Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
If you're trying to find the small business idea that's right for you, ask yourself the following questions:
What are your interests?
Where is there a need in the market, and how can your skills satisfy that need?
Who is your ideal client?
What is your ideal work environment?
If you have an answer to all those questions, then you may be ready to start a small business. But if you need a little inspiration, take a look at this list of the 50 best small business ideas.
How Much Do You Need?
These small business ideas suit soon-to-be entrepreneurs in a range of industries, and with a variety of interests. So, if you're qualified to start a small business in any of the following fields, you just might find some serious success by striking out on your own.
1. Accounting and bookkeeping
Are you a licensed CPA or a business accounting software wizard? Your less math-friendly entrepreneurs could use your help in keeping their personal and business finances in order.
As a bookkeeper, you'll process invoices and payroll, compile expense reports and more. If you have a CPA license, you can help business owners file taxes, generate balance sheets and other accounting documents and make your professional recommendations about your client’s bottom line.
If you have the skills to make your own accounting or bookkeeping service happen, then this is one of the best and most lucrative, small business ideas for you.
2. Business consulting
If you’ve been in the business world for a long time, folks might be clamoring for your knowledge and expertise within your industry. Why not turn all that know-how into a new career as an independent consultant? You can get paid to speak at industry conferences or events, serve on a board of advisors for a fledgling business or lend your expertise to shape the strategy of an existing business on a contract basis.
Whatever your field of expertise, starting a consulting business is a great way to make a sizable income while working on your own terms.
3. Marketing services
Most business owners have some idea of how they want to market their companies. Executing that plan, on the other hand, can be a whole other ballgame — especially for new business owners with little, or zero, marketing experience.
As an independent marketing professional, you can work with small businesses who don’t have the in-house bandwidth to execute their marketing plans. Write their blogs, firm up their SEO strategy, generate ad campaigns, deploy inbound marketing tactics and do whatever it takes to get their name in (proverbial) lights.
4. Real estate business
If property is your passion, there are several ways you can serve other businesses, or even individuals, with your real estate business. You could start your own real estate agency, working with businesses or private citizens to find the office space, house or apartment that's right for them.
Or, you could buy property of your own (if you have the business funding, of course) becoming a property manager or landlord, renting out the space to tenants, maintaining the property and serving as their point of contact for any potential issues. People are always going to need a place to live and likewise, businesses are going to need a place to set up shop — why not be the business to help them throughout their real estate journey?
5. Event planning
More and more individuals and companies are hiring freelance event planners to manage the design, logistics and coordination of pulling off major events. If you love every little detail of coordinating your kid's birthday or your dad’s retirement party, start offering your Type-A services to partiers in your community or within your personal network. You just need to pull off one great party, to start, and your event-planning business will take off with all those word-of-mouth recommendations.
6. Video production
Are you the person who brings your camera everywhere, or the kid who ran around with a video recorder, taping all of your family events and memories? If so, one of the best small business ideas for you might be video production. With the popularity of video on social media platforms and the internet as a whole, there is certainly a demand for those who can shoot video, cut video or both. Even if you don't have prior video experience, like graphic design, there are numerous courses online that can teach you how to cut and edit video using programs like Adobe or Final Cut Pro.
With the demand for video, this is another business idea that you can start at a very low cost, in your own home. Plus, once your videos are out in the world, you'll have automatic marketing for your production enterprise.
For those who have something to say or important stories to tell, you might consider starting a podcasting business. With the popularity of podcasts from newspapers and other media providers, private individuals have been able to jump on the trend—turning a hobby into a fully-fledged business. Podcasting will require an initial investment in some audio equipment and editing software, but once you get started, you'll be able to grow as fast as you can talk, produce, and of course market your podcast.
Moreover, if you're specifically interested in online business ideas, podcasting can be done from home, and completely online.
8. IT consulting
Do you have experience with computers and other types of technology? If so, use this knowledge to your advantage and consider starting an IT consulting business. With limited budgets and resources, many small businesses are apt to hire an outside consultant to help assist them with installing, managing, updating, and troubleshooting their technology. As an IT consultant, you'd more than likely be able to offer remote services as well as on-site assistance, giving you freedom and flexibility while working in a field that's in high demand.
If you're a professional chef but tired of the restaurant grind, starting a catering service is a great opportunity to strike out into the world of self-employment. You’ll need access to a commercial kitchen, a part-time staff of servers and a couple of assistant cooks to start. But, compared to opening your own restaurant, the overhead costs of starting and running a catering company are much more manageable.
10. Social media management
Social media marketing is a specific marketing specialty that most business owners know they need, but few are capable of doing well. If you’re glued to your phone, Instagram all your meals and carry out most of your conversations in 280 characters or fewer, consider cultivating a client base of business owners who need help managing their brand’s social media platforms.
11. Business planning service
If you're the serial business owner type — and have successfully launched and run a few businesses now — you've probably crafted a couple of business plans in your time. Writing a business plan is a crucial start to any business, but it's a process that not all entrepreneurs have down.
One of the best small business ideas for seasoned business owners ready for their next venture is a business planning service. If you know how to see the whole process of writing a business plan through — including business funding plans, market analysis, competitor research, and so on — clients will line up for your services.
12. Tax consulting
If you're a CPA or other enrolled agent, you might consider opening up a service specifically for business taxes. Filing and staying on top of business taxes can be one of the most complicated parts of running a business, so if you have experience in all things tax-related, business owners will be willing to hire you for your services. Plus, unlike individual taxes, many businesses are going to need a tax advisor to support them year-round, meaning you're services will be in demand through tax season and beyond.
13. PR agency
Whether you have a background in public relations, or simply have an extensive network and knowledge in the business space, a PR agency might be the perfect business idea for you. Just like some of these other B2B examples, small businesses often hire outside PR agencies to assist with their public image and presence — including business marketing, events, press releases, outreach and more. If you have a network of contacts in a specific industry, your services will be even more attractive to businesses in that industry.
Plus, you can easily start your own PR business without too much initial time or investment and can bring on employees or rent office space as it grows.
14. Professional organizing
If you're incredibly organized, have a place for everything and an eye for color-coding, you might consider getting into the professional organizing business. Organizing professionals work with businesses and individuals alike to offer tips and strategies for organization based on their space, as well as get hands-on and help them sort through the clutter. With the time and effort it often takes to clean up a room, house or office, professional organizing has become a service that people are willing to pay for.
Professional photographers are in high demand for weddings, corporate events, family portraits and more. Plus, because you can build this business out of your home (with the right tools, of course), a freelance photography business has relatively low startup costs. Moreover, you're in charge of your client load and schedule, so professional photography is a great way to build a side hustle while working full time elsewhere.
16. Event space
Take a look at your local market: If there's a demand for weddings, birthdays, corporate events and fundraisers, but few venues to host those events, seize the opportunity and start an event space yourself. You could offer planning services along with the venue, or partner up with another local event-planning business to become the ultimate party-planning team.
17. Interior Decorating
Rather than redecorating your living room for the 14th time, apply your love of design to an interior decorating business. To start out, leverage your personal network to offer help decorating residential and commercial spaces. You can charge an hourly fee to clients for your work, partner with your favorite furniture stores or manufacturers to work on commission or a combination of the two.
18. Woodworking or furniture building
Do you love working with your hands to build beautiful, custom furniture? Take a page from Harp Design Co. in Waco, Texas (of "Fixer Upper" fame), and start your own custom woodworking business. You might start working weekends out of your garage, but as your business takes off, you’ll be well on your way to your own shop and a brand new, full-time career doing what you love.
19. Graphic design
If you have a background in design or art, then this business idea is a no-brainer. Even if you don't have a background in this field, consider taking a course in graphic design — it's relatively easy to pick up.
Plus, the tools to get this business started are pretty minimal. With just a few handy computer programs — think Adobe, Sketch or Canva — you could be operating this lucrative business out of your home in weeks. You do need to find clients though, so try networking with small businesses in your community. Everyone could use a well-designed website, online materials, email campaigns, physical print work and more.
20. Clothing boutique
For the fashion-forward entrepreneurs out there, consider opening your own clothing boutique. Although this is one of the small business ideas on our list that will require some initial funding, it can be fun and successful, if you find the perfect inventory and right market. Competing against large clothing retailers can be challenging, but if you can find a specific niche, like starting a T-shirt business or locally based store, you can use your creativity to stand out amongst all of the other generic options out there.
21. Bed and breakfast
Do you live in an interesting tourist destination? Does your home have a guest house, mother-in-law suite or even just a spare bedroom? Do you love to cook and entertain guests? If so, one of the best small business ideas for you might be to turn your home into your own B&B. Sites like VRBO and AirBnB have made it easier than ever to market your home to travelers in need, and you may even make new friends along the way.
22. Food truck
Food trucks are hugely popular, often offering unique, specialty foods that often wouldn’t sell as easily in brick-and-mortar restaurants. Take your mom’s famous dumpling recipe or your off-the-wall dessert idea and hit the road to local events, farmer’s markets, your local town square, large corporate complexes at the lunchtime rush — wherever you’re likely to draw a crowd. Keep in mind that to run a food truck, you usually have to meet a special set of ordinances and safety compliance standards, so contact your local health department to determine what your mobile restaurant will require.
23. Restaurant or cafe
If you're truly culinarily (and entrepreneurially) ambitious, your ultimate dream might be to open your own deli, diner, cafe, or full-service restaurant. Although starting a restaurant is one of the most challenging, risky, and expensive business ideas on our list, the reward can be great for those willing to put in the work. If you’d like a safer bet than starting your own restaurant from scratch, consider opening a franchise of an established restaurant chain, and reap the benefits of an already-popular brand.
24. Craft brewery
Craft breweries, aka microbreweries, are booming in the United States—in fact, 98% of operating breweries in the U.S. are independently owned. So, if you've been tinkering with beer-brewing in your garage, calling it official and opening up a microbrewery can be a great way to monetize your hobby.
25. Ice cream shop
If you're not ready to invest in a full restaurant or cafe, or, on the other hand, simply have an enthusiasm for summer treats, you might consider opening your own ice cream shop. Ice cream shops are the perfect small town business idea — particularly successful throughout the summer. Although you will need some funding to get this kind of endeavor started, it will certainly be a lesser-lift than some other food-service businesses.
26. Personal chef
Similar to a catering business, but less involved and perhaps more flexible, you might start your own business as a personal chef. You can use your culinary expertise to cook for families or individuals as well as help them with meal planning and recipes. With this kind of service business, you'll get more personal with your cooking, giving you the opportunity to work one-on-one with all different kinds of people and navigating their dietary restrictions, likes and dislikes.
27. Landscape services
If you have a green thumb, an eye for design and a love for the sweet sound of lawnmowers, consider starting a landscaping business. You'll mow lawns, plant flowers and even design elaborate landscape plans for homes and office complexes. If you're uncertain about the administrative side of the landscape business, check out software options like Arborgold to help you out with the back-end management so that you can focus on your happy customers.
28. Pet grooming
Animal enthusiasts can probably think of nothing better than hanging out with pets all day. It might take some time to build up the funding to open up your own pet-grooming facility. So, keep overhead low in the beginning by offering a mobile service, and bring your grooming skills and tools directly to your clients' homes. You can also offer dog walking services to supplement your grooming business.
If you have a green thumb and eye for arrangements, a small business idea for you could be to open up your own floral shop. Flowers are one of those gifts that are always welcome — whether for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries or any other event. By starting your own florist business, you can service the gift-giving needs in your local area, creating beautiful arrangements that will continuously bring in new and recurring customers.
30. Massage therapist
There are so many healing modalities in the world, but massage therapy is one of the most tried-and-true (and enjoyable) practices out there. As an occupation, massage therapy is in high demand: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 26% growth in massage therapy jobs between 2016 and 2026, a much higher rate than average.
You’ll need special training and licensing to legally operate as a massage therapist, so check your state requirements to make sure you’re operating within local laws. But once you’ve jumped through the licensing hoops, you’ll be free to open an in-home studio, travel to your clients or eventually open your own facility.
If you're a proudly gluten-free, vegan, whole foods health junkie, and you love sharing your clean-eating habits with others, consider starting your own business as a nutritionist and getting paid to help others achieve their health goals. But before you start prescribing those spinach-and-chia smoothies, do your research about licensing requirements. As is the case with every personal healthcare business idea on this list, you'll need training as a registered dietician to operate your practice.
32. Personal trainer or fitness instructor
If you're the first one in the gym every morning, or dream of taking over from your yoga instructor, the next step might be to take that physical energy and put it toward becoming a licensed trainer. As a licensed personal trainer, you can offer private training sessions in your own home or in clients’ homes, lead group sessions in local parks, become a certified instructor for a whole host of workouts (Zumba, anyone?) and, eventually, even open your own fitness studio or gym.
33. Beauty services
Whether you’ve graduated from cosmetology school, developed a following for your makeup tutorials on YouTube, or you’re your friends' go-to for hair and makeup recommendations, becoming a freelance hair or makeup artist is a logical next step. Before you set up a brick-and-mortar salon or carve out a space in your own home, get started by signing up as a professional stylist for an on-demand beauty app, so you and your tools will travel right to your clients' homes. Working on the weekends or evenings is the perfect way to slowly transition out of a 9-5 job and build up a loyal client base.
34. Life coach
If you have a passion for helping people reach their true potential, becoming a life coach might be the perfect small business idea for you. As a life coach, you'll work with clients to sort through problems or parts of their lives that they'd like to change and help them create plans to move forward and reach their goals. Although you don't necessarily need a certification to become a life coach, getting certified can help you as you start out looking for clients.
Once you've marketed your services, and your clients can attest to your skills, however, you'll be well on your way to a successful business.
Almost every kid needs access to tutoring at some point in their academic career. Plus, not only is tutoring a highly demanded occupation but on average you can earn up to $40 an hour as a private tutor. So, if you're fluent in a foreign language, or you excel in math, science or writing, set yourself up as a freelance tutor for students of all ages in your local community.
Better yet, grab your equally qualified, eager-to-teach friends and establish a full-service tutoring business. By offering a variety of subject areas to parents in your neighborhood, you’ll quickly build a client base eager to pay you for your help in achieving the best possible academic results.
36. Daycare provider
If you're a parent who wants to work from home or simply someone who loves working with toddlers, starting a daycare facility can be a great option for you. The process of becoming a licensed child care provider is relatively simple, but be aware that requirements vary by state. Cities, towns and municipalities occasionally have their own regulations, too.
37. Senior care provider
As the baby boomer population ages, more and more senior citizens are in need of at-home care. These needs range from medically specific requirements to simple companionship or help with cooking, tidying up or transportation to and from appointments. This is a great option for anyone with nursing experience who would like to move into working for themselves.
38. Interpreter or translator
If you can speak multiple languages, this is an easy and inexpensive way to start a small business where you can utilize those skills. If you become an interpreter or translator, you can work with individuals, businesses or even simply online clients — translating meetings, phone calls, articles and more. As you work successfully with more and more clients, they'll continue to turn to you when they're in need of these kinds of services — and you'll be continuing to grow your language abilities on top of it all.
Everyone wants to keep a clean house. If you have a great work ethic and you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you could start a cleaning business on the cheap. Or, if you have dreams of a larger enterprise, hire a few employees or contractors and you can manage several cleaning teams. Overhead might include equipment, marketing costs and wages for personnel, but otherwise starting a cleaning service is a relatively low-cost enterprise.
40. Automotive repair
From oil changes and engine repairs, to tire services and bodywork, to interior and exterior deep-cleans, automotive repair businesses run the gamut of all things car-care. Alternatively, car repair businesses can focus on an automotive specialty, such as foreign cars, antique cars or specific brands. Whatever niche you choose for your car repair business, watch out for state licensing or insurance requirements to make sure your venture complies with local laws.
41. Handyman services
As a handyman, you have a couple of options: You can either complete odd repair jobs, or you can specialize in certain repairs, such as plumbing, electrical, locksmith, home security installment or HVAC work. It all depends on your skill set, and on whether you have, or are willing to earn, special licensing (your state might require a contractor's license to do certain repair work). But, once you've established a client base, you can hire a team of handymen with complementary skills to your own.
42. Dry cleaners
Every area needs a local dry cleaning business, so if you're an expert at doing laundry and can fill this market gap, dry cleaning might be the perfect small business idea for you. Starting a dry cleaner will certainly require a storefront, some startup funding and supplies, but can quickly become a go-to service in an area, especially with the right marketing and word-of-mouth recommendations.
43. Hardware store
Another local small business staple, if you want to extend your handyman services into a storefront, you should consider opening a hardware store. When residents are doing home projects or spring cleaning, they're always going to find themselves in need of certain tools or supplies — and probably won't want to wait for online delivery. Your hardware store can service your local area and all the better if you can offer advice and tips along with the physical products you sell.
44. Self-storage business
Starting a self-storage business can be a lucrative business, especially close to a city—where apartments are small and people are going to need access to space to store their extra belongings. You'll certainly need the capital and real estate to get started in the self-storage game, but once you've gotten set up, it can be relatively simple to maintain this kind of business, especially once you've started bringing in clients and filling up your space.
45. Freelance copywriting and content creation
Need to support yourself while you chip away at your magnum opus? Then starting a copywriting or content marketing creation service could be one of the best work from home small business ideas for you.
With more businesses trying to produce high-quality written resources — like blog posts, ebooks, white papers and newsletters — there's tons of room in the freelance market for a wordsmith like you.
46. Rideshare driver
Although this small business idea might not exactly be home-based, it's in higher demand than ever with the popularity of rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft. As a rideshare driver, you use your own car and mobile device and choose your own hours. If you don't mind driving, this can be a quick and easy way to make money—whether on the side or as a full-time gig. Plus, if you live in a smaller area with not much competition, you'll be everyone's go-to ride.
47. Website development and design
Every business needs at least a basic website to succeed, but many business owners don’t know how to set one up for themselves. So, if you're an IT and design wizard, you'll have endless opportunities to custom-build websites. Use a platform like Upwork or Envato to gain your first clients, then use your portfolio and word-of-mouth recommendations to grow your client base (and eventually boost your prices).
48. Sell clothes online
Thanks to online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Etsy, and apps like Depop, it's easier than ever to sell your items online. If you open up an ecommerce store, you won't need to handle the logistical and financial stress of leasing a space, finding financing and hiring labor that you would if you were to open up a brick-and-mortar store.
Plus, unlike a physical retail location, ecommerce stores are open 24/7, so you'll supercharge your earning capacity — making this one of the most potentially lucrative home-based small business ideas on this list.
49. SEO consultant
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website or webpage's rank for specific keywords in organic search engine results. An SEO agency is tasked with improving a client's organic search results to generate more inbound visitors and thus leads for top-of-funnel keywords by optimizing the client's website, building links to the website and/or optimizing the website technically.
To get started on launching this low-cost startup business idea for yourself, ensure you're trained in SEO or hire someone who is trained in SEO, and launch a website to advertise your services.
50. App development
Launching a successful app is no easy task — but there have never been more resources at your disposal to help you get started. Whether you want to develop apps for Android or iOS, there are large markets available for games, productivity tools, and much more. App development is an excellent small business idea because so many businesses want apps developed. Alternatively, you could develop apps for consumers.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.
Want to start a business?
NerdWallet has rounded up some of our best information on starting a business, including structuring and naming your company, creating a solid plan and much more. We’ll help you do your homework and get started on the right foot.