Best businesses to start on a budget

Looking to start a business but can't find funding? Many successful companies started on a shoestring and you can too. We recommend the best businesses to start on a budget.

Starting a business on a budget is a challenge but don’t let a lack of funding put you off. Manage your expectations – don’t expect to be a multimillion global corporation within a couple of years – and you can create a thriving small business on a shoestring.

It’s a good idea to have some working capital to run your business – and even a small business Start Up Loan can help your business succeed – but careful planning and cost control can help build a business on a budget.

Access finance up to £25,000

How to start a business on a shoestring

A few simple tactics will keep start up costs low and you can launch your business online for next to nothing to millions of potential customers.

  • Use the internet – cheap or free tools such as SEO marketing sites, online accounting and bookkeeping, and web building tools will let you create a website, CRM system and cloud-based virtual office that you can access anywhere.

Read our free guide to the best cheap and free business software.

  • Outsource – use the web to find specialists and experts, then outsource business tasks and even production to them. Concentrate on marketing your business, take orders online, and then use outsourced services to fulfil them.
  • Use digital marketing – free digital marketing services and social networking platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Google Adwords means you can reach a global audience of millions of people.
  • Use online platforms – online businesses such as eBay and Amazon have payment, shop and distribution infrastructures that let you sell your products at a low cost. With Amazon, for example, you can easily publish an ebook and keep 70% of the sales.

Best business ideas on a budget

Avoid get-rich-schemes promising easy money for little work or investment – these are often scams targeting would-be business owners. Here are six brilliant business ideas to start on a budget.

  • Set up an eBay business – specialise in either hard-to-find products, or good-quality products at discounted prices to attract buyers. It’s free to get started and once running you can pay a monthly fee to set up as an eBay shop for around £350. It’s possible to earn up to £50,000 per year with the right products, but start small and keep stock inventory low initially.
  • Tutoring – with the emphasis on SATs and entry into secondary schools, tutoring primary-school level maths, English and the 11+ exam is in high demand. Get CRB checked for reassurance, and expect to charge around £20-£35 per hour, though you’ll need to have a laptop, lesson software and workbooks.
  • Handyman and home repair – if you’re good with DIY and can invest in a decent set of tools and a small van, you can start as a handyman. Expect to charge around £20 per hour, and keep to jobs you can do well. Get happy customers to review you on sites such as Checkatrade.
  • Proof reading – Have a computer and word processor? If you’re good with words, then contact book publishers and offer proof-reading services. Expect to charge around £25, and joining an organisation such as the Society of Editors and Proofreaders will give customers confidence.
  • Computer repairs – home IT support is in high demand. You’ll need to be technically proficient, and up-to-speed on common home PC problems such as removing viruses and upgrading computer memory. By a tech toolkit for around £150, and start with offering repairs in your local community, charging around £35 per hour.
  • Ebook publication – start up costs are a laptop and ebook-creation software. You can write it yourself or outsource to online writers, then publish the book on services such as Amazon. Ebooks on specialist subjects sell well.
  • Build a blog – another internet business. Build a blog using WordPress (free for a basic site) and focus on niche areas with a passionate audience. Concentrate on creating unique content – such as a cookery blog with recipes and advice – and sell advertising using Google Adsense on your blog. Some blogs have gone on to make millions.

Learn with Start Up Loans and help get your business off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:

Plus free courses on climate and sustainability, teamwork, entrepreneurship, mental health and wellbeing.

Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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