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Seven Businesses You Can Start for $100 or Less

by Jackie Beck

easy business ideasIf you want to go into business for yourself, you might think you’ll need a lot of money to get started — maybe even a small business loan.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

There are plenty of businesses you can start for little to no money — in some cases just for the cost of getting a business license.

(Always check to see if one is required in your area for the type of business you’re thinking of starting.)

Here are seven businesses you can start for $100 or less:

  1. Community manager – If you’re good at Twitter, Facebook, and interacting with bloggers, offer your services as a community manager to businesses and blogs that want to increase their online presence. You’ll handle their social media and engage with community members for a monthly fee.
  2. Tutoring – Are you good at math, science, writing, or a foreign language? Chances students at a local school need your help. Bone up on the subjects you’ll be offering to tutor in and then let folks know you’re available to provide tutoring at an hourly rate.
  3. Search engine optimization – Have you had success at ranking blog posts highly in Google for various keywords? There are plenty of folks who would pay you to work your magic on their sites.
  4. Graphic design – Did you take graphic design classes in school, or are you just self-taught and talented? In either case, there are plenty of folks out there who are in need of designs — for everything from web site headers to flyers, invitations, and advertisements. Get a client or two, and then rent Photoshop or Illustrator for a month for less than $50.
  5. WordPress site setup service – Yes, WordPress is very easy to setup — if you’re the least bit technically inclined. But a surprisingly large amount of people aren’t, so chances are you can find people willing to pay you to set up their web sites for them using WordPress. You could advertise your services on your own WordPress site (of course) or by contacting businesses who are likely to need web sites.
  6. Etsy seller – If you’re crafty or good at hunting down vintage items for cheap to resell, you can list items for sale on Etsy very inexpensively. Currently the fees are 20 cents per item, plus 3.5% off the sales price if an item sells. To start an Etsy shop inexpensively, first get a feel for what sells well by reviewing other listings, and then list only a few items to start with. (Don’t go overboard offering items that you’re not already sure will sell.)
  7. Residential lawn mowing – You can start this by knocking on doors in your neighborhood to get clients. Once you’ve gotten commitments from several people, then you can pick up a lawn mower if you don’t already own one. A quick search of Craigslist showed multiple lawnmowers for less than $75. (You’ll probably want to look into liability insurance too though to be on the safe side, which can add to your costs.)

Want more ideas like these? Check out 101 Ways to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time. Don’t let potential fears about becoming self-employed hold you back either, since many small businesses can be started on the side.

Posted in Self-Employed on 11.30.11 with 38 comments.

38 Responses to “Seven Businesses You Can Start for $100 or Less”

  • PKamp3 says:

    Have you done a lot of selling on Etsy? My wife it eying it to sell some things and is wondering if it is worth starting up an Etsy store.

    • Jackie says:

      No, I haven’t done any selling on Etsy at all, although I was happy to see that the costs are so low. I’ve been thinking of putting some of my paintings up there…

  • These are great tips for starting a business with little to no capital. How about services arbitrage for those who are good at managing and organization?

  • I’m getting into SEO consulting now. The best part: there are so many free resources out there to help you learn and also complete the work.

    Great post. I think a lot of people still think they have to take out thousands in loans and open a brick-and-mortar shop to “start a business.” The internet has certainly leveled the playing field.

    • Jackie says:

      Yeah, it’s crazy. You can spend a lot to open a business if you want to, but my thinking is why not see what works first for very little money and time? Getting started is half the battle. How is SEO consulting going for you?

  • Not sure if you need $100 to start being a Community Manager, just a good skill set and a company willing to hire you .

  • It is shocking how much you can make from tutoring. I know people that pay ridiculous amounts of money for math tutoring. SAT/ACT tutoring is also big.

  • I would do a combination of online businesses if I needed to be self-employed. Right now, I just blog and freelance write.

  • Untemplater says:

    I’m a big supporter of starting side businesses. Having multiple income streams, especially passive ones, really helps alleviate financial stress when the unexpected happens. -Sydney

  • I’m not good at any of these. :(
    I’ll have to keep searching.

  • Hi Jackie! Love you site set-up ;) Great list of businesses with low start-up cost. There really is money to be made out there, just have to know where to look.

  • Buck Inspire says:

    Awesome list! I would add giving your opinions in focus groups and mystery shopping. Thanks again!

  • J$ says:

    Love these! Totally true too – as I’ve done at least 4 of them so far, haha… the mighty hustle is good!

  • Mowing lawns was one of my first sources of income. In the right market you can really make a lot of money. I could use some help with a few of these ideas.

    • Jackie says:

      I bet you can. (And if you live somewhere cold, in the winter it could be turned into a snow removal service.) What kind of help did you mean?

  • Steve says:

    My problem is, I have no clue how to figure out how much to charge anyone. That, and my hang-up that technology is so simple, that I can’t see charging much, if at all. It takes me minutes to do what others take hours to do, if at all, due to experience differences.

    I’ve built enterprise networks, but am now unemployed. Basic computer & web technologies are a cakewalk. Social Media a breeze. I run several growing accounts now, for hobby socializing groups I run.

    I’ve always been an employee & never had to think about charging people or setting fees. Sales people did that. I just build out tech & make it work. To me, that’s the easy part.

    How do you set yourself up as a business, and how do you figure out what/how to charge for services?

    • Jackie says:

      Steve, your comment that it takes you minutes to do what others take hours to do just goes to show that you probably have a service people would be happy to pay for. It only seems easy to you because you’re very experienced with it.

      As far as pricing goes, take a look at salary ranges for what you’d get paid if you were an employee using those skills, and ask around to see what others are paying for their services. Then start your rates at maybe 30% more than the salaries per hour, or around the same rates as others you know are being paid hourly. See if you get any takers. Your hobby groups could be good references for you, and the members may even know people who would pay for the same services.

      If you’re in the US, starting a business could be as easy as saying “I’m in business” if you’re a sole proprietor. Check with the area you live in to see if there are any licenses required for the kind of stuff you want to do. Just be sure you’re paying quarterly taxes, and any other taxes that may be required. Of course there are other business types too (LLC, partnership, S Corp, Corporation), but they all have various levels of risk associated with them.

      I generally start businesses as a sole proprietor and then change to another form once they become viable, but that’s me :)

  • Megumi says:

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with simply deciding to be a graphic designer by renting Photoshop and Illustrator. It takes time and skill to learn to use these programs, and to become a good designer. You might as well add ‘just rent a camera and become a professional photographer’ as plenty of people seem to have also decided no training or prior knowledge are necessary for this occupation either.
    As for setting up a blog, you might want to get some help with that, the side of the comment box I am typing in is cut off, so I can’t even see everything I’m writing.

    • Jackie says:

      Yes, it does take time and talent, that’s why I specifically stated that people should have studied it in school and/or already be talented at it. But sometimes people who are good at graphic design don’t do it on their own because they think they can’t afford the software.

  • Steve says:

    Jackie, thanks for the reply & advice. And yes, I’m in the U.S.

    As far as your reply to Megumi, regarding affording graphic software, far too many people don’t know about, mistrust, or just don’t understand the benefits of Free and/or Open-Source software.

    I’ve used GIMP & Inkscape for years to replace Photoshop & Illustrator, respectively. While not as massively full featured as those commercial packages, they are easily capable of producing professional results for an experienced user. Cost $0

    I exclusively use OpenOffice in place of MS Office on my personal systems. LibreOffice is a new fork of that package.

    If people can’t afford steeply priced commercial packages, I’d encourage them to check http://osalt.com for alternatives.

    • Jackie says:

      Yes, that’s true, there are definitely open source options out there. I use Open Office all the time, and have tried out Inkscape and Gimp. I like Scribus for desktop publishing type things.

  • Steve says:

    Also, it should be considered that using Free & Open-Source software is a great way to self-learn many concepts used in the better known commercial packages.

    They may be different applications, but the underlying concepts, file formats & menu structure are either the same or so similar, that once you learn them, you’ll be able to pick up the commercial app with relative ease.

  • Adam says:

    When I was a teenager I made some very good money tutoring and mowing lawns. If you have a college degree, I am sure you can find school kids to tutor.

    Since then my side businesses – all started with less than $100 – have focused mostly on 1) blogging, 2) relational or network marketing of health and fitness products, and 3) personal coaching services.

    Really any skill you have can be turned into a viable niche blog or giving others lessons. And anybody can succeed with network marketing, if they have the desire.

    Best success everyone.

  • William says:

    Another business you can start for less than a $100 is an household cleaning company. Simply going house and doing the household chores can actually be very profitable.

    • Jackie says:

      You’re right, that’s another business that’s pretty low-cost to start. I didn’t include it here because I wasn’t sure about possible insurance requirements, which might add to the cost.

  • mbhunter says:

    Some of these are not only less than $100 to start, they’re FREE to start. Nice list.

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