In recent years, technology has led to a proliferation of service businesses, everything from push-button ridesharing to delivery service. One benefit to service-based businesses is that there’s often a clear path to a profitable business without the need to invest as much time and money. 

In this article, we’ll share 11 low-cost service business ideas you can use to make money on a part-time or full-time basis.

Begin With the End in Mind

Before we get into our full list of service business ideas, you want to consider the following questions:

  • Why do I want to have a service business? Is there a way to use my expertise to create income? Do I simply like the idea of having my own business?
  • How much money do I want to make? By taking the time to be concrete about this number, you’ll be able to see from the beginning whether your goals are realistic.
  • Is this something I would like to take full-time one day? If you just want some part-time income, that's fine, but if you dream of being a full-time small business owner one day, you need a growth plan in place to get you there.

11 Smart Service Business Ideas

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There are so many different service businesses that you can start that it’s hard to know where to begin. Here are a few options, ranging from those that are quick to get started, but have lower growth potential, up to those involving a greater investment and promising a bigger potential payoff in return.

Gig-Based Service Businesses

The gig economy is no longer a "coming trend" but a force that plays a major role around the world. App-based gigs range from tutoring and cleaning to dog walking and food delivery. For someone wanting to be their own boss, they can represent an easy way to segue into working for yourself. Here are some gigs that almost anyone can start working on.

1. Ridesharing and delivery

Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Grab dominate ridesharing and have normalized the idea of push-button, cashless, door-to-door transportation. Amazon has the Flex program that employs drivers to deliver their ever-growing number of packages. Becoming a rideshare driver or delivery person often isn’t hard, as long as you have access to a vehicle and a relatively clean driving record.

That said, demand can be at odd hours, isn’t usually consistent, and may peak when you’re not available. Gig workers also don't own the platform, so you get little say in changes or general business operations.

2. Cleaning and odd jobs

Taskrabbit, Fiverr, and Upwork are all platforms that offer in-person and virtual gigs. On Taskrabbit, you can make yourself available for everything from assembling furniture to event staffing to cleaning services. Fiverr and Upwork offer opportunities for you to do research, virtual assistant tasks, or create documents from any location you want. 

However, as with most app-based gigs, you’re limited when it comes to gaining customers for yourself and building your own brands. Exchange of personal contact information is typically prohibited, so you’ll remain dependent on the platform for work.

3. Pet sitting

If you love working with animals, why not get paid to spend time with them? Pet sitting is an accessible business option for almost anyone. You can start with pet-sitting apps to see if this type of work suits you. After that, get bonded and insured to freelance on your own. You can even add pet grooming to your mix of services to grow your business.

As with the other gigs above, pet sitters are effectively freelancers, which means there is a limit on what they can earn based on how much time they are available. It can also be a highly competitive field, where the lowest price wins, making it challenging — though not impossible — to make it a full-time business.

Service Businesses That Leverage Your Expertise

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Plenty of people are experts in something that they don't do for a living. With some effort, you might be able to monetize your skills for some freelance work. The secret here is often to get as niche as possible so you don’t get lost in a sea of similar services. 

This can be a slow path to full-time work, but many people choose to keep their day job and freelance in their off-hours while they build their business.

4. Bookkeeping 

No matter the size and age of the business, bookkeeping is an essential service. There are always accountants and business owners looking for reliable bookkeepers. If this is your area of expertise, you can offer services to just your local area or become location independent with remote work on sites like Dynamite Jobs.

5. Website design

Companies often outsource graphic designers and WordPress consultants to build or improve their website. Sometimes they’ll need added functionalities like responsive design or integrating an e-commerce store.

If you know how to code or have an eye for design, this can be a great small business. You may even want to consider taking a few online courses to enhance your skill set. Learning SEO or social media management — both adjacent fields for web design — could let you sell additional services and make more money as a result.

Consider specializing in a particular type of business or industry to stand out. For example, designing just websites for dental practices lets you hone your portfolio for that specific market.

6. Photography

A photography business can focus on landscape, drone photography, real estate, weddings and engagements, families, sports, and more. If you’re handy with a camera, this can be a fun business to start. However, know that it’s highly competitive. Prospective clients will want to see a sharp portfolio. Make sure you have stellar images, and plan to invest time and money upfront marketing your services so you can get found.

7. Writing

While pitching yourself as a freelance writer might get you started, you may want to focus on a specific type of content, such as blogging, or a topic, such as personal finance.

Some freelance writers also offer proofreading or editing services. This is another highly competitive field. When you’re starting out, try writing a few sample pieces just to show your style. This way, you’ll have something to share with potential clients. When you’re starting out, you might plan to work part-time until you build up a roster of clients for full-time work.

Service-Based Businesses for Growth

Up to this point, we’ve been examining businesses that typically have you working alone and don’t really scale. While they can be great for getting started, their inability to scale limits the income you can earn. Businesses that scale don’t necessarily require a storefront or office space, though, some of the biggest expenses business owners face. 

Here are some options you might consider if you’re looking to grow a highly lucrative service-based business.

8. Food services

A food services business doesn’t always mean a restaurant. You can take your love for cooking to create a micro catering business. Many niche caterers specialize in a single product, such as cakes or gluten-free bread, selling those items to individuals and outlets like coffee shops and grocery stores, which are set up to handle distribution to a wider audience.

9. Painting

Painting is always in demand. This covers not just single-family homes but also offices, restaurants, apartment complexes, and more. Startup costs are minimal compared with businesses that require complex equipment and infrastructure. 

It’s also a little easier to stand out in this space. There are many solopreneurs operating painting companies without a website, social media or other ways to get found online. That allows more room for a truly professional painting business to shine in comparison. 

Painting may not be the most glamorous industry, but the margins are healthy and with the right business model and support, you can build a business with massive revenue potential. At Main Street, we guide top 1% candidates to build top 1% businesses through our coaching, training, and direct support programs for building a home service business for no upfront fees- you’ll need less than $10k + 4 months of living expenses to qualify for our program (100% of your investment goes directly into your business).

10. Handyman services

Unlike in-depth remodeling and construction, a handyperson fixes small things around the house that need attention. There are always items in a home that need repair, so this service-based business is one that can work in almost any market.

Similar to painting, you can stand out if your business is professional. Earn great reviews on platforms like Facebook and Google, and new clients will be more likely to try your services. Handyman businesses often depend on word of mouth, so encourage your happy customers and other businesses to pass along your name. Referrals can lead to new jobs to help you continue to grow.

11. Event planning

We all know people who are exceptional event planners — maybe that’s you? The underlying skill here is a knack for organization and attention to detail, but your business will be able to scale better if it’s more than just you. A team of professional organizers can oversee all the logistics that go into planning any event. As with other service business ideas mentioned above, you may want to hone in on a niche in this highly competitive space. Consider wedding planning, corporate events or even conferences and trade shows. 

The biggest factor will be the number of attendees. The work — and credentials — required for a private event for 25 vary drastically from what goes into a conference for thousands. Starting small could be your key here to working your way to better-paying events. This might take time, but if you love event planning, it’s worth going for your dream.

Getting Started With Your Own Service Business

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Starting a business, whether it’s web work or painting, is always a little intimidating. You might wonder how to get started — what’s the first step to take? Main Street provides a proven path to owning your own service-based business. We guide top the top 1% of outstanding candidates through a proprietary system that supports you at creating a well-oiled execution machine that provides world-class painting services. No painting experience required — you’ll never even pick up a brush.

The Main Street program is simple and affordable for outstanding people to build outstanding service businesses. We remove the guesswork and provide support that frees up your time to focus on your bottom line. We fast-track you on a lean and scalable path while providing you with top quality support in marketing and lead generation, sales coaching, and growth. Our true north is to guide you in developing your subject matter expertise to build a painting business that performs in the top 1%.

So, which of these is right for you?

There's no one way to build a service business, just like there are plenty of service business ideas to choose from. After reading through this article, you might be interested in a few of the ideas above. Here’s some advice to help you figure out which one to focus on:

  • Remember your “why.” Think about your income goals, ability to commit, and the time you want to dedicate to this.
  • Consider your interests. It can be fun to monetize a hobby, but these types of fields can also be highly competitive.
  • Phone a friend. Ask those who know you well what they think of the various opportunities you are considering. They may give you insights you missed.

If you are an outstanding candidate and want to get into the world of service businesses (but think you could benefit from some help along the way), Main Street is here. We’ll help you tap into the booming painting market and show you the path of least resistance for taking your business from 0-100. Take our owner quiz to find out if you qualify to begin our highly selective interview process.