Are you itching to start up your own business but not sure where to begin? The right business for you will depend on your own particular experience, skills, personal interests and abilities. In this article there are twelve ideas to get your creative juices flowing and help you identify the type of business that would suit you best.
The ideas below are chosen because they do not require a large investment up front and they can usually be started gradually, even while you are doing another job. In general it is better to start small and build up gradually once you are sure that your basic business model works and that there is a demand that you can satisfy. Jumping straight in with a large investment is by its very nature far more risky.
Some of these ideas will require certain skills, but I have tried to avoid suggesting anything that is going to require more than a short course to get you going.
1. Be A Market Trader
Being a trader on a market is really just the vehicle you use to sell your goods, but what you actually sell is entirely up to you and still leaves you an enormous amount of choice. Markets come in all shapes and sizes these days and there is no limit to the type of goods that you can sell. The good thing about markets is that your only overheads are the cost of the pitch on the day and the cost of the stock you are trying to sell. This is a very low risk way of testing out whether there is a demand for a product, or whether you have got your pricing right.
Remember that Alan Sugar started out this way, so there really is no limit to where it can lead. It is also no surprise that candidates in The Apprentice regularly have to use markets or market stall type approaches in their challenges. It is business in its most basic form – you buy something at one price and sell it at a higher price. It is a great way to test out your business idea before risking a bigger investment.
You will need to find out who runs the markets you are interested in and how to get a street trading licence. None of this costs much, but you are unlikely to be able to walk straight onto a great pitch in an established market. You will want to start off as a casual trader to begin with anyway, as you need to know you have a viable business before committing to a longer term agreement on a stall.
2. Sell Goods Online
The online version of market trading, which again is very low cost and therefore low risk. The most basic way to get started is using a Shop on Ebay, but you could also set up your own e-commerce website relatively easily.
You can be as specialised as you want to be with online selling and your market place is literally global. You can even set things up so that you do not buy goods until you have already got a buyer for them. Just make sure you have thought through the logistics so that you can deliver an efficient service from day one. This will help to build up all important positive customer feedback.
3. A Fast Food Stand
Fast food is not what it used to be – in a good way. There are a growing number of interesting and artisan food outlets that sell from vans and stalls. Sometimes the demand and following that these generate can lead to bricks and mortar businesses.
With any type of food or drink business you need to contact your local council to check what licenses you need and ensure that you are complying with any regulations. Do this at the start to avoid being caught out later. Your basic equipment does not need to cost much and as with a market stall you will need to make arrangements for what pitch you are going to operate from.
Another increasingly popular business that relates to this and the market stall idea is selling home made cakes and biscuits. Home baking is extremely popular now, or rather eating home baking is extremely popular. If you have a particular knack for it, cake decoration is another related field that can be lucrative.
4. Be A Virtual Assistant
With remote working becoming more possible and more popular, this is a rapidly expanding business at the moment. It is ideal for someone who wants to work from home with no initial outlay.
The range of possible tasks that you can undertake is extensive and it is up to you what services you decide to offer. Typical duties will involve a phone answering service and checking and replying to emails. You will need to decide how you are going to find potential clients, but there are websites dedicated to connecting freelance VAs with people who need them.
Another area closely related to virtual assistant services is copywriting. This is just being a freelance writer, producing pieces of writing for articles, blog posts, web pages, brochures or whatever else your client requires. This is a huge business, thanks in no small part to the current importance of good quality writing on websites. For a business website to rank well in search engines it needs to have plenty of original copy on its pages, and ideally a blog which is updated regularly.
People from all over the world offer very cheap freelance copywriting services, but the majority of these are just not good enough in terms of proper use of English. A native English speaker with a flair for writing can command a decent rate for original copywriting work.
This one could be for those more comfortable with figures. If maths is a trial for you, don’t even consider this, as you need to go with something that suits your natural ability. The fact that many people are not comfortable with figures is a reason why there will always be a need for people who can undertake this type of work.
You may need to do a short course or two, depending how far you want to go with it. You certainly do not need to be an accountant as you will not be offering those sort of services. The work of a bookkeeper can cover such things as raising invoices and credit control, payment of invoices, recording and reporting on all income and expenditure.
7. Car Valeting Service
I have become increasingly aware that fewer and fewer people are interested in washing and cleaning their own car and that it is increasingly something that people are happy to pay someone else to do. There is therefore a considerable market consisting of people who will jump at the chance to have their car cleaned at their home at a time that suits them.
8. Mobile Hair And Beauty Services
If you are lucky enough to have had training in hairdressing, this is an obvious choice if you enjoy that type of work. Even if you haven’t any hairdressing experience, the current demand for nail art has opened up a whole new area of work in that field alone.
As people lead increasingly busy lives, the idea of having these services at home rather than having to fit in a salon visit becomes more attractive. With a population that is rapidly ageing, there is only likely to be more demand for businesses that provide services in the home.
9. Dog Walking and Pet Sitting
Self explanatory, but this again fulfils a growing need. Things that people used to take for granted and do themselves are more and more being passed on to others who we are happy to pay for their time. There are literally millions of dogs in the UK, which all require exercise. Many people want dogs but do not necessarily have the time or inclination to take them out twice a day.
In addition to dogs there are many other types of pet too, all of which need attention while their owners are away on holidays or business. A personal pet sitting service is naturally seen as kinder to the animal than the standard kennelling service which is the alternative.
10. Driving Instructor
Another great example of a business that is flexible in terms of how much you commit and enables you to work from home. This is a business for which you will need to be properly qualified before you can start, which does involve an investment in time, effort and some money. Your main options once you are qualified are to be totally independent or to latch onto one of the well known franchises that give a business model and considerable help in finding customers.
11. Handyman and Gardening
If you are handy around the house and garden, there are always a host of jobs that people need doing. Compared to a generation ago, people are generally far less willing and capable of tackling maintenance jobs themselves, and far more likely to pay someone else to do it.
You can start as simply as coming up with a list of the type of jobs that you can do, produce a simple leaflet promoting these services and put it through the doors in your local neighbourhood.
12. Laundry and Ironing
Many people hate washing an ironing, which is what makes it such a great business opportunity. It is not complicated and is a good example of a business that you can start very small and gradually expand as you build up a reputation and regular customers.
If you have a business idea the first thing you need to do is create a Business Plan, which will help you identify all the things you need to do to get it up and running successfully. There is a guide to writing a business plan in the Resources section of this site.