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They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder—and, as it turns out, the same can be said for the best small business ideas.
There are tons of small business ideas, and what defines a “best” small business idea largely depends on an aspiring entrepreneur’s personality and skillset (and its potential to earn you money, of course). So, when you’re considering the best ideas for your future small business, you’ll need to answer a few clarifying questions, including:
Your answers to these questions should point you in the direction of a certain industry. But if you’re not quite ready to dive into self-reflection—or if you’re curious about expanding your horizons—take a look at this list of 2018’s 40 best small business ideas.
These 40 small business ideas suit soon-to-be entrepreneurs in a range of industries, and with a variety of interests, but there’s a need in the modern market for all of these services. So, if you’re qualified to start a small business in any of the following fields, you just might find some serious success by striking out on your own.
One of the most lucrative customer bases for small businesses are, in fact, other businesses. If you ever worked for a large company, you likely know that those businesses often require outside services. So, instead of continuing to work as an employee, use your skillset to strike out on your own and start your own B2B business.
Are you a licensed CPA or a business accounting software wizard? Your less math-friendly entrepreneurs could use your help in keeping their personal and business finances in order.
As a bookkeeper, you’ll 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.
If you have the skills to make your own accounting or bookkeeping service happen, then this is the best, and most lucrative, small business idea for you.
If you’ve been in the business world for a long time, folks might 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 get 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 field of expertise, starting your own consulting firm is a great way to make a sizable income while working on your own terms.
Most business owners have some idea of how they want to market their companies. Executing that plan, on the other hand, can be a whole other ballgame—especially for new business owners with little, or zero, marketing experience.
As an independent marketing professional, you can work with small businesses who don’t have the in-house bandwidth to execute their marketing plans. Write their blogs, firm up their SEO strategy, generate ad campaigns, deploy inbound marketing tactics, and do whatever it takes to get their name in (proverbial) lights.
Social media is a specific marketing specialty that most business owners know they need, but few are capable of doing well. If you’re glued to your phone, Instagram all your meals, and carry out most of your conversations in 280 characters or fewer, consider cultivating a client base of business owners who need help managing their brand’s social media platforms.
Every business needs at least a basic website to succeed, but many business owners don’t know how to set one up for themselves. So, if you’re an IT and design wizard, you’ll have endless opportunities to custom-build websites. Use a platform like Upwork or Envato to gain your first clients, then use your portfolio and word-of-mouth recommendations to grow your client base (and eventually boost your prices).
If you’re the serial business owner type—and have successfully launched and run a few businesses now—you’ve probably crafted a couple business plans in your time. Writing a business plan is a crucial start to any business, but it’s a process that not all entrepreneurs have down.
One of the best small business ideas for seasoned business owners ready for their next venture is a business planning service. If you know how to see the whole process of writing a business plan through—including business funding plans, market analysis, competitor research, and so on—clients will be lining up for your services.
Often, the best small business ideas are borne of an entrepreneur’s greatest passion. So, those with a creative edge might have an easy time coming up with business ideas—but some may be more financially viable than others. These in-demand small business opportunities definitely suit artistic types, but there’s also opportunity to make some good money.
Professional photographers are highly demanded for weddings, corporate events, family portraits, and more. And because you can build this business out of your home (with the right tools, of course), a freelance photography business has relatively low startup costs. Plus, you’re in charge of your client load and schedule, so professional photography is a great way to build a side hustle while working full-time elsewhere.
More and more individuals and companies are hiring freelance event planners to manage the design, logistics, and coordination of pulling off major events. If you love every little detail of coordinating your kid’s birthday or your dad’s retirement party, start offering your Type-A services to partiers in your community or within your personal network. You just need to pull off one great party, to start, and your event-planning business will take off with all those word-of-mouth recommendations.
Take a look at your local market: If there’s a demand for weddings, birthdays, corporate events, and fundraisers, but few venues to host those events, seize the opportunity and start an event space yourself. You could offer planning services along with the venue, or partner up with another local event-planning business to become the ultimate party-planning team.
Rather than redecorating your living room for the fourteenth time, apply your love of design to an interior decorating business. To star out, leverage your personal network to offer help decorating residential and commercial spaces. You can charge an hourly fee to clients for your work, partner with your favorite furniture stores or manufacturers to work on commission, or a combination of the two.
Do you love working with your hands to build beautiful, custom furniture? Take a page from Harp Design Co. in Waco, Texas (of Fixer Upper fame), and start your own custom woodworking business. You might start working weekends out of your garage, but as business takes off, you’ll be well on your way to your own shop and a brand new, full-time career doing what you love.
If the kitchen is your favorite place to be (by which we mean cooking in the kitchen, not just eating there!), consider one of these food-related small business ideas for your next entrepreneurial venture.
Do you live in an interesting tourist destination? Does your home have a guest house, mother-in-law suite, or even just a spare bedroom? Do you love to cook and entertain guests? If so, you might be the perfect candidate for turning your home into your own B&B. Sites like VRBO and AirBnB have made it easier than ever to market your home to travelers in need, and you may even make new friends along the way.
If you’re a professional chef but tired of the restaurant grind, starting a catering service is a great opportunity to strike out into the world of self-employment. You’ll need access to a commercial kitchen, a part-time staff of servers, and a couple of assistant cooks to start. But, compared to opening your own restaurant, the overhead costs of starting and running a catering company are much more manageable.
Similarly, if you’re a professional (or semi-professional, or aspiringly professional) baker or cake designer, consider starting your own custom-design bakery. Unlike caterers, bakers are often allowed to work out of a non-commercial home kitchen as long as they meet health department requirements. Check your state and local regulations to confirm exactly what you’ll need to get your bespoke bakery started.
Food trucks are hugely popular, often offering unique, specialty foods that often wouldn’t sell as easily in brick-and-mortar restaurants. Take your mom’s famous dumpling recipe or your off-the-wall dessert idea and hit the road to local events, farmer’s markets, your local town square, large corporate complexes at the lunchtime rush—wherever you’re likely to draw a crowd. Keep in mind that food trucks usually have to meet a special set of ordinances and safety compliance standards, so contact your local health department to determine what your mobile restaurant will require.
If you’re truly culinarily (and entrepreneurially) ambitious, your ultimate dream might be to open your own deli, diner, cafe, or full-service restaurant. While opening a restaurant is one of the most challenging, risky, and expensive business ideas on our list, the reward can be great for those willing to put in the work. If you’d like a safer bet than starting your own restaurant from scratch, consider opening a franchise of an established restaurant chain, and reap the benefits of an already-popular brand.
Craft breweries, aka microbreweries are booming in the United States—in fact, 98% of this country’s operating breweries are independently owned. So, if you’ve been tinkering with beer-brewing in your garage, calling it official and opening up a microbrewery can be a great way to monetize your hobby.
For some people, the prospect of spending their lives in a cubicle or behind a desk is a recipe for disaster—or at least serious ennui. If you’re happiest when you’re active, ideally with the sun on your face, check out these small business ideas that allow you to spend most of your days outside.
If you have a green thumb, an eye for design, and a love for the sweet sound of lawnmowers (to each their own), consider starting up your own landscape service. You’ll mow lawns, planting flowers, and even designing elaborate landscape plans for homes and office complexes. If you’re uncertain about the administrative side of the landscape business, check out software options like Arborgold to help you out with the back-end management so that you can focus on your happy customers.
If you have experience as a lifeguard, or you’re CPR-certified, consider launching a private lifeguarding business to service pool parties and other aquatic events. This business would pair well with a private swimming lessons service for children.
Obviously, this business is best suited for climates that stay warm year-round. But you can swing private lifeguarding as a seasonal business if you live in a cold climate, as long as you’re supplementing this service with another stream of income—just take your pick from any of the other 40 small business ideas on this list.
Here’s your fun fact for the day: The average American will move 11.7 times in his or her lifetime. That accounts for a lot of boxes, sofas, refrigerators, and dining room tables that need to be hauled from place and place every single day. If you hate spending time behind a desk and don’t mind lifting heavy stuff—or hiring, managing, and coordinating a team of super-strong friends to help you do that heavy lifting—consider starting your own moving company.
Animal enthusiasts can probably think of nothing better than hanging out with pets all day. It might take some time to build up the funding to open up your own pet-grooming facility. So, keep overhead low in the beginning by offering a mobile service, and bring your grooming skills and tools directly to your clients’ homes. You can also offer dog-walking services to supplement your grooming business.
If you live near a tourist attraction or in a highly trafficked town, you could start your own walking tour or speciality guide service. This is the perfect small business idea for those who love to hike, bike, walk, explore the outdoors, and who are deeply knowledgeable about their local areas.
You’ve probably noticed an exponential increase in the number of green juices, kale smoothies, and gluten-free everything on cafe and restaurant menus around your town. That’s because the health, wellness, and personal care spaces are rapidly gaining in popularity, and money: As of 2016, the wellness industry was worth $3.72 trillion and grew by 10.6% from 2013 to 2015, with no signs of slowing down.
So, if you’re passionate about helping people feel and look their best, now’s the time to start your own small business—whether you heal with your hands or a mascara wand.
Doulas guide expectant mothers through all the non-medical aspects of the labor and delivery process, operating either in a home setting, at a hospital, or both. And because doulas primarily travel to their clients to perform their work, you won’t need to splurge on office space. Of course, you’ll need to go through training and earn certification to work as a professional doula. But if you’re passionate about women’s health and wellness, inspired by the prospect of bringing new life into the world, and don’t want to work a regular 9-5, that training will be worth it.
There are so many healing modalities in the world, but massage therapy is one of the most tried-and-true (and enjoyable) practices out there. As an occupation, massage therapy is in high demand: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 26% growth in massage therapy jobs between 2016 and 2026, a much higher rate than average.
You’ll need special training and licensing to legally operate as a massage therapist, so check your state requirements to make sure you’re operating within local laws. But once you’ve jumped through the licensing hoops, you’ll be free to open an in-home studio, travel to your clients (check out Zeel to start, an on-demand massage therapy service), or eventually open your own facility.
If you’re a proudly gluten-free, vegan, whole foods health junkie, and you love sharing your clean-eating habits with others, consider starting your own business as a nutritionist and getting paid to help others achieve their health goals. But before you start prescribing those spinach-and-chia smoothies, do your research about licensing requirements. As is the case with every personal-care occupation on this list, you’ll need training as a registered dietician to operate your practice.
If you’re the first one in the gym every morning, or dream of taking over from your yoga instructor, the next step might be to take that physical energy and put it toward becoming a licensed trainer. As a licensed personal trainer, you can offer private training sessions in your own home or in clients’ homes, lead group sessions in local parks, become a certified instructor for a whole host of workouts (Zumba, anyone?), and, eventually, even open your own gym or studio.
Whether you’ve graduated from cosmetology school, developed a following for your makeup tutorials on YouTube, or you’re your friends’ go-to for hair and makeup recommendations, becoming a freelance hair or makeup artist is a logical next step. Before you set up a brick-and-mortar salon, or carve out a space in your own home, get started by signing up as a professional stylist for an on-demand beauty app, so you and your tools will travel right to your clients’ homes. Working on the weekends or evenings is the perfect way to slowly transition out of a 9-5 job and build up a loyal client base.
Here are some great small business ideas for entrepreneurs who love teaching, guidance, or taking care of toddlers or the elderly, but who don’t want to work in schools/daycare/nursing homes anymore (or at all).
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, only 28% of public schools employ at least one college counselor. And yet, the process of studying for entrance exams, completing college applications, and navigating the financial process is complex. If you’re organized, knowledgeable about the higher education process, and enjoy working with adolescents and their parents, consider starting a side business as an independent college application consultant to help more smart, ambitious, and qualified kids get into the schools of their dreams.
Opening up a daycare facility can be a great option for parents who want to work from home, or simply for people who love working with toddlers. The process to becoming a licensed child care provider is relatively simple, but be aware that requirements vary by state. Cities, towns, and municipalities occasionally have their own regulations, too.
As the baby boomer population ages, more and more senior citizens are in need of at-home care. These needs range from medically-specific requirements to simple companionship or help with cooking, tidying up, or transportation to and from appointments. This is a great option for anyone with nursing experience who would like to move into working for themselves.
Almost every kid needs access to tutoring at some point in their academic careers. And not only is tutoring a highly demanded occupation, but on average you can earn up to $40 an hour as a private tutor. So, if you’re fluent in a foreign language, or you excel in math, science, or writing, set yourself up as a freelance tutor for students of all ages in your local community.
Better yet, grab your equally qualified, eager-to-teach friends and establish a full-service tutoring business. By offering a variety of subject areas to parents in your neighborhood, you’ll quickly build a client base eager to pay you for your help in achieving the best possible academic results.
No matter how much of the world has gone digital, people still wear clothes, drive cars, and live in houses—and all of those physical comforts will inevitably fall apart, break down, or get a little messy from time to time. That’s why repair-service jobs will always be in demand, and these businesses have the potential to become quite lucrative. So, if you love working with your hands, and don’t mind getting them dirty, these small business ideas for repair services might be right up your alley.
Even with millions of shopping and fit options, it’s rare that 100% of a person’s wardrobe will fit perfectly 100% of the time. If you’re a fit and alteration expert, consider building your own, in-home alterations service. Better yet, supplement your basic alterations service by launching a custom clothing company. By designing and manufacturing bespoke suits, or repairing well-worn favorites, you can develop a client base by helping out those of us who just barely passed home ec in high school.
From oil changes and engine repairs, to tire services and body work, to interior and exterior deep-cleans, automotive repair businesses run the gamut of all things car-care. Alternatively, car repair businesses can focus on an automotive specialty, such as foreign cars, antique cars, or specific brands. Whatever niche you choose for your car repair business, watch out for state licensing or insurance requirements to make sure your venture complies with local laws.
As a handyman, you have a couple of options: You can either complete odd repair jobs, or you can specialize in certain repairs, such as plumbing, electrical, locksmith, home security installment, or HVAC work. It all depends on your skillset, and on whether you have, or are willing to earn, special licensing (your state might require a contractor’s license to do certain repair work). But, once you’ve established a client base, you can hire a team of handymen with complementary skills to your own.
As the economy bounces back, more Americans have a little extra disposable income—and since we’re all busier than ever, the market is ripe with opportunity for professional house cleaners. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can keep your business small and strike out on your own. Or, if you have dreams of a larger enterprise, hire a few employees or contractors and you can manage several cleaning teams. Overhead might include equipment, marketing costs, and wages for personnel, but otherwise a cleaning service is a relatively low-cost enterprise to start up.
Whether you’re a student, a working mother, or you’re simply tired of the 9-to-5, in-office grind, you might be ready to strike out on your own—and right onto your couch—with these work from home small business ideas. (By the way, many of the small business ideas on this list are conducive to working at home, particularly those in the B2B service industry.)
If you’re the most organized person your know, your best small business idea from home just might be a freelance virtual assistant service: You might be surprised by how many companies are increasingly outsourcing administrative tasks to remote workers. As a virtual assistant, you can choose your clients, then manage their emails, schedule meetings, book travel, and complete other essential tasks to make your clients’ lives and businesses run more smoothly—all from the comfort of your own home. To become an admin yourself, all you need is a laptop, an internet connection, and a true passion for daily planners.
Need to support yourself while you chip away at your magnum opus? Then starting a copywriting or content creation service could be one of the best work from home small business idea for you.
You might have heard it before—”content is king.” And with more businesses trying to produce high-quality written resources—like blog posts, ebooks, white papers, and newsletters—there’s tons of room in the freelance market for a wordsmith like you.
Chances are, if you’re a musician—either professionally, semi-professionally, or professionally only in your daydreams—you already have the skills, and tools, needed to become a freelance music teacher. Make those daydreams a reality by offering music lessons out of your own home. Reach out to your local schools and newspaper and ask whether you can offer flyers, or ad space, to begin building up your client base.
For a certain kind of person (i.e., the hermetic kind), blogging is a true dream job: You get to write about your passions, test out new products/recipes/lifehacks (or whatever your specialty is), and earn money through advertising or by earning sponsorships from companies in exchange for reviews—all without ever needing to get out of bed. It takes some time, dedication, and hard work to build up your readership enough to make blogging your full-time job. But, if you stick with it, you just might join the ranks of the world’s top-earning bloggers.
Thanks to online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy, and apps like Depop, it’s easier than ever to sell your items online. If you open up an ecommerce store, you won’t need to handle the logistical and financial stress of leasing a space, finding small business financing, and hiring labor that you would if you were to open up a brick-and-mortar store. Plus, unlike a physical retail location, ecommerce stores are open 24/7, so you’ll supercharge your earning capacity—making this one of the most potentially lucrative small business ideas from home on this list.
These days, more and more people are shifting out of traditional, 9-to-5 jobs and striking out on their own. In fact, according to the 2017 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, about 540,000 people switch into self-employment every month. So if you’ve caught the entrepreneurial bug, you’re certainly not alone.
While we rounded out this list of the best small business ideas at 40, the options for starting a small business are pretty much endless—you’re limited only by your skills, interests, and imagination. So decide what you’re good at, what you love to do, and turn that into your new career.