Free PDF: Proven blueprint for a profitable online business that replaces your 9-5

28 Low-Cost Business Ideas That Are Highly Profitable in 2024

On this page

Are you ready to become an entrepreneur but need help coming up with highly profitable, low-cost business ideas?

Then you’re in the right place.

In this guide, I’m going to share a list of low-cost business ideas that are lucrative enough to replace your salary altogether.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

Top low-cost business ideas with high profit 

The top low-cost businesses that you can start with $1,000 or less are: 

1. Coaching 

2. Consulting

3. Freelancing

How do I know? 

I built my own low-cost business while I was still in a day job. 

I started with the skills I had…And within four months, I had made six figures. 

That’s not to say it was easy – I spent the previous years figuring out how to start a business and what idea to go for.

The best thing is that these low-cost business ideas are not only cheap to start…they’re profitable, too.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

For a full list of businesses that are the least expensive to start: 

1. Coaching

When it comes to highly profitable, low-cost business ideas, coaching is one of the best.


Because all you need to get started is experience, passion, and the skill to help others transform their lives.

There’s a coach for everything, including career, finance, health, and relationships.

For example: 

My student Ruby turned her matchmaking experience at companies like eHarmony into a relationship coaching business.

Screenshot of Good gentleman website

Need help? I show you exactly how to launch your coaching business in this full guide.

2. Consulting

Consulting is a great option if you want to help other entrepreneurs transform their businesses.

Like coaching, what you need to become a consultant is expertise in the field you’re consulting on, making it another one of the best low-cost business ideas.

My first online business was a digital advertising consulting business. 

At the time, I was in a 9-5 where I had acquired digital advertising skills. 

So I packaged those and sold them to small business owners. 

There are other types of businesses, too.

For example, my student Mara runs her own law school admission consulting business.

TopLawSchoolConsulting website screenshot

To learn more, check out this guide about starting a consulting business.

3. Selling online courses

If you have something to teach people, you have material for an online course!


I’ve seen online courses on everything from business to Star Trek.

So, why do they belong on this list of highly profitable, low-cost business ideas?

Because they establish you as an expert, are highly scalable, and allow you to make money even when you’re not working on them.

All you need to start is the right idea.

ETE screenshot
I created my own course, Employee to Entrepreneur, to scratch my own itch – I couldn’t find any courses on how to build a business with a full-time job. That’s how I scaled my coaching business.

And I’ll show you how to find one in this guide.

4. Personal assistant 

In short, a personal assistant (PA) helps busy professionals stay organized.

They’re often responsible for handling the administrative side of things, including tasks like scheduling, errands, and calls. 

You most likely have everything you need to be a PA – a computer, phone, and Wi-Fi. 

That’s the true definition of a low-cost business idea.

But like most business ideas, specializing is key. 

And you don’t always have to work with businesspeople. Niches like household management for overwhelmed parents are always in demand!

5. Affiliate marketing 

As an affiliate marketer, you’ll earn commission by driving sales, referrals, and traffic for online retailers.

And with 80% of brands using affiliate marketers, there’s a huge demand for it.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

As long as you have an online audience, affiliate marketing is one of the most profitable, low-cost business ideas out there.

The best part?

There’s no limit to how many items you can promote.

But remember, it’s more than just listing products.

You’ll need to dedicate yourself to creating high-quality, engaging content showcasing each product’s value.

6. Selling digital products 

Today’s creator economy is filled with digital products.

No, really – online courses, digital art, eBooks, printables, and even patterns are all profitable digital products!

Why are they so popular?

Because they’re highly profitable, low-cost business ideas anyone can sell.

Think of it like this:

All it costs to make a digital product is your time. 

Let’s say you charge $100 for it.

If ten people buy it, you’ve made $1,000 in profit for something that costs nothing to make!

And because you can keep selling and promoting it for years to come, it’s as close to passive income as you can get.

For example, Tomas Frank sells Notion templates and has built a highly profitable business

7. Tutor 

Like coaching, tutoring only requires your expertise in a specific subject area.

Tutoring can also be incredibly lucrative.

Most tutors charge anywhere from $25 to $80 an hour.

But the more specific your niche, the more you’re able to charge.

For example, LSAT and SAT prep tutors can charge as much as $100 an hour.

Tutoring is also as scalable as you’d like it to be.

After all, you choose how many hours you work and the number of students you take on.

8. Translation service 

Translators are necessary for things like marketing content, legal documents, technical language, books, and more.

You just need to be a fluent speaker of the language you’re translating.

The best part?

You can streamline or even automate most translation tasks, maximizing your hourly profit.

9. Personal training

As a personal trainer, you’ll help clients learn proper exercise techniques and create exercise plans to help them reach their goals.

And because it requires minimal equipment to get started (especially if you work online), it’s one of the best low-cost business ideas for fitness lovers.

Typically, you don’t even need a certification (although it’s much, much better if you do)! 

You just need to be able to help people get the results they want.

10. Social media management 

Small businesses rely on social media to expand their reach and drive profits.

But there’s a lot involved, and most business owners need help managing it.

That’s where you come in.

You do have to be familiar with the ways of social media, so there is a bit of a learning curve. But don’t panic!

I’ve put together a list of the best social media platforms for businesses to help you get started.

11. Software training 

Software trainers teach others to use specific types of software more effectively.

That includes everything from essential functions to more advanced techniques for software like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and Zoom.

You could even specialize in task-specific software like QuickBooks, WordPress, and HubSpot.

All you need is a computer, teaching skills, and practical experience.

12. Podcasting

Podcasts are relatively low-cost business ideas for a couple of reasons.

First, you just need a microphone, headphones, and something to say.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

Second, you can do everything yourself, including distribution, marketing, and editing.

And thanks to things like premium content, sponsorships, advertising, and merchandise, they have the potential for a high profit margin.

13. AI training

AI training is among the newest low-cost business ideas.

It’s the process of feeding data to an AI model to help it learn and perform a particular task more effectively.

You can train AI on things like image recognition, spam filtering, voice assistants, and “recommended for you” systems.

You just need a computer to get started, so startup costs are low.

With that, you can make anywhere from $20 to $40 per hour as a freelance AI trainer. 

14. Virtual assistant 

This is one low-cost business idea you can start right now.

Virtual assistants essentially act as a go-to for small online businesses.

They help with things like customer service, tech support, website updates, and email marketing.

The best part? 

There are over 33 million small businesses in the US alone, which means there’s a ton of demand.

15. Content creation 

Businesses need content to succeed.

After all, companies with blogs see 55% more visitors and 67% more leads.

Of course, it’s more than just blog posts.

Content also includes social media posts, videos, podcasts, and more.

And a lot of business owners find that managing it on their own gets overwhelming.

That’s where you can help!

And because you only need a computer, you can do it with little to no upfront cost.

That’s what makes it one of my favorite low-cost business ideas.

I teach you to make content quickly and easily in this video:

16. Career coaching

As a career coach, you’ll help clients reach their goals.

And because clients can be in any stage of their career, those goals could be anything.

That includes finding a job, getting a promotion, or just finding ways to improve their performance.

Career coaching is one of the best low-cost business ideas because you only need experience and a proven method.

I’ll show you how to become a successful career coach in this guide.

Screenshot of Cultivitae's Instagram account
My student Emily used her experience as a Fortune 500 recruiter to start her own career coaching business

17. Writing a book 

You might think writing a book is one of the most intimidating low-cost business ideas, but hear me out.

All you need is a good idea and the discipline to write every single day. 

Other than your time and brainpower, writing costs very little!

And once you’re ready to publish, you can continue to keep costs down. Instead of working with a publishing house, consider self-publishing, publishing digitally, and using social media for marketing.

18. Event planning 

There’s an event planner for everything.

Some of the most common events planners work on include private events, corporate events, children’s birthday parties, and weddings.

Don’t forget that events tend to be expensive – which means that this is a low-cost business idea with an impressive profit margin.

19. Freelance writing 

This is another business that you can start immediately.

The startup costs and entry barriers are nearly non-existent.

All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and writing experience.

I recommend heading to Upwork to find clients – there are over 145,000 employers on the platform.

20. Stylist

Styling is one of the best low-cost business ideas if you’re passionate about beauty or fashion.

You’ve got several options, too, including:

  • Bridal styling
  • Personal styling
  • Wardrobe consulting
  • Celebrity styling

Some stylists will need to purchase equipment (such as hair or makeup tools), but the initial investment is generally low.

Like many stylists, you could even save on costs by running your business out of your home or offering virtual services.

21. Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping is one of the best low-cost business ideas for anyone with a background in finance.

As a bookkeeper, you’ll act as a financial organizer.

You’re the one who will keep track of a company’s income, expenses, transactions, and reports.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

There are minimal costs to get started as a bookkeeper.

Really, all you’ll need is a computer and accounting software.

The best part? You can scale without having to invest in more resources.

22. Blogging/Vlogging

To start blogging, vlogging, or both, you just need a USP (unique selling point) – something that makes you stick out in your niche.

Right now, that’s crucial because there are 32 million bloggers in America.

Of course, you’ll also need a domain name and web hosting service.

But both of those things are often very inexpensive.

And, like podcasting, blogs and vlogs become profitable through sponsorships, advertising, and merchandise. 

I’ve rounded up 70 blog ideas to attract readers to get you started.

23. Personal chef

Compared to other food businesses, becoming a personal chef is one of the most low-cost business ideas.

After all, you don’t need much – just basic kitchen tools, incredible recipes, and proven cooking experience.

On average, private chefs make $90,386 per year.

24. Data analyst

Data analysts study and present data to help companies make better decisions.

Every industry relies on data analysts, including retail, marketing, and healthcare.

Because of that, data analysts are in high demand – and now is a great time to get involved.

While you do need a few essential skills, you don’t always need a bachelor’s degree.

Instead, consider online courses and certifications.

25. Renting out properties

At first glance, you might think, “Luisa, rental properties are not low-cost business ideas!”

But truthfully, properties have fewer upfront costs than businesses that need a storefront, inventory, and equipment.

You just need to think carefully about the property type, location, down payment, and potential expenses. 

Thoroughly research, and you’ll likely only need to make a few minor repairs.

Overall, property rental is a great way to generate income if you follow these steps.

Ryan Chaw website screenshot
My student Ryan has built a successful rental property business and coaches people on how to do the same

26. Copywriting 

Copywriting is essentially writing anything for a business.

So, if you’re good with words, copywriting is one of the best low-cost business ideas for you.

Having a specialty or a niche will set you up for success. 

For example, some copywriters write about tech or business. Others write web pages or do email copywriting.

But before committing, I suggest reading Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.

It’s the go-to for copywriters – and you can get a FREE PDF version here.

27. Digital marketing services 

Digital marketing is a catch-all term for services like content marketing, SEO, PPC, and email marketing.

Companies use them to attract new customers, drive traffic, and increase sales.

So, unsurprisingly, digital marketing services are in high demand.

In fact, the industry is estimated to be worth $807 billion by 2026.

The best part? 

There’s no formal education necessary. You can learn everything you need to know from online courses.

28. Graphic designer 

Graphic designers create digital images and other concepts for clients to use on their websites or in marketing materials.

And you don’t need much to get started beyond a computer and industry-standard software like Photoshop and InDesign.

That makes graphic design one of the best low-barrier, low-cost business ideas for tech-savvy creatives.

So, we’ve covered some of the most profitable low-cost business ideas.

But how do you start your own?

I’ll tell you in the next section, so keep reading!

How can you start a low-cost business from zero?

Building a successful, six-figure business is within your reach – even without business experience.

It all starts with narrowing down your list of low-cost business ideas and choosing the best one for you.

Find a low-cost business idea 

Here’s the thing about finding low-cost business ideas.

They don’t have to be complicated or even revolutionary.

At the end of the day, it’s all about productizing your knowledge.

In other words, find a way to package and sell the skills and tools you already have. Just like I did with digital advertising consulting.

And before starting that business, I tried a few other ideas based on my skills, including career coaching and Excel coaching. 

One of the best ways to find a great business idea is to ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Who are you? 
  • What do you like?
  • What means the most to you?
  • What problems can you solve? 
  • What would people pay for?

I’ll tell you more about coming up with a foolproof business idea in this guide.

Set up your business 

Once you’ve landed on your idea, it’s time to set up your business! 

Here are a couple of the most important items to check off your list:

  • Registering your business: If you’re running your business under your name, you probably don’t need to register with the local or state government. Registering does give you tax, legal, and personal liability protection benefits, but you can also keep it simple and register it after you have your first clients. 
  • Getting your license or certification: The good news is that unless you’re in a field like law, medicine, or finance, most of the low-cost business ideas on this list won’t require these. But just to play it safe, make sure you fulfill local requirements for things like a DBA or home business license.
  • Organize finances: This includes opening a business bank account and, if you need it, taking out an insurance policy.

I know it seems overwhelming, but you can find it all in this checklist.

Get your first paying customers  

There are plenty of clients out there…if you know where to look. 

So, start spending time in the same places your ideal customers are.

Join online forums like Reddit or Instagram and start by offering valuable advice and real solutions to their problems.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

Once you’ve built that trust, then you can advertise your services.

I started my digital advertising business by connecting with people on Facebook. I didn’t plan to sell – but one woman I was helping for free signed up after I gave her a ton of value. 

That’s really the key for finding clients – build relationships first. 

And don’t forget your network.

So, your coworkers, friends, and family. 

Chances are, someone could use your services – and if they can’t, they probably know someone who does.

I found my first career coaching clients that way. A few of my coworkers had asked me for career-related advice, so I reached out to them and let them know I would be offering career coaching.  

I talk more about finding clients in this video:

Whatever you do, don’t stress out about the clients you don’t have. 

You’ll just get into your head and sabotage yourself.

Instead, focus solely on getting your next one.

Next steps 

Now, you have a complete list of low-cost business ideas you can start working on right now.

I promise you can turn any of these low-cost business ideas into a successful six-figure business that offers you freedom and fulfillment.

I’ve done it, and so have my students.

And I’ll show you exactly how to do it in my FREE blueprint. Get it here:

Want to Build a 6-Figure Coaching Business So You Can Achieve More Freedom?

Get Instant Access To My FREE Ultimate Guide Below!

When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

Read more:

How to Succeed in Business

How to Build a Six-Figure Business in Months

How to Finally Quit Your Corporate Job

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

Want to know how to build a profitable, meaningful business to replace your 9-5?

The proven blueprint for building your own online business - that frees you from the 9-to-5

When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This website uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies