Taking the reins of your own business can be a liberating experience. You get financial freedom, career independence and, perhaps most satisfyingly, the chance to build a project in your image.
For many people, though, their chance at the entrepreneurial life is scuppered by one crucial flaw: they don't know what they're going to sell.
To help provide some inspiration, we've compiled a list of the top small business ideas, regardless of your skills and background.
The Tried and Tested
Just because something has been done before, there's no reason why you can't put a fresh take on things. There is always a demand for the following roles, so if you have the requisite qualifications, why not consider branching out on your own?
1. Business Adviser
Do you have specific expertise in a particular industry or job role that could help other businesses either improve their practices, save money, or simplify their primary tasks? If so, then advisory is an excellent option for you. This tried and tested path will allow you to pass on your experience to smaller companies that are looking for support from a seasoned professional.
Note, too, that this option has many growth opportunities. Get the right clients on-board requiring ongoing consulting services, and you could soon find yourself in need of an additional team and workspace to manage the demand for your expertise.
2. Financial Adviser
Offering financial advice is an easy option for those with experience and certifications in accounting and finance. Through financial advisory, you will be able to support clients one-on-one with debt management, tax planning, insurance, retirement fund planning, investment management and more.
The key to success here will be building trust through credibility, as word of mouth will likely be your primary growth path. To work towards this, make sure you have your related qualifications in order, and look into obtaining an additional Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification from your regional authority. Remember that you will be dealing with clients' sensitive financial information, so interpersonal finesse will also be needed.
3. Import/Export Business
International trade can prove to be extremely lucrative for those 'in the know'. If you have any domestic experience in either the import or export side of things, this could be for you.
Despite requiring specific knowledge and skills, dedicated planning and constant monitoring, the financial pay-out can be well worth the trouble. Don't forget that you will need specific licensing and permits to begin your own import-export business, too, so factor this into your research and due diligence. To secure significant growth, you will also have to build exemplary relationships with buyers and suppliers.
Being a franchise owner is the epitome of following a tried and tested route to starting a small business. The process involves putting your funding into an experienced business model with proven success. You will also benefit from significant support to meet your goals and targets.
Franchises are available across different industries, so remember to select one that is aligned either to something you are passionate about or are experienced in.
If you have an aptitude for the creative, then your skills will be highly sought after. Artistic professions are a perfect fit if you are self-employed, too.
5. Wedding Planning
Given the highly lucrative turnover of the global wedding industry, there is plenty of opportunity for local businesses and, even though large corporations occupy the lion's share of the industry, there is still significant demand for small, niche wedding service providers – including planners.
From venue hire, catering selection, flowers and decoration management, to transport and accommodation bookings of guests, you can select your preferred service offering.
This business idea has significant growth opportunities, so feel free to start small and expand to offer additional related services as your client-base grows.
6. Graphic Design
As web content continues to rule supreme, demand for graphic design is higher than ever, with established corporations and budding startups requiring attractive and innovative designs.
You will need adequate professional design software and the ability to maintain excellent relationships with your clients, while your design expertise can apply to digital and print content, website design, editorial content and publishing material.
With further business development options, you could even consider providing supplementary services to clients at a later stage, such as printing and delivery, or freelance sourcing for additional content (writing, editing, audio) where needed.
The beauty of the photography business is the long list of industries to which it applies. With no specific qualifications needed, building an attractive portfolio with the correct equipment is enough to get you off the ground. Weddings, parties, corporate events, real estate and stock photography, are all areas with a great deal of potential.
Again, you will need both prior experience and exceptional customer relationship management skills to expand this small business and reap the financial rewards, particularly as you will depend upon referrals and your past client base will likely not need frequent repeat services from you. For guidance, check out our in-depth guide on how to start a photography business.
8. Website Development
If you have expertise in development, then you can leverage this to offer website development services. It is also another area where small, niche businesses are in more demand than traditional firms. With recurring costs such as maintenance and site design updates, you can depend on a flourishing recurring business model based on the breadth of your creativity. Requirements here include adequate experience and access to the necessary technical tools and applications.
As many online sites now offer users the ability to create their own website for a small one-off or subscription fee, be sure to also offer value-adding services such as content curation, editing, advisory and related research.
Blogging may be the most profitable of all small businesses for those with a creative flair, especially if the content you produce is tailored to your interests, daily life or professional expertise. Informal blog structures are incredibly popular, so don't worry if you aren't a wizard with your words – your writing skills will be less important than the content you produce.
You will first need to take care of the technical requirements by building your blog website, defining your target audience and deciding what topics would be interesting and relevant for them.
Unlike other small businesses, blogging offers a variety of revenue streams, too, such as banner advertisements, affiliate marketing programmes and sponsored content.
The expansion and growth opportunities for this model are endless, especially when considering the complementary platforms on which to share and promote your content, such as Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more. Not only will you reach a larger audience, but you will likely attract the attention of more prestigious brands and companies to cooperate with on paid sponsorships.
As though this wasn't enough, the option of blogging and social media consultation is also open to you, allowing you to share your expertise to others in the industry and create yet another revenue stream from this business.
10. Writing Services
Similar to graphic design, the need for editorial writing services is consistent across small, medium and large businesses. Whether on a freelance basis or via small agencies, companies across industries require services that include copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, online content writing, press release writing and article writing.
The key benefits for you as a business owner are the incredibly small overheads required to launch and maintain your writing business, as well as the potential to work with multiple clients concurrently. With further, more sophisticated writing projects available to the best writers, the opportunity for growth in this profitable business is significant.
If none of the above suggestions are relevant, then why not try something a little more leftfield?
11. Gourmet Specialty Food Service
Do you have a passion for the speciality food industry?
If so, then good news – the market for gourmet food items is on the rise in a big way. In addition to traditional stores or stalls, food package delivery services are also becoming increasingly popular, and this could be the perfect passion project for your chosen edible items, lowering the overheads that are typically needed to maintain a physical store.
Whether this encompasses delicacies, cheese, wine, teas, oils or seasonings, be sure to offer items that aren't available at your regular local grocery providers, and you could be in with a shot at success.
12. Property Styling
At the crossroads between real estate and interior design is property styling, or home staging – visually preparing a property to go on the market and receive the best offer possible. While no particular background is required, you will need to utilize a combination of creative skills to enhance the property space and give potential buyers an excellent first impression.
Of course, these ideas are just a small sample of the opportunities that are available to you and are intended to pique your inspiration. The most important thing is to ensure that you choose something that aligns closely to your passions, interests and experience, and that has the growth potential for your new venture to thrive.
What small business ideas would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.