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1. 17 low-cost business ideas with high profit potential

17 low-cost business ideas with high profit potential in 2024

Updated Jan 22 2024

As more Americans leave the corporate world and start their businesses, you may wonder if this career pivot suits you. Whether you have a good business idea or want more freedom in your daily life, finding a low-cost business idea with the potential to earn massive profits is highly appealing to most people.

So, what's stopping you?

Aspiring entrepreneurs often hesitate to jump into more lucrative businesses because they need the capital to invest in startup costs. From small business loans to renting out a workspace, many costs send us running for the hills when running a business.

Fortunately, many low-cost, high-profit new business ideas don't need significant upfront investments. Regardless of your skills and background, this list includes the best small business ideas that are low-cost and high-profit. You'll need a solid business plan and a positive attitude, but building a successful business is at your fingertips. Let's get into it!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Low-cost business ideas allow individuals to quickly launch a company, start earning money, and expand to other revenue streams to increase profits.

  • Familiarize yourself with guidelines and considerations for exploring low-cost, high-profit business ventures.

  • From online courses to digital products and various marketing offerings, many profitable business ideas exist online that you can run from anywhere in the world.

  • For the best profitable business ideas with low upfront investments, consider starting a dropshipping business, a handyman business, or a newsletter business.

  • Unique small business ideas include starting a charitable business, investing in vending machines, and becoming a virtual event planner. These business ideas are largely untapped and offer ample opportunities to make money.

  • Print on demand and selling digital art are the most successful low-cost, high-profit online business ideas for people from any background or skill set.

17 low-cost business ideas with high profit potential

Keep reading if you're seeking profitable new business ideas that won't break the bank from the start. This list contains eight of the best low-cost business ideas that will yield profits and continue to grow and scale as you see fit.

Easy-to-start small businesses

Set off on your small business journey effortlessly by creating custom products such as t-shirts and offering specialized services. Put your skills to work and utilize turnkey solutions for a quick launch. Explore these easy-to-implement small business ideas and start laying the groundwork for your big venture.

1. Creating a print on demand business

2Creating a print on demand business

Print on demand is a brilliant low-cost new business model since it requires minimal initial investment and virtually no inventory management or storage.

You can sell your products on existing marketplaces, like Etsy, or build your website; it's entirely up to you. As you scale your business, sales will increase on the products you're already selling, generating more and more revenue.

When launching a print on demand business, your first order of business should be finding a reliable, sustainable print on demand supplier to partner with. With a partner like Gelato, ecommerce businesses can sell and print products in the destination country, saving time on production and shipping to reach their customer base faster.

Gelato carries a wide assortment of print on demand products, including wall art, t-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, phone cases, and more. Print on demand is easily the most lucrative business idea on this list, and we recommend exploring it as a viable option for a profitable business idea with low startup costs.

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2. Selling digital products

If you have industry knowledge or expertise in a particular niche or subject, you can create educational digital products for like-minded individuals to purchase.

Digital products include eBooks, online courses, tutorials, videos, podcasts, and more. Many digital products are easy to design using platforms like Canva or Photoshop, depending on what you're creating. There are many sites to develop and launch online courses, including Teachable and Kajabi.

Online courses and other content can help you build a successful, low-cost new business because they're relatively straightforward to create and can continue to bring in more profits without any effort (besides marketing them).

Best practices for creating & selling digital products
  • Create simple, concise products tailored to one specific industry, like digital marketing or running a business

  • Market your products in LinkedIn professional groups and on your social media accounts

  • Create follow-up products to expand your customer base and fuel more interest

3. Freelancing


Freelancing allows individuals to create a flexible schedule that works for their lives and offers their skills to clients they want to work with. As a freelancer, you can decide how much work you take on, when and where you work, and how fast your low-cost business will grow.

Because of this, the startup costs for a freelancing business are low. You can create a website to market your business or promote your services via social media or sites like Fiverr.

Digital marketing freelancing business ideas
  • Blogging

  • Photography or photo editing

  • Graphic design

  • Social media management services

  • Email marketing

  • Website content

  • Business consulting

Best practices for freelancing
  • Promote your skills and knowledge on social media, in your community, and network as much as you can

  • Build and maintain relationships with clients so they will continue to hire you for projects

  • Don't sell yourself short! Charge what you know you're worth - whether by the hour, per project, or word

4. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the most lucrative, high-margin, new business ideas in the US, with spending reaching nearly $8.2 billion in 2022. To run an affiliate marketing business, you'll need a website, a social media presence, and a network of followers who trust your expertise and opinions.

Then, you'll partner with brands to promote their products and receive a commission for every sale made through one of your affiliate links or codes.

Affiliate marketing is a popular business idea for influencers and creators with a loyal following, making it easy to promote the products they use and the companies they work with.

This business model generates passive income because, over time, shoppers will still click those links and buy products through the affiliate program, even if the creator isn't actively promoting it.

Best practices for running an affiliate marketing business
  • Choose a niche that makes sense for you and your interests (fashion, home decor, travel, etc.)

  • Choose an affiliate program to apply for, like Rakuten or Share A Sale, to gain access to more products and commissions

  • Promote products that you stand behind and love; don't just grab any brand deal that shows interest

5. Pet sitting and dog walking

4Pet sitting and dog walking

A dog walking or pet sitting business is another low-cost new business idea because there are little to no startup costs involved.

You can promote your services using social media marketing and word-of-mouth referrals and prioritize building a website once your business is off the ground.

If you are passionate about dogs and other animals, there's no reason why you can't create your own dog-walking business for this furry niche!

Best practices for pet-related businesses
  • Get the necessary insurance, permits, and licenses for your pet-sitting business

  • Offer daily walks, overnights, and multiple visits per day to create more demand

  • Use digital marketing and your social media accounts to promote your business to locals

  • Design a simple website with your pricing, contact information, and experience

6. Tutoring, coaching, and consulting

If you have particular subjects you are passionate about, tutoring and coaching (in-person and online) are easy, low-cost ways to add another revenue stream to your monthly earnings.

Whether tutoring students in particular subjects or providing advice and support as a life coach, running your business in this realm can yield high profit margins. You already have the content and knowledge; you must find a platform to market your services and attract new clientele.

Starting a social media consultant business is an effective way to take your career into your own hands based on the expertise and experience you already have. Consulting is a low-cost business idea because you can start small and scale up as you bring in more clients.

Tips for creating a tutoring/coaching/consulting business:
  • Network on LinkedIn and your social media channels to promote your services

  • Ask for referrals from people (friends, family, previous clients) you've worked with before

  • Offer virtual and in-person training sessions to cater to a broader audience

  • Create a compelling, concise website that describes your services

7. Selling your art

5Selling your art

Startup costs for small local business owners selling art are meager because many of your pieces, images, and designs are already created and ready to sell. You can sell original artwork or scan or photograph your art and create unique apparel and other products with your designs and images printed.

Whether you stay within a particular niche or expand your art to cater to a broad audience, selling art is one of the most profitable business ideas for creators and artists.

Ideas for selling art & photography
  • Sell your photos on stock photography sites

  • Sell digital art through a print on demand supplier

  • License your artwork and photos for companies to use.

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wall art

8. Creating and monetizing content

Making money online by monetizing content is a highly lucrative new business idea that nearly 11.5 million Americans utilize as a full-time job or a form of passive income. Pretty impressive, right? That could be you, too!

Creating and monetizing content happens in a few ways; you can become a social media influencer, create a podcast, or build a YouTube channel, to name a few. Most of these methods are free to join and start utilizing, making them highly profitable, low-cost business ideas.

Once you've established an online presence, you can start making your content profitable by selling ad space on your website, joining affiliate marketing networks, offering an online course, or creating a paid membership for your community to access exclusive content.

If you do it right and build an engaging, loyal audience, monetizing your existing content and creating new content for your followers is one of the most profitable business ideas you'll find. It takes time and energy, but the value is worth it.

Best Practices for Creating & Monetizing Content
  • Choose a niche that you're passionate about

  • Utilize search engine optimization strategies to build exposure and get more visitors to your site

  • Offer content freebies to boost engagement and create interest in your content

Best profitable business with low investment

Not ready to shell out a huge amount to start a business? Here's the good news: you don't have to! Delve into these profitable business ideas that won't require a big upfront investment, and choose the one that matches your interest to get started today

9. Start a dropshipping business


In the dropshipping model, you don't need to handle any products yourself; rather, a third-party supplier stores and ships products to customers on your behalf. With low overheads and scalability options, it’s one of the best businesses to start. What's more, you can focus on promoting and growing your business while your dropshipping partner does all the heavy lifting.

Best practices to start a dropshipping business
  • Choose a specific niche, like gear for yoga enthusiasts or dog water bowls.

  • Curate products from one or more suppliers and add them to your store.

  • When a customer purchases a product, let your dropshipping partner handle fulfillment, but be on standby to handle any queries from the customer.

10. Become a handyman

Every family has a reliable handyman to take care of different household tasks. If you think you have the skills to be that go-to person, consider turning your skills into a profitable business.

With the home repair and improvement industry valued at approximately $597 billion today, there's ample opportunity for you to make this your steady stream of income. Whether it's solving plumbing issues, installing tiles, or building patio decks, your knack for fixing and building things can make you large sums of money.

Best practices  to become a handyman
  • Get an apprenticeship for handyman jobs and become a licensed contractor.

  • Become a specialist in a desired service.

  • Invest in your tools and set your service price.

11. Life coach

Life coaches assist individuals in navigating life and career-related transitions and problems and adapting to changing lifestyles. If you are someone who excels in guiding others toward their aspirations and helping individuals overcome issues with effective decision-making, this could be your true calling.

While getting certified is necessary, you can start your practice by attracting clients through social media, local advertising, and, eventually, word-of-mouth marketing.

Best practices  to become a life coach
  • Be clear about why you want to become a life coach.

  • Research and educate yourself to offer optimal support to others.

  • Enroll yourself in a life coach training organization and get certified.

12. Newsletter

Newsletters offer an easy means of direct communication, and if you have an online audience who you already interact with, consider launching a newsletter business. You just need an online presence, lots of knowledge in a chosen subject, and a dedication to consistently create content. 

Best practices  to start a newsletter business
  • Find and tie up with an email marketing provider.

  • Monetize it through sponsorships and product promotions.

  • Implement a subscription model to charge users for accessing your exclusive newsletter content.

Unique small business ideas

Want to innovate, stand out from the crowd, and make an impact on your community as a small business owner? Then, you must explore these unique small business ideas that we have compiled for you. These are guaranteed to revolutionize your target market and change people's lives.

13. Start a charitable business

Those with a magnanimous spirit and a will to create a positive impact in society don't always need to find or start a nonprofit. Rather, start a mission-driven business and allocate a portion of the profits you make to a cause. This helps carve out a market position while addressing meaningful issues.

Whether attaching yourself to a cause or taking personal initiatives, social entrepreneurship offers a novel avenue for creating a better world while running a profitable business.

Best practices to start a charitable business
  • Offer original products or collaborate with nonprofits and promote their merchandise.

  • Personalize your connections so that you know your donors.

  • Leverage digital tools to maintain clear, error-free records.

14. Invest in vending machines

If you thought vending machines couldn't be a distinctive business idea, think again. Despite setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, projections suggest a strong comeback for this industry. However, your success will depend on offering the right products in the right locations. 

Best practices to invest in vending machines
  • Research high-traffic areas, understand your customer base, and cater to their needs.

  • Go beyond snack and drink machines to explore niche options like those found in airports and offer makeup, accessories, and phone chargers.

  • Carefully plan your vending machine venture and make a modest investment to start with.

15. Create a membership program

Entrepreneurs with online communities stand to benefit from creating membership programs. This works pretty much like subscription-based models where customers make recurring payments for exclusive offerings.

This model is ideal for those who create exclusive content that is only accessible via websites and extends to physical businesses providing online guided sessions, such as yoga studios, gyms, clubs, and art schools, to foster engagement and sustain revenue streams.

Best practices for membership program
  • Know your purpose and create valuable member benefits.

  • Determine your membership fees and build a comprehensive program.

  • Designate program leaders who can guide members.

  • Implement an automated member management solution.

16. Become a virtual event planner

Hosting or participating in events

Business and social events are always happening, and capitalizing on these as an event manager can offer a steady flow of income. With the use of virtual tools, the virtual event planning business presents a lucrative opportunity for those who enjoy organizing events.

As a virtual event planner, your role will include scheduling and organizing virtual conferences, creating networking opportunities and educational sessions for global companies, and ensuring a constant demand in this dynamic market.

Best practices for virtual event planner
  • Understand every event's requirements and cater to the client accordingly.

  • Create a realistic schedule and choose the right platform.

  • Decide on what events you would like to specialize in.

  • Keep networking and building connections.

17. Start a landscaping business

If nature and outdoor beauty inspire you, consider starting a landscaping business! This involves changing and preserving the physical aspects of a piece of land using natural elements like flowers, grass, and trees. The demand for residential outdoor landscaping has been constantly growing in younger households. While there is competition from industry leaders like TruGreen, the market still holds opportunities for local businesses in the field.

Best practices to start a landscaping business
  • Before starting a landscaping business, create a well-thought-out business plan.

  • Choose a name and register your business with the state in which you establish your business.

  • Get your tax ID number and open a business banking account.

  • Set your service price and promote your business.

Guidelines for selecting your next business concept

Selecting your next business concept, especially in the dynamic low-cost, high-profit landscape, requires a blend of market insight and personal passion. Identify emerging trends and opportunities in sectors like dropshipping, online retail, or digital services, where costs are typically low. Assess the current market demand and competition, focusing on industries with high growth potential, like eco-friendly products or health and wellness. Consider your skills and how they can be uniquely applied to meet market needs. Utilize tools like Google Trends to spot sectors with upward trajectories that align with low-investment, high-profit business models. 

Successful business concepts often emerge from identifying and solving common challenges or innovating within a niche market. Look for ideas promising high profit margins, such as offering specialized consulting services or unique print on demand products with minimal overhead costs. Analyze factors like market demand, scalability, and your ability to deliver exceptional value to find a business idea that resonates with your goals and has the potential for significant growth and profitability.

Steps to embark on a small business journey

Starting a small business journey, mainly focusing on low-cost startups, requires careful planning and strategic action. Begin by validating your idea through extensive market research. Know your target demographic, preferences, and how your business can address their needs. 

Draft a detailed business plan that outlines your operational model, marketing approach, and financial forecasts. With low-cost business models, harness the power of digital channels to minimize initial expenses, such as embracing an ecommerce approach or providing online services. 

Networking is crucial; seek advice and insights from established entrepreneurs and industry specialists. Capitalize on digital marketing avenues to expand your reach without incurring substantial costs. Building a robust online presence is vital, as many low-investment business models thrive digitally. Ensure you have the appropriate legal structures and business insurance for protection. 

Start small and scale your operations as your business grows, keeping an eye on overhead costs and managing them efficiently. Remember, each step of your journey offers invaluable learning opportunities, shaping your path toward a thriving and profitable small business venture.

Key considerations before initiating a business venture

You must contemplate several critical factors before launching a business venture, especially in low-investment and high-profit potential scenarios. 

  • Assess the feasibility of your business idea within the current market landscape. Perform a thorough SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 

  • Financial planning is vital; calculate your initial investment needs and ongoing operational expenses. For low-cost ventures, having a clear budget is essential for effective financial management. 

  • Familiarize yourself with your business’s legal and regulatory obligations to ensure full compliance. 

  • Understanding your target market is critical; create customer profiles and align your offerings to their requirements. 

  • Establish a robust and reliable supply chain, particularly crucial in models like dropshipping, where product quality and timely delivery are critical to customer satisfaction. 

Look for business ideas that offer immediate profitability and potential for future growth and scalability. Additionally, prepare for potential risks and challenges. Develop backup plans for unforeseen obstacles and remain flexible to adapt to market fluctuations. These aspects will provide a solid foundation for a successful and sustainable business venture.

Create a successful business with little investment

Finding a low-cost, high-profit business idea that fits your passions and skills can be challenging, but the ideas on this list should get you started. We know it's possible to generate a significant profit with minimal investment; you need a great business idea, creativity, and a can-do attitude.

If you plan to sell custom digital products, you'll need a reliable print on demand partner in your corner to help with the heavy lifting. We take the stress of printing, fulfillment, and shipping off your shoulders so you can get back to building and scaling a profitable online business. Get started with Gelato today.

Starting a business FAQs

What is the cheapest, most profitable business to start?

A print on demand business is by far the most inexpensive and profitable business to start because of the minimal startup costs, the feasibility of scaling quickly, not having to invest in product upfront, and little need for extra staff.

Many people run print on demand businesses entirely by themselves; it's a highly profitable business model that only requires a few different hands.

The perks of running a print on demand business
  • Minimal startup costs

  • No inventory management or storing inventory

  • Low shipping costs

  • Easy to scale and add new products

A wide variety of products to sell, from posters to phone cases, custom hoodies, and mugs

How do I start a business with no ideas?

Starting your own business can be overwhelming, especially if you must find business ideas that motivate and inspire you. If this sounds like you, step back and list the things you love.

Whether shopping, drawing, traveling, writing, or any other hobby, your passion can easily translate to a business idea that can bring high profit margins - you just have to know where to begin.

If you need the inspiration to start your own business, print on demand is one of the most profitable and successful small business ideas. Sellers can gain inspiration by browsing a print on demand supplier's product inventory to determine what they want to sell. Choose from in-demand products from home decor, apparel, lifestyle, and much more.

Are you missing the design or creative skills to get started? No problem. Hire a graphic designer or photographer to create your initial designs or use stock images to launch your online store.

How can I market a low-cost business effectively?

Effectively marketing a low-cost business hinges on leveraging digital platforms and creative strategies. Utilize social media to reach a broad audience with minimal expenditure. Engage potential customers with compelling content and targeted ads. SEO optimization for your website can attract organic traffic at a low cost. 

Email marketing is another cost-effective tool, allowing for personalized communication with your audience. Collaborations with influencers or other businesses can also boost visibility. The key is to identify and focus on marketing channels that offer the highest return on investment for your specific business model. 

Are there risks associated with low-cost businesses?

Like any business venture, low-cost businesses come with their own set of risks. Limited financial investment can mean fewer resources to overcome challenges and less buffer for unexpected market changes. These businesses often face high competition, especially in popular niches. Dependence on external suppliers, particularly in dropshipping models, can pose risks related to product quality and supply chain reliability.

Additionally, scaling the business might require investment beyond initial low costs. However, to mitigate these risks and protect your bottom line, consider using Gelato’s POD platform.

Are low-cost businesses suitable for long-term success?

Low-cost businesses can certainly achieve long-term success, but this requires strategic planning and adaptability. Success depends on continuous market analysis, understanding customer needs, and adjusting your business model accordingly. Effective cost management and reinvesting profits into the business are crucial for sustainable growth. Additionally, staying updated with industry trends and technological advancements can keep the business relevant. 

Building a robust brand and maintaining high customer satisfaction can lead to customer loyalty and recurring revenue. With a focused approach and resilience, low-cost businesses can thrive and sustain success in the long term. 


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