10 Small Business ideas you can launch for cheap or Free

Small Business Advice 9 January 2018

The idea of starting your own business can be a dream. Being able to work when you want, grow your business and make large profits can almost seem too good to be true. But deciding which business venture to embark on can be hard. To make your decision that little bit easier, we’ve listed 10 businesses you can start cheaply and quickly, along with the reasons why.

Run a market stall

Running a market stall means that you can sell anything you want, anywhere you want. A great entry point for running a market stall is by starting at a boot sale. Fees for a car boot sale can be as little as £10 per day and you can pick up tips from your neighbouring boot sale merchants.

Once you’ve cracked the boot sale, move onto to local markets for more potential footfall and higher spend per customer. It’s worth knowing that many market customers nowadays expect to pay by card. Get yourself a mobile card reader that lets you take cards wherever you decide to set up.

Local market slots can be as little as £20 per day and if you’re selling enough well-priced items per day you can easily cover your costs. The key to generating greater profits is buying wholesale and selling them your items individually.

A combination of good footfall, a great choice of sale items and the ability to take card payments can see your market stall business grow quickly. As your business is growing, you can start looking at becoming a vendor at festivals & other events in the UK to expand your customer reach even more.

Make bespoke crafts

If you’re good with your hands and have an eye for design, you can have fun making crafts and unique items for both adults and children. The good thing about setting up a crafts business is that the materials can be acquired very cheaply. Craft items are usually made up of bits and pieces that others have discarded e.g. an old table, metal wiring or sheets of glass.

Renting a studio to blow glass is around 130-150 per day. For this price, the studio should come with a compressor and sandblaster that allows you to mould the glass and get the shape you want.

This might seem expensive at first but small unique and high-priced items can be sold for £200 or more, meaning if you make just a couple items a day, you’ll be able to cover the studio costs plus make a little more for your own profits. 

On the other hand, you can always create your home based studio and create an online shop with Etsy.

More than just the money, you have the ability to endlessly customise your items and create different ranges for different types of customers. There’s a lot of personal satisfaction to be gained from crafts, especially if you already enjoy making things with your hands and gifting unique, one-off items to people and seeing them happy.

Be jewellery maker

Being a jewellery designer can be a glamorous business. Your time is spent making beautiful pieces for people to wear and show off to their friends at parties, events and dinners. When you first start your jewellery venture, you have no idea where it could go or who may end up wearing it, and that’s the most exciting part.

A good place to start is at your local craft shows. You’ll see many people selling their wares, including jewellery and other unique, handmade items. The way to stand out is to focus on unique designs that capture the attention of passers by. Make a catalogue that you can present to potential customers and even send to retailers who may buy your jewellery in bulk. This could incur some significant printing costs but by shopping around you can find a competitive price with a good printing company.

While selling your jewellery direct to individuals can increase satisfaction, it may be unsustainable if you want to grow your business over the long term. Target retailers and department stores who are willing to sell your jewellery to their customers and spread the love far and wide.

Become a private hire driver

If you quite like working solitary for long periods of time, you could consider being a driver. The freedom of the road means you won’t be stuck in an office or stood on your feet all day, and you can take pride in providing a great service. Additionally, you can drive whenever you want and unlike crafts or jewellery, you don’t need to rely on your sales skills.

The benefits are that you get to see new places, get to know your city, town or region and meet many different types of people. You should have been driving for a while, but to get started, it’s important to get licensed and insured before you start driving. Take some time to study the local geography and get to know the road. It could even be worth doing an advanced driving course.

Because of the rise of card payments, people carry less cash than they used to, so you’ll want to setup your taxi card payments. Your customers will greatly appreciate it. There are also car maintenance costs to think about, as driving all day can wear your vehicle down quicker.

Try window cleaning

If you’re someone who’s not scared of heights and gets satisfaction from getting things squeaky clean, then window cleaning could be your thing. Keeping storefronts, offices, and homes looking presentable is a job to be proud of.

To start, you’ll need the typical equipment like a ladder, bucket and extendable brush. You can often get an entire window cleaning kit for £20-30 at your local home store. You’ll also want to wear the right gear for a professional look, which you can pick up for as little as £15. Of course you’ll also need cleaning products, like liquid spray so hit the supermarket to purchase some of these basics.

In the winter months, the cold weather can make window cleaning difficult. Think about swapping it out for one of the other businesses on this list like carpentry.

Start a laundry service

Is it your passion to keeping people looking stylish? You’re in luck because starting a laundry service is a business you can do with very little upfront money.

You’ll need to ensure that you’re punctual and you don’t mind driving around town frequently stopping off to pick up and drop off items. A suitable vehicle, such as a small van, is a necessity if you want to avoid giving your customers creased and badly-carried clothes.

Aside from the cost of buying or leasing the vehicle, you’ll want to run some local promotions like flyering local residents and businesses to get the word out. On the other side, research laundry and dry cleaning businesses in the area to team up and offer your delivery service.

Do some pool cleaning

Pool cleaning can seem like a boring job with very little excitement attached to it but if you like seeing a range of different luxurious properties, then this could be for you. All you need is a pool cleaning stick and maybe a car to get from place to place.

Wealthy homeowners like to keep their properties looking respectable at all times so you can find a lot of demand in such areas. This is especially true in the summer months so be sure to go door to door and put up ads in businesses that your customers may frequent.

Like window cleaning, demand for pool cleaning may dry up in winter as less people use their pool. For this reason, you might want to have a back up like taxi driving. You’re likely to find more taxi rides in the winter as people look to escape the cold.

Do some painting/decorating/carpenting

Are you constantly fixing things around the house? Do you have a good eye for design? Becoming a tradesperson can be very rewarding as you get to see a project through from start to finish.

Get yourself some new or used decorating tools. You can pick these up from home improvement stores or even boot sales if you want to keep the price down. There are so many places to find worker tools that you should be spoiled for choice.

To transport your tools you may need a car, particularly for bigger jobs. Properties may be remote so investing in a van or large car can be beneficial. A good way to get a steady stream of work, is to earn referrals from existing customers and connect with other tradespeople of different skills to take on jobs together.

Become a tattoo artist

This is one for those with a natural artistic flair and an eye for cool designs. Even with a natural ability it’s a good idea to invest in a tattoo or illustration course. There are a good number of entry-level courses available online. While prices vary wildly, an investment of £1000-2000 is ideal.

As well as enrolling on a formal course, it’s important to practice. Offer your friends and family free tattoos once you feel confident enough and continue to learn about how the ink looks on different shades of skin and on different areas of the body.

At the start you’ll need a tattoo gun with all the parts, plus tattoo ink. All of this is available online from a marketplace or tattoo website. Alternatively, you may find a finely priced gun at a local tattoo and body piercing shop.

Once you have your equipment and plenty initially experience, you can rent a chair in a tattoo shop. Renting a chair in an existing tattoo shop can be expensive – around £600 per week. This depends on a range of factors from location to shop reputation and your relationship with them.

The best thing to do is to get a steady stream of clients before you start renting a chair so that those customers and their friends form a steady stream of income to cover your expenses. Eventually you may be able to start your own tattoo parlour in a location that you see fit. Our post on finding the ideal business premises can help you think about all the considerations you need to make.

A countertop card machine will help you to take card payments from your sales desk and get you paid quickly. Instead of sending your newly tattoo’d customers to the ATM.

Start an Online business

In addition to the above business ideas, there are cheap online ventures that you can embark on.

As a domain name buyer you can buy and sell web domains like an online property developer. By studying the space and thinking ahead, you could stand to make good money from the comfort of your own home.

You could become a marketplace seller, distributing new and used goods on places like eBay and Amazon. Think about whether you have exclusive access to a certain type of high-demand item.

If you’re good with computers and know how to write computer code, you could quickly start a business as an application developer, offering your skills to businesses and individuals. Though the learning curve may be steep for beginners, the payoff can be huge if your product or service becomes popular.

For each of these online businesses you’ll need an online payment gateway to take secure payments from your customers. By offering a safe way to make payment, your customers are more likely to spend with you, knowing that their details are secure.

If you are looking for the perfect time to start your own business, we have created a guide on how you can find money to start your own business before the end of the year. And if you are still unsure of where to start up, our best cities to start a business in 2018 guide is here to help you choose the right location.

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