The 5 Most Profitable Industries for Small Business Owners in 2018

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

Some people are just born to be entrepreneurs. They’ve got a streak of independence that makes them absolutely determined to succeed on their own. But for many wanna-be entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to decide exactly what kind of business would be the best choice. It’s tough to find that perfect idea!

If you’re determined to start your own business, you probably know at least these two things for sure: you want to be your own boss, and you want to make a profit.

Are you still trying to find the right business idea for you? Get inspired by these 5 most profitable industries for small business owners!

3 Easy Steps You Should Know Before You Get Started

Before we dive right into what kind of business to start, you should get some context into what steps you actually need to take to get the ball rolling.  

The steps to starting a business will vary from entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur, but we can boil the process down to three, easy steps.

Step 1: Find the Perfect Idea and Do Your Research

A business starts with a good idea (and we’ll give you a hefty dose of inspiration below). But in order to make that idea a reality, you need to do your research to make sure the concept will succeed. Go through an idea validation process—including market and competitor research, and financial feasibility analysis—before you’re too far in.

Step 2: Get Organized and Make It Official

When you’re sure that you have a good idea to work with, it’s time to plan out the logistics of the business with a well-formulated business plan. When you’re confident that you’ve got it all down in writing, take steps to make it official. This includes choosing a business structure, applying for an EIN, registering your “Doing Business As” name, and getting the business licenses and registrations your specific business needs to open its doors.

Step 3: Find the Right Financing

Every business needs capital to grow, and startups are certainly no exception. But as a new startup owner, you might struggle to qualify for traditional business financing options right off the bat.

That’s why we recommend you start funding your initial growth with a business credit card. Why?

Not only will you have an easier time qualifying for a credit card than you would a traditional business loan, but you’ll also kick-start your business credit history, earn perks and rewards as you spend, and take advantage of interest-free 0% introductory APR periods (that’s like a free loan).

Our favorite credit card for startups is Amex’s Blue Business Plus thanks to its 15-month intro period for 0% APR.


Most Profitable Industries #1: Mobile Businesses

While mobile app development is certainly a huge industry right now, that’s actually not what we mean here. In this case, we’re talking about businesses that travel to their customers, offering their products and services wherever the customer happens to be.

As we all become more and more used to having everything accessible instantly and at our convenience, businesses on the move have hit the forefront of the most profitable industries in 2015 and beyond. Check out these mobile business ideas to help you take advantage of this emerging trend:

Auto Repair

Taking a car to the shop for simple repairs can be a challenge. After all, most of us use our cars to get from place to place! That means taking a car in for repairs often either involves a long wait at the repair shop, renting a vehicle for the day, or coordinating a ride with a friend or spouse. Unless…

While some repair jobs do require the equipment of an auto shop to complete, there are plenty of maintenance and repair services that need just a few simple tools to complete. If you’re skilled as a mechanic, consider going mobile with your services—offering oil changes, fluid refills, battery swaps, headlight repair and more right in your customer’s driveway or office parking lot.

Food Trucks

The foodie movement continues to grow in 2016, with more and more styles of cuisine offered in unique venues. But as rent in major cities increases, it’s becoming more difficult for up-and-coming specialty food artisans to finance a brick-and-mortar location in the bustling centers of town—where their customers are most likely to be.

The answer? Food trucks! Hit the road and park yourself at local events, farmer’s markets, the local town square—wherever you’re likely to draw a crowd. The lower overhead and increased geographic versatility of a food truck means you can turn your grandma’s famous dumpling recipe or that off-the-wall dessert idea into its own thriving business.

Keep in mind that bigger, trendier cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Boston already have a pretty saturated food truck market—so you might be more successful in a smaller heartland metropolis. Food trucks also tend to have their own special set of ordinances and safety compliance standards, so contact your local health department to find out what will be required.

Car Wash Services

Who wants to drive across town to get their car washed when you could be on your couch binge-watching House of Cards? As a mobile car wash and auto detailing service, you wouldn’t only benefit from the unique value proposition of being mobile, but you’d also avoid the significant overhead and startup cost of having a physical location.

Not sure how to start your own mobile car wash service? Don’t panic! There are a variety of online wholesalers that offer auto detailing start-up kits as well as training for those interested in starting their own business in this niche industry.

Electronics Repair

If you’ve looked up from your own mobile device lately, you’ve probably noticed that most Americans these days are more than a little bit obsessed with our electronics. This widespread tech addiction means that when something goes wrong, people tend to freak out.

Enter… You! The solution for every broken iPhone screen, WiFi card, and laptop battery. And if you’re willing to travel to your customer? You’ve got an instant hit! (Because who really wants to stand around by a kiosk in the mall?)

While a mobile electronics repair business involves some overhead in the form of purchasing supplies, keeping your business mobile saves you from the high overhead cost of a physical location. That means more profit in your pocket!

IT Support

As you probably know from hours spent with your grandparents, electronics that don’t seem to be working are usually actually not in need of repair. Not everyone in the world is naturally tech-savvy, and when things go wrong, often the free customer phone support provided by manufacturers doesn’t exactly feel supportive.

If technology comes easily to you—and you’re a relatively patient person—then consider hitting the road, at least in your neighborhood, with mobile IT support. All you need is time, transportation, and your own know-how—so this low-overhead business model is almost pure profit.

Personal Trainers

Turning your love of fitness into a career doesn’t have to mean working for a big corporate gym—nor do you need the overhead of having your own location to train clients. Throw a few weights, bands, and yoga mats into the trunk of your car, and take your fitness show on the road!

Offer one-on-one sessions in your clients’ homes or advertise group classes at a local park or community center. Making fitness more available to your clients might just be the ticket to helping both of you achieve your goals.

The Mobile Industry Startup Toolkit

Ready to enter the mobile industry with one of these business ideas?

Don’t get moving without these essential tools:

Your Business Credit Card: The Chase Ink Business Preferred

Since you’ll be on the move a lot, the Chase Ink Business Preferred is a top credit card for maximizing your travel rewards. Plus, it’s sizable signup bonus (80,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months) will kick-start your rewards earnings.


Your Accounting Software: QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is the most popular cloud-based accounting platform. When your business is on the go, this accounting app will travel well with you.

Your Business Checking Account: Total Business Checking from Chase

Chase mobile banking apps gets particularly good reviews and makes a good partner to their business credit cards If you need to access your business bank accounts on the go, try their Total Business Checking account.

Most Profitable Industries #2: Child-Oriented Businesses

Children Rock Climbing Gym

In 2015, millennials officially surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation—and for developed nations, data suggests that the modern population growth spike is far from over. For small business owners, this means exactly one thing: kids everywhere. And those kids represent business opportunities just waiting to be capitalized on.

Check out these child-oriented consumer needs that your future small business could fill:

Newborn and Post-Pregnancy Services

With new babies being born at record rates, the need for post-pregnancy and newborn-related services continues to grow. Doulas and lactation consultants, in particular, are in demand for new mothers, and both business options have relatively low overhead requirements beyond education and certification.

Enrichment Activities

While the number of children in the United States grows, shrinking budgets for education mean that both traditional academics and enrichment subjects like music, art, and athletics have taken a significant hit.

As a result, more parents are turning to private businesses for enrichment activities outside of school. Business is looking good for gymnastics centers, music schools, swimming instructors, kids’ yoga teachers, and more. If you have a skill that could be easily taught to young students, you might already have a profitable business in the making!

Mobile Apps and Entertainment

If your interests lie closer to tech or entertainment, consider gearing your technology toward the youngest of consumers. Research shows that regardless of expert recommendations, demand for tablets, apps, and mobile entertainment for children is on the rise.

Do you have an idea for an educational app for children or parents? If so, now’s the time to move forward on your bright idea for the next generation.

The Child-Services Startup Toolkit

Ready to foray into entrepreneurship with a child-oriented business?

Don’t get started without these essential tools in your back pocket:

Your Business Credit Card: The Capital One Spark Cash for Business

Since you’ll have enough on your plate with your new business, the Capital One Spark Cash earns rewards without you having to do a thing. This is the perfect card for business owners who want to earn cash back on their everyday spending, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of optimizing and redeeming rewards.


Your Accounting Software: Xero’s Standard Plan

Xero’s Standard Plan is an affordable small business accounting solution that has anything a small business would need—payroll, mobile access, inventory tracking, CRM integration, and more.

Your Business Checking Account: Spark Business Basic Checking from Capital One

As a new business owner, you want a business checking account that’ll help grow your business—not cost you a fortune. The Spark Business Basic Checking offers an affordable, simple banking solution for growing businesses. Plus, this checking account pairs nicely with any of the Spark business credit cards—like the Spark Cash.

Most Profitable Industries #3: “The Sharing Economy”

Uber Ridesharing Industry

We want and need to own less stuff.

That’s the basic message that brought about our so-called sharing economy. Whether because of environmental concerns, economic necessity, or simply a desire for more human connection, the idea of sharing resources as a small business opportunity has hit it big in the last few years. And while the opportunity for growth in the large-scale sharing economy is still huge, there are also more and more opportunities left available at the local small-business level.

Maybe you have a big idea that will make you the next Uber, DogVacay, or AirBnB. Or maybe you’ll make the sharing economy work for you on a smaller scale. Whatever you have in mind, here are a few examples to get you thinking about how to make the new sharing economy work for you:

Accessories and Attire

Sites like Rent the Runway and Gwynnie Bee have banked on the sharing economy by offering borrowed or rented clothing and accessories at a fraction of their purchase prices. And because the same piece of inventory can generate revenue multiple times, the profitability of these ventures is pretty significant.

Do you have an eye for fashion and a sense of style not currently offered by other rental services? Maybe you’re ready to be the next big thing!

But even if you’re not prepared to launch a multi-million dollar fashion startup, you can just as easily profit from shared fashionability at the local level. Gather some favorite accessories or clothing picks and host a borrowing party for high school girls before the next formal dance. If you’re in a college town, greek life formals are another great opportunity to profit from shared economy fashion. And because you’re taking shipping costs out of the equation, you have the potential for an even better profit margin than the larger startups enjoy!

Home Improvement Equipment

Are you the go-to guy or gal in your neighborhood for every lawn, garden, and home-repair tool under the sun? Why not turn those favors into a profitable business by advertising your available equipment beyond your immediate friend group?

You might even decide to invest in more specific and higher-cost equipment that would be useful to those around you. And if a customer doesn’t know how to use a specific tool, combine your equipment rental with a mobile handyman service for even more cash in the bank!

Vacation Rentals

Sites like AirBnB or VRBO have made it easier than ever to profit from your unused vacation property—or even your extra bedroom. If you live in a highly desirable tourist destination, you can make a pretty penny renting space in your home to travelers, and make a few friends in the process!

The Sharing-Business’s Startup Toolkit

If you’re venturing into the sharing economy with a new business, here are the tools we recommend you have by your side:

Your Business Credit Card: The Chase Ink Business Preferred

Entrepreneurs in this industry tend to be on the go, and every frequent traveler should have the Chase Ink Business Preferred. Plus, it has a killer signup bonus that amounts to $1,000 worth of free travel.


Your Accounting Software: FreshBooks

FreshBooks offers a top accounting software for business owners looking for affordable prices and a no-fuss user experience.

Your Business Checking Account: Total Business Checking from Chase

Businesses in the sharing economy can grow fast. Chase’s Total Business Checking works particularly well for micro-businesses with large growth numbers in their future— and it’s a good fit if you’re also using one of their business credit cards.

Most Profitable Industries #4: Online Education

Academics Profitable Industry

What industry are you an expert in? What knowledge do you have to share with the world? Online business owners are making big bucks offering courses through various platforms or independently through their own websites.

The overhead requirements of developing an online course are pretty minimal. You need a platform (think Udemy or Rainmaker), some content, and an audience. It might take some significant time to develop your course and marketing dollars to find and attract your audience—but once you’ve completed those steps, there is zero cost per unit sold and no limit to how many participants you can have.

If you like the idea of helping others and making money through an online course, but you’re not sure where to start, consider whether one of these niche topics may be the right fit:

Academics

When most of us think about education, our minds immediately jump to traditional academics. And while academics is certainly not the only subject that fits well with online courses, it is a viable option!

Especially as more and more American schools struggle to prepare students for both standardized testing and life outside the classroom, there’s ample opportunity for teachers and subject matter experts to earn income through online courses.

Offer supplemental instruction in grade-level reading math, science, or history, or even standardized test preparation. You could even create a review course for parents helping teens with their algebra homework! If you’re creative, the possibilities are truly endless.

And academic courses don’t have to end at the high school or even college level! Share your love of political history, Buddhist theology, or rocket science. If you’re interested in a particular subject, chances are high that someone else is, too!

Business or Marketing

The sad reality is that while liberal arts degrees might develop critical thinkers, many college graduates don’t come away with marketable skills that make them successful in business. Your ability to fill in those gaps with your own expertise could provide you with an incredible income opportunity at very little startup cost.

What skills and lessons have you learned the hard way in your own business or career? Share your expertise with fellow entrepreneurs through a B2B-oriented online course. Popular course topics include bookkeeping, QuickBooks accounting, WordPress web development, graphic design, how to develop a great client proposal, or even how to write a great cover letter or resume.

Personal Wellness

Are you a therapist or counselor, a yoga instructor, a life-coach, or a long-time meditator? If you have a deep passion for personal wellness, you might be able to help others find their own zen… While also earning a significant income. All you have to do is share what you know!

If you’re skeptical about the combination of personal wellness and online courses, look no further than Oprah. She’s the personal wellness queen and has been an early advocate of online courses—including author Brene Brown’s CourageWorks on the power of vulnerability.

Every person has a desire to better themselves, and that’s exactly what online courses are all about. What expertise do you have to share?

Other Hobbies

While many courses are designed to further an education or career prospects or to promote major life change, you can just as easily design an online course around any hobby or interest. Do you have a passion for calligraphy or craft brewing? Have you mastered a certain video game? You’d be surprised at the number of people willing to pay to learn about topics they’re interested in.

Not sure how to start designing your own online course? Well, there’s even an online course about how to launch an online course! So now you really have no excuses.

The Online Education Business’s Startup Toolkit

Putting your knowledge to use with an online education business? Make sure you’ve got these essentials with you first:

Your Business Credit Card: The American Express Blue Business Plus

If you’re starting a business based on skills you already have, then all you need is capital to get it going. Put expenses on your credit card right away with a 0% introductory APR card like the Blue Business Plus. We especially love the Blue Business Plus for it’s lengthy 0% intro APR period of 15 months—it’s the longest on the market.


Your Accounting Software: QuickBooks Online

If you’re working primarily online and you want all of your tools to sync with your accounting system, then QuickBooks Online fits the bill.

Your Business Checking Account: Clear Connect for Business from BBVA Compass Bank

If you have access to a physical branch location, BBVA’s Clear Connect for Business is a great free business checking account. The in-person customer service makes it a particularly good option for businesses who may need to process cash transactions.

Most Profitable Industries #5: Freelance B2B Services

Graphic Designer At Work

As the economy continues to bounce back from the great recession, more and more small business owners find themselves in need of assistance to run the day-to-day of their business—but with the memory of massive layoffs fresh in their minds, many seasoned entrepreneurs are hesitant to take on the overhead and responsibility of hiring full-time employees again.

For many, hiring freelance contractors is the perfect middle ground to get the work they need while avoiding additional salaries or a long-term commitment. If you have the skills small business owners could use, you’ve got a highly profitable opportunity in front of you. In fact, Entrepreneur recently listed various B2B services as 4 of its 15 most profitable industries for small businesses!

Consider whether one of these common freelance fields may be a good fit for you:

Bookkeeping and Accounting

Accounting and bookkeeping are an unavoidable reality of business ownership. But for many entrepreneurs, money management is the very worst part of owning a business. Whether you’re a licensed CPA or just a QuickBooks wizard, you might be the perfect candidate to launch your own business by keeping your fellow entrepreneurs’ personal and small business finances in order. With a net profit margin of 19.8%, bookkeeping, accounting, tax preparation, and payroll services have long been some of the most profitable businesses for entrepreneurs.

As a bookkeeper, you can 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.

Consulting

If you’ve been in the business world for a long time, folks may 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 be 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 skill set, starting your own consulting firm is a great way to make the income of your dreams while working on your own terms.

Graphic Design

As the number of brands vying for consumers’ attention grows, a slick and polished image has become more important than ever for small businesses. Regardless of whether they can afford a large-scale advertising or marketing agency, almost every small business will need some amount of graphic design work now and again.

Do you know your way around Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign? Have you taken a few design classes, and do you have an eye for good branding? Turn your skills into a business as a freelance graphic designer. You’ll have almost no overhead and can charge significant hourly rates to do what small business owners can’t do for themselves—create awesome marketing graphics!

Social Media Management

Most millennials were born and raised on social media. As customers, they expect a business to have a strong social media presence and to be responsive in social customer service.

However, while most fellow small business owners know that they need a social media presence, few have the necessary time or expertise to “do social media” well.

If you’re fluent in Twitter, live your life on Facebook, and have gotten every job you’ve ever had on LinkedIn, consider turning your social media expertise into your own solopreneur business venture, offering support to business owners who need help managing their brand’s social media platforms.

Virtual Assistant Services

When the pre-recession economy was at its peak, every entrepreneur, manager, or executive worth their salt had a personal or executive assistant. Years later, many still have the workload and full schedules that make having an assistant useful (if not necessary), but many still can’t or don’t want to pay for a full-time helping hand.

To fill the gap, virtual assistants have become the quintessential hybrid of the sharing economy and freelance B2B services. As a VA, you can choose your clients and create your own schedule managing emails, scheduling meetings, booking travel, and completing other basic tasks to make your customers’ lives run more smoothly. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection!

The B2B Business’s Startup Toolkit

Thinking about starting a B2B service? These three tools are a must-have for your new business:

Your Business Credit Card: The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express

Entrepreneurs in this industry will appreciate the variety of ways you earn rewards on Amex’s Business Gold Rewards. From purchases on airfare, gas, advertising, to shipping, you’ll earn substantial rewards for your business when you swipe this card.


Your Accounting Software: Xero’s Standard Plan

B2B entrepreneurs will love Xero’s Standard Plan for its robust, intuitive features, and its 500+ time-saving integrations.

Your Business Checking Account: Business Fundamentals from Bank of America

The Business Fundamentals is a particularly good option if you’re looking for a checking account that’ll grow with your business. As you continue to process larger and larger deposits, the Business Fundamentals will remain an affordable option.

***

While industries like healthcare technology, finance, and product manufacturing might dominate the stock market and the Fortune 500 level economythose same industries aren’t necessarily the most profitable or accessible options for small business entrepreneurs.

Take advantage of these profitable industries that are better suited to small business, and you’ll quickly reap the benefits of a successful business venture in 2018.

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

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