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15 Low-Cost Business Ideas

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

15 Low-Cost Business Ideas

Seeking low-cost, high-profit business ideas for 2024, we’ve gathered insights from CEOs and founders who have a track record of turning innovative ideas into lucrative ventures.

From starting a graphic design business to launching a virtual personal assistant service, explore the top fifteen business ideas shared by these visionary leaders that promise profitability on a shoestring budget.

1. Start a Graphic Design Business

How to start a graphic design business

I’m pretty sure graphic design is a smart choice for 2024. Starting a graphic design business can be a good move, whether you’re just selling your own design services online or getting a team together. The best way to go about it mostly depends on what skills and experience you have in the industry and also how much money you’re willing to invest in starting your agency. It’s also a good idea to stay up-to-date with design trends and be active on design platforms like Behance, where you can share your work and get feedback.

One cool thing is that to sell your graphic design work online, you don’t really need a lot of experience. These days, many people use graphic design websites that have templates to make their designs. So, for example, you could use these websites to create your designs quickly, even if you haven’t done it before. You just need to gather your client’s ideas and use them as a starting point. Usually, graphic designers work for years, maybe as a hobby or with ad agencies, before they consider starting their own business. But moving to your own business isn’t easy, and you’ll run into a lot of challenges.

My personal secret sauce for making good money without spending a lot? Focus on niche markets where you can offer specialized designs that stand out, use social media and online communities to showcase your work and attract clients, and constantly improve your skills with online courses and tutorials.

Lucas Ochoa, founder & CEO of Automat

2. House-Hack for Real Estate Profits

how to start a real estate business

In real estate, house-hacking — buying a multifamily property to live in while renting out the other units — can generate profits quickly with little upfront investment. You get to live for low or zero housing costs while collecting rental income and building equity. The key is buying below market value through direct networking with motivated sellers. 

Use an FHA loan requiring just a 3.5% down payment. Proper screening and management of tenants minimizes headaches. House-hacking leverages real estate fundamentals for almost passive income.

Josh Steppling, broker associate at Treasure Coast Real Estate

3. Niche Subscription Box Service

subscription box business idea

Getting into a niche subscription box service has been my trailblazing venture. Rather than generic themes, I curate boxes tailored to specific, underserved interests. Leveraging social media for organic marketing, I’ve fostered a community around these unique passions. Partnering with small, specialized vendors keeps costs low while offering exclusive items. 

The secret sauce lies in community engagement — utilizing user-generated content, polls, and exclusive member benefits. This builds brand loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals. The low-cost, high-profit strategy hinges on strategic partnerships, community-driven marketing, and meticulous curation, creating a profitable business that thrives on a budget in 2024.

Dhari Alabdulhadi, CTO & founder of Ubuy Kuwait

4. Monetize Your Hobby on Digital Platforms

Digital platforms

Anyone can turn a hobby into a business with little to no money, as long as they’re willing to invest the time. 

People are building followings on YouTube using their phones to record courses and instructionals on all manner of topics. Makers and artists sell their wares through social media, Etsy, and their own websites. We’ve all got knowledge to share; it’s just a question of making the time investment. However, there is no shortage of capital available to anyone with a good business plan. 

If you’re a maker who has a particular product that has become a bestseller, look to shop around the design or get funding to manufacture it.

Kam Talebi, CEO of Gigli

5. Promote an Affiliate Marketing Website

affiliate marketing business idea

If you are a creator or have numerous followers on social media, you can start an affiliate marketing business. The only expense you will need here is building an appealing website. It’s best to incorporate website design trends into the website. Affiliate marketing is a lucrative business and can generate high revenues in 2024. 

In affiliate marketing, you can promote products and post the link to their direct purchase. The more people buy the products through the links, the more you will earn a commission. However, you need to promote products according to your niche. For instance, if you show interest in travel on social media, you should market travel-related products.

Wayne Mills, head of operations in the UK and Ireland for Seven Seas Worldwide

6. Establish a Digital Content Creation Agency

How to start a copywriting business

I think a digital content creation agency focusing on small businesses can be quite profitable. Many small businesses struggle with maintaining an active online presence. The overhead is low, requiring just a computer and software. Services could include social media management, blog writing, and video production. Networking and showcasing a strong portfolio would be key to attracting clients.

Hardy Desai, founder of Supple Digital

7. Begin a Career Coaching Business

coaching business idea

Career coaching is becoming really important, what with all the layoffs and people quitting their jobs lately. Starting a career coaching business could be a good move, and it’s something you can grow over time. The best part? It’s pretty profitable — you’re looking at a 30% profit margin, and it only costs about $11,992 to get going. Looking ahead to 2024, this seems like a really smart business idea.

This kind of business really hits the mark because more and more people want jobs that mean something to them and make them happy. Plus, as jobs and industries change with new technology, people will need more help figuring out their career paths. That’s going to make career coaching even more in demand.

If you want to make it big in this field, networking is key. When you connect with lots of people, you gain access to more potential clients through referrals, and that makes your business look more reliable and helps it grow. Plus, it can lead to working together with other professionals and creating new services.

Precious Abacan, marketing director at Softlist

8. Run a Virtual Event-Planning Business

How to start an event planning business

Consider starting a virtual event-planning business. Remote work has become more common, and along with it came virtual team-building and networking events. You can expect low overhead costs since the business can be run from home. I would take advantage of digital marketing strategies and network with corporate clients to build a client base.

Phil Strazzulla, founder of SelectSoftware Reviews

9. Offer Podcast Editing and Production

How to start a podcast

Small-scale podcast editing and production services don’t require an arm and a leg to start and could be highly profitable. Many people are starting podcasts but lack the technical skills for editing and production, so that’s where you can step in! The investment in audio editing software and marketing is relatively low, and you can work from anywhere.

David Gaglione, founding partner at PS212

10. Sell Humorous T-Shirts

How to start a t-shirt business

Why not sell T-shirts with funny sayings and images on them?

I think this is a good idea because a lot of people like to wear T-shirts, especially teenagers, and they’re usually not too expensive. But if you’re selling a shirt with something funny (think memes, puns, wordplay), people will want to buy more than one of them.

The best thing is that you can find inspiration everywhere around you and make them about anything from politics to pop culture or sports teams; there’s almost no limit!

Luka Blaževac, CEO of Incendio Wand

11. Provide Unique Real Estate Photography

How to Start a Real Estate Photography Business

My game-changing, low-cost venture for 2024 is providing one-of-a-kind real estate photography services. I capture immersive property visuals at a fraction of the cost. To stand out in the market, I offer dynamic virtual tours and personalized marketing packages. The digital age is all about captivating property presentations, and this idea fits right it. 

My business serves as proof that a creative edge in real estate can yield substantial profits on a tight budget. I made minimal investments in quality equipment and innovative marketing on social platforms, and it has turned my passion into a lucrative business.

Erik Wright, CEO of New Horizon Home Buyers

12. Publish a Local Restaurant Review Website

How to start a restaurant business

Something that doesn’t cost much to start and stands to gain high profits in 2024 is a website that helps people find, rate, and review all the local restaurants in their area.

While this may seem easy peasy, it’s actually not. You have to find a way to make your site stand out from others, and you also have to ensure that it is easy for people to navigate. This means that you need to keep things simple while still giving users the option to personalize their experience.

If you manage to do that, then you’ll have an opportunity to make money by charging restaurants that want their restaurant listed on your site. You could also offer advertising opportunities for restaurants on your site if they aren’t interested in paying for a listing but still want some exposure.

Arvin Khamseh, CEO of Sold Out NFTs

13. Found a Talent Acquisition Service

How to Start a Talent Agency

Starting a business in the area of talent acquisition or career development can be a very lucrative venture for 2024. A recent survey published by Robert Half indicates that 57% of businesses plan to add new permanent positions in the coming year, and 39% expect they’ll need to hire into vacant positions, while 67% plan to hire contract workers or freelancers.

This will translate to increased demand for talent acquisition services, especially in areas like healthcare and technology that are already facing talent and skill shortages. You can also start a business on the other side of this equation, helping job seekers prepare their applications and better show these hiring companies why they’re the best fit for their open roles. 

Recruitment and career development also fit the “profitability on a budget” category. The costs to start this kind of agency are potentially quite low, both at start-up and in terms of ongoing costs. This is especially true if you’re adept at using social media and have strong relationship-building skills and a broad professional network. 

I will also say this doesn’t necessarily need to mean starting a staffing agency or recruitment firm. My business, for example, is a platform that connects physician assistants with open opportunities and resources to further their careers. Starting this kind of niche hiring platform to connect job seekers with employers can be a profitable venture, and it’s beneficial for both groups in those industries because it saves them time and energy compared to searching for jobs or candidates through more general platforms or other traditional recruitment strategies.

Carlos Da Silva, physician assistant at PA Career Hub

14. Develop a B2B Dropshipping Platform

dropshipping business idea

Consider creating a B2B dropshipping platform that specializes in niche products, connecting manufacturers or suppliers directly with retailers. This eliminates the need for heavy investment in inventory or warehouse space, relying on a “just-in-time” approach where products are shipped directly from suppliers to retailers. This enables scalability without the burden of managing physical inventory, offering a cost-effective and flexible solution. 

Success hinges on identifying specific niches with demand for unique products, building relationships with reliable suppliers, and ensuring an intuitive, user-friendly platform for retailers. Wainbee can partner with you to deliver engineered systems in Canada.

Campbell Tourgis, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Wainbee

15. Launch a Virtual Personal Assistant Service

How to start a virtual assistant business

Starting a virtual personal assistant service can be highly profitable. With the rise of remote work, there’s a growing demand for virtual assistance in tasks like email management, scheduling, and administrative support. 

This business requires minimal investment, mainly in a good computer and communication tools. Marketing to busy professionals and small businesses through LinkedIn and other professional networks can attract clients.

Jim Pendergast, senior vice president, altLINE Sobanco

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15 Low-Cost Business Ideas