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Don’t be fooled by their size – small scale business ideas have big potential.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), they make up 99.7% of U.S. employers and 97.7% of U.S. exporters. Those numbers are no joke.
In addition to supporting the economy, small business owners can work for themselves and create something unique and meaningful. Inc.com reports that 81% of small business owners feel happier – and 60% report being healthier – than when they worked for their previous employer.
So how can you leverage your potential into starting a small business?
By starting your entrepreneurial journey in a niche that has profit potential and revolves around something you enjoy.
What Is a Small-Scale Business?
While definitions vary, a small-scale business is typically described as an enterprise with a small number of employees, a relatively low sales volume, and is usually privately owned with most of the profits going to the owner. These businesses also typically serve a small community and see low turnover in staff.
The Small Business Association has a chart that describes different classifications of small businesses so you can see if the business you’re starting qualifies as a small-scale business.
Find the Right Small-Scale Business Idea for You
There are plenty of local and online options you can choose from if you’re interested in running your own small scale business.
Though every business has some type of startup requirements, many in this list are considered small-scale business ideas without much investment. That means that they can be started without significant upfront fees or expenses. That also means you can start them within a reasonably short time frame.
Online Small-Scale Business Ideas
There are a number of small-scale businesses you can start online, for little to no cost.
1. Virtual Assistant
Started a virtual assistant business is quick and easy. In this small-scale business, you’ll help other business owners with a variety of administrative tasks ranging from data entry and booking travel to writing blog posts and scheduling content on social media. You can read more about how to become a virtual assistant or take Kayla Sloan’s 10KVA course to get started.
If you have an eye for typos, then starting a proofreading business could be lucrative. As a proofreader, you’ll examine documents from writers, business owners, and other professionals. You’ll look for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.
Professional proofreader Caitlyn Pyle offers a training course for future proofreaders, and you can read our guide to help you set up your proofreading business.
3. Freelance Writer
As a freelance writer, you’ll produce blog posts, research documents, white papers, and other types of written content for websites, magazines, online journals, newspapers, and other businesses. Consider starting this small-scale business if you enjoy writing and researching. That’s what six-figure writer Holly Johnson did, and now she offers a course for aspiring freelance writers.
4. Social Media Manager
Social media managers help companies create, schedule, and monitor their presence on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You’ll be responsible for managing social media content calendars, responding to comments and questions, creating images, and other tasks. Read our guide on how to become a social media manager for more information on what this business entails.
5. Facebook Ads Manager
Facebook ads are an important part of any company’s marketing strategy, and you can start a small-scale business managing ads for those companies.
You’ll create the ads, manage the Facebook advertising budget, and monitor their performance by analyzing the data provided in the Facebook Ads Manager dashboard. If you’re interested in this small-scale business, you can take Bobby Hoyt’s Facebook Side Hustle Course.
6. Blog Writer
If you want to own your writing, but still share your thoughts with the world, then creating a blog is a good small-scale business for you. You’ll perform similar tasks as a freelance writer, but you’ll put the articles on your own website.
You can also figure out ways to make extra money through various types of advertising, creating courses, or even writing eBooks. Our guide to starting a blog will walk you through exactly what you need to have your own successful website.
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7. Resume Writer and Editor
If you have experience working in human resources or have spent time reviewing resumes, then you can turn that into a business writing and editing resumes for job hunters. In this job, you’ll help your clients write clear and effective resumes that stand out to prospective employers. This may include proofreading and formatting their resumes as well.
8. SEO Consultant
Search engine optimization describes the method that website owners employ to drive visitors to their sites. As an SEO consultant, you’ll go through the company’s website content and make suggestions for how they can improve their search engine ranking and generate more organic search traffic.
In other words, you’ll tell them how to tweak their content so more people click on what they’re providing. It sounds complicated, but there are plenty of resources available that can teach you how to do this.
9. Email Marketing Specialist
If you start a small-scale business as an email marketing specialist, you’ll work with other businesses and companies to create email marketing campaigns. Tasks may include formatting newsletters, proofreading and editing for clarity and grammar, creating graphics, or creating a strong call to action. You might also have to manage the email lists, analyze statistics, or write press releases.
In-Person Small-Scale Business Ideas
If you’re not interested in working online, you can start a more traditional small-scale business.
10. Pet Walker or Sitter
People working outside of their home or who have mobility issues often need someone to walk their dogs during the day. This provides an opportunity for you to start a business as a dog walker for people in your neighborhood or apartment building.
You can easily get started by registering with Rover, which will connect you to clients looking for a reliable dog walker. You can also make extra money boarding pets in your home.
11. Airbnb Host
As long as it’s OK with your landlord or homeowner’s association, you can start a small-scale business renting out space in your home or apartment. By listing your unused room on Airbnb, you’ll earn money from travelers looking for a place to stay.
You can earn extra money by providing Airbnb experiences along with your listing like walking tours of famous local landmarks or Jeep tours of nearby areas.
Many parents prefer to use a babysitter instead of a daycare to watch their children while they’re at work. Others like having a reliable babysitter so they can run errands, go to the gym, or have a child-free date night.
If you enjoy spending time with kids and have a flexible schedule, consider starting a babysitting business. You can register with a site like Care.com or advertise on social media to find your first clients.
13. Computer Repair
Personal computers are a staple in most homes, so computer repair is a viable business. The repair issues can range from fixing hardware, performing software updates, installing anti-virus programs, or setting up someone’s new computer.
The services you perform are entirely up to you, and if you’re good with computers and have a flexible schedule, this might be a good small-scale business to consider. You can even offer phone support if you want to make extra money through your business.
14. Insurance Billing Specialist
An insurance billing specialist is someone who works with medical providers and offices to process claims for healthcare insurance. If you’re organized, understand medical terminology, and are willing to learn the American Medical Association’s Current Procedural Terminology (CPT), this is a small-scale business you can start from home. You might also be able to work as a freelancer with medical facilities like hospitals or surgical centers.
If you have good listening and typing skills, you can start a business as a transcriber. As a transcriber, you’ll listen to audio files and translate them into text documents. The formatting, style, and content of the transcription documents will vary from client to client. You can learn more about what’s involved in working as a transcriber and places to find your first clients in this transcription jobs guide.
16. Housecleaning Business
House cleaners go to other people’s homes to clean common living spaces, bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. You can also offer commercial cleaning, construction site clean up services, or move-out cleaning services to landlords.
This small-scale business has low start-up costs, but you’ll need to check with your city or state to verify if you need any licenses, background checks, or special insurance.
17. Vacation Planner
Working as a vacation planner means that you’ll help clients book their next trip. You will assist making hotel reservations, airline or train tickets, booking excursions or special experiences, and dining reservations. This is like being an old-school travel agent.
Since most of this is easy for people to do on their own, it’s helpful if you specialize in certain types of vacations like Disney World or cruises. Once you get a specialty, you’ll learn insider tips and tricks for getting the best deals, saving your clients time and money.
Best Small-Scale Business Ideas for Creatives
If you’re crafty or creative, try turning your crafts into one of these small-scale businesses.
18. Etsy Store Owner
You can turn your crafting hobby into a small-scale business by selling homemade products on Etsy. An easy-to-use platform with low selling fees and a quick storefront setup, Etsy allows you to sell anything including knit goods, hand-painted glasses and digital products. You can even link your Facebook account to your Etsy store, making it simple to advertise and sell your products to a larger audience.
19. Custom Gift Creator
Selling your crafts isn’t limited to Etsy. You can create custom gifts like quilts, T-shirts, board games, or picture frames and sell them at craft shows or through dropshipping sites like Shopify. The start-up costs for this small-scale business are low and mostly consist of the supplies you need to make the products.
20. Graphic designer
Graphic designers create visual images to communicate ideas to inform or inspire consumers. This includes logos, Pinterest images, magazine or book covers, signs, brochures, or even Facebook images.
If you have an eye for design, enjoy being creative, and have access to programs like Canva, Illustrator, or Photoshop, then owning a graphic design business is a good option. You can get started by offering your services on Fiverr or by starting your own website.
As a photography business owner, you’ll work with a variety of clients in different settings. These can include taking family or pet portraits, wedding photos, graduation or first birthday pictures, or headshots for resumes or business sites. You might even be able to set up a studio in your home.
You’ll need a good camera and reliable transportation to work as a photographer. If you prefer not to have a set schedule, you can also take pictures as you like and sell them to stock photography sites.
22. Audiobook narrator
If you like to read books aloud, have a decent microphone and recording software, and a quiet space to work, you can start a business as an audiobook narrator for indie authors. You can improve your skills and reach more clients by taking acting classes, practicing public speaking, or learning different accents or voices.
Small-Scale Business Ideas for Drivers
Delivering food or packages is an easy way for people who like to drive to start a business.
23. Food Delivery Driver
Delivering food is as simple as registering with a company like Postmates. You can also deliver food for national chains, working in their catering division, or for local business delivery pizza and other foods.
You’ll need to have proper insurance, a valid driver’s license, and know how to navigate your area. While the start-up expenses are low, make sure you factor in fuel costs and car maintenance when deciding how to price your services.
24. Event Valet
Operating an event valet business means that you’ll be parking cars in small or tight spaces, driving unfamiliar cars, and keeping track of which cars are parked where (not to mention where all the keys are).
You’ll need to be organized and detailed and comfortable driving automatic and manual transmission cars. You’ll also need proper insurance and a valid driver’s license.
25. Bike Messenger
Many urban businesses like law firms, architecture firms, and even restaurants use bike messengers to deliver documents and other products. This is a great small-scale business if you like riding your bike, know how to navigate your city’s traffic, and don’t mind working outdoors in unpredictable weather. Make sure your bike is in great condition, and you have appropriate safety gear and clothing if you want to get started with this business.
26. Errand Runner
If you don’t mind doing small, everyday tasks, you can start a business running errands for other people. You can offer services like picking up prescriptions or dry cleaning, grocery shopping, going to the post office or waiting in line to pay a bill or buy a product. Sometimes people might even pay you to sit in their house to wait for a repairman while they go to work. You can offer your services on TaskRabbit to get started.
Business Ideas for Health Enthusiasts
If you’re passionate about helping people get healthy, consider one of these business ideas.
27. Fitness Instructor
As a fitness instructor, you’ll put together exercise plans, choreograph routines, and stay current on the latest trends and advice to help your clients reach their fitness goals. While you don’t need any formal education, you’ll need some training and certifications. Those will vary based on the type of training or instruction you’d like to provide. Additionally, you can work on a freelance or contract basis with a gym, or you can create a home gym and have clients come to you.
28. One-on-One Wellness Coach
A wellness coach works one-on-one with clients to improve their emotional and physical well being. This could range from losing weight to stopping smoking to learning healthier coping strategies for stressful situations. What you work on will depend on each client’s goals and your strengths, specializations, and certifications. This is a good small-scale business option if you like motivating, helping, and empowering people.
29. Meal Planner & Prepper
An easy way for busy families and individuals to save money every month is by meal planning and prepping. However, a lot of people don’t have the time or knowledge to create a meal plan or prepare their own food.
You can start a business providing meals to busy families. You’ll take orders, cook the food, and deliver it to them each week. You can also offer a service similar to the $5 Meal Plan and customize it for your clients. Make sure you check with your state for any licenses or certifications you need to sell food from your home.
Small-Scale Business Ideas for Coaches and Teachers
You don’t need to have a degree in education to coach or teach others.
30. Music Teacher
If you can play an instrument or two, you can start a small-scale business teaching kids and adults. You can choose to give lessons in your home, a music studio, or in other people’s homes. Where you decide to give lessons depends on what instrument you’re teaching. It’s a lot easier to teach voice lessons than piano or drums.
31. Sports Skills Coach
There’s a high demand for specialized coaching in sports. Cheerleading flyers work with flexibility coaches, baseball and softball pitchers need pitching coaches, and golfers work with coaches to improve their swing. If you’re well-versed in these sports or were a star athlete, you can start a business providing private lessons or clinics to athletes in your area.
32. Online Tutor
Students need help in subjects ranging from math to history to physics. If you enjoy working with students and are an expert in a subject, starting a tutoring business could be a good option for you. You can offer your services in person, meeting with your clients in their home or public spaces. If it’s not possible for you to work as an in-person tutor, you can work with an online tutoring company like VIPKID.
33. Interview Preparation Coach
Interviews can be the most difficult part of the hiring process for many people. If you’ve had success throughout the interview process, or you’ve spent a significant amount of time interviewing people, you can take that experience and turn it into a business coaching people preparing for interviews.
Services can include teaching them how to clearly and succinctly answer questions, how to calm their nerves, and how to recover from a bad answer. You can offer this service in their homes or in places like coffee shops, libraries, and community centers.
Small Business Ideas for Handymen
If you’re good at fixing things, you can earn some side (or full-time) income from one of these small business ideas.
34. Holiday Light Installer
This is a seasonal small-scale business idea, but it can be lucrative. If you have a good eye for design or creating light displays, and you don’t mind working outdoors, you can advertise services hanging outdoor holiday lights for homeowners or retail stores. This business has some of the lowest start-up costs since your customers will provide the lights; all you need is a ladder and some tools.
35. Appliance Repair
If you’re good at fixing things, consider starting an appliance repair business. This means you’ll go into people’s homes to fix items like washers, refrigerators, dishwashers, or stoves. You might even offer ancillary services like vacuum or window-unit air conditioner repair. Whatever you choose, make sure you verify with your state what type of licenses, insurance, or certifications you might need.
36. Lawn Care or Snow Removal
Shoveling snow and mowing lawns are tasks many people need to do, but don’t have the time, desire, or ability to do it and are willing to pay someone else. You can start a small-scale business offering these services to homeowners or businesses in your area. If you have the knowledge, you can also offer pool cleaning or landscaping as additional services to your customers.
37. Tailor/Clothing alterations
Prom dresses, wedding dresses, pageant dresses, suits, and even jeans need alterations. If you’re good with a sewing machine or thread and needle, you can start a business tailoring clothes. You can choose to offer your services independently, or you can contract with some local formal wear shops or dry cleaners to provide your alterations as a freelancer.
Tips for Starting Your Small-Scale Business
If you’re interested in having your own small-scale business, follow these steps to get it up and running quickly and smoothly.
Determining Your Small-Scale Business Idea
Before you start offering services, you need to determine what you’ll be offering.
To figure out what you’re going to provide, evaluate your skills. Make a list of what you can do and what you’re not willing to do. Also, write down what you’d want to do and if there are any associated costs or certifications you need to start a business. For instance, if you want to be a fitness instructor but don’t have the proper license, how much time and money will it cost to obtain that?
You’ll also need to determine how much time you have to build and grow your business. The kinds of small-scale business you can have working 15 hours a week looks different than the kinds you can have only working three hours.
Define the Goals for Your Small-Scale Business
Before you start your small-scale business, ask yourself why you want to start one and what you’re hoping to accomplish. Is it to work and make money from home? Is it to quit your full-time job and spend more time with your family? Whatever your reason, make sure you keep that in mind as you build your company.
You also might set goals for quarterly income, how many employees you’d like to hire, or the kinds of clients you’d like to have. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you might prefer to remain a one-person business with a quarterly revenue of $10,000 and write for high-profile business sites. If you’re a photographer, you might be fine with a variable income but might want to hire an assistant and specialize in weddings.
Your goals should be specific to you and your business.
Set Up Your Business Finances
How your business makes money depends on the type of service you provide. You may bill for your time via services delivered (consulting, coaching, being a bike messenger) or on a product basis, like selling artwork on Etsy.
By knowing how to charge, you can assess how much competition there is, where to find clients, what rate you can charge, and more.
As a small-scale business owner, you’ll need a business bank account and invoicing system. You can start with a simple Excel spreadsheet and PayPal, but you might consider moving to a system like FreshBooks after you’ve been open for a few months.
Legal Steps for Your Small-Scale Business
Depending on the type of small-scale business you start, you might need special permits, licenses, certifications, or types of insurance to operate legally. Research the rules and regulations in your state or city before you start working with clients. Additionally, you should verify that you’re not using a trademarked name, and you’re properly registered as a business with your state.
You will also want to set your business up as a legal entity like a Sole Proprietor or an LLC. Although many small business owners choose not to do this, small-scale businesses commonly use legal structures for tax purposes, tracking expenses separately, and reducing personal liability.
Consult with an accountant or attorney to determine which is best for your business. You can also use Legal Rocket or LegalZoom to research what may be appropriate in your state for registering an LLC or partnership.
They also offer services for filing the associated paperwork required to start a business.
Marketing and Promoting Your Small-Scale Business
Once you’ve established what kind of small-scale business you’re going to have, and you’ve worked out the legal and financial aspects, it’s time to start marketing and finding clients.
One way to market your business in person is with business cards. You can use Moo products for professional and modern business cards.
Another effective way to market yourself is to create a website for your business. A website makes you look well-established and provides a place to direct prospective clients. Setting up a blog or website is simple and inexpensive, and you don’t need to hire someone to do it for you. Most websites can be designed with easy-to-use DIY tools.
Don’t forget about leveraging social media. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all easy, free, and valuable ways to spread the word about your business.
Get Started with Your Small-Scale Business
Owning a small-scale business is a great way to earn extra income and work for yourself. They have relatively low start-up costs, are easy to market, and you can get started finding clients rather quickly.
If you go this route, pick an idea that fits your schedule, talents, and has significant earning potential. Having your own business should be something you enjoy and look forward to rather than something that feels like a burden.
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