looked for businesses that had an average annual growth rate of at least 2.5%.
Bottom line: The Best Business Ideas Below $500
Although technology is best known for simplifying people’s lives, the fact that technology has become more affordable and easier to use means it’s now cheaper than ever before to start a company. We looked for businesses that you could start in 2019 starting at $500. We used market size, average income, earnings, market growth, and market size to determine profitability. We were surprised by what we discovered, but it was certainly inspiring. Browse our top 15 jobs and start your dream career with minimal investment.