20 Best Low-Cost Startup Ideas

Female holding piggy bank.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that they can’t start a business until they have substantial startup capital. What most don’t know yet is, you can build a successful startup with absolutely no money. We’ve compiled the 15 best low-cost startup ideas so you can avoid high overhead costs and startup costs — without sacrificing growth potential and profitability. Read on to learn how these startup ideas can turn into a successful, lucrative business.

Recommended: Check out our full list of the best startup ideas and our guide on how to start a startup.

Top 20 Low-Cost Startup Ideas

1. Social Media Consulting

Social media is one of the most powerful tools available to businesses today. With 54% of social browsers using social media to research products, a great social media marketing strategy is essential for businesses of every size. Social media consulting is a fast-growing industry with potential for generating high profits depending on your skill level. Additionally, where you are located may impact your earnings. However, many states boast annual salaries for social media consultants over $100,000 per year. Harnessing your branding abilities to represent the personality of your brand is essential to a great social media consulting startup. Not to mention, the best part of this startup idea is that it costs practically nothing to start.

2. Web Design

Web design startups focus solely on creating an aesthetically pleasing, well-branded website for businesses and individuals. If you have the skills to accomplish this already, you can start and operate this business with only a little money for marketing. With a litany of web design services available, your startup needs to stand out from the competition. The best way to create a unique web design startup is to establish a trademark design style and learn advanced design techniques that will take your finished web designs to the next level.

3. Blogging

Starting a blog not only offers you a space to share your passions with a like-minded community but it is an opportunity to monetize your interests without needing a large initial investment. While there is no end to the type of blogging that is possible, most require the same basic necessities: writing skills, photography proficiency, and an eye for the aesthetic. The most successful blogs started by appealing to a target audience, so before you start writing, identify the areas you are most passionate about, and work from there.

4. Freelance Writing

To be a freelance writer you need writing skills, a computer, and access to the internet — that’s it. If you already have those three things, becoming a freelance writer will cost you nothing except the time it takes to secure jobs and build your portfolio. With writers of every type in demand and a competitive market, it’s beneficial to identify three types of writing you excel at (for example, copywriting, content writing, or technical writing) and then strengthen your skills to offer clients the best service possible. To get started, consider joining an online marketplace such as Upwork or Fiverr to find work. 

5. Online Coach

Help customers reach their personal and professional goals by creating an online coaching startup. The beauty of an online coaching startup is that there are limitless possibilities for the type of coaching you can do and it costs virtually nothing to start. But, the payoff can be substantial, with online fitness coaches, for example, making as much as $111,000 per year. Whatever your specialty is, there are most likely people looking for help in that area — you just need to find them using marketing strategies that appeal to your target audience. The goal is simply to give customers the tools and support they need to reach the important milestones using your interpersonal skills and expertise.

6. Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a powerful and necessary marketing tool for businesses of every size. So it is great news that providing this service requires little money to start and has high-profit potential. In fact, according to ZipRecruiter, freelance digital marketers, on average, make roughly $87,7000 per year. To stand out in this competitive market, give prospective clients a reason to choose your startup by fine-tuning your networking skills, finding your niche, and doing your research to ensure you are on top of the most effective strategies to help your specific client base. Success in this field is dependent on results clients can see, so be prepared to reassess your strategies to ensure your business can provide substantial growth for its clients.

7. Handcrafted Products

Consider turning your hobby into a low-cost startup by selling crafts, products, or other items you make by hand. The benefit of this startup idea is not only that you get to turn your favorite pastime into a business but that it costs only the price of materials to get started. To excel in a market loaded with talented creators, do your research about up-and-coming trends to put your startup at the forefront and develop products that appeal to a popular market. Consider joining crafting communities online and in person that can help you get into fairs, markets, and more. 

8. Pet Business

Pet parents want the best for their furry companions which means starting a pet business can often result in high profit and low startup or ongoing costs. For example, independent pet-sitting business owners report making up to $57,000 a year with little overhead. More good news, pet services can be anything from grooming to dog-walking depending on the space you have available and your skill set. The biggest challenge of pursuing a pet-based startup idea is marketing to build trust with pet owners that will choose you to take care of their furry family members.

See our interview with the founder of pet tech startup PupPod!

9. Business Consulting

Business consulting is a startup best suited to those who have knowledge and experience in their field as well as stellar organizational and networking skills. Developing these skills pays off though. Business consultants make an average of $100 an hour for their services, and the overhead costs are virtually zero. To give your startup a competitive edge, find your niche right away. Defining your specialty will not only make you a better consultant — it will attract a targeted market of customers that trust you have a firm grasp on what it takes to be successful in your industry.

10. YouTube Channel

Every day, millions of people visit YouTube to watch, learn, and listen. The good news, you can get in on the action by starting a YouTube channel of your own with little to no money. The best part of starting your own YouTube channel is you need very little outside of a niche, engaging personality, and a way to make/edit videos (which can be upgraded over time — so don’t splurge on the best stuff right away). Once you’ve grown your subscriber count, you can start raking in the money from advertisements. In fact, videos with 1 million videos can actually make upwards of $5,000 for one video, according to Credit Karma.

11. Social Media Influencer

Creating content that is engaging and marketable while maintaining a rapport with brands, followers, and other influencers is key to being a successful social media influencer. Fortunately, all you need to get started is a smartphone, a knack for visual marketing, and an engaging personality. If successful, influencers can make anywhere between $195 to $1900 per post. Since this industry is saturated with aspiring influencers already, you’ll need to focus your efforts on creating a distinct, appealing brand that will result in rapid growth.

12. Podcasting

With 104 million Americans listening to podcasts monthly, this market has exponential room for startups to flourish. Podcasting requires a niche topic, a charismatic host, and a market that will tune in regularly and fortunately for entrepreneurs on a budget — very little money to get started. With more and more podcasters popping up every day, the time to plant your flag as an expert in your field of interest is now. All you need to do is get some recording equipment and get to work.

13. Online Courses

All an online course startup requires is a strong skill set, background, and knowledge base to draw from, as well as strong interpersonal skills, to get started. This startup costs virtually zero dollars to get going and has tremendous growth potential. Whether it’s teaching crochet techniques or the basics of social media marketing, there is no end to the possibilities in this industry as long as you have interested students. Make it your own by developing a curriculum that is unique to you with assignments and objectives that will keep your students engaged.

Recommended: Check out our full list of Startup Ideas for Education Entrepreneurs.

14. Dropshipping

If you like the idea of an ecommerce startup but don’t have the space to commit to storing products, dropshipping could be the perfect, low-cost startup idea for you. Drop shippers typically make around $3,400 per month, making this a lucrative side hustle or potential full-time job, depending on the cost of living. Dropshipping startups simply take customer’s orders online, but instead of filling orders themselves, they are sent to a third-party retailer for fulfillment. Save yourself the hassle of inventory management and high overhead costs; this startup consists only of customer experience management, marketing, and curating items.

15. Virtual Assistant

virtual assistant startup is a great business idea for organized, task-oriented individuals looking for a startup idea that costs nothing to create. If this sounds like you, it is easy to get started by utilizing sites that can help you find work you’re interested in. Get a competitive edge by diversifying your skill set to make yourself eligible for a litany of job opportunities.

16. Event Planning

If you are a great organizer with an eye for detail, event planning could be a worthwhile business idea to pursue. Event planning can involve various types of events, from class reunions to baby showers to sweet 16 birthday parties. The key to running a successful event planning business is building a strong network of partners and vendors you can pull from to make your customer’s vision a reality. 

17. Furniture Refurbishing

Giving new life to used furniture is not only a low-cost business idea, it is also a sustainable one. Many furniture refurbishing businesses find furniture to flip on platforms like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist or at local thrift stores. The startup costs associated with this business include the cost of purchasing furniture to refurbish and the necessary tools, such as sanders and stains. However, these can be relatively inexpensive. 

18. Professional Organizer

Whether you are organizing homes or office spaces, professional organizers’ ability to turn chaos into functional, usable spaces is in demand. There are very few startup costs for this business, with most of the initial costs pertaining to marketing your services. To start this type of business, you will need to build a client list and provide examples of your work. Consider offering organization services to a few clients in exchange for their customer testimonials or proof of your organizational work to provide to future clients. 

19. Private Chef

If you have a culinary background but don’t want to work in a commercial kitchen, becoming a private chef could be a perfect opportunity to launch your own business. This industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2% between 2023 to 2033 due to an increase in demand post-COVID as well as health concerns and specialty diets. Private or personal chefs require little to no capital to start, they simply need one or more clients. This startup idea is reliant on your cooking ability and will likely require long hours and menu planning to be successful. 

20. Software Training

If you’re well-versed in different software, you can leverage your knowledge as a software trainer. With more software being developed every year, consumers may require a helping hand in adopting different software. A software trainer helps new users adopt platforms and become proficient with a hands-on approach.