30 low cost business ideas for 2024

Published • 26/10/2023 | Updated • 02/02/2024

Business ideas

30 low cost business ideas for 2024

Published • 26/10/2023 | Updated • 02/02/2024

Business ideas

Over 4.3 million people work for themselves in the UK, across a wide spectrum of industries. If you’ve thought about joining their ranks, but you have concerns about how much it would cost to found a business, then this is the guide for you.

As we’ll show, you don’t necessarily have to put lots of money on the line to set up your own small business. In fact, you can get many low starting cost business ideas off the ground simply using your own knowledge and know-how, along with free online solutions like your own business website. 

And, even if you choose to go down the ecommerce path, selling physical items to customers, you don’t necessarily have to splurge on expensive inventory and raw materials. In fact, as we’ll show, you may not need to pay for any inventory at all.

So, if you’re wondering what low cost business to start, read on for our rundown of great options, and for essential pointers on getting started. Then, you might be able to enjoy the sense of liberation and accomplishment that can come from creating your own small business, with minimal financial risk.

Top 30 low cost small business ideas

There’s a huge variety of low starting cost small business ideas you can consider. To make it easier find one that’s right for you, we’ve grouped them together into these general category types:

1. Online services

Some of the best low cost business ideas in the UK can be found in the “online services” category, with good reason. By operating entirely online, you immediately slash your running costs to a bare minimum, since you won’t have to rent physical premises or splurge on expensive tools or product inventories.

Other than perhaps covering the costs of essential software such as Microsoft Office, you’ll be able to ply your trade cheaply and swiftly from your own home, in a café, or even while travelling abroad as a digital nomad. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

Become a freelance writer

It’s been said that almost every company is a publisher these days, because top-quality editorial content is a must when it comes to engaging with potential customers and boosting their position on search engines.

In order to successfully cater to this demand for freelance writers, you’ll obviously need to have a flair for writing, a strong command of grammar, and the ability to adapt to very specific briefs. Impeccable research skills are also essential.

Types of content you can specialise in include:

  • Website copywriting, including home pages, product listings, case studies descriptions, About Us pages, and so on

  • Search engine optimised blog posts which position your clients as thought leaders in their particular industries

  • Marketing content such as promotional emails, newsletters and sponsored posts

You can advertise your services on sites like PeoplePerHour, Upwork and Fiverr, specifying exactly what kinds of freelance writing work you’re able to take on. In time, you can hopefully nurture and retain regular clients, and gain work through word of mouth recommendations.

Launch an affiliate marketing site

Affiliate marketing can be thought of as a way to monetise your writing skills without having to seek out paying clients

Instead of being paid to write content, you generate revenue by placing links to products throughout your work, whether that’s blogs, social media posts, and/or product reviews. When readers purchase the products through your links, you get a financial return – for example, a percentage of the sale amount.

Affiliate marketplaces like ClickBank and Amazon Associates exist to connect you, the content creator, with product vendors who are eager to have their links featured.

As with other online services, startup costs are minimal. But you will have to invest a lot of time and effort in your content, whether that’s a wristwatch review site, a health and lifestyle blog, or vegan recipe site.

It’s only by gaining visibility for your site and growing your readership that your affiliate links can start to reap financial rewards over time.

Become a translator

If you’re fluent in another language, becoming a translator could be a route into working for yourself. A formal translation degree isn’t necessary to launch yourself as a freelancer, although it will boost your credibility if you have degree-level qualifications in any subject.

As well as putting your profile up on the usual freelance marketplaces like PeoplePerHour, you can also join a translator-specific listings site such as Gengo. These can be effective ways to get a foothold in the market and build your reputation as a reliable, professional translator.

Once you’ve started taking on jobs and want to escalate to the next level, you may choose to obtain the CIOL Qualifications Level 7 Diploma in Translation. This is the gold standard translation qualification, and can open the door to bigger and more lucrative translation jobs.

The course can be taken online and it’s affordable – at the time of writing, it’s possible to enrol for £599, with the option to split the cost into monthly payments.

Get into graphic design

Are you a natural creative experienced in using tools like Photoshop and InDesign to create bold and original designs? You can make the leap and become a professional graphic designer.

The industry is valued at almost £4 billion in the UK alone, with graphic designers creating logos, infographics, posters, social media posts, and much more. But, in order to forge serious success in this field, you’ll need an awareness of current trends as well as design skills.

Fortunately, the internet makes it easy to keep up with what’s hot in design. A simple Google search will point you to up-to-the-minute commentary outlining what kinds of aesthetics are currently “in”.

It almost goes without saying that you’ll want to proudly showcase your designs on social media, and it’s vital to have an attractive website where prospective clients can get a feel for your services. As a designer, you’ll also want your invoices to reflect your aesthetic and brand, which you can easily do using the customisable SumUp Invoices.

2. Assistant/organiser

If you’re a natural born organiser who enjoys socialising and making new connections, it can be the basis of a great low cost business.

Thanks to the internet, you can be an assistant or organiser both in person and purely online, so you can work in a way that’s most convenient for you. In either case, the fact that you’re simply monetising your own initiative and interpersonal skills means your overheads will be kept low.

Event planner

You don’t need to cover high startup costs to become an event planner. You can get started working from home and market yourself on social media for free.

What you will need is organisational skills and a genuine liking for networking and meeting new people. As an event planner, your responsibilities will include:

  • Working closely with clients to fully understand what kinds of events they’re after

  • Brainstorming event ideas that meet your clients’ budgets

  • Acting as an intermediary between clients and suppliers, the latter including venue managers, caterers, and entertainers

  • Managing contractors and resolving any disputes

  • Personally overseeing events as they take place

While formal qualifications aren’t necessarily required, it will obviously help if you have had personal experience of organising events, and have some contacts with suppliers already in place.

This is also a job that will suit those with extroverted and bold personalities, as you’ll need to create and nurture long-term relationships with suppliers, bluntly negotiate the best possible prices, and deal with problems as they arise.

You may also want to focus on a niche that suits your experience and passions, whether that’s weddings, corporate events, or arts events.

Create a concierge service

Concierge services exist to make life easier for their clientele. Tasks are very wide ranging, and can include making restaurant reservations, researching and arranging holiday trips, managing shopping trips, and running errands.

Success as a concierge rests on having attention to detail, being a proactive problem-solver, and having the right connections within sectors like hospitality and retail.

It can be a very demanding line of work, as clients utilising concierge services tend to be very discerning. If you’re an outgoing person who relishes socialising, and you have previous experience in PA or other client-facing roles, then you might want to consider creating your own, independent concierge business.

Your starting costs will be low, with use of a computer, internet and your own car being the three vital things. Going to corporate networking events is also a must, both for forging commercial connections and for promoting your services to potential clients. 

Become a virtual assistant

Despite their name, virtual assistants aren’t actually bots or AI assistants. They’re real humans who perform the tasks you’d expect from a PA or office administrator, only remotely on a freelance basis.

Typical tasks may include:

  • Scheduling appointments

  • Making travel arrangements

  • Handling email accounts

  • Making phone calls

  • Formatting documents and contracts

  • Keeping websites updated

  • Delegating tasks and managing the workloads of staff members

If you have professional experience as a PA, this deserves a place on your shortlist of low cost startup business ideas. You can post adverts on sites like PeoplePerHour, or even approach dedicated virtual assistant intermediary companies like Time etc, which connect VAs with clients.

3. Ecommerce

Think “low startup cost business ideas” and ecommerce may not be the first thing that springs to mind. After all, ecommerce often requires a lot of upfront investment in the products that you’ll be selling.

But it’s absolutely possible to set up an ecommerce business on a small budget, providing you’re savvy about what you offer. Here are some low cost online business ideas you might want to consider.

Set up a dropshipping store

Dropshipping is an ecommerce business model where you don’t have to purchase any stock before you sell it. You won’t even need to store or handle the items you’re selling.

The way it works is straightforward. First, you create an online store showcasing products. Then, whenever a sale is made, you simply notify the supplier of the item in question. It’ll be their responsibility to package and dispatch the item to your customer.

Since you don’t have to manufacture, buy or store any stock yourself, and you can create an online store completely for free, this a low cost approach to ecommerce. That said, success will depend on specialising in the right products, and standing out from the crowd.

Researching your market is key. After selecting a niche – say, car accessories or homeware items – you can use tools like Google Trends and look up hashtags on social media to see what kinds of products are in demand. You can also find suppliers through well-established dropshipping directories like Worldwide Brands and SaleHoo.

Our guide to dropshipping delves further into this business model, and factors to think about when getting started.

Sell bespoke clothes

You can use a variation on the dropshipping model to create your very own clothing brand with minimal financial outlay. 

Print-on-demand companies like Printful and Printify take care of the manufacture and delivery of the clothes, from T-shirts to hoodies to dresses. Such suppliers will also customise the clothes to your specifications, from embroidering your designs to adding your logo to the labels.

It’s a competitive field, so the key is to offer vivid, eye-catching designs to bolster your brand. Setting up an attractive online store, and posting high quality images of your clothes line on sites like Instagram and Pinterest, are also crucial to a business like this. 

By following these steps, you can get the satisfaction of founding a bona fide fashion brand on the tightest of budgets.

Having a dedicated business account can help you keep track of your revenues and outgoings, and it won’t cost a penny to set up. Find out more about SumUp’s business current account.

Create private label beauty products

Unlikely as it may sound, you can launch your own line of beauty products without breaking the bank. The trick is to use a reputable private label cosmetics supplier with low or no minimal order requirements, such as Options Ltd, Selfnamed and Hera Beauty.

You simply select the items you want to sell, which can include moisturisers, face scrubs, serums and shampoos. The suppliers will then customise the products with your own branding, so you can then sell them on through your online store.

To keep costs low, you should order a small batch to begin with, focus on promoting these initial items through social media, and build your customer base until you’re in a position to invest in more inventory.

Bear in mind that anyone selling cosmetic products in the UK must notify the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). This applies even if you’re simply distributing pre-made products under your own branding. The UK government website details how you can submit the notification.

Make and sell jewellery

It’s never been easier for crafters of handmade jewellery to reach out to potential customers. Popular online marketplaces like Art in the Heart, Folksy and of course Etsy allow you to showcase your wares – whether you specialise in bracelets, earrings, brooches, charms or any other types of jewellery.

These sites provide a great way to enter the market, and also allow happy customers to leave reviews. That said, we also recommend creating a free online store. Having a professional, well-designed website will immediately set you apart from the many craftspeople who only sell via marketplace sites. Having your own, curated ecommerce space with its own URL is a great way to really plant your flag in the handmade jewellery space and make your brand stand out from the crowd. 

You can source affordable raw materials like loose gemstones, cubic zirconia and silver chains from sites like The Curious Gem and The Bead Shop. Shop around and carefully plan how much each item will cost to create.

By utilising your crafting talents (and promoting regularly on social media) you can transform relatively cheap materials into attractive accessories that can be sold on for healthy profits.

Sell homeware products

Can creating and selling your own range of homeware products qualify as a low cost business idea? Yes, provided you use print-on-demand companies like Printify and Printful.

They offer diverse product catalogues, including mugs, shower curtains, rugs, duvet covers, posters and ornaments, which can be emblazoned with your own, bespoke designs.

You can order samples to check the products are made to your liking. Then, all you have to do is create your online store and put the word out on sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Providing you can offer designs that are unique and attractive, this is a quick and straightforward way to establish a homeware brand with very little money required upfront.

Sell foodie treats online

These days, all kinds of artisanal foodie treats can be purchased for delivery online. From gooey gourmet brownies to unique chutneys to interestingly flavoured fudge, there’s a lot to tickle the taste buds of discerning customers, and with careful budget planning you can get involved.

The good thing about making homemade foodie treats is the raw materials are typically low-cost. Your packaging can also be attractive without breaking the bank, if you shop around online.

The key thing is to pick a niche that isn’t already crowded with competitors – for example, you’ll probably struggle to stand out among the well-established brownie makers. Diligent marketing is also essential: Instagram and TikTok will be invaluable.

It’s equally important to create an attractive, eye-catching online store, ensuring anything you write on it contains keywords relating to your product. Having a regularly updated blog, perhaps charting new recipes and taste tests, can help your site stay high on search engine rankings.

Just remember that you must adhere to food delivery regulations as described by the Food Standards Agency.

Visual appeal can make or break a handmade food delivery business. Our guide to taking professional photos of your products covers lighting, ideal backdrops, and editing tips.

4. Teaching

Any list of low budget business ideas has to include teaching. After all, you won’t have to invest in expensive product inventories when the product in question is your own knowledge of a particular subject.

Being a school teacher requires specific training which can cost a significant amount. However, there are other, low starting cost business ideas within the teaching space you can explore.

Create online courses

Whether you’re adept at JavaScript, quadratic equations, home repairs, the history of modern art or playing the guitar, you can make money sharing your knowledge with other adults online.

There are a number of marketplaces where you can connect with people looking to learn. For example, Udemy is a popular hub where experts on almost every subject provide carefully crafted video courses, determining their own curriculums as they see fit.

Another option is adult tutoring through a site like Superprof, which is a good option if you enjoy direct, one-to-one teaching through teleconferencing.

Creating a warm and welcoming profile is essential to success on such sites. You’ll want to put up a clear, friendly picture of yourself, plus a well-written bio which will of course emphasise your experience and qualifications.

Investing in a high quality webcam is pretty much the only expense involved, making this a top contender among small business ideas with low startup costs.

Tutor kids remotely

The intensely competitive nature of workplaces today means that parents are more concerned than ever with ensuring their kids excel at school. This, along with the ready availability of tutors online, means the industry is booming. In fact, it’s thought to be worth as much as £6 billion in the UK.

A number of online tutor marketplaces have sprung up, with top examples being Tutorful and MyTutor. While official qualifications aren’t required, you will have to meet the specific enrolment requirements of a marketplace. You’ll also have to pass an interview before you’ll be able to upload a profile.

Once that’s done, you’ll be all set to be connected with students. As geographical distance is not an issue, you’ll have a vast pool of people you can potentially teach.

Provided you have a laptop and a quality webcam, you’ll be set to make money teaching.

SumUp’s Payment Links are ideally suited to online tutors

After each lesson, you can simply send your student’s parent or guardian a unique link through social media, Whatsapp or SMS. By tapping the link, they can pay you in seconds.

Learn more

Cookery teacher 

If you’re skilled in the kitchen and enjoy meeting new people, then becoming a cookery teacher might be a viable small business option.

Your main overhead will be the cost of renting a well-equipped kitchen space to teach in. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. As an example, you’ll be able to rent a professional kitchen in London with space for up to 14 students for around £350 an hour, with discounted rates for whole days.

Signing up students doesn’t have to cost much, as long as you present yourself in the best possible way. Specialising in a particular type of cuisine can make you stand out, and you can generate word-of-mouth interest by presenting fun, informative cookery videos for YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.

These videos should be as professional-looking as possible, so it may be worth hiring an experienced video maker or editor from a site like Fiverr if your budget allows. 

5. Cleaning

Providing you feel fit and active enough to take on the work, becoming a cleaner ranks highly among low cost business ideas in the UK. For one thing, there’s strong demand. According to the British Cleaning Council, cleaners across the nation bring in almost £60 billion a year in revenue.

Plus, it’s a relatively easy and cheap business to start. The basic kit required for most cleaning jobs is very affordable, while public liability insurance – which will cover you if there’s a mishap related to your cleaning work – can cost as little as around £5 a month.

Clean houses

There are a lot of domestic cleaners out there, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to stand out from the crowd. While it’s a good idea to advertise your services on tried-and-tested marketplace sites such as TaskRabbit and Nextdoor, it can really boost your profile if you carve out your own presence online.

You can do this by creating a website to introduce you and your services. Don’t be afraid to give it a fun, colourful, even quirky tone. For example, you could have a kitsch logo created by a freelance designer hired for a low fee from Fiverr, and write a chatty blog sharing cleaning tips.

You could even take things a step further and create TikTok videos showing you tackling cleaning jobs and passing on advice. All of this can add prestige to your brand and attract customers, without ringing up big costs.

Given that you’ll be able to tackle most jobs armed only with brushes, sponges, sprays, disinfectants and a vacuum cleaner, the startup costs for becoming a domestic cleaner should be low. You can keep track of your business finances through a free SumUp business account, and use a SumUp card reader to take payments in a quick, convenient way.

Get into commercial cleaning

Becoming a commercial cleaner for offices, retailers and other businesses can incur slightly higher costs compared to sticking to home environments. You’ll probably have to invest in a commercial cleaning trolley or cart, and a heavy duty vacuum cleaner.

You should also be aware that being a commercial cleaner can be more strenuous than domestic cleaning, since you’ll very likely have to adhere to the official standards of hygiene at business premises.

By shopping around and being savvy, you can keep outgoings low while still equipping yourself with the necessary tools. For example, it’s very possible to purchase heavy duty vacuum cleaners, even ones suitable for both wet and dry vacuum cleaning, for around £100. 

Presenting yourself as a reputable professional is key to gaining commercial clients. That’s why having a well-designed website is a must. As you take on more clients, you can expand the site to feature case studies and perhaps feature quotes by satisfied clients.

Are you a commercial cleaner?

Invoice your clients in a professional manner. Learn more about SumUp Invoices, a fast, smart solution for creating invoices customised to your brand.

Start invoicing for free

Clean windows in your area and beyond

Can you make a living as a window cleaner? Yes, but it will require real graft to obtain customers and make your name as one of the go-to people for gleaming windows in your area.

Setting yourself up with the right equipment is crucial. The good news is that by carefully shopping around online, and using sites like eBay, you can gather essentials like squeeges, telescopic water-fed poles and water purifiers on a budget. You can also get a cost-effective SumUp card reader so customers don’t have to worry about having cash to hand when paying you.

Creating a website is another important step towards establishing yourself as a bona fide window cleaning business, and potentially taking a slice of a market that’s valued at almost £300 million in the UK.

Once you’ve gathered regular customers in your area – perhaps offering them discounted rates for monthly cleans – you may spread your wings and start catering to a wider radius.

The knowledge that they’ll be able to pay for your services by card, just like they would in a shop, can make all the difference when customers are looking to hire a window cleaner. You can offer this convenient option by having your very own portable card reader.

Offer a carpet cleaning service

When analysing thousands of data points to determine the most in-demand local businesses in the UK, we discovered that carpet cleaning ranks first place.

As this is a specific niche within the cleaning sector, you will need to shop around for the right materials and equipment. These will include carpet and upholstery cleaning machines, which resemble vacuum cleaners, as well as carpet shampoos and other detergents.

While commercial carpet cleaning machines can be expensive, you can keep startup costs low by browsing sites like eBay for second-hand devices in good condition. You can always invest in new equipment later on, as your business grows.

You can also seek to join the National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA). Not only will you be able to enjoy the credibility that comes from featuring its logo on your site, but your business will be listed on the NCCA website.

Gaining an entry-level qualification in carpet cleaning will be required, but some courses are online-only, and substantially cheaper than in-person tutorials.

Clean and maintain gardens

Keeping a garden clean can be a challenging and time-consuming chore which not all homeowners enjoy. This is where you can capitalise by offering a range of garden cleaning and maintenance services.

You can offer tasks including:

  • Removing weeds, fallen leaves and other debris

  • Aerating soil and spreading mulch

  • Trimming trees and hedges

  • Washing patios and driveways

As with other kinds of cleaning businesses, you’ll need to invest in some essential kit. In this case, it can include rakes, shovels, shears and a jet washer. But if you carefully seek out budget options online, you can get your business up and running within a limited budget.

Business spending, sorted

Having a separate business bank account can be a big help when it comes to managing your expenses and keeping track of revenue, whether you’re doing garden maintenance work or any other jobs.

Learn about free business account

6. In-person services

Other than cleaning, there are several other low budget business ideas to consider if you like the idea of a job where you deal directly with your customers or clients.

We’ve grouped together a handful of top choices in this section. These are all ideal if you consider yourself a “people person” who enjoys taking on new tasks, and they don’t require excessive outlay at the start.

Tailoring and alterations

If you’re skilled when it comes to needlework and other kinds of tailoring, you can turn your talents into a money making business.

This is an example of a business that relies far more on your personal prowess than financial investment. You can keep costs down by working from home, at least to begin with, and you can take on your first customers using only a good-quality sewing machine and other basic kit.

You could offer numerous services, from small jobs like shortening a pair of trousers and stitching initials into a scarf, to more elaborate alterations like completely updating a dress into a different kind of garment.

It’s important to clearly describe what kinds of tailoring and alteration services you offer on your company website. On top of this, try to post photos of your work regularly on Instagram and even Twitter, to project the image of a dynamic and creative business.

Create a pet sitting business

It’s estimated that at least 62% of UK households own at least one pet. This is a massive market for pet sitters to cater to, with many people taking on such duties as a side hustle through online marketplaces like Rover.

However, pet sitting can also be the basis of a bona fide low cost business, if you have long-standing experience with cats and dogs. It’s important to lay the groundwork with a good, professional website, and to offer an eclectic range of services.

These should include dog walking, daycare services in your own home, and overnight care (boarding). You may also be hired to drop by houses to feed and take care of animals while their owners are away.

You’ll need very little in the way of startup costs, beyond pet toys to keep your charges entertained. You’ll also need a vehicle, both for getting to and from customers’ homes, and for transporting cats and dogs in a comfortable way.

Work as a handyperson

Talented at DIY? This can be the foundation for a business that won’t cost the earth to set up. Of course, as a jack-of-all-trades handyperson, you will have to make some initial purchases. These will include:

  • A hammer

  • Pliers

  • Multi-bit screwdriver with multiple bit assortment

  • Utility knife

  • Wire cutters

  • Electric drill and assorted drill bits

  • Sander

  • Extension cables

Depending on the jobs you take on, you may also need painting and decorating tools, electrical testers, and a ladder. On the plus side, all this kit will stand the test of time, so after the initial outlay you shouldn’t have to make any significant extra purchases

Official qualifications aren’t necessary for being a general handyperson, but it goes without saying you should only take on jobs you feel absolutely confident in carrying out well. If your budget stretches to it, you can also enhance your skills by taking on a handyperson course.

Getting paid for every job is a cinch with SumUp’s card reader

There’s no fixed contract for the device, and it will allow you to provide an even more convenient service to your customers.

Discover SumUp card readers

Become a rideshare driver

Providing you have a UK driver’s licence, you may be able to make a living as a rideshare driver with companies like Uber. You’ll be notified of jobs through the app, then simply drive over, pick the user up, and take them where they want to go.

Your main financial outlay will be having a vehicle that meets the minimum specifications of the rideshare firm. For example, to be an Uber driver you’ll need a car that:

  • Has four doors

  • Is in good condition (no cosmetic damage)

  • Is of a model year which conforms to local licensing authority requirements

On the latter point, you’ll need a private hire licence, which is provided by Transport for London if you’re in the capital, and by your local council anywhere else. You’ll also undergo a medical check as part of the on-boarding process.

Insurance costs should also be factored in. As well as regular car insurance, you’ll need to take out private hire insurance, as well as public liability insurance to cover you in case passengers have any mishaps relating to the ride. Taking the time to compare providers online can ensure you get the lowest possible deals.

Become a delivery driver or courier 

Have a mid-sized vehicle and thrive under pressure? You might want to consider setting up your own delivery or courier business.

If you have no prior experience, you can try out this line of work by registering with Amazon Flex. Once you pass the basic checks, you should be able to work as a self-employed courier delivering packages as instructed by the Flex app.

If that goes well, you may choose to formally plant your flag in the courier/delivery world by setting up a company website. You can spur your business by joining a site like Courier Exchange. This does require a monthly fee, but allows you to advertise your location and availability for jobs, and receive real-time alerts through the app.

You can also register with an established courier company like Gophr, which will connect you with jobs as they arise. Bear in mind you’ll have to factor in the costs of public liability insurance, courier van insurance, and goods in transit cover, the latter protecting you if the items you’re delivering get damaged or stolen.

Private chef

If you’ve previously worked in restaurant kitchens, then consider becoming a private chef. Your main expense will be vital kitchen equipment like high-quality chef’s knives – other than that, you’ll be ready to turn your skills into a low cost business.

Some private chefs work for just one client, living in their residence as a member of staff. In this context, you’ll work regular hours and your responsibilities will include menu planning and shopping for ingredients, as well as cooking the meals.

A more approachable path into the sector is by becoming a freelance private chef for dinner parties, weddings, and corporate events. You can create a profile on private chef marketplace sites such as Yhangry, describing your culinary experience and the kinds of dishes you specialise in.

By generating revenues this way, you may be in a position to invest in setting up your own supper club, further establishing your reputation as a chef.

7. Social media

The internet is a fertile ground for low cost business ideas in the UK. Earlier in this guide we considered ecommerce on a budget, where social media platforms can come in very handy for marketing.

But social media can itself be a real revenue generator, if you’re willing to invest the time and effort to cultivate your brand. Let’s consider three ways you can create a business based around leading social platforms.

Create a YouTube channel

There are a number of ways to forge a small business path on YouTube. But all of them depend on creating a sizable number of subscribers, so focusing on making the best possible videos is key.

You’ll want to select a specific niche. If there’s one thing YouTube has shown, it’s that any subject can be a money-maker. Think of the big YouTube stars who generate millions of views simply unboxing toys, or eating giant feasts on camera.

Whatever you decide to make videos about, it’s important to invest in a good camera set up, create a YouTube channel page with an intro video and eye-catching banner, and to post videos diligently.  

You’ll be eligible to enrol on the YouTube Partner Programme after you reach 500 subscribers with 3,000 public watch hours. Being on the programme will allow you to monetise video views.

The other main ways to make money as a YouTuber are through corporate sponsorship and by putting affiliate links on your videos. Our guide to making money on YouTube has more details.

Become an influencer

As with becoming a YouTuber, finding success as a social media influencer is a labour of love. This is a career path that typically begins as a hobby or side hustle, focusing on something you love – whether that’s video game reviews, travel advice, or cosmetics tips.

Then, if and when you attract lots of followers, monetisation can become a reality through a number of channels. For example, if you’re posting videos on TikTok and achieve 10,000 followers and 100,000 video views in a 30-day period, you’ll be able to apply for the TikTok Creator Fund which can yield profits.

As a successful influencer you may also be able to create connections with relevant brands, who can pay for branded posts and other content. Plus, there’s the possibility of making money through affiliate links on sites like Instagram.

While it will inevitably take time to earn revenues as an influencer, this small business idea has the advantage of requiring only modest startup costs. Plus, you’ll be doing something you genuinely enjoy.

Become a social media consultant

Companies large and small are aware of the importance of having active social media profiles. Many will outsource this responsibility, so becoming a social media consultant may be a great small business idea if you know the main platforms inside and out.

As a social media consultant, you may be asked to:

  • Write posts for your clients’ Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin feeds, perhaps to announce new products, communicate company news, provide industry commentary, or even just to send out funny memes.

  • Help strategize your clients’ social media campaigns, deciding on posting frequency, tone of voice, content types, hashtags, and so on.

  • Engage with your clients’ customers and readers on social media, for example answering questions and curating discussions.

It’s important to be proactive when starting your career as a social media consultant. While sites like PeoplePerHour are a natural port of call, you should also directly approach companies you might have an affinity with.

For example, if you’re a committed foodie, you can reach out to restaurants to offer to run their social media accounts. Remember to have your own Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages up and running, to demonstrate that you live and breathe social media.

4 reasons to start a low cost small business

When weighing up what low cost business to start, it’s natural to pause and consider if this is the right route for you. Here are some of the reasons you might want to go for it.

1. Low cost small businesses are usually quick to launch

One of the best things about low startup cost business ideas is that there tend to be fewer barriers to getting started. You won’t usually have to worry about scouting around for business premises, hiring staff, or dealing with costly inventories. Very often, it’s just a matter of creating a website, posting on social media, and perhaps purchasing some basic kit.

2. They’re more likely to last

According to research by CB Insights, the number one reason why startups fail is a lack of money – either in terms of starting capital or money required later on to keep things afloat. This is obviously far less of an issue with low budget business ideas. Success won’t depend on being able to bankroll the idea, and the fact that your running costs are low will mean that more of your revenues can be kept as profit.

3. You’ll have more freedom to experiment

Running your own small business can involve a lot of trial and error, at least to begin with. This can be daunting if you’ve put a lot of your own cash on the line and literally cannot afford to fail. On the other hand, with a low cost business idea you’ll be able to try out new marketing ideas, or change up what services or products you offer, without the pressure of knowing that your expenses are mounting up by the day.

4. There’s less overall risk

Perhaps the best thing about low starting cost business ideas is there’s simply less risk compared to other kinds of businesses. If it goes well, great! If, however, you find that you’re not making enough revenue, or simply decide it’s not the right career path for you, you can simply shut up shop without being left too much out of pocket. In other words, you’ll have far less to lose with a low budget business.

How to start your low budget business idea

Feeling inspired to work for yourself and set up a low budget business? Here are the steps to follow to make it a reality.

Step 1: Choose your business idea

This is arguably the most important step of all, so it shouldn’t be rushed. When comparing low cost small business ideas, you’ll want to ask yourself these questions.

Does it excite me?

Setting up a small business, even a low budget small business, isn’t something you can do lightly. You’ll probably need to work evenings and weekends to get it off the ground, and you’ll only want to do that if it’s a business you care about. So, don’t just choose an idea for the sake of making a quick profit. Choose something that really excites you, so that you look forward to investing your time, and you’re motivated to overcome any inevitable challenges.

Do I have the right skills?

Having the appropriate skillset for a business idea won’t just mean you’ll feel confident about doing the job to a high professional standard. The right skills will also keep startup costs lower, as you won’t have to spend money on training, or gaining new qualifications.

Do I have any of the necessary kit?

Following on from the last point, having at least some of the necessary equipment for the business will also keep those startup costs down. This may simply be a laptop and webcam, or a toolkit for DIY work. Anything that will lower the financial burden at the start is a plus.

Step 2: Research your market

Market research is essential for any business, even a small one. Fortunately, the internet makes this a far easier process than ever before.

You’ll want to assess who your competitors are – either locally, if you’re going to be providing in-person services, or nationally if you’re setting up an ecommerce business. Ask three key questions:

  • What do they charge?

  • What services or products do they offer?

  • How can you improve on what they do?

Step 3: Identify your target group

This step may not be especially important if you’re providing a service that many demographics may be after, like domestic cleaning. However, audience research is vital if you’re creating a more specialised or lifestyle-orientated business, such as selling handmade crafts or creating a fashion-focused YouTube channel.

Use social media pages, hashtags, and reviews on marketplace sites to find out who your target consumers are, and what they’re interested in. You may even want to reach out through Twitter or Facebook to survey them and find out what they might be looking for.

Step 4: Write out your business plan

You may not be seeking outside investment for your low cost business idea, but it’s still important to write out a business plan. It’s a great way to organise your thoughts and set out what needs to be done.

Your plan should include:

  • A summary of your business and how it will operate

  • Notes on your target market and competitors

  • Your budget, and what it will be spent on

  • Your overheads and sales forecasts

  • A list of the software and hardware solutions you’ll require, potentially including a card reader, invoicing tools, and business account   

We have a full guide to writing a business plan which is well worth reading as you gear up to start your low-cost business.

Step 5: Choose your legal business structure

As a small business founder, you may choose to operate as a sole trader. Under this structure, you and your business are the same, legally speaking. The revenues generated are yours to keep, and your only official obligation is to register with HMRC so you can submit your annual tax return.

Alternatively, you may prefer to operate a limited company. This means you and your business are separate entities, legally speaking, Your business has to be registered with Companies House, and must pay corporation tax on profits

While this is a more complicated route, it can give your business added credibility in the eyes of customers and clients. It also provides you with added protection, as you won’t be personally liable for any losses or debts accrued by the business.

Step 6: Devise your marketing strategy

Whichever low startup cost business idea you go for, marketing is going to be vital. This is where social media can be invaluable. Not only will it allow you to show off your products and services, and actively engage with potential customers, but you also won’t have to spend any money doing it.

Regular use of sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok can boost your profile in a natural, organic, cost-free way. Just be sure that any photos and videos you put up are high quality – you may find it’s worth investing in a good camera, or hiring freelance photographers and video editors to provide great content on a tight budget.

Ready to set up your own low cost business?

A great initial step is to set up a free business current account, which you can use to keep tabs on incoming and outgoing payments, and manage your finances 24/7.

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