5 Business Ideas You Can Start on a Budget

Starting a business is an exhilarating but often challenging experience. There are countless issues to consider, not least whether you have sufficient funding to launch your business and whether your personal life will suffer due to the sacrifices you’ll need to make in order to succeed.

If you focus too much on the risks and potential pitfalls you’ll find hundreds of reasons not to get started. While there are plenty of legitimate concerns that you’ll need to think about, they’re not legitimate excuses! These challenges are surmountable if you have a great idea and are motivated to make it work.

One of the most difficult of these challenges to overcome is funding, but if you’re on a tight budget you’ll be relieved to hear that there are many ways you can establish a business on a shoestring.

Virtual Assistant

How did we get so busy? With email inboxes overflowing and the phone ringing off the hook it’s no wonder people are struggling to balance their commitments at work and at home. But this relentless pace provides opportunities to well-organized individuals like you to help clients get the most out of their lives. As a Virtual Assistant (VA) you could have a diverse range of responsibilities, from inbox and calendar administration through to social media management and event planning. Consider what skills you have and whether they could help you in your new role – for example, some VAs offer specialist services such as website content management support, bookkeeping and even translating.

One of the perks of the job is that you’ll be able to work from your own home office, allowing you to better manage your own work-life balance. Start-up costs are minimal as you just need a laptop, a reliable internet connection and a smartphone to get started. Why not establish your VA business as your side hustle before transitioning to the world of self-employment as your clientbase grows?

Content Creator

Are you able to create high-quality, shareable written or broadcast media? If so, you could use a freelance platform such as Upwork or Bark to engage remotely with businesses and agencies throughout the world. As you complete projects and gain feedback, your reputation on your chosen platforms will grow, allowing you to increase your hourly rate and be more selective about the projects you take on.

Other creative work in demand in the gig economy includes illustration, graphic design and photography. You may wish to submit your files to suppliers of stock and editorial imagery such as Shutterstock or Getty – as your portfolio grows so will your earnings, and if you’re consistently delivering great work you may be offered a preferential agreement.

eBay business

The opportunities available on online marketplaces such as eBay are no longer a secret, but there’s still money to be made if you do your research and take a few calculated risks. Spend a day familiarising yourself with the site and learn how to create effective listings – don’t be shy about stealing other sellers’ best ideas! Once you can find your way around, the next step is to figure out what sells before sourcing these items from an online wholesaler at favourable prices. You could even buy old or damaged stock from companies local to you, as long as you feel confident that you can move it on. Often the best things to sell are items that you know a lot about, so you understand what you’re buying and selling.

If you don’t want the hassle of storing and shipping inventory, you could become an eBay Trading Assistant. While eBay ended their official Trading Assistant and Valet programs back in 2013 and 2018 respectively, that doesn’t mean you can’t independently offer these services to individuals and businesses. As an eBay expert you can gain 5-50% sales commission by photographing and listing items for other people, ensuring they achieve the best possible sales value.

Domestic cleaning company

A domestic cleaning company is one of the least expensive businesses to get established. You’ll just need some basic cleaning equipment, liability insurance and a couple customers to get started. Your first clients could be family, friends and other acquaintances, and if you offer a great service you’ll find that word of mouth recommendations do the rest. Some clients may prefer you use their equipment and cleaning supplies, lowering your overheads even further.

This is the ideal job to start around your current 9-5, and once things take off you can transition to self-employment and focus all your energy on growing your new venture. Make sure you set up a Google My Business profile and Facebook business page, get as many reviews from customers as possible and if things get quiet you can use Ads to target prospective customers in your geographic location.

The Cleaning Collective’s comprehensive guide to starting a cleaning business provides more insight on how to get started.

Errand running service

Perhaps there are people living in your community who are housebound or suffer limited mobility? They may need help with grocery shopping or rely on others to drive them to appointments. This is where your errand running service comes in. While your hourly rate will be fairly low at first, it can be incredibly rewarding to spend your day helping elderly or disabled people enjoy their day-to-day lives. You could also offer your services to people who are too busy to stay on top of their chores and need your help to transport children to and from school, wait in for tradespeople or take their vehicle to be serviced.

The elderly are living longer and people have never been as busy, so it’s no surprise that errand running businesses are becoming extremely popular. You’ll need the appropriate liability insurance and car insurance that covers you for business use. It’s also important to check if there are state regulations that need to be satisfied before you begin offering your services to the general public.

General advice on setting up a business

You’ll need to make sure the tax authorities know you’re self-employed and you’ll now get to experience the joys of filing annual returns. As you’re on a low budget you could use Google Sheets to record income and expenditure, or once you can spare the funds it may make sense to subscribe to a cloud-based accounting solution.

A couple of the business ideas above depend on a local clientbase, and these are perhaps the easiest to market. Leafleting may seem old school but it still works and is an inexpensive way to get the word out, particularly if you’re doing the leaflet drops yourself when you have a spare hour or two. Facebook Ads are an ideal way to target people according to their demographic and geographic profile. Google My Business and a Facebook business page, along with other social media profiles, will allow you to communicate directly with prospective customers.

The key to any business’s success is a focus on customer service – if you’re able to provide a high-quality product or service it will sell itself, and the most effective marketing strategy of all is to have your customers advocating on your behalf!