Businesses You Can Start for Free Or Nearly Free

businesses you can start for free startups zero investment

Newsflash: You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to start a business. Thousands of people, many with humble incomes, start businesses every day. Granted, some businesses, such as opening a hotel or clothing store may require a lot of investment in real estate and inventory, but there are many other ideas which require little to no inventory and very low startup costs. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, we’ve decided to detail five top businesses you can start for free here – perhaps, through reading, you will find your next startup venture! 

1. Consulting Business 

Though the name sounds vague, there are countless types of consultants, and hundreds of ways to put skills you already have to use by becoming one. Popular types of consultants include business consultants, financial consultants, writing consultants, and more. You may be wondering what exactly a consultant does: They help and advise people with the subject on which they’re consulting. A financial consultant may give people spending advice, while a business consultant may advise people on how to start their own businesses. The best part is, there are no upfront costs when starting a consulting business! As long as you have a phone, a Facebook account, and a computer, you can get started right away. Later on, you may want to invest in a website, business cards, and even advertising, but word of mouth is enough to get started at first. 

2. Selling Digital Items 

Digital items are trending – ebooks, printables, graphic art, photography, music, etc... – and the best part is, they cost nearly nothing to create. As long as you have a computer, you can create ebooks using systems like Microsoft Word and publish them for free with Amazon’s publishing services. You can take stock photos with anything from a professional camera to a smartphone – as long as the photos are clear and pretty, they can be sold for money. You don’t even need your own website to sell these items. You can open a free shop on Etsy and start selling right away! Which leads us to… 

3. Selling Homemade Goods On Etsy 

Do you love to bake? Bake customizable dog treats and sell them to puppy lovers. Have a knack for scents? Sell your own eco-friendly soaps. Products like these are on the rise, and the demand for them is growing. Opening an Etsy shop is completely free, and you can start with however much or little inventory you want – or even make your items fresh to order. This is very little monetary risk in starting a shop hosted by a big-name company, but there is potential for a lot of gain! If no one buys from your shop at first, you won’t be slipping into major debt. But if they do, you can make a profit within one day! 

4. Cleaning Service 

Cleaning businesses will always be around, because people will always need cleaning done! Whether your specialty is houses, cars, or carpets, there is a market for you and the startup costs are low. All you need to get started is cleaning supplies! To start getting clients, you can leverage people you already know, social media, and local bulletins where you can post flyers. The best part about services like these is they are rarely one-time jobs – it’s likely that cleaning clients may need you every month or even every week. For this reason, once you have a steady client base, you won’t need to advertise yourself anymore in order to maintain an income. You can even team up with others or hire help once you have steady work, and use punchout catalogs to keep inventory costs organized amongst team members. 

5. Freelancing 

Freelancers are people with all sorts of skills, from writing, to illustration, to website building. The startup costs of a freelance business are slim to none because you’re selling your services, not an inventory. There is nothing tangible you need to stock, because you’re being paid to perform a task – whether it’s writing, designing a logo, composing music, etc… You can advertise yourself on websites such as Fiverr or Upwork, where thousands of people regularly search for skilled freelancers to perform one-time or recurring tasks. There is a lot of money to be made freelancing, so if you have a skill that others may not, leverage it and start a business! 

Build Your Business On A Budget

There are thousands more free businesses that you can start today – so many that listing them all would be nearly impossible! Businesses with low upfront costs, as you can see from our list, usually revolve around a skill or service instead of a physical product. Though they may not initially come to mind when you think of businesses, they certainly are money-makers just the same, and have are in ever-increasing demand! 

Comment on Twitter @BootstrapsBiz #BootstrapBusiness if you plan to give one of these low cost businesses a shot, or with your experience as an entrepreneur. What worked for your company or startup biz? What do you wish you would have known when starting a new business on a budget? 

Samantha Wallace is a veteran tech writer and editor who has worked in several eCommerce companies. She has been covering technology online for over five years and is also passionate about startups, small business, and entrepreneurship. She is the Content Advocate for

Official Bootstrap Business Blog Newest Posts From Mike Schiemer Partners And News Outlets