business ideas less than 1000
Updated September 29, 2021

6 Businesses You Can Start with Less Than $1,000

Service Businesses

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Starting a business might sound like a far-off financial goal, but it may be more realistic than you think. In fact, you can get started in many fields with a relatively small investment.

Once you start making profits, you can start reinvesting your earnings to continue growing the company.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most lucrative businesses you can get into for $1,000 or less. Starting a company involves time, effort, and a significant amount of risk, but it could earn you a sustainable income if you’re able to find a reliable niche.

1. Dropshipping

  • dropshipping
      • Basics: Dropshipping allows you to sell products to customers without holding any excess inventory. Instead, you’ll order items from a separate supplier who will ship them directly to each buyer.
      • Who it's perfect for: Entrepreneurial types who aren’t afraid of investing time to compete in crowded online marketplaces.
      • Who it's not so great for: Anyone who isn’t prepared to put a lot of time into a project that may not end up going anywhere.

        • Domain name—$25-$50 per year (different websites have different estimates; I don’t have firsthand experience so I’m not exactly sure)
        • Online store—$29 per month for Shopify Basic


        • Customer service and customer relationship management
        • Marketing
        • Supplier relations



    Buying supplies and storing items are two major costs for most businesses. In a physical storefront, for example, most of your expenses would likely stem from buying products and paying rent to store and sell your inventory.

    With that in mind, it can be difficult to start a business on a small budget.

    Dropshipping is an innovative solution to these issues that enables vendors to sell products without holding any inventory. Rather than storing products to sell, you’ll simply buy them as needed from another vendor.

    Suppliers may offer wholesale prices if you’re able to sell in bulk.

    With dropshipping, you don’t need to buy as much inventory when you start the business. You can get started with significantly less than $1,000 and gradually expand the company if you’re successful.

    The first steps toward establishing a successful dropshipping business are identifying the product you want to sell, finding a supplier with decent prices, and setting up an online storefront.

    None of these should be particularly expensive. A Shopify Basic subscription, for example, is just $29 per month along with transaction fees.

    This includes an online storefront with unlimited products plus support for discounted shipping rates, promo codes, gift cards, and other helpful features.

    Of course, you’ll also need a domain name for your new store. In most cases, you should be able to find a domain for less than $25 or $50 per year.

    All things considered, dropshipping is one of the most accessible fields for people who want to start a business on a limited budget.

    On the other hand, this isn’t to say that your new dropshipping business will be a sure thing.

    Ecommerce is intensely competitive, and it can be extremely difficult to stand out in a crowded field. Furthermore, this competition leads vendors to accept relatively small margins on each sale.

    In other words, you’ll probably have to sell a large volume of products in order to turn a substantial profit.

    It’s also worth mentioning that some dropshippers have trouble with scams and dishonest suppliers. Even if you carefully vet suppliers to make sure they’re legit, you’ll still be forced to rely on them in a variety of ways.

    Once you select a supplier, you won’t have any control over their quality control, shipping practices, or return policies.

    2. Writing Books

    • writing books
      Writing Books
        • Basics: With self-publishing more accessible than ever, anyone can write a book and have the opportunity to generate sustainable royalties. Of course, how much you earn ultimately depends on how many people are interested in your book.
        • Who it's perfect for: Creative types, people with unique knowledge or experience.
        • Who it's not so great for: Someone who wants a guaranteed return for their time.

          • Editing
          • Marketing
          • Graphic design
          • Lots of time


          • Creativity
          • Marketing



      Writing was once a difficult field to get into, but publishing your own works is simpler than it sounds. Once your book is on the market, it could go viral, fail to go anywhere at all, or end up somewhere in between.

      In the past, writers had to receive approval from a publisher in order to have the opportunity to reach an audience. While removing that barrier increased the number of books being published, it didn’t make the public start reading more books.

      With that risk in mind, you should only write a book if you’re truly interested in the topic or genuinely believe that your writing will be marketable. Writing is a time-consuming and surprisingly difficult endeavor, and you may be disappointed if you get into it solely for a financial return.

      If you’re interested in publishing your own book, you can try to sell it on your website or through an ecommerce platform like Amazon. In general, selling through your own site helps reduce fees and other costs, but it also makes it more difficult to get your name out there.

      Amazon and services like it take a larger cut in exchange for greater visibility and the reliability of a major online store. Either way, you shouldn’t have to spend any money upfront to put your book online.

      That said, you’ll likely need to spend some money in order to improve the book as much as possible and increase its odds of success. Professional editing, for example, can cost hundreds of dollars even for relatively short texts.

      You’ll also need to pay someone to format your book and create a cover unless you want to take these tasks on yourself. Additionally, some authors spend a significant amount of cash on marketing in order to maximize sales.

      It’s also worth considering the amount of time it will take to create a finished product.

      All things considered, you could easily spend thousands of dollars in the process of developing, publishing, and marketing a book. On the other hand, many authors have been successful with a smaller initial investment.

      If you have the motivation to write a book, you can make it happen on a relatively limited budget.

      3. Photography

      • photography
          • Basics: People hire photographers for weddings, graduations, and a wide range of other events. This business can be incredibly lucrative once you establish yourself as a well-known photographer in your area.
          • Who it's perfect for: Creative types, people who know how to market themselves.
          • Who it's not so great for: People who want to work from home.
          • STARTUP COSTS

            • High-quality cameras—anywhere from $250 to thousands of dollars
            • Lenses—$100 to more than $1,000


            • Photography
            • Marketing and people skills



        Many photographers make good money, and you can usually schedule shoots over the weekend around your day job. On the other hand, it can be a difficult area to break into.

        Like writers, photographers have a much better chance of generating a sustainable income once they get their name out there. Most photographers get clients through a combination of social media and word of mouth referrals.

        Of course, this can vary depending on your focus as a professional photographer.

        With that in mind, photography is all about marketing yourself. You’ll need to be prepared to develop a strong presence on social media and build a reputation for high-quality shots.

        As with authorship, photography is generally best for people who are already interested in the field. It takes time for most photographers to get a sufficient stream of clients, especially if you’re thinking of quitting your day job.

        Although photography certification and degrees are available, plenty of professional photographers achieve success without pursuing any formal credentials.

        If anything, your best option is simply to learn about the craft and become active in online or local photography communities. Your results are more likely than your qualifications to impress prospective clients.

        While it’s possible to start a photography business on a tight budget, you shouldn’t underestimate the price of cameras, lenses, and other necessary equipment. Skilled photographers can take amazing pictures with an iPhone, but it’s tough to become a professional without investing in professional equipment.

        If you want to minimize costs, you can always look for some of these items used rather than new. Secondhand products may not always be as reliable, but buying used may allow you to purchase equipment that would otherwise be out of your price range.

        Furthermore, you shouldn’t necessarily try to find the perfect camera or lens when you’re new to photography. It’s easy to upgrade later on, and you don’t want to invest too much money into your new business upfront.

        Keep in mind that many professionals consider lenses a better investment than cameras. Camera bodies can be superseded quickly, and it’s easy to use the same lens on a series of cameras.

        You’ll naturally gain a better feel for what you need as you improve as a photographer, so try not to spend too much on equipment when you’re starting out.

        4. Freelance Writing

        • freelance writing
          Freelance Writing
            • Basics: Writing a book gives you more control over your creative output, but you can also write for clients as a freelancer for greater job security and other notable benefits. Freelance writers cover everything from blog posts and news articles to promotional copy and scripts for YouTube videos.
            • Who it's perfect for: Telecommuters, creatives.
            • Who it's not so great for: People who have trouble writing quickly.
            • STARTUP COSTS

              • Computer or tablet—$250-$1,000 (or more)

            • REQUIRED SKILLS

              • The ability to write engaging content quickly
              • Marketing and networking



          Web content is being published at a higher rate than ever before, and websites of all kinds hire freelance writers to produce a variety of content. Unlike photography, you can get into freelance writing with nothing more than a computer or tablet.

          If you’re just starting out, you can rely on websites like Upwork and Fiverr to find clients, facilitate payments, and mediate disputes when things go wrong. Both of these sites charge a 20% fee, although Upwork’s fee is reduced to 10% and 5% when you earn $500 and $10,000 with the same client.

          Unfortunately, online freelance writing platforms can be intensely competitive, and asking for a relatively low rate won’t stop other freelancers from undercutting your prices. That said, there are plenty of well-paying positions out there on these websites.

          Another option is to look for part-time or contract positions on more conventional job boards such as Indeed and LinkedIn. Either way, you should expect to apply to a large number of jobs, especially in your first few months as a freelancer.

          As in other crowded fields, the best way to improve your chances of success as a freelance writer is to develop a good reputation. Whether you’re working on a freelancing site or on your own, focus on building up your portfolio and getting your name attached to high-quality articles on well-known sites.

          You can also differentiate yourself from other freelancers by creating a website for your work. Writer websites typically include writing samples, testimonials, contact information, and more along with a description of your skills and range as a writer.

          One of the key benefits of freelance writing compared to many other businesses is that you can earn money from any location as long as you have internet access.

          Additionally, clients won’t be concerned with your work schedule as long as you meet deadlines, respond to communications, and are at least sometimes available during business hours for the occasional meeting.

          All things considered, freelance writing is a great way to make money, whether you’re working a few hours per week over the weekend or using it to generate a full-time income. On the other hand, freelancing can be a grind for new writers, so you should go into it with realistic expectations.

          5. Web Development

          • web development
            Web Development
              • Basics: Web developers are always in demand, and skilled freelancers can set high hourly rates. While learning to code can be intimidating, you can learn basic skills in a relatively short period of time.
              • Who it's perfect for: People who have programming experience or are willing to learn.
              • Who it's not so great for: Anyone who wants to avoid the learning curve.
              • STARTUP COSTS

                • Computer—you don’t need anything particularly advanced, and you can find a decent desktop for around $500 to $700 if you don’t have one already.

              • REQUIRED SKILLS

                • Coding
                • Marketing and networking


                A degree can help you find jobs, but your skills and experience are typically more important

            Web development is a reliable and lucrative field, and even relatively inexperienced programmers can often earn decent rates. The key obstacle to becoming a web developer is learning to code.

            Fortunately, there are a variety of resources out there for new programmers, so web development has never been more accessible. With consistent work, you should be able to develop basic skills in a few months.

            You can also take classes—at a community college, for example—if you’re having trouble making progress on your own.

            Like content writers, web developers can look for work in a variety of ways. Freelance sites are a great way for new programmers to get started, but you can try to find contracts on your own once you have a decent portfolio.

            Highly skilled web developers may also be able to look for full-time jobs.

            Web development is somewhat labor-intensive, especially considering that it could take you months to develop the skills you need to find work. Furthermore, you’ll only be paid for the projects you complete, so it isn’t a great option if you’re looking for passive income.

            That said, web developers make very good money, and freelancing offers great benefits like flexible scheduling and more control over your work-life balance. If you’re willing to spend some time learning how to code—or if you already have experience—web development is an intriguing choice for anyone interested in a new career.

            While you will have to buy a computer to work as a web developer, you don’t need a particularly advanced model. Any modern desktop or laptop should be sufficient for most projects.

            If you don’t already have a computer, decent budget desktops are available starting at around $500.

            6. Graphic Design

            • graphic design
              Graphic Design
                • Basics: Like many other digital fields, graphic design translates perfectly to freelancing. Companies will pay a premium for top graphic designers who provide reliable results.
                • Who it's perfect for: Creative types, telecommuters.
                • Who it's not so great for: People who want passive income or who don’t like marketing themselves.
                • STARTUP COSTS

                  • Computer—while you don’t need a cutting-edge machine, a powerful computer can be helpful for graphic designers. A desktop in the $500-$700 range should be able to handle most graphic design projects, but it’s worth mentioning that many designers use Mac computers.
                  • Graphic design software—cost varies widely depending on the program you want to use. Adobe bundles its entire Creative Cloud suite for $52.99 per month, including Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro, Acrobat, and Illustrator among other programs.

                • REQUIRED SKILLS

                  • Creativity
                  • Visual design and editing

                • REQUIRED CREDENTIALS

                  Degrees and certification programs are available, but you can find jobs without any formal qualifications.

              Graphic design is another industry that’s perfect for freelancers and telecommuters. As with web development, there are a variety of certification and degree programs available for aspiring graphic designers, but freelancers don’t necessarily need these qualifications to find good contracts.

              While a high-end computer isn’t required, many graphic designers prefer Mac devices. That said, you should be able to get by with your existing computer when you’re starting out.

              Don’t put hundreds of dollars into a new computer until you feel it’s worth the money.

              Graphic design software is another common expense for professional designers. Free programs are also available, but they don’t offer the same features or ease of use.

              Adobe is one of the most popular providers, offering platforms such as Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and Illustrator.

              The entire Creative Cloud suite costs $52.99 per month, but you can also subscribe to these programs individually. Illustrator, for example, is available for $20.99 per month.

              Becoming a graphic designer involves many of the same opportunities and challenges that come with other freelance fields. Unsurprisingly, one of the main difficulties is selling your brand to potential clients and convincing them that you’re worth considering over the competition.

              If you’re new to graphic design, you should start by building a portfolio and website to showcase your talents and develop a professional image. You can use some of the same freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to find your first jobs, but these can be highly competitive, and it’s easy to be undercut by other freelancers.

              It usually becomes easier to find new jobs once you have some professional experience, so your best option may be to accept a low rate at first to get your name out there. Make sure to proactively market yourself by networking, building a social media presence, and using SEO strategies to make your site more visible.

              Graphic design can be difficult to break into, but it’s an excellent field for freelancers who are willing to spend time building their skills and portfolio. Keep in mind that you may have the opportunity to transition to a graphic design firm if you’re looking for more stability.


              Alex McOmie

              Alex McOmie is a freelance writer for Money Done Right. He joined the Money Done Right editorial team in summer 2019. Learn more about Alex.

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              Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE
              4 years ago

              I would put consulting at the top of the list of under-$1k to start businesses. With consulting, you use your expertise and your time, and you can get clients with just word-of-mouth to start so you don’t even need a website (LinkedIn works just fine). With $0 costs you can build the business on the side with no downside but your time and unlimited upside (b/c when you scale up you can always hire people or do other things to divorce your earnings from your time). I have been consulting for 12+ years, and it’s something I could do for a long time as I can always change my specialty to follow my interests and the market.