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Low-cost business ideas for entrepreneurs

home-based businesses run the gamut from real estate to blogging

Martin Desmarais
Low-cost business ideas for entrepreneurs
An information products provider might create courses, ebooks and videos that can be purchased and downloaded on a topic of expertise. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Amazon)

While the word “startup” has come to be associated most often with technology fields and locations like Silicon Valley or major-city business hubs, the reality is most startups begin with a single entrepreneur working out of the home — and there are many low-cost business ideas out there that could put almost anyone on the road to profits and success.

Author: Photo: Courtesy of EasyLunchboxesEasyLunchboxes is a home-based business that started as a way to pack lunches easier for one family, but grew into a million-dollar business.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, there are 23 million businesses run by solo entrepreneurs in this country. Of these businesses, 30,000 generate over $1 million a year; 200,000 have revenue of more than $500,000; and 400,000 rake in at least $250,000 annually. While this is the high end of the spectrum, these numbers show that home-based businesses can do very well. All told, these solo enterprises are generating over $1 trillion a year.

William Bostic Jr, the Census Bureau’s associate director for economic programs, explains that such businesses run the gamut from real estate agents to physicians to bloggers, and that some of them represent primary sources of income, such as construction, while others are side jobs such as babysitting or tutoring.

In recent years, the highest growth for solo entrepreneur businesses has come in real estate, transportation and warehousing. Home businesses in real estate generate about $240 billion in income per year. However, some of the other top home-based startups include machinery repairing; promoting or administering religious activities; grantmaking; advocacy; and providing services such as personal care, death care, photofinishing, temporary parking and dating.

Author: Photo: Courtesy of Green WorksA Green Cleaning Service focuses on using only eco-friendly products such as those from Green Works.

Like any business, a successful home-based business still requires a strong business plan, smart leadership and marketable products or services, but there are some other unique aspects of running a home-based business that are critical.

Once you move past well-established sectors like real estate and construction, the real strength in starting a home-based business is focusing on creating a product that solves problems with which the entrepreneur has experience. An example of this is EasyLunchboxes, a million-dollar company started by a mother trying to find an easier way to pack lunches for her kids.

It is also crucial to have expertise in a niche market and to set up an online store for products and services. Over the last decade, for example, designers such as Melissa Schmechel, owner of Darling Design, got out on the forefront of the convergence of technology and consumer demand to provide services traditionally offered through big advertising agencies, but just as easily accessible through the web. By offering professional-quality services at a lower cost, many of these types of businesses have become very successful.

For your consideration …

Here are some of top home-based business ideas to consider:


Consultants guide companies seeking help in anything from finance to marketing to human resources to legal advice. Many entrepreneurs are able to turn experience at a full-time job into a side consulting business that can grow into a sole source of income over time.

Green Cleaning Service

Plenty of cleaning services exist now, but as the demand rises for environmentally-friendly cleaning using “green-approved” products, many traditional services are not willing to adapt. Starting from scratch with green-only products opens the door to a growing market.

Senior Home Companion With 77 million baby boomers entering their senior years, the demand for senior care services is booming, too. With many aging adults wanting to avoid nursing homes, there is plenty of work for someone to help them with travel, companionship and daily life needs.

Virtual AssistantWith everything in the business world increasingly computerized, there is a growing trend of virtual assistants that are home-based and can handle it all with a computer and a phone. This saves businesses costs on office space and in-house employees and allows for assistants to be paid only when needed. On the virtual assistant end, it allows for multiple clients, all handled from home.

Information Products Provider

Put a specialization or area of business expertise to work by creating courses, e-books and videos for online purchase and download. While marketing this business to the right audience is a crucial factor in success, there is an almost limitless demand for information; if you have the knowledge to provide, it people will pay for it.

Simple, Low-Cost Business Ideas


Arts & crafts

Creativity consultant

Interior designer



Product Sales

Cart or kiosk

Direct sales

Gift baskets

Swap meet sales

Personal Services

Child care

Financial advisor


Personal concierge

Personal shopper

Tutoring service

Wedding consultant

Business-to- Business


Business support

Desktop publishing

Manufacturer’s rep

Medical claims specialist

Security specialist

Seminar production