10 Businesses You Can Start For Peanuts (or less!)

by Ron Haynes

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to make extra money, but between the demands of an employer, a family, a social life, school, and community activities, starting a business is almost like having another child. It typically requires large amounts of time and a large cash outlay, right? Not always!

PeanutsForgive me, but I’m going to assume something. I’m going to assume you have a special talent, interest, or ability. You may not think it’s special, but if you have any talent whatsoever, any skill, or any experience, chances are there’s a small business you can start without those huge outlays of time or cash. The following businesses can be started relatively inexpensively (flyers, or business cards from VistaPrint) and if you already have the equipment, all the better! None require a college education, require only a little commitment (on an ongoing basis), and when you ask for a raise, you already know what the answer is.

1. Here Comes Junior

Many young parents are sticklers about having their homes set up with outlet covers, locks on cabinet doors and drawers, and soft cushiony things on the fireplace hearth. If you’ve had one child, you probably know what I’m talking about. Set up a business where you baby-proof a home for cost plus a flat fee.

Invoice Method: Flat Fee or Cost Plus a Set Percentage

2. Green Me Up

Offer your services as a green home tech. Contract with a local electrician to install programmable thermostats while you switch out light bulbs, put in outlet power strips, and teach the homeowners about saving energy, recycling, and reducing their impact on the environment. Get your local utility company to conduct an energy audit and then make recommendations based on their findings. Develop a relationship with a local handyman (or just do it yourself) and reseal doors and windows, maybe plant a few trees even. With a little research, you could become your local energy saving expert. Who knows? You might even get on local TV!

Invoice Method: Flat Fee or Cost Plus a Set Percentage

3. What About Fido?

Every blog article that talks about how to make extra money mentions pet sitting, but what about pet training? Have you ever trained YOUR dog to sit, stay, shake hands, heel, roll over, or come when called? Set up a business where you offer to train someone’s dog at their home.

Invoice Method: Flat Fee or retainer basis

4. You Haul

With the recent trend toward smaller vehicles, many people (including me) sold their truck. If you own a truck or a trailer, offer a hauling service. On Saturdays, hit the yard sales at about noon and offer to haul the crumbs to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. The yard sellers probably have some cash on hand to pay you from their recent sale! Offer to haul brush or yard trimmings away. Go to Lowes or Home Depot and offer to haul items that people can’t haul themselves.

Invoice Method: Flat Fee

5. Meet Your Great Great Great Great Grandma

Have you ever done any research on your own genealogy? If you’re able to uncover your own history, you could offer your services to others who are curious about their family history.

Invoice Method: Flat Fee or Hourly Rate

6. Free Wi-Fi Without The Coffee

Negotiate with your neighbors for access to your own home’s wi-fi hot spot. It has value, so why let it go for free? You could change the access code each month, quarter, or year based on how you bill.

Invoice Method: Billing through email

7. Teach Me Something

Do you have expertise in Spanish, or playing the guitar, or Math, or Phys-Ed coaching, or how to throw a really good curve ball, or crafts, or homebuilding, or carpentry, or scrapbooking? Almost every area of expertise is in demand somewhere, by someone, particularly parents (which is good because they have the money). Home school groups and community organizations will pay you to come in and teach their students and participants. Help parents and their kids achieve the desired results and make extra money while you’re doing it!

Invoice Method: Flat Fee or Hourly Rate

8. You’re Sew Crafty

Handy with a sewing machine? My wife’s grandmother was a seamstress for years and worked out of her home. You could do the same or, better yet, offer your services for a fee to dry cleaners. Ask to put up a sign offering your sewing services and allow the dry cleaners to run a little arbitrage (selling your services for more than you charge). Then, you can collect from the dry cleaners.

Invoice Method: Flat Fees

9. Breaking News

With a video recorder and a scanner, you can find where news could be breaking, head that direction and record the event. Always keep a safe distance and it probably would be best to stay in your vehicle. Sell the raw footage to the local new station.

Invoice Method: Flat Fee

10. Write Me

Freelance writing is a great side business to start. You can write for blogs (yours or someone else’s), advertisers, or other businesses that require copy. There are a boatload of websites that offer cash for your original words and one of the best is Bright Hub which pays you $10 for each article and $1 for each “quality backlink” (defined as a site with highly relevant to your article and good, useful content).

Invoice Method: Flat Fee

This list isn’t intended to be all inclusive, nor do I suggest you try to get involved in something that isn’t your “cup of tea.” Rather, use this list as a tool to brainstorm and find where you can add value to people who can pay you.

When you’re trying to make a decision on what kind of side business you should start, consider your personal strengths and what you enjoy doing. If nothing really comes to mind just yet, what could you get good at in a relatively short time?

Consider your cost to obtain the necessary equipment and most importantly, the cost to advertise and acquire customers, then compare that to the return you’ll get to see if it makes economic sense. Keep good records and you may be able to take some deductions on your taxes and further increase your return!

photo credit: timsamoff

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Nicki at Domestic Cents

This is a great list. I recently had someone (that knew I could sew) ask me if they could pay me to hem some dress pants for them. It had never occurred to me that people would need that, it seems so simple, but my service was valuable to them; $20 valuable.

Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet

I’ve never heard of Bright Hub. I’m going to check it out right now.


That’s an interesting list and definitely a cut above what one normally sees. I’d want my attorney to look over my plans to baby-proof a house but that is a great idea actually!

And is it even legal to sell access to your wi-fi? Isn’t that like splitting your cable or something? What if you have a neighbor into the seamier parts of the web (which could even include child p$rn?) Could you be implicated? That’s why we locked ours down with an encrypted key.

You have published some great ideas though!


I love the idea of using your own talents with little or no money. Several of us at work also barter our talents with eachother. One gal is a great semstress, one makes fabulous birthday cakes and party food. I do pretty well in the photography area and have some computor graphic skills. We offer these services to eachother as well as spread the word to others to help generate income for eachother!

Dan Massicotte

I like to think of these kinds of lists as “eye candy”, or “reading candy”: They’re fun to read and could lead to ideas, but most of the time they don’t do anything for anyone.

Not too sure why.


Sometimes, an idea is all you need.

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