The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everything upside down, leaving small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs searching for new and emerging markets, innovative services, and previously unknown business opportunities. These trends can be hard to identify at first, and even harder to capitalize on, because although some small business fundamentals remain the same, remote work, Zoom calls, and e-commerce, have rewritten the rules.
Whether you’re an established entrepreneur or whether you’re embracing the pandemic as an opportunity to start the business you’ve always dreamed of, this article presents 25 pandemic-proof small business ideas for weathering whatever the future may have in store, because one thing’s for sure: The economy will recover, but the world of small business will never be the same again.
Rather than simply presenting the same old business ideas we’ve all heard a thousand times before, Business Pundit took it one step further. Before writing this article, we polled small business owners from all over the country, asking them how well their established businesses fared in this new world and what kind of business they’d start if they had it to do all over again.
With a mix of that feedback and our own research, the following startup ideas you’re about to read are not just pandemic proof, they’re likely to be successful no matter what our new normal happens to be.
Coming up next are 25 of the best small business ideas for the COVID-19 era and beyond.
Small Business Ideas in the COVID Era: Pandemic-Proof Entrepreneurship
From virtual assistant services to selling live crickets on the internet, here are five of the very best pandemic-proof business ideas according to small business owners.
Virtual Assistant Services
First on our list of the best pandemic-proof business ideas is a virtual assistant service. The entails performing common administrative duties for businesses of all sorts, including responding to emails and scheduling meetings but also possibly blog post writing and managing social media accounts, among other tasks.
Even before the pandemic, virtual assistants found work on sites like Upwork, FreeUp, and PeoplePerHour, among others, and the trend toward virtual assistant services is likely to grow. In 2020, in fact, Intuit estimates that 40% of the entire U.S. workforce were freelancers, such as virtual assistants.
And who would better understand the value of a virtual assistant than an expert in parenting twins?
Jeanne Visser of Have Twins First, an online source of advice for parents expecting and raising twins, recently quit her job in chemical manufacturing to become a virtual assistant. Pretty much anyone can become a virtual assistant, she says. She also runs her own website.
According to Visser, virtual assistants help business owners in a variety of ways, like answering and making phone calls, data entry, and building websites. And those are just some examples of things a virtual assistant could choose to specialize in, “all while working from home,” she says.
Holly Zorbas, assistant editor at Credit Donkey, a personal finance website publishing reviews, deals, and tips to help readers make better financial and money management decisions.
Like Visser, Zorbas says if she were starting a business in 2021, she’d become a virtual assistant, calling it one of the most promising business ideas in spite of these hard times.
“Everyone from large companies to sole traders needs assistance with day-to-day activities,” she says, and strong organizational skills are a defining characteristic of someone well suited for the work, she adds.
“People are still searching for reliable virtual assistants,” she tells Business Pundit, “so this is a tried-and-tested business model.”
Travis Blanchard, founder of Splash Bytes, a leading online source for all things related to watersports, also recommends a virtual assistant service as the best pandemic-proof business concept.
“If you love being organized and helping others organize their life, then being a virtual assistant is a perfect business for you,” he says.
According to Blanchard, although many virtual assistants find work on websites like Upwork, it’s also possible to launch your own virtual assistant service website,
“By establishing a website and having a good strong brand partnered with a willingness to network,” he says, “you can run a client’s email and voicemail accounts, and perform other digital duties from the comfort of your own home.”
Maybe you’ve heard of real estate flipping, but have you considered website flipping?
Website flippers invest in an already profitable website, make improvements in traffic, search engine optimization (SEO), and then flip the site for a profit. The average starting price of a website for sale on an online marketplace like Flippa is around $2,000, studies show. But with some hard work and good luck, some sites can be resold for as much as $10,000, if not more, and that’s a decent profit.
Tanner Arnold, who buys and sells used metalworking machinery, is president and CEO of Revelation Machinery. He calls website flipping an innovative business idea, sparking the interest of everyone from stay-at-home moms to recent graduates.
“There are a number of places where you can profitably purchase and sell websites,” Arnold explains, such as Shopify’s Exchange Marketplace, where entrepreneurs can purchase eCommerce websites, boost them through content marketing, SEO, and other strategies, and then list a site for sale on that same marketplace.
Daniel Roberts is CEO of Think Impact. He provides detailed research into trends and statistics in education. He also suggests website flipping as a great pandemic-proof business concept.
“You don’t need to do any part of the job other than negotiating prices with potential website buyers in a ready market on several social media groups,” Robert explains, because once you’ve gathered a quality team of web developers, content creators, and SEOs—or search engine optimizers—all that’s left for you to do is sell.
And once your team is paid, creating, growing, and flipping websites for money, “can make you over $70,000 every year,” Roberts continues.
From pet food to human food, raising and selling cricket and other insect proteins is turning into a lucrative business, able to be established and run successfully from your own backyard, shed, or barn.
The global market for insect protein, in fact, is expected to reach $1.4 billion by 2026, according to GlobeNewsWire. Crickets thrive in warm, humid, shaded areas, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 90 degrees, the warmer the better, and with nothing more than some plastic totes, potting soil, water and food, your cricket farm can be up and running.
Keep in mind, female crickets lay up to 10 eggs a day, so, when it comes to crickets, supply and demand are rarely an issue, and once grown, crickets sell for about $12 for 250 crickets to pet stores and bait shops.
Selling grown crickets to national pet supply chains can be particularly lucrative, but it’s also possible to sell crickets from your own site, like Jeff Neal from The Critter Depot, who first began selling crickets, roaches, superworms, and other creepy-crawlies as a side business.
“I would come home from work, rotate some bins, feed and water the crickets, and ship out some orders,” he says. After COVID, his sales really started picking up because many local pet stores were closed.
“I am now to the point where I need additional help on the weekends to keep pushing out the orders,” Neal explains, “so far things are going well and looking good this year, too.”
According to Search Engine Journal, an estimated 40% of all websites are powered by WordPress, up from 35% in 2020. For these reasons, WordPress support is in demand now more than ever.
Known as a content management system, WordPress is free and open source. Many users become experts on their own or take courses in WordPress offered locally at community colleges or virtually from tutorials offered directly from the WordPress website.
Once trained, and like virtual assistants, WordPress support professionals find clients on freelance websites like Fiverr, among many others.
Damien Knight is CEO of Workever, a field and job management software solution for tradespeople. “Almost every WordPress website owner wants assistance in some way,” Knight explains, “so, if you know your way around this site, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to make money.”
Once WordPress is mastered, typical services offered by WordPress support freelancers may include CSS support, a programming language common in websites, as well as finding and fixing security holes, among other tasks.
“Although you can get your first clients through platforms like PeoplePerHour and Upwork,” Knight says, “I suggest that you build your own website and list your services there.” Doing that will help you cultivate high-quality client relationships without losing the commissions taken by websites like Upwork.
“Offering WordPress help is, without a doubt, one of the most unique business ideas to pursue in 2021,” Knight continues.
Short-Term Rental Homes
Although the short-term rental market declined in the early months of the pandemic, it came back somewhat in the second half of 2020, and that growth is expected to continue throughout 2021, according to Forbes.
In the short-term rental market, private property is rented out through websites like AirBnB, Booking.com, or Vrbo, among others, at rates that are sometimes more affordable than mainstream hotels chains. These rental periods vary in length from as short as one night to as long a month, but rentals lasting longer than a month are typically considered long-term rentals.
Hannah Frankhauser, founder of Uni Art Gallery, where she sells posters and wall art of all shapes and sizes, began supplementing her income with short-term rental properties shortly before the pandemic hit in March of last year.
Surprisingly, though, her business began to blossom around that time, and now, she says, “I’m adding more homes.”
Managing a short-term rental business is a combination of brick-and-mortar and remote work, according to Frankhauser, but it is possible to make it mostly autonomous. Frankhauser, for example, works primarily from home.
Frankhauser is so successful, in fact, she even began coaching others who are interested in the short-term rental market while also teaching them how to remotely manage their business.
And despite what it might seem, “this business does not require a big investment,” Frankhauser continues. Many began their short-term rental business with a small and affordable studio apartment. “The rental home may seem like a big business idea,” Frankhauser says, “but it’s not like it sounds.”
Best Small Business Ideas to Start from Your Couch
Pandemic or not, many small startups operate entirely from home. Here are five of the best small business ideas to start from your couch. This information is based on small business owners who have found success in their industry of choice. And with their advice, maybe you can, too.
But wait, isn’t blogging for money like, internet 1.0? Turns out, with a little hard work and a clever concept, blogging can be as profitable as ever. Blogs, in fact, continue to gross big money, anywhere from $7,500 to $25,000 per month, according to Semrush.com, an online visibility management and content marketing SaaS platform, otherwise known as “software as a service,” or centrally hosted software delivered on a subscription basis.
Bloggers themselves earn an average monthly salary of around $8K, according to Semrush, with 25% of WordPress bloggers making a full-time living from their blogs. The primary sources of income for bloggers being affiliate links and digital advertising, Semrush says.
After becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2017, Saranya Ramanathan of One Fine Wallet, a blog providing money-saving tips and work-from-home job opportunities, started researching flexible ways to earn money from home.
“That’s when I found blogging to be one way to do it,” she tells Business Pundit in an email. “I started my blog and have never looked back”
Ramanathan says blogging is flexible and, and for introverts like herself, a perfect way to live the laptop lifestyle.
Brittany and Kelan Kline are the co-owners behind the personal finance blog The Savvy Couple, offering personal finance tips and money-saving advice among other topics. The couple started blogging 2016, and within two years, they were able to take their monthly income from $0 to $10,000.
Although there’s a learning curve, because of the low upfront cost, Kelan Kiline says, “I strongly feel that blogging is one of the best businesses you can start.”
And what starts as an informational blog, may evolve into another business concept. At least that’s what happened to Tom Saxon of Batch, a coffee blog that became a coffee subscription service during COVID.
“Although it requires us to fulfill the coffee boxes once every two weeks, which we do so from a nearby unit, the rest of the time is spent marketing the business from my ‘couch,'” Saxon says — a lot like blogging.
With low start-up costs, “it wouldn’t hurt to give it a go and see if it’s well worth the time and effort,” Ramanathan continues.
“After COVID, almost anyone I talk to is trying to find ways to diversify their income, and what better way to do it than to start a blog and work from home,” she continues. If you have a passion to write and an eagerness to learn, “this is definitely a business to consider,” she says.
Virtual Consulting and Coaching
As the world went virtual as the pandemic progressed, business meetings went online, and that trend seems unlikely to go away anytime soon. For these reasons and more, virtual professional consulting and coaching businesses are proving to be a profitable business model.
Many virtual consultants find work in these fields through websites common in the gig economy, such as Upwork, but also consulting sites like Virtual-Consulting.net or Toptal.com. Many others list their services on Linkedin or build and market a virtual consulting and coaching website on their own using services like Yondo.
Business coach Kim Trathen specializes in advising female entrepreneurs who work completely online. Trathen says the best thing about a virtual consultant-type business is that it’s easy to start while still working a day job.
“Plus, the sky’s the limit for what you charge, since your fees are based on the value you bring to your clients, not the time you spend with them,” she says, and that’s why many online entrepreneurs make a lot more money in their businesses than they did at their corporate jobs.
As well as being a business model that’s easy to start from your couch, Trathen continues, working as a virtual consultant or coach is a vocation that’s particularly resistant to market disruptions like a pandemic.
“While we watched businesses around the world struggle to stay in business or adapt to the new virtual requirements,” McMillan explains, “online business owners were collectively like, ‘We got this. We’ve been doing this for years.'”
Although the next small business idea in our ranking could require some background programming and computer science, starting a chatbot service or agency is easier than ever these days—and sometimes, very little previous computer experience is necessary.
If you’ve engaged with a website’s customer service lately, chances are you dealt with a chatbot or an AI interface programmed to provide the information you require through simulated conversation rather than an actual human being. Some chatbot services and agencies contract with multiple websites, providing online customer service to a diverse group of clients.
The market for chatbot services is only expected to grow across all industries. According to SmallBizGenius. In fact, 90% of customer interaction with banks in particular is expected to be automated by 2022, with 85% of all customer interaction conducted without human agents by 2021. In addition, 50% of businesses plan to spend more money on chatbots than on mobile apps in coming years.
In light of these numbers climbing year after year, Benjamin Rose, co-founder of Trainer Academy, which provides training material for leading personal trainer certifications in the sports and athletics industry, calls launching a chatbot service a great business idea to start in 2021.
Although you may need a strong programming background to start a company of this sort, Rose says “you can target your market by creating a niche that you are familiar with. You might, for example, build a chatbot that caters directly to financial advisers and assists prospective clients in navigating their websites,” he says.
What kind of business can you start from a couch selling products without having any product at all or, rather, no product until someone actually orders it?
Although that sounds like a riddle, it’s actually a print-on-demand (POD) service. Offering everything from custom-made art to pre-printed mugs,print-on-demand services are thriving, and with the pandemic pushing more people toward ecommerce, Forbes predicts the print-on-demand sector will only grow across a broad range of products.
Shad Elia is founder and CEO of WeBuyHousesHere.com, a real estate investment firm based in Massachusetts. Elisa has more than 20 years of experience in running successful businesses and is an expert on property investments, house flipping, construction, and commercial and residential rentals.
Those who print artwork on demand—whether that is on mugs or posters—don’t actually print the artwork, Elia says.
“Instead, you work with suppliers who will print your design on the product and box and send it to your customers, so you don’t have to think about logistics. Furthermore, you are only paid after the items have been sold.”
Creating a Shopify store and installing a POD app like Printify is one of the easiest ways to get started with a print-on-demand business, he continues, and in terms of marketing, partnering with Instagram influencers to promote your POD products is a successful way to target viewers.
“Considering this hard time, people are looking online to shop, and there isn’t a better time to start this business but now,” Elia adds.
Pinterest Virtual Assistant
A bit earlier on we told you all about the booming business for virtual assistants, but a unique twist on the concept comes from Joni Gonzales, owner of Life Unflaked, an organization blog focused on helping busy moms reduce chaos in their lives: a virtual assistant specifically for bloggers who hate dealing with Pinterest.
“Pinterest is a headache for most bloggers—even ones who aren’t earning their own incomes yet!,” she says, and many are more than happy to pay someone for relief.
“Pinterest can be an excellent source of traffic for bloggers in any field with a visual component,” Gonzales says —think organizing, fashion, graphic design, lifestyle, camping, and crafting, among other topics.
But Pinterest is not really social media, so it’s not a matter of launching pins, or visual elements as a way to promote your client’s product or services when your audience is online, like a Tweet or a Facebook post, she continues.
Instead, it’s a visual search engine,”and [users] change their search and feed algorithms constantly,” Gonzales explains. “Not only that, it’s a huge time suck for bloggers who have so many other tasks demanding their attention. It requires not just daily pinning but pinning several spread-out times per day,” she says.
According to Gonazles, here’s how working as a Pinterest personal assistant works.
“A Pinterest VA learns the best methods to increase their clients’ overall click-through rate on Pinterest,” she says. While it’s a job that requires pinning at odd times, she says, “a large portion of it can be done directly from your phone with your infant on your lap and your 5-year-old begging for more Paw Patrol.”
It’s easy to get started as a Pinterest VA directly from your couch, Elia continues, with training and certification programs available online, teaching not only how to succeed on Pinterest, but also how to find clients.
There is also a proliferation of blogging Facebook groups, where bloggers are practically begging other group members to help them find VAs to help them with Pinterest, Gonzales says, adding, “A good Pinterest virtual assistant should have no problem finding work.”
Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Still Worth Starting
Are all the businesses of the future online? Nope. Here are five brick-and-mortar businesses still worth starting in 2021.
What does a business fulfilling online orders from a warehouse have in common with a local grocery delivery service? Each one requires staffing. Why not make small business staffing the business of your small startup?
Though staffing agencies require considerable capital to get off the ground, especially when compared to many other small business ideas in our article, it is possible to get one going, catering to niche industries.
According to GrowThink.com, staffing start-up costs can range anywhere from about $60,000 to $130,000, with operating capital anywhere between $80,000 and about $140,000. No small sums. The most important aspect of a staffing agency though is, of course, human capital. With no guarantees of success, GrowThink says staffing agencies also need a thorough and comprehensive recruiting plan.
Furthermore, this business model also offers a nice hybrid between brick-and-mortar and an online business, even extending into the world of software development in some instances.
Because although job-seekers can submit their applications to staffing agency online, and perhaps even complete a preliminary interview, according to Yvonne Chavez, CEO of Painting Kits, an online source for custom paint-by-numbers kits among other painting products, it’s important for any staffing agency to maintain a strong brick-and-mortar presence.
That’s because for the recruiting process to be completed, she says, the candidate must come in for a face-to-face interview.
“A recruiting agency without a brick-and-mortar office cannot be fully trusted,” she continues.
Staffing agency business models can also sometimes evolve beyond just helping other businesses recruit staffing.
Eropa Stein is founder of Hyre, an HR software company helping shift managers in industries such as hospitality, logistics, and long-term care manage their staffs’ schedules and overall HR needs.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit Hyre was forced to evolve from the hospitality industry to health care, Stein says, and the company’s story serves as a roadmap for other entrepreneurs seeking a middle ground between a staffing agency and software.
Once the hospitality industry evaporated during COVID, Hyre searched high and low for another industry in need of its services, Stein says.
“We found that health care was in dire need of workforce management, so we adapted and evolved to the health care industry,” she says, which included developing additional software to help manage vendors.
“It was tough, but we made it in the end. We are working with some of the largest names in the health care industry. We can happily state that we are once more on the rise, and we will continue to evolve,” Stein says.
Food and Grocery
Although the grocery industry is dominated by corporate chains, there’s always room for the next brick-and-mortar business in our article: specialty food and grocery, including locally based online grocery delivery services.
But although there has been some progress in selling groceries online and providing delivery services, most customers prefer to go to the store, according to Mark Kensington, dietitian and owner of Tastierr, an online source of healthy and nutritious air fryer recipes, with extensive knowledge of the food and beverage industry. This is particularly true when purchasing specialty meats and cheeses, he says, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
It’s also vital to have access to stores in case of an emergency purchase, such as running out of milk or a quick shop that’s faster than ordering anything online and waiting for delivery, he continues.
And for these reasons, Kensington says there will always be a place in the market for specialty grocery services, with some potential for a hybrid brick-and-mortar business model.
“The grocery store, whether it’s a small-town supermarket or a big chain, will continue to survive as a brick-and-mortar establishment,” he says.
Kensington’s assertions are backed up by data from Spend Me Not, an online source of statistics related to finance in business, which estimated that in 2020, 70% of all consumers could be buying their groceries online, and locally owned delivery services such as Shipt and Green Truck Grocery are popping up everywhere.
Even though markets are a nearly $700-billion industry, according to Spend Me Not, there’s still room for brick-and-mortar and hybrid grocery, making it one of the best small business ideas in 2021.
Pop-Up Art Gallery
If you’re looking for a way to combine your interest in business with your love for the visual arts? Consider the next small business idea in our ranking: a pop-up art gallery.
Los Angeles-based interior designer John Linden from MirrorCoop, which sells designer mirrors and wall fixtures, says that when they’re done correctly, pop-up art galleries are a simple brick-and-mortar idea that can net big numbers selling high-end pieces.
According to WideWalls, a leading online source of news and information related to the art industry, it’s important to temper your expectation when starting a pop-up art gallery. First, establish a budget, choose the correct date and time, and market yourself appropriately.
All you need otherwise to start your pop-up gallery is an affordable space, Linden continues, which can be in an empty storefront or rented event facility.
“This avoids a lot of the downside associated with a long-term lease,” he continues, helping landlords make some money back, as many have lost long-term renters during the pandemic. And this provides gallery owners, even the sort who host a series of pop-ups, an environment for bigger ticket sales that can be hard to accomplish online.
Coffee or Ice Cream Shops
Even in a world of online commerce, will there ever be a time when we don’t want to drop into our favorite coffee or ice cream shop for a sweet treat or a morning pick-me-up? And best of all, a coffee or ice cream shop can be brick-and-mortar or it could be operated from a food truck.
According to Deals on Health, a leading source of statistics related to health and diet, there are in fact 2.25 million cups of coffee consumed on a daily basis all over the globe, making the global coffee industry worth roughly $100 billion.
In America alone, there are 24,000 coffee shops, Deals on Health continues, and the average American consumes three cups a day.
Statistics aside, a brick-and-mortar coffee or ice cream shop comes recommended by Charles Leduc, from Mold Buster, a Canadian mold removal service, based on the evidence of his own two eyes.
“Every time I stop in at my local coffee shop,” LeDuc tells Business Pundit in an email, “it is filled to its restricted capacity with people working from their laptops,” many working remotely, he continues. And since many businesses will continue to operate remotely beyond COVID, opening a brick-and-mortar business that caters to this remote workforce will easily be successful.
“Even before quarantine, there was a very strong appeal toward being around others while working despite being able to do so from home. Once more people are vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, I would have to assume that even more people will be looking to work from public spaces, and businesses will open to fill that demand,” LeDuc continues.
Private Mailbox Rental
With the rise of e-commerce, more people than ever have packages arrive regularly at their home. But accompanying this trend is an increase in so-called “porch pirates” stealing those deliveries off porches.
For this reason, it’s never been a better time to own and operate a brick-and-mortar private mailbox rental service, offering customers the ability to rent a mailbox, or have a safe and secure place for their packages to be delivered behind a locked door and under the watchful care of the proprietor.
Private mailbox services also offer a convenient place to ship back those online orders if necessary, according to Robert Dow of Remarkable Land LLC, an online platform for buying and selling land.
“Mail isn’t going away,” Dow says, especially in an era of online delivery and subscription services sending us everything from toothpaste to underwear, “and returning online orders is a pain,” he continues.
Besides, who wants their mail piling up at the house while they’re away on vacation?
“There’s an amazing opportunity right now to take advantage of the confluence of the need for a physical mailbox with the simultaneous virtualization of the same mailbox,” Dow says.
And although there is competition from existing incumbents like The UPS Store and Earth Class Mail, he continues, “it’s a large and highly fragmented market with ample opportunities to differentiate your brand and service with clever marketing and superior service,” Dow says.
Best Low-Investment Small Business Ideas
Gotta a lot of ambition but not a lotta money? Here are five of the best low-investment business ideas for the post-COVID era.
Online Fashion Boutique
From buying and selling vintage clothing to filling a fashion niche, owning and operating a fashion boutique is a great low-investment business idea, according to Akram Tariq Khan, who co-founded the online boutique YourLibaas in 2014 with an initial investment of $1,000.
Supporting OptinMonster, a leading email marketing service, the online shopping market hit nearly four trillion shoppers in 2020, with 300 million online shoppers in the U.S. expected by 2023, but despite that overly saturated market, Khan says an online boutique can be successful for anyone with an intuitive sense of fashion and some experience running a digital storefront.
Some additional keys to success, according Khan, include sourcing unique raw material, such as sustainable fabrics, one-of-a-kind designs, ideally something you’ve designed on your own, and competitive prices, but that can be difficult to achieve without volume.
To get started, Khan recommends Google’s basic course in online marketing,
“Then, signing up for a Shopify demo and experimenting with designing a store is the next best step,” he says.
BA Jenkins from Ruthless Marketing, with a specialty in marketing small businesses like an online clothing boutique, has some additional pointers: “Develop your brand,” he says, extending beyond just the name of your company—but also colors themes, taglines, and your target audience.
Next, make sure your company is legally protected, and then source items from wholesalers, and don’t forget to consider your ecommerce site subscriptions and social media handles.
To build the company to the next level, Jenkins says, “find social media influencers below 50,000 followers and build PR campaigns around the influencers that ties in your business.”
“Ideally you want influencers with a 60% engagement rate and are great content creators,” he continues, and this helps with user-generated content as well. “Just be sure to have influencer contracts in place,” he says.
Online Pet Business
Pet-related businesses like pet sitting, dog walking, grooming, or even selling custom-made pet supplies, is the next low-investment small business idea in our article.
In 2019, in fact, e-commerce took in 20% of total sales in the pet industry, according to Compare Camp, a trusted online source for statistics across broad-ranging industries. Compare Camp projects that number to grow to 26% of pet product sales by 2023.
Alexandra Seagal, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Animalso, an online source for tips, advice, and information related to dog ownership, recommends an online pet business.
“During the pandemic,” she says, “pet products have a larger market than ever before,” due to an uptick in pet ownership.
One unique niche in the online pet industry, particularly for those who already have their degree in veterinary medicine and are looking for a change of pace, is to become a relief vet. Fully credentialed relief vets work at, or even manage someone else’s practice for short periods of time, covering staffing shortages, maternity and sick leave, or vacations.
In other words, relief vets are a little like freelance veterinarians.
Dr. Caren Carney of Holiday Vet, works as a relief vet. “The pros of being a relief vet,” she says, “are that you can take back control of your life! You set your own hours and determine your rates. The cons are finding clinics that you like to work with and filling your schedule.”
Rameez Usmani is the marketing manager at GSD Lovers, a website dedicated for pet-lovers, and he says for those without a DVM, the startup costs for launching an online pet business are relatively low.
If it’s a dog-walking business, for example, you may need some basic pet supplies like leashes, “but most pet owners will have their own supplies,” he says. There’s also no need for a storefront.
“Your home and the car you use to drive to your clients will most likely be your center of operations, and, in the instance of a dog-walking business, for example, “the majority of your work will be done at their homes or in public places where you take their pets,” Usmani says.
And best of all, your home office will most likely be tax deductible, Usmani continues.
Design and Sell On-Demand T-shirts
If you have a knack for graphic design and a passion for fashion, the next low-investment small business idea, designing and selling your own T-shirts on-demand, could be right for you. Selling print-on-demand T-shirts can be profitable because you only print what you’ve already sold, and shops are easy to establish on e-commerce platforms like Shopify.
Even though, at this point, the market is somewhat saturated, there is still plenty of room for clever ideas and great artwork to have an impact. According to Grandview Research, in fact, the custom, on-demand T-shirt printing market was estimated at $3.6 billion in 2020, and that number is expected to grow to $3.9 billion in 2021.
For these reasons and more, Marques Thomas, CEO and founder of QuerySprout, helping customers with consumer-related queries, calls designing and selling print-on-demand T-shirts one of the best business ideas in 2021.
“Certainly, what is on-demand now will be buried eventually,” he says, or out of fashion, “but there will always be concepts that are on-demand” that can be easily capitalized on with very little overhead. And though there are no shortcuts, establishing an on-demand T-shirt business for a designer with some experience in the fashion industry is relatively simple.
Self-Publish Your Book
Are you going to finally write that book or do something with that manuscript you’ve had saved on your hard drive for your years?
Self-publishing your book is not only a great way to tell your story, it makes a lot of sense financially. Colin Palfrey, CMO of Majesty Coffee, selling world-class coffee equipment, has self-published several e-books in his career.
If you are creative, have ideas to put out in the world, self-motivated, willing to work hard, can bring different aspects of a project together, and value freedom, then self-publishing is for you,” Palfrey says.
Whether it’s an e-book or a paperback, there are a lot of advantages to self-publishing your book through services like Amazon or IngramSpark. For example, self-published authors maintain total control of the content, length, cover, and design of their books. Authors also dictate how and where their book is marketed. Though very few self-published authors see a big return on their investment, self-publishing’s financial potential is better than traditional publishing.
“You get higher royalty fees—up to 70% compared to traditional publishing houses that average around 15%,” Palfrey explains.
In addition, self-published books arrive faster than they would from a traditional publishing house, where authors often wait months.
Unbelievably, “the timeline from finishing and editing your manuscript to publishing your book can take as little as six hours—even less!” Palfrey says. And for an e-book, it can take anywhere from 24 hours for print-on-demand services to two weeks tops, he adds.
According to Palfrey, however, there are also some cons associated with self-publishing. “The financial cost of publishing is higher.”
You also pay for all the costs associated with publishing—editing, design, printing, marketing, promotion, distribution, Palfrey continues, and self-published authors receive no monetary advance for their work, unlike traditional publishing houses that pay some money to their authors in advance.
“Distribution can be more challenging, as you have to do the marketing, promotion, and distribution yourself. You won’t have the luxury of having the established distribution channels that publishing houses have. You need to do all the legwork for marketing your self-published book to make it more visible,” Palfrey said.
To get started with self-publishing, Palfrey suggest getting in touch with self-published authors and learning from them or enrolling in a writing course.
“The most important, though, is to get writing,” he says. “Write everyday.” It’s also beneficial to get a mentor who can guide you in the writing and self-publishing process, he continues.
It’s not going to be a smooth ride, Palfrey says, and self-published authors should expect bumps and potholes along the way. “Just keep your goal in sight. Pick yourself up again and carry on,” he says.
Monetize Your Audience
If you already have a strong following on Youtube or on some other social media platform, it may be possible to turn those viewers into income. Best of all, monetizing your audience can happen with nothing more than a little hard work and an internet connection.
If you’re interested in becoming a YouTuber, for example, you can upload content like video-game play or even personal fashion shows. It can take a while to build your audience, but when you have, consider using Google AdSense to monetize your following.
Once that’s accomplished, YouTubers can make anywhere from $.01 to $.03 cents per view, with an average of $.18 cents per view, or an estimated $5 per 1,000 views, according to Mint.Intuit, a global technology platform specializing in finance.
While it can take some time to gross these kinds of numbers, and there are no guarantees, some top YouTubers make as much as $5,000 for 1 million views!
But Adsense is not the only way YouTubers make money. Additional methods for monetizing your audience across a broad range of platforms include:
- Affiliate Links: Whenever a YouTuber mentions a product and a viewer follows the link to buy the product, the YouTuber makes a small commission.
- Merchandise: When you selling T-shirts or mugs supporting the brand you’ve built as a vlogger, writer, podcast host.
- Sponsorship: Once your audience reaches a certain level, brands many not only want to partner with you, they’ll pay you to do so.
For writers specifically, another great way to monetize your audience is Substack, a platform for readers to pay writers directly for their work on a broad range of topics and in a wide variety of styles.
According to BackLinko, a leading SEO marketing industry website, there are an estimated 500,000 paying subscribers on Substack, and although it will take quite some time for new users to reach these kinds of numbers, the top 10 authors on Substack collectively make about 10 million a year!
Best Small Business Ideas for Beginners
Have extensive knowledge in some areas but less so in the world of business? Here are five great ideas for people skilled in their area of expertise but who are beginners in the world of business.
In our online world, websites are everywhere, and if you have experience designing them—but perhaps little experience running a business—website design is a great small business idea for beginners.
According to IBISWorld, a trusted source of data on broad-ranging industries, the market size for the web design services industry was nearly $41 billion in 2021, and that number is expected to grow at a rate of 3.1% in 2021, meaning there’s plenty of room for startups.
Byron Ingraham of Azure Media, a digital marketing firm for small business, agrees that web design is a great business to be in in 2021, even if you don’t have any technical know-how.
Instead, he suggests, “Partner up with a developer/designer who understands the technical aspect.” Doing so, he continues, “provides you with the freedom to focus on gaining clients as your primary role,” he says.
And the prevalence of ready-made templates and easy-to-setup content management system platforms like WordPress make web design an even easier business to get into for those with very little programming experience, says Akram Tariq Khan of the online fashion boutique YourLibaas.
“Website design makes sense” for anyone with just good sketching or creative skills, he says, but especially for anyone who is good with programming and “able to deliver a seamless experience working on the back end for dynamic websites,” he says.
To get started in website design, Ingraham suggests offering your services to a business you already have a relationship with. “This will allow you to generate testimonials” that can be used to attract other clients, he says.
Content creation can take many forms—from freelance writing to podcasts—and there’s money to be made in this industry, often for those with very little experience. With nearly half the world’s population online, according to Fortune Business, there’s more need than ever for content like audio, text, graphics, images, and animation.
Leanne Scott is a blogging coach and founder of Passive Income Superstars, offering traffic affiliate marketing strategies for bloggers.
She says content creation, anything from promotional video production to writing blog posts, can be a great way to earn money online, and it is particularly suited for creative types “who are capable of thinking outside the box and coming up with new ideas for how to promote products and companies,” she says.
“There are various ways you can monetise your online content,” she tells Business Pundit in an email. “You can arrange a sponsorship directly with a company” or become an affiliate, earning commissions on sales.
“Or you can use content to promote your own digital products like e-books or online courses,” she continues.
The best part of being a content creator, Scott explains, is that every day is different, and it often leads to fantastic opportunities. “For example, I worked with a travel company on a campaign to promote group tours and spent two weeks travelling around Sri Lanka—all expenses paid!” she says.
On the flipside, “content creation can be an unreliable form of income,” she cautions, recommending that anyone interested in trying it should have enough in savings to get you through the times when less work is available. “For example, when the pandemic hit, most professional travel content creators lost their income overnight,” she says.
“It can also take a long time before your blog gets enough traffic or you have enough engaged subscribers to make a considerable income,” she adds. “But if you are prepared to put the work in, being a content creator can be a great way to earn money online,” she says.
Build a Mobile App
Building a mobile app is another great small idea for a beginner. At first, it might seem like you’d need quite a bit of technical expertise, but with the rise of no-code app platforms that allow users to turn their app idea into reality with very little technical know-how, it’s easier than ever to launch a mobile app business.
Nick Chernets runs a digital marketing business called Data For SEO.
“Building a mobile app can be a very creative process, and businesses that provide such a service are in high demand right now,” he says, either for your own business or for a client.
Whether you do it on your own or assemble a team of experts to complete the work faster, Chernets continues, “mobile apps are very popular and a lot of businesses that switched to remote work want to find the best way for their audience, and mobile apps are definitely one of them,” he says.
Once your app is created, it’s important to market it thoroughly, which can include reaching out to influencers on social media, getting the app featured on relevant blogs, and listing it for sale in alternative app stores until you’re able to get it into major apps stores, among other tactics.
Since building a mobile app isn’t a quick or easy job (but nothing worth doing is easy), there are some drawbacks anyone considering launching their own app-building business should be aware of, according to Chernets.
First of all, it can be time consuming to build an app, depending on the complexity. “Even the simplest one can take a lot of time and energy,” Chernet continues. “Also, trends in IT change on a daily basis and you need to be up to date with them in order to build a good, relevant app. The job is low investment, but you will need to fully focus on it, at least until you manage to outsource some of the activities,” he says.
During the pandemic, education all over the world moved online, and with it, online tutors found their businesses booming. Listing their services on sites like Wyzant and Kajabi, among others, online tutors build and offer courses on a variety of topics.
Grandview Research reports that the global online tutoring services market size was worth an estimated $4.8 billion in 2019, and that number is expected to grow at a rate of 16.1% between 2020 to 2027, reaching $16 billion by 2027. And according to Glassdoor.com, online tutors make nearly $40k year, with very few operating expenses beyond a lesson plan, an internet connection, and their own expertise.
All things considered, there’s no time to like the present for both out-of-work educators or anyone simply seeking a way to share their knowledge and skill with a wider audience.
Mark Hayes is the head of marketing at Kintell, a one-to-one video chat platform connecting experts with people wanting to learn a variety of different topics.
“It’s always fulfilling to build your career in a way that helps and supports other people,” Hayes comments, and online tutoring is one of the best ways to do so, he says. “People from all walks of life need mentorship in one way or another, myself included.”
“By seeking the help you need in a convenient, digestible format, you can build great working relationships with others and spread your knowledge further than you might imagine,” he continues. And online tutoring has great potential as a small business idea in 2021, he says.
Grant Aldrich is CEO of Online Degree, an educational platform with tuition-free classes, says online tutoring is an especially great idea for teachers who already have a network of students. “Online tutors can also set their rates, he says, “and gradually increase them with experience and demand. The one downside to online tutoring is that there will always be someone willing to tutor for lower rates,” he continues.
To get started with online tutoring, Hayes from Kintell recommends making yourself known on a variety of platforms. Ubiquity fosters trust, he says, “so make sure that you have at least a rudimentary presence on each social media platform like Instagram, Facebook, and possibly even TikTok. This gives people the trust and comfort they need to get started with you, book that first lesson, and begin learning,” he says.
And to stay competitive, Aldrich from Online Degree says you need to offer a memorable experience to students. “Instead of just copying lesson plans you’ve seen online, adapt them to your teaching style with your personality and games. For example, if you’re an English tutor, you could make your classes more engaging by talking about philosophy,” he says.
Charles McMillan, founder of Stand With Main Street, an online guide matching business owners to business services related to the formation of an LLC, agrees that virtual services of this sort are likely here to stay.
“Many schools and universities are focusing on virtual teaching,” he says, and many parents are struggling to monitor their children’s academics because of their jobs, and some of them are looking for trusted individuals to help them out. “Also, there are lots of older students who are seeking extra support for their studies to understand their lessons better,” McMillan continues.
To start a tutoring service specifically, McMillan says you should establish your subject of expertise and then “consider whether you would want to work with parents with young children or with a high school or college student,” he says.
You spend all your time surfing the internet, so why not make money as a product or business reviewer?
Sites like Swagbucks and Vindale Research will pay you for your opinion. Vindale Research pays as much as $75 per review, with a $2 bonus just for signing up. Some professional product or business reviewers launch their own blogs, earning affiliate commission among other methods of monetizing their traffic, and a particularly lucrative niche for reviewers of this sort are on parenting and mom-related topics through sites like Tastemaker Mom, among many others.
Samiksha Rawool of Yummy Tummy Recipes, a site that reviews and promotes recipes, food products, and food-industry services. The blog, which began as a side hustle and now has about 7,000 unique monthly visitors according to Rawool, is monetized through ad revenue and affiliate rebates. From one specific affiliate agreement, Rawool tells Business Pundit in an email, he earns as much as $100 a day.
I would say that my online business has helped me stay occupied, motivated, and financially stable,” he adds. “Because I work in a location-independent fashion, I was able to travel a lot while making a decent income.”
Nothing is guaranteed, but what’s for certain is that — although businesses may not look, operate, or behave the same ever again — small enterprise is at the core of America, and will remain so going forward, even after the pandemic.
Furthermore, the shift to virtual meetings and online school opened up new possibilities for aspiring entrepreneurs. There are no shortcuts in business, but with any of the small business ideas we’ve included in this ranking and a little hard work, you can realize your dream of owning a successful — and possibly pandemic-proof business — perfectly suited to your skillset and and otherwise, with very little overhead.