Got $500 spare and wondering how to level up your life? Maybe you’re wondering how to turn your passions and skills into a successful business? Luckily it’s possible to start a business with huge potential with just a few hundred dollars!
There is plenty of room for creativity in the field of entrepreneurship, especially when it comes to finding ways around established ideas and long-held assumptions.
So let your creativity and determination guide you, and get ready to turn your dreams into reality with these 12 inspiring business ideas that can be started with $500 or less.
Before you set up your business
Most of our business ideas below will require a computer and access to the internet – of course. But you will also need some level of marketing skills to find your clients, and obviously have some skills in business management.
Never run a business before? That’s fine – you’ll learn a lot on the job.
But it is strongly advised that before you start a small business, you run through these steps:
- Research: Identify the demand for your service and your expertise in it. This will help you to pitch for clients and to set your price point.
- Plan: Make a business plan. This will be an essential step and will involve looking at how you will provide your service, steps to get more clients, sourcing materials and equipment (if needed) and other elements of running your business.
- Budget: Even if you’re starting with $500 or less, you still need to work out where that money will be spent for best results.
- Setup: Set up any online platforms you might need. From website hosting from Namecheap, to payment processing, payment processing.. Factor all of this into your budget so you don’t get caught out.
- Start Today! Don’t wait for perfect… Many people wait until the right moment to start their new business venture. But often the best method is just to get stuck in and start trading.
OK. Now you have the steps in place to go from business idea to business model. Which is the best business to start under 500 bucks?
1. Set up a ghost kitchen
A ghost kitchen is a restaurant that operates solely for delivery, with no physical storefront. Ghost kitchens are becoming increasingly popular as more people turn to online ordering platforms for their food. If you have experience in the food industry and are comfortable with online ordering platforms, you could start a ghost kitchen with a small investment of under $500.
To get started, you will need to rent or purchase a small kitchen space, purchase basic kitchen equipment and supplies, and set up a website or use an existing online ordering platform to receive orders. Then consider checking about restaurant delivery software to streamline your delivery process and improve customer satisfaction.
Another thing to bear in mind with setting up a cost effective ghost kitchen is that you will need hygiene certifications, and most likely insurance too. Oh and a good system of food hygiene. After all, food poisoning doesn’t win repeat clients.
And keep it simple with the menu to start with. Focus on a select range of dishes you can create easily and to a high standard, and scale up from there. Setting up this business under $500 is tricky, but not impossible.
2. Virtual event planner
A virtual event planner is a professional who specializes in planning and organizing virtual events, such as webinars, conferences, and workshops.
With the rise of remote work, there has been an increase in demand for virtual event planning services. If you have experience planning events and are comfortable with online tools and platforms, you could start a business as a virtual event planner with a small investment of under $500.
Obviously you will need internet access, and ideally a background in event planning and management in the real world. But this can be a fun and rewarding role for someone organized and experienced with running events online such as virtual conferences, webinars or gaming.
With careful planning and marketing, it is possible to set up a successful virtual event planning business for under $500.
3. Home organizer or declutter service
If you are organized and have an eye for detail, you could start a business offering home organizing services to local clients. Think decluttering and helping people to embrace minimalism.
A home organizing business can be started with a small investment of under $500, and it can be a fulfilling and rewarding way to help people declutter and streamline their living spaces.
Of course, you will need to be well organized and good with systems for clearing and sorting. It may also help if you have a background in cleaning, removals or even life coaching. And you will also need to be patient as people who want decluttering often need gentle coaxing to let go of their hoarde.
Think you could be the next Marie Kondo? You can try and help people live an uncluttered life with an investment of well under $500.
4. Personal stylist/online shopper
If you have a keen eye for fashion and are comfortable with online shopping platforms, you could start a business as a personal stylist or home shopper. And yes, there is a demand for online personal stylist for men and women…
A personal styling or shopping business can be a fun and rewarding way to help people improve their personal style and wardrobe. Of course you will to have great style yourself, and ideally have a good social media following as this is where you are likely to find core clients. You may also want to invest in a few marketing materials such as business cards, websites and brochures – although these may be good to add later in your business journey.
Although this is a business you can easily set up for under $500, you will need to invest time in building a potential client list and online presence.
5. Social media manager
Starting a business as a social media manager can be a rewarding and flexible way to help businesses and individuals improve their online presence. Not only that, you can easily set up as a social media manager for well under $500.
To get started, you will need access to social media scheduling tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer. And in addition to basic social media management skills, it can be helpful to have a strong understanding of copywriting, video creating or editing, content strategy and general digital marketing principles.
To attract clients, it is important to build your own social presence by creating a strong, professional profile on social media platforms and regularly publishing high-quality content. You can also use your own social media accounts to promote your services and interact with potential clients. In addition to managing clients’ accounts, you may also want to offer additional services such as social media strategy development, content creation, and advertising management.
Your biggest outlay will probably be the software tools, but they will be very important to the smooth operation of your fledgling social media management company.
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6. Voice over artist
Are you the owner of a clear and articulate speaking voice? Well, you could set up as a freelance voice over artist for under $500.
Voice over artists are in demand for businesses of all types, for creating ads, instructional videos or even adding the voice to YouTube channels. And it can be a good paying job too!
To get setup, you will need a quiet place where you can record your voice, with good acoustics and no background noise. Ideally you can hire a recording space for a low monthly rate in many places. You will also need a decent microphone and a set of headphones, both of which should set you back under $100 in total.
7. Blogger/content writer
Yes, you can setup as a content writer for under $500. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. And yes this is also a potentially lucrative space for those with the abilities and the marketing skills.
And this is a key point. Success as a content writer means a lot of self marketing and being a cut above the rest, There are a million, probably more, freelance content writers out there competing for very low paying jobs. How are you going to rise above that?
To add to this, AI content tools have made it harder than ever for content writers to get started. But it’s not impossible, and quality content writers are always in demand.
OK, I’m playing this one down because I am a content writer and I know how challenging and heavily saturated the industry is. But if you’re looking to start a business with $500 or less and you have the writing skills, go for it…
8. WordPress developer
The most used website building software, by far, WordPress developers are in big demand. And the thing is, this is a job that can pay really well if you spend a few hours doing a few online courses and learning some skills.
Of course you’ll need a decent understanding of WordPress development and web design principles. In addition to building and customizing WordPress websites for clients, you may also want to offer additional services such as plugin development, theme customization, and website maintenance.
To attract clients, you can create a website or use an existing platform such as social media or a marketplace to promote your services.
Although this is a business you can start for under $500, most of this will likely go on learning (if you’re not already up to speed). Check out sites like Udemy to learn your WordPress skills.
9. Pet sitter and dog walker
Love dogs? Or pets? Plenty of people will pay good money for you to take care of their pooch while they’re at work. Or, go to their home and feed cats, goldfish and snakes(!) – or even water their plants while they’re on holiday.
As a local service it will help if you live in a big city or area with people willing to pay for this service. But it’s an easy business to start for well under $500, wherever you are.
10. Personalized gift baskets or gifts
Creating personalized gift baskets can be a fun, rewarding and creative way to setup a business under $500. Don’t assume these baskets are for special occasions… You can put together weekly fruit baskets for local offices, corporate gifts for B2B clients (for example branded drinks and snacks delivered to a clients office), wedding hampers, personalized picnic hampers and obviously hampers for Christmas and birthdays.
To get started, you will need to invest in basic supplies and packaging materials, such as baskets, tissue paper, and ribbon. You will also need to source a variety of items to include in your gift baskets, such as food, drink, and other small gifts.
To attract clients, you can create a website or use an existing platform such as social media or a marketplace to promote your services. However you could also approach local business to let them know about your offer and run paid ads too.
Although this is a business you can start for under $500, it will depend on how you put the hampers together. Build relationships with local suppliers to get a great price for wholesale.
11. Personal advisor
Coaching is a broad term, but setting up as a business, finance or even lifestyle advisor can be lucrative and flexible. If you have experience or in anything from running a business or a background in money management, you can offer your skills and expertise for a fee.
For lifestyle coaching – this can include anything from styling or dating advice, to fitness coaching.
We’ll look at fitness coaching in a moment (see below).
But when it comes to personal coaching, you can easily start with under $500 and be making at least that amount daily.
Most of you investment will be spent on marketing yourself, for example on social media. But you can attract clients by can offering free consultations or sample sessions.
12. Start an online publishing empire
Starting blogs and online magazines is a fun and creative outlet, plus its cheap to get started. But filling your sites with regular content can get expensive, especially if you’re aiming for quality. Although AI content tools can make this easier, they still require time and effort to edit and optimize for search.
Once you start getting traffic to a website, you can optimize it with ads, affiliate links and more. And, crucially, this is a business you can start for well under $500.
Bear in mind that it will take time to build each website up, and you will need content writing skills, website design skills and knowledge of SEO.
Start your own website with the cheapest domain hosting from Namecheap.
13. Online course
If you have the skills, why not share them with your audience? Creating an online course is a business that can be done for well under $500.
First think about the skills you can offer, whether that is business skills (eg. email marketing, lead generating), personal skills (eg. confidence/public speaking) or something else like cookery or magic tricks.
Work out how you’re going to present your course. A video course is a good idea, but you can do text based courses too.
And then publish your course on your chosen platform. Kajabi is the most popular, but you can also share your course on Udemy, Podia, Alison and Skillshare. See which is best for you…
14. Personal Fitness Trainer (PT)
Fitness is big business, and personal trainers are more in demand than ever. And the great thing about personal training is that you can earn from your love of fitness. And there is surely no better feeling in business than helping a client achieve their body and fitness goals.
One thing to bear in mind though is that you will need to get certified, which is where your $500 business investment will come in handy.
There are a number of online courses for PTs, such as ISSA. While they do charge a monthly fee, you can actually complete the essential training in between 6-8 weeks and be on your way to winning your first personal training clients.
Like many of the jobs on this list, although you can start a business for $500, you will need. to invest time in marketing your brand.
Read more about becoming a personal fitness coach.
15. Virtual assistant (VA)
The role of virtual assistant has grown massively in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Many people want to outsource tasks to people and pay them an hourly or daily wage, which has created a huge market for VAs.
This is obviously a good business to start with under $500, as all you need is a laptop, an internet connection and access to social media platforms.
Typical tasks might include data entry, diary management, sending and responding to emails, managing a blog, social media management and simple blogging/content writing.
One thing to bear in mind is that many VAs are based in countries like Kenya or the Philippines where wages are low. This means the rate for VAs can be as low as $5 an hour. However, there is definitely room to market yourself at the mid to top end of the market and charge more.
Choosing the right tools for the job
Many of these businesses you can start under $500 will need you to use software tools to get up and running. Whether that’s for scheduling meetings, posting your services or even creating a platform to attract clients.
There are many tools you can choose as a startup business owner. You should read our guide to the best tools for solopreneurs, but to summarise:
- Notion: A great tool for task management, note taking and tracking your business finances, among other things.
- Litesite: A simple landing page site which allows people to schedule meetings and more.
- Buffer: Excellent social media management platform with free tier.
- Web hosting: This forms the basis for your entire online presence, so a good package is crucial. Check out Namecheap for the best prices on domains and hosting.
There are countless ways to make money online, it can be overwhelming. The best bet is to play to your strengths and focus on what you’re passionate about rather than trying everything. And don’t be afraid to fail either, as this is part of the journey.
We hope you’ve got some ideas for a business to start under $500 from this list. Let us know if we missed any really good ideas down in the comments.
Read more in our guide How to make a million.
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