The 12 Best Small Businesses to Start in 2024: A Beginner‘s Guide

Starting your own small business can be an exciting and rewarding way to take control of your career and finances. But with so many possibilities out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out which type of business is right for you.

The key is to choose a business idea that aligns with your skills, interests, and lifestyle goals. As a beginner, you‘ll also want to look for opportunities with low startup costs and overhead, the ability to start small, and room to scale as you grow.

To help you get started, we‘ve compiled a list of the top 12 best small businesses to launch in 2024. These ideas are well-suited for entrepreneurs who are just starting out, with minimal upfront investment and the flexibility to run the business as a side hustle until you‘re ready to transition to full-time.

1. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a popular ecommerce model where you sell products online without holding any inventory yourself. When a customer places an order, you simply pass it along to the supplier, who handles fulfillment and shipping directly to the buyer.

Pros of starting a dropshipping business:

  • Very low startup costs
  • No need to purchase inventory upfront or worry about storing and shipping products
  • Ability to offer a wide selection of products
  • Location-independent business model

How to get started: Choose a niche that interests you and research which products are in high demand with low competition. Select a reliable supplier and create your online store using a platform like Shopify. Promote your products through social media, paid ads, and other marketing channels.

2. Print-on-Demand

Another online business model that‘s beginner-friendly is print-on-demand. With this approach, you create designs to print on products like t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and more. When a customer orders an item featuring your design, the printing and fulfillment is handled by a third-party provider.

Print-on-demand is a great business idea if you‘re an artist or graphic designer looking to monetize your creativity. It‘s also highly scalable – successful merchants can expand their product lines and create a full-fledged brand.

To start a print-on-demand business, create a collection of original designs and mockups. Choose a POD platform like Printful or Printify, connect it to your online storefront, and start marketing to your target audience. Make sure to order samples of your products to ensure quality.

3. Social Media Marketing Agency

If you have a knack for social media and staying on top of the latest trends and platforms, starting a social media marketing agency could be a great fit. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs struggle with managing their social presence consistently, and are looking to outsource this task to a professional.

As a social media marketer, your role would include developing a content strategy, creating and scheduling posts, engaging with followers, running ads, and tracking analytics to measure success over time. You can offer packages at different price points based on the number of platforms and posting frequency.

Focus on building a strong portfolio that showcases your abilities to help clients grow their following and engagement. Networking, cold outreach, and inbound marketing tactics like blogging can help you land your first few clients as you build your agency.

4. Blogging and Affiliate Marketing

If you enjoy writing and have a passion for a particular topic, blogging can be a rewarding small business with low startup costs. By providing valuable content that helps your target audience solve problems or explore their interests, you can attract a loyal following.

Once you have steady traffic, you can monetize your blog through tactics like affiliate marketing (earning a commission for promoting other people‘s products), sponsored content, digital products, and more.

To get started, choose your niche, purchase a domain name, and set up your website with a hosting provider like Bluehost or WordPress. Publish content consistently and promote your posts across social channels, online communities, and email. You can also apply to join affiliate networks that match you with relevant products to promote.

5. Virtual Assistant Services

With more entrepreneurs and businesses outsourcing administrative tasks, the demand for virtual assistants is growing rapidly. As a VA, you can offer a variety of services based on your skillset, such as:

  • Calendar management and appointment scheduling
  • Email and inbox organization
  • Travel booking and itinerary planning
  • File storage and organization
  • Basic bookkeeping and expense reporting
  • Research and data entry
  • Customer service
  • Project management

Starting a VA business has very low overhead and can easily be run from home on a part-time basis. Identify your target client, whether that‘s busy executives, entrepreneurs, or business owners in a certain industry. Create packages that outline your core services and rates.

Networking in online communities and social media groups can be a great way to connect with potential clients. You can also set up a simple website with information about your services and testimonials from satisfied clients you‘ve worked with.

6. Freelance Writing and Editing

Another service-based business that‘s in high demand is freelance writing and editing. If you have a way with words, you can make a great income producing content for blogs, websites, marketing materials, and more.

Freelance writers can charge by the word, hour, or project, and can specialize in a certain niche or type of content, such as technical writing or long-form blog content. Freelance editors are needed to proofread, fact-check, and improve content before it‘s published.

To start landing freelance gigs, create a portfolio website showcasing writing samples, or publish posts on a platform like Medium to display your skills. Identify your ideal client and niche, and start networking in relevant online groups and communities. Pitching editors and marketing managers directly can also help you secure your first assignments.

7. Online Tutoring or Course Creation

With the rise of online learning, there are more opportunities than ever to share your knowledge and expertise with students around the world. If you have teaching experience or expert-level knowledge on a topic, you could start an online tutoring business or create your own online course.

Online tutors can offer 1:1 or group sessions via video platforms like Zoom or Skype, helping students with academics, test prep, language learning, music lessons, and more. Creating an online course involves packaging your knowledge into video lessons, worksheets, quizzes, and other learning materials that students can access on-demand.

To get started, determine what subject you‘ll teach and who your target students are. For tutoring, you can find clients by promoting your services on social media, online directories, and local parenting groups. To launch an online course, you‘ll need to set up an online course platform like Teachable or Thinkific to host your content and handle payments.

8. Home-Based Food Business

For passionate home cooks, starting a food business from your own kitchen can be a rewarding way to turn your hobby into a profitable venture. Depending on your location, you may be able to prepare certain low-risk foods in your home kitchen under your state‘s cottage food laws.

Some popular food business ideas include:

  • Baked goods like cookies, cakes, and bread
  • Candy and chocolates
  • Jams and preserves
  • Dry mixes for soups, cookies, dips, etc.
  • Homemade pet treats
  • Specialty diet foods (gluten-free, vegan, keto, etc.)

Before getting started, research your state‘s laws around cottage food businesses and obtain the necessary licenses and permits. Perfect your recipes and packaging, and start selling online, at farmers‘ markets, or through local retailers and cafes. Building a strong social media presence can help you market your creations and connect with customers.

9. Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

If you‘re an animal lover, starting a pet sitting or dog walking business can be a fun and flexible way to earn money on your own schedule. Many pet owners are looking for trustworthy professionals to care for their furry friends while they‘re at work or out of town.

Pet sitters typically visit the owner‘s home to feed, play with, and care for their pets, while dog walkers pick up dogs for walks around the neighborhood. You can offer one-time services or ongoing weekly visits, and set your own hours and rates.

To start your business, decide which services you‘ll offer and in what area. Create a basic website with information about your experience, rates, and availability. You can find clients by partnering with local pet stores, groomers, and veterinarians, as well as promoting your services on neighborhood social media groups and directories.

10. Lawn Care and Landscaping

For those who enjoy working outdoors, starting a lawn care and landscaping business can be a profitable venture with low startup costs. Many homeowners and businesses outsource tasks like lawn mowing, edging, planting, and yard cleanup to professionals.

To get started, invest in basic equipment like a lawnmower, edger, trimmer, and leaf blower. Decide which services you‘ll offer and at what price. Start marketing to homeowners and property managers in your target area with flyers, door hangers, and postcards. Partnering with local suppliers and contractors can also help you expand your network and service offerings.

As your business grows, you can add new services like hardscaping, irrigation, and snow removal to keep revenue coming in year-round. Building a strong reputation for reliability, quality, and customer service will help you earn repeat clients and referrals.

11. Mobile Car Washing and Detailing

Another service-based business with low overhead is mobile car washing and detailing. With this model, you bring the cleaning supplies and equipment directly to your customer‘s location to wash and detail their vehicle.

Offering a mobile service is convenient for busy professionals who don‘t have time to bring their car in for cleaning. You can provide basic wash packages or more comprehensive detailing services like waxing, polishing, and interior cleaning.

To start your mobile car washing business, invest in quality supplies and equipment, and establish your service packages and pricing. Promote your business through flyers, online ads, and partnerships with local car dealerships, office parks, and apartment complexes. You can also offer discounts for customers who book recurring weekly or monthly appointments.

12. Handmade Crafts Sold Online

If you‘re a creative individual with a talent for making handmade goods, starting an online craft business could be a fulfilling way to earn income from your hobby. From jewelry and clothing to home decor and bath products, there‘s a wide range of items you can create and sell online.

The key to success with a handmade business is to choose a niche that aligns with your skills and interests, and to create products that stand out in terms of quality, design, and branding. Research your target market and potential competitors to identify opportunities to differentiate your offerings.

To get started, choose an online platform like Etsy or Shopify to set up your store, and invest in quality product photos and descriptions. Market your products through social media, paid ads, and outreach to relevant influencers and bloggers. As you grow your sales and customer base, consider expanding into wholesale or custom orders.

Tips for Starting a Successful Small Business

No matter which business idea you choose to pursue, there are certain steps you can take to set yourself up for success as a new entrepreneur:

  1. Identify your target market and unique value proposition. Who are you trying to reach, and what makes your offering different from competitors?

  2. Develop a basic business plan outlining your goals, strategies, and financial projections. This will help you stay focused and make informed decisions.

  3. Keep startup costs low by bootstrapping and outsourcing where possible. Look for free or low-cost tools and resources to help you get started.

  4. Focus on providing exceptional customer service to build loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Go above and beyond to exceed your customers‘ expectations.

  5. Continually educate yourself and seek out mentorship opportunities. Read books and blogs, attend workshops and webinars, and connect with other entrepreneurs in your field.

  6. Be willing to adapt and pivot as needed. The business world is constantly changing, so stay open to new ideas and approaches.

Starting a small business takes hard work and dedication, but it can also be incredibly rewarding to build something of your own. By choosing an idea that plays to your strengths and interests, and taking consistent action towards your goals, you can create a successful venture that provides both personal and financial fulfillment.

Remember, every successful business starts with a single step. Don‘t be afraid to start small and grow at your own pace. With persistence, creativity, and a commitment to serving your customers, you can turn your entrepreneurial dreams into reality.