40 Incredibly Cheap Businesses to Start for Less Than $100

Starting a business is the dream of many, but high startup costs can be prohibitive. With limited funds, running your own venture may seem impossible—but it doesn‘t have to be! With the right business model, small investment, and entrepreneurial spirit, you can launch a profitable business for under $100.

As a small business consultant assisting aspiring founders, I‘ve seen incredibly creative and cost-effective business ideas come to life. Here are 40 of the best cheap businesses you can start on a shoestring budget.

1. Resume and Cover Letter Writing Service

With top-notch writing skills and some free editing software, this service can get off the ground for under $50. Help job seekers put their best foot forward with professional resumes and cover letters tailored to their unique career histories. Expected earnings of $250-500 per client make this a lucrative bootstrapped business.

2. Virtual Assistant/Admin Services

Leverage organizational skills to offer virtual assistant services like appointment setting, email management, data entry, calendar maintenance, etc. With minimal investment in a laptop, phone, and marketing materials you can get started. Hourly rates of $15-50 quickly add up. Expand your suite of offerings as you build experience.

3. Affiliate Marketing

Earn commissions promoting products or services on your website or social platforms. No inventory needed! Research high traffic affiliate programs related to your niche and create reviews driving readers to affiliate links. With the potential for passive income, affiliate marketing is a great low-cost business.

4. Freelance Graphic Design

Tap into your creative skills to design brochures, ads, logos, graphics for social media, and more for clients. Invest minimally in graphic design software like Canva or GIMP. Offer discounted intro packages to build your portfolio and get testimonials. Expected hourly earnings of $15-50.

5. Phone/Tech Support

Leverage your technical skills to offer remote tech support to residential clients and small businesses. With just a computer, internet access, and some marketing materials you can get started for under $100. Offer flat monthly fees for continued support or one-time help at $40-60 per hour.

6. Data Entry Services

Help businesses organize volumes of data into digital formats by offering data entry or data processing services. Outside of basic computer equipment and data entry skills, minimal investment needed. Provide services like ecommerce product uploads, survey response entry, business card digitization, and more.

7. Language or Skill Tutoring

If you‘re bilingual or have teaching experience, offer tutoring services in academic subjects, music, arts, language, etc. Market your services through local schools, community boards. Leverage platforms like Wyzant for online tutoring. Charging $20-50/hour is common.

8. Freelance Writing

Freelance writing leverages writing skills with minimal upfront investment. Research trending topics on blogs, pitch articles to online publications. Expand into ghostwriting, copywriting, scripts, newsletter creation. Typical freelance writing rates range $0.10-$1 per word. Steady work can quickly add up.

9. Handmade Crafts

Offer specialized crafts and handmade products like jewelry, candles, quilts, soap, artwork. Sell on consignment at local boutiques or fairs and online marketplaces like Etsy. Bulk supplies like soap bases or candle wicks cost around $50-100 to get started. Price products at 2-5x material costs.

10. Pet Care Services

For animal lovers, pet sitting, dog walking, or pet taxi services can be fun, flexible businesses with minimal startup costs. Market yourself in your neighborhood with flyers, social media, and via vet offices. Startup costs around $50-100 can include leashes, waste bags, treats, business cards, etc. Typical pet sitting rates are $15-25 per 30-minute visit.

11. Proofreading & Editing

Leverage English proficiency and an eye for detail to provide editing or proofreading services for books, articles, websites, student papers and more. This can be done remotely with minimal costs. Find clients through Craigslist, social media and freelance sites. Hourly rates typically range from $20-50/hour.

12. Travel Planning Service

For the travel obsessed, offer travel itinerary planning and custom recommendations for client trips. Startup costs are ~$50 for marketing materials and website hosting. Earn $250-500 per travel plan by tapping this $17 billion industry.

13. Garment Mending & Alterations

Offer sewing, mending, and tailoring services. Startup costs around $50-75 include sewing machine, materials, and marketing flyers. Reach clients through social media, posters at laundromats, fashion/theater groups. Typical costs are $10-20 per mend, $15-30+ for alterations.

14. Carpet & Flooring Cleaning

Startup costs for basic equipment like carpet shampooers are around $70-100. Market services through Craigslist, local ads. Charge per room or per square foot; typical rates range $30-60 per room. Expand into air duct cleaning services.

15. Gift Basket Service

Source wholesale deals on basket materials, ribbon, packaging to keep startup costs around $50-75. Design themed baskets for any occasion. Sell on consignment at local shops; offer promoters commission-based referrals. Price at 2-3x your materials cost.

16. Errand Running Service

For busy professionals or the elderly, offer errand running, grocery delivery, prescription pick-ups and other tasks. Startup costs of ~$50 include basic marketing materials. Charge hourly, per task, or package rates. Expand into a full concierge service over time.

17. Window or Gutter Cleaning

Startup costs of ~$70 include basic equipment like ladders, squeegees, protective gear. Reach clients through local ads, hardware stores. Typical fees range $100-250 per home depending on size. Offer discounts for multiple cleanings.

18. Moving Assistance Service

Offer packing, moving help, and unpacking services. Startup costs for boxes, packing materials, dolly, straps will be ~$75-100. Market to locals through Craigslist, property managers. Hourly fees range $35-75 per mover.

19. House Cleaning Service

Most equipment like brooms, mops, and cleaning products will be provided by clients. Startup costs ~$50-75 include marketing materials, uniforms, transportation. Typically charge $25-50 per hour. Offer discounts for regular service.

20. Landscaping & Lawn Care

With equipment like mowers, rakes, and shears, startup costs can be as little as $50-75. Reach clients through local ads, hardware stores, signs on lawns. Average lawn mowing rates range $25-50 per lawn; add gardening, fertilization as premium services.

21. Private Chef or Meal Prep

Offer in-home dining experiences and meal prep for busy clients. Startup costs ~$50-100 include food samples, cookware, marketing materials. Charge per meal or weekly packages. Expand into cooking classes for added revenue. Earnings potential of $200-500 per client.

22. Corporate Branding Services

Help small businesses strengthen their brand identity through services like logo design, branded templates, business cards, style guides. Startup costs around $50-100 include design software and marketing materials. Price services in the $250+ range.

23. Printables & Template Design

Create templates for planners, art prints, calendars, resumes, budgets and niche printables. Upload to sites like Etsy to sell. Costs to make professionally designed templates range $5-20. Price template packs at $15+ to drive healthy margins.

24. Event Planning Service

Offer budget event planning and coordination for private parties, corporate events, weddings, fundraisers. Startup costs ~$50 include marketing materials, insurance, and sample looks. Charge hourly or percentage of total event costs. Established planners earn $50-100+/hour.

25. eBay Selling

eBay dropshipping allows you to list items on eBay that you don‘t actually own. When they sell, purchase the items from a wholesaler and have it shipped to the buyer. Outside of eBay fees, startup costs are less than $25 for a printer and other basic supplies. You profit on the difference between your selling price and wholesale cost. Scale up with automation tools.

26.Voiceover Services

Record custom voiceover audio for commercials, videos, phone systems. Startup costs are ~$50 for a quality microphone, audio editing software, and marketing materials. Create a portfolio of sample recordings to promote your services. Typical costs range $50-150 per 30 seconds of audio recorded.

27. Podcast Production

Produce, edit and publish custom branded podcasts for clients. Get started for ~$100 with editing software, microphone, and marketing materials. Offer packages with one-time setup and recurring production fees starting at $500 per month. Expand into full podcast management services.

28. Custom Branded Merch

Offer custom branded apparel, accessories, swag boxes, and more for small businesses and creators. Use print-on-demand services like Printful to produce products with no inventory. Startup costs around $25 include sample materials and marketing. Mark up products 2-3x to drive profits.

29. Tech Support for Seniors

Offer remote and/or in-home tech support for aging adults. Help with any technology needs – internet setup, smartphone assistance, computer fixes, and device training. Startup costs ~$50 include marketing flyers and tech diagnostic tools. Charge hourly or package rates of $100+.

30. Resume Optimization

Many professionals have basic resumes that fail to showcase their best attributes. Offer resume optimization packages, with A/B testing and personal branding guidance. Startup costs around $100 include templates, software, marketing materials. Service fees of $250-500 per project.

31. Social Media Management

Manage social media accounts for small brands – posting content, monitoring engagement, running ads. Startup costs ~$25 cover social media scheduling tools. Monthly service fees ranging $250-2,000 based on workload.

32. Ebook Formatting & Publishing

Offer affordable ebook formatting and publishing packages for self-published authors. Basic start up costs include editing software, marketing materials. Format short ebooks for $50-150; expanded packages $200+.

33. Transcription Services

Convert audio or video files to text documents with transcription services. All you need is a computer, transcription software (~$50) and excellent listening skills. Charge per audio hour ranging from $1/minute for general transcription to $3/minute for specialized medical/legal needs.

34. Resume Writer

Write or revamp resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles for clients seeking jobs. Startup costs of ~$100 cover website, marketing materials, resume templates and software. Packages starting at $150-300 per document provide great value.

35. Video Editing

Offer video editing services from basic cuts to full productions. Invest ~$100 in editing software and gear. Market to YouTubers, social media influencers, and small brands. Charge hourly $25-100 based on complexity and experience.

36. Wedding Officiant

Become certified as a wedding officiant to perform ceremonies. Startup costs are under $100 for processing fees. Earn $200-500 per ceremony by promoting to event planners and couples seeking budget ceremonies.

37. Photo Editing

Edit photos for individuals and small businesses using affordable photo editing apps and software. Startup costs are ~$25. Offer basic edits starting at $5 per image or package deals. Upsell additional services like retouching, collages, album design.

38. Business Matchmaking

Connect small businesses with aligned opportunities, like retail partnerships, media publicity, vendor contracting, etc. Leverage your network and research skills. Startup costs ~$50 includes basic website and marketing. Transactional fees of $250-500+.

39. Keyword Research

Offer keyword research and SEO optimization recommendations to improve website visibility. Startup costs around $50 include research software and marketing materials. Service packages starting at $150 per report.

40. Tech Tutorials

Create simple digital or printed tutorials for clients on topics like getting started with a website, using Zoom, podcasting basics, etc. Easy to start with just $0-50 for software and hosting. Offer sets of tutorials around $50-150.

  • With creativity and commitment, launching a profitable business for under $100 is entirely doable.
  • Focus on businesses that provide high-value services but require minimal equipment and upfront costs.
  • Leverage skills and experience you already have so you can hit the ground running.
  • Digital businesses and those with passive income potential excel on a tight budget.
  • Offer discounted packages initially to build your portfolio and get client testimonials.
  • Expand your offerings and raise rates once established to boost profitability.

Starting a business on a budget takes grit and smarts. But with ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit, you can absolutely get your dream venture off the ground without breaking the bank. What will you start today?