These 5 Business Ideas Require Almost No Startup Capital

Do you have a great business idea that’s just begging to be turned into a bona fide enterprise?

Better consider its upfront cost first. Estimating startup expenses is notoriously difficult, but the general rule of thumb is clear: the more equipment, inventory, and people you need to make your first sale, the more you’ll need to pony up. This is just one reason among many that the business formation rate is in decline.

The good news: not all startup ideas require massive upfront investment. Some require virtually none at all!

Here’s a look at five that fit the “lean startup” bill. Which is the best fit for your talents?

Stratcomm specialist

1. Strategic Communications

Call it wordsmithing or narrative framing if you like. Strategic communications, or stratcomm, is a broad discipline that attracts smooth talkers, fluent writers, and folks with above-average emotional intelligence. If you have a knack for speechwriting, scripting, longform ghostwriting, or any other subset of written or verbal narrative-building, you’d be a good fit. Look for contractors or flex employees with similar competencies to scale.

2. Fundraising Distribution

This low-key business opportunity is a great at-home enterprise. According to the experts at ABC Fundraising, committed distributors can earn anywhere from $500 to $5,000 per month, with earnings commensurate on natural selling ability and time committed. Plus, distributors help raise money for worthy nonprofits and civic institutions in their communities. Talk about a win-win.

3. House- or Pet-Sitting Services

Love animals? Enjoy sitting around empty houses and partaking of strangers’ Netflix subscriptions?

The former is totally normal. The latter, totally not — unless you’re a house- or pet-sitter. As pets proliferate and grow ever closer to their owners, starting a pet-sitting business has never been easier. House-sitting is pretty easy too, particularly if you can find a ready supply of jet-setting clients willing to pay for your services. And scaling is cheap: pet- and house-sitting are great part-time jobs for high school and college students.

4. Medical Transcription or Coding

If you have the patience and attention to detail necessary to transcribe long-boring soliloquies with minimal errors or draw from tens of thousands of unique insurance codes to ensure your medical-provider clients bill properly, you’re a great fit for either of these gigs. Medical transcription and coding are both traditionally thought of as solo, at-home jobs, but it’s easy to create a formal business structure under you for precisely that reason.

5. Public Relations

How is PR different from strategic communications, you ask? The short answer: it depends. Public relations is generally considered a subset of stratcomm, but it’s a broad enough discipline that it’s entirely possible to position yourself as a PR maven without ever donning (or even owning) a stratcomms hat.

These days, many independent PR professionals focus on media outreach pitching: a much narrower scope than “traditional” PR and strategic communications, which encompass the entire universe of external relations.

Dog walker

What’s Your Big Idea?

Don’t see a business idea that speaks to your interests and talents on this list? Don’t sweat it. It’s never been easier to start a business of your own. Whatever your passion, you can assuredly find a way to turn it into a profitable enterprise. (Sustaining that enterprise in an environment where some 50% of new businesses fail before their sixth birthdays is another matter.)

Here’s to new beginnings that don’t cost a fortune.