Starting a business is tough, it’s a long hard slog, and statistically, you’re destined to fail. But getting a business off the ground is only a problem you’ll face if you can come up with a business idea to begin with. I ran my own company for about two years, but it took us three weeks and a lot of ‘meetings’ at pubs to eventually come up with something we wanted to do.
Related: 60 online business ideas
Whether you want to make some money on the side, run something when the kids are at school or create the next Facebook, here’s a humongous list of business ideas. To make things a little easier on the eye, I’ve broken the list down by industry/area, feel free to scroll through the lot or skip as you please.
Domestic & household service business ideas
Domestic service businesses are great, they’re easy to setup, cost practically no money, and you get out what you put in.
1. Cleaning company
Probably widely regarded as the most straightforward business to make money from. Get Microsoft Publisher, print off some flyers and put them up in local shop windows and drop them in letterboxes nearby. The costs are minimal, just your cleaning supplies and the ink for your printer. Easy to scale too. Check out our recent interview with the founders of Homejoy, a multimillion dollar cleaning company. (Update: Homejoy unfortunately went out of business between funding rounds and was acquired in a small deal.)
2. Laundry service
Go to big apartment blocks and flyer them. A lot of flats in built up areas don’t have washing machines. You can also partner with laundrettes to offer their existing customer base a ‘delivery option’, simple!
3. Carpet cleaning
Same as above, although a little more expensive as decent carpet cleaning equipment can be pricey, but with that comes a higher barrier to entry so you can charge more.
4. Window cleaning
You get the gist now, print flyers and target your local community. Everybody has windows unless they’re in prison.
5. Pool cleaning
Only do this is you know what you’re doing, you don’t want to be responsible for a swimming pool turning green. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be 21 and well-built to do this job.
6. House sitting
Pretty awesome job if you ask me, get paid to hang out in a mansion while the owners are on holiday… a fully stocked fridge and a king-size bed, happy days! Now, back in the real world… there’s also a decent market for waiting for deliveries when people are at work. As for how to go about marketing a local business, see all the above.
7. Catering company
If you love cooking and can handle catering for the masses, a catering company could be an excellent idea. You can work from home and start small catering for buffets with sandwiches and the such, then scale up to hog roasts. Be careful with this one and make sure you have all the required licenses like a food hygiene certificate.
8. Personal chef
Basically catering without the masses. The wealthy people that live among us are partial to a personal chef, somebody that’s just on hand to cook for them morning noon and night. Think catering + house sitting, same rules apply for licenses.
The perfect business for stay at home parents. If you really love looking after children, then look after other people’s kids while yours are at school. You can become a registered childminder, or even open a day care centre.
Take everything I said for a cleaning company, change the designs, job done. You may also need some form of business insurance.
11. Gardening company
I worked for a small gardening company when I was younger, it’s great to work outdoors (yes, even in England with all the rain). The great thing about gardening is the results speak for themselves, start working for a neighbour and work your way up to an empire.
12. House staging
For those of you with an eye for killer interior design. House staging is setting up a house to maximise its appeal to potential buyers. It’s quite the science but if you’re good at it, you can make a fortune in commission.
Animal related business ideas
Let’s face it – who doesn’t love animals? As the saying goes, if you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life.
13. Pet sitting
Basically childminding (see above) but with less paperwork. Get paid to walk, cuddle, feed and play with puppies all day – other animals are available. Market your services through social media, local advertising (flyers, letterbox drops, etc.) and partnerships with other animal companies.
14. Dog walking
15. Pet grooming
My other half has three dogs and every month or so they go off to get a haircut and a freshen up. So, certain dogs need haircuts just like humans do, but they’re more complicated so you can charge more. as for how to market, see the pet sitting advise.
16. Aquarium cleaning
Advertise on services like Gumtree and approach local pet shops and partner with them – offer them a fee for each successful referral. Local partnerships will work with independents; I wouldn’t waste your time with the national stores unless you get massive.
17. Dog training
Everybody loves the dancing dog that won Britain’s Got Talent a couple of years ago. If you’re a bit of a dog whisperer this could be the perfect idea for you.
18. Make and sell stuff
If there’s one thing pet owners love doing, it’s buying their animals presents. From squeezy dog toys to cat scratch poles, there’s a lot of money to be made from making a product. Create your own store on Shopify and market through social media.
19. Poop scoop
Believe it or not, people run businesses based around picking up dog poop. Most owners just let their pets do the business in the back yard and somebody has to clean it up. It’ll cost you about £5 to set-up and you can market it just like pet sitting.
Business ideas for professional services
If you’re an academic, be it a chartered accountant or a seasoned proof-reader, there’s a bunch of businesses you can get off the ground just by networking and emailing prospective clients.
Everybody that does pretty much any of these 100 companies will need an accountant. From filing payroll to submitting annual tax returns through accounting software, your skills are very much in demand. Sponsor an organisation that works with SME’s, such as a startup accelerator.
21. Financial adviser
Very similar to an accountant but a little broader. Market through a blog and talk about things like best practices, money management, etc.
A lot of architecture firms use freelancers/contractors to work on specific projects, it’s a networking game, so your marketing costs are pretty low.
23. Business consultant
Advise and support businesses in all aspects of their business. This is a very broad idea and covers SEO consultants to management consultants. Your experience will speak for you and your network will help you gain clients.
Pretty much the same as the above, if you’re a licensed lawyer then your services are in demand. Why not do some freelance work on the side, or even set up your own law practice.
Some people just love teaching, they really enjoy helping others learn. If that’s you, then you should be making money out of it! The tutoring industry is massive and there are apps like Tutorme can help you monetise your skills on a one-off basis.
26. PR (public relations) services
PR is a relationships game, if you’re good at PR you’re likely chummy with journalists in all sorts of publications. If you’re friends with someone at the Financial Times, make some cash on the side by giving introducing him/her to great businesses and getting that business featured in the newspaper. I’d do this on a results basis to instantly seem more appealing than PR agencies.
27. IT support
As the world becomes more and more technology focused, some people struggle to keep up, and inevitably things break. Offer your services for training and support, and if you provide fantastic customer service, you’ll have a client for life.
28. Business development
If you’re a kick ass salesman and always deliver, spend the occasional weekend on the phone or go all in and start a call centre. To kick things off, you can use services like PeoplePerHour to get quick well-paid work.
29. CV/resume writer
I recently re-wrote my CV and ended up sending it to about ten people for advice/feedback. Writing a CV or cover letter is really tough, most people hate talking about themselves, and there’s a fine line between coming across as confident and seeming arrogant. Use things like Upwork to find clients.
You can also use oDesk for this. Your reading speed will be a factor in winning customers, as will your attention to detail.
This is an excellent way to make cash if you’re sales oriented. Recruitment companies like Graduate-Fasttrack offer a commission if you refer them somebody, who then gets a job. How many people are you connected on LinkedIn with? One email could make you a lot of money. You can also start a recruitment company with nothing but a phone and a good attitude, and there’s serious money in it.
Nightclubs, weddings, events… the list of potential clients for photography services is huge. If you have a decent DSLR camera and an eye for a great photo, this could be perfect. We just hired a freelance photographer to take our wedding pictures and let’s just say if you did 1 wedding a day you’d do pretty well for yourself. Market through social media, let your work speak for itself… oh and ask for clients to recommend you to their friends/family/colleagues.
Basically the same gig as a photographer but you need a really steady hand.
Get paid a cut to help companies raise finance either from a business angel or venture capital fund. Services like the AIN make a killing on this. There’s a massive market for it and the contacts you’d build will be worth their weight in gold.
Personal & beauty business ideas
This category is so broad and there’s so many other things we could’ve listed here, but narrowing down to the top 100 business ideas is a tricky task. If you wake up at 3am with a cracking idea for a tattoo, or live for the next line of Benefit makeup, this section is right up your street.
36. Tattoo artist
The cool thing about this industry is you can generally rent a space in a tattoo parlour, meaning you don’t need to shell out £££ for your own site. Go along to your local and ask for advice.
37. Body piercing
Same as tattoos, rent a spot.
You guessed it, more of the same.
39. Makeup artist
There’s so much you can do here, I’d probably look to make every wedding planner in my local area my best friend and ensure I’m their preferred supplier. Same with event agencies. You could actually partner with most of the businesses in this section.
40. Massage therapist
The world is going massage crazy these days and the market is huge. From painful sports massages to Friday massages at a startup’s offices, the future looks bright. Marketing is subjective to the industry you want to go after, but I’d start out with social media and maybe a little bit of PPC (pay per click), depending on budgets.
41. Personal stylist
I must admit, if this jumps out at you, you probably know more about it than me. Partner with event providers and get yourself a blog, it’s time to make lots of posts and advice about styling and build some exposure.
42. Personal shopper
Also a pretty big market for this, from helping the elderly get their shopping through to going to fancy shops with a wealthy client. The latter is a relationships game, so get your party hat on and go make some friends.
Online business ideas
The possibilities online are pretty much endless in terms of online business ideas – that’s why this section has so many ideas. Put simply, if you have a specific skill set or just a good attitude, you can be making money online within about half an hour. This section explains what each method is, I’d recommend you market yourself through inbound marketing – so blog about your industry, build a social media presence and do some SEO to get organic traffic.
43. Affiliate and content monetisation
This is when a company will pay you money if a user clicks a link on your website and goes through to buy a product. Basically, you can create an entire e-commerce looking website and just link all the ‘Buy’ buttons through to Amazon or Firebox. Every time somebody buys, you get paid a commission of the sale.
Further to the above, if you’re running an online blog or other type of media site and you’ve managed to create a community of dedicated followers setting up paid access features is probably a better way to monetise, many online publishers and magazines are now pursuing this type of monetisation as advertising and affiliate revenues decline.
You can launch a paid access feature using website builders like NING, that offers you a platform to build your community and launch a paid access easily. Don’t forget also to put Donate button – for sure if you are pursuing non-profit goals, then it’s necessary, sites like Wikipedia are able to run off this kind of monetisation.
Similar to affiliate but the user can stay on your website. You’re still selling products without the inventory requirements but you control the buying process. It’s more complicated to implement but the returns are substantially greater than affiliate. If this goes really well you can even take your e-commerce international.
45. Virtual store
If you’re a dab hand at art and design, or a master baker… create your own online store using something like Shopify or Etsy. It’s basically your own e-commerce site but without having to pen a single line of code.
Creating a blog with a wide audience can make you a lot of money. Blogs like TechCrunch started out as a hobby and turned into a business that was acquired for around $25m.
48. ebook writer
If you’re knowledgeable on a particular subject, why not write a short book about it and publish it on the Kindle store? You can sell on there.
49. Generic freelancer
Register on oDesk, eLance, PeoplePerHour etc and take on as many freelance gigs as you can get your hands on. You can do pretty much anything from logo design to writing press releases to coding.
50. Transcription service
Get paid per transcription on sites like Mechanical Turk by Amazon. Just listen to some audio and write every word down. Bonus points for foreign languages.
51. Start an agency
Start an agency based on one area of interweb business. Typical agencies specialise in design, SEO, paid search, development and even just on mobile.
52. Make and flip apps
If you’re a great app developer you can just churn them out and stick them on AppTopia to sell.
53. Training company
If you have in-depth knowledge of one particular subject, create an online course and charge people to take part on it. Check out companies like Udemy that offer you a platform to publish and market your courses.
54. Virtual assistant
The days of hiring a PA are in the past, virtual assistants are all the rave. If you’re passionate about being organised and want to make some spare cash, this could be a great route.
55. Buy and sell on eBay
Trading on the internet is an artform, if you haven’t heard of it check out the Red Paperclip story it’s amazing. Start small and buy products then repackage them or enhance them and sell them for profit.
56. Buy and sell domains
Spotting a big domain and snapping it up for a small price can be the route to big money. You can even put watches on domains so you get alerted when they’re about to go back on the market.
57. Holiday rentals
If you have a spare room or are going away on holiday, rent your place out on Airbnb and they’ll even insure you up to $1m in damages.
58. Sell photographs
Most websites use stock images, basically photos they buy online to use on their websites. Take a bunch of photos and upload them to stock image websites, and wait for the orders to fly in.
59. Market research service
Starting a business is tough, especially in established markets. Offer your market research services through social media and freelance websites as a seasoned market researcher.
60. Take surveys
Earn as high as £35 for completing a survey.
61. Become a YouTube celeb
Popular YouTube stars make a ridiculous amount of money in advertising revenue. All it takes is one video to go viral and you’re minted.
These are an excellent way to market products and services, and if you build a big community you can make money pushing other people’s content. If you’re a genius on a subject then run webinars around it and build a community. Charge for entry or sell a product off the back of them.
64. User testing
When you launch a new product or service it takes a shed load of time to iron out all the bugs and errors. Companies spend a lot of money on testing, so sign up as a freelancer or make your own website and market yourself as a tester. You could build a whole company around this, it doesn’t have to just be side-earnings.
Health & fitness businesses
One thousand one… one thousand two, oh – sorry I was just training the guns. If you’re into your fitness or a bit of a healthy eating nut (see what I did there?) then this section is for you.
65. Personal trainer
I pay my personal trainer £50/hour. If you’re a certified trainer, then go to your local gym and ask if you can use it. You don’t need your own place or your own equipment; you just pay a gym a fee to let you use their venue. Your audience is in that building, couldn’t be simpler.
66. Fitness programs
Run fitness courses. Things like military fitness at the local park are really taking off, you charge a set fee for an X week program and away you go. Market in local gyms, online and via flyering/posters in the local area.
67. Dance instructor
The same gig as a personal trainer, rent a space in a dance studio.
68. Drink milk and kick ass
Marital arts courses are always popular, you can even partner with local schools to help teach kids. Kids pay subs, that’s your subscription fee per class, run ten classes a day and you’ll be making a tidy amount.
69. Sports instructor
Football/rugby/athletics… become a high-level sports coach and work on a freelance basis for local teams. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Alex Ferguson.
70. Yoga instructor
Rent a space at a yoga place, or run classes at a local gym.
Partner with pretty much all of the above or give nutrition advise to the stars. Abs are made in the kitchen after all.
Creative business ideas
Oh, the irony that I couldn’t find a creative image for this (with the correct licensing). Anyway, here’s lots of ideas of how you can put your artistic juices to good use.
72. Furniture refinishing
Pretty ronseal (ahh, couldn’t resist). People love a little bit of old-school in their lives, and furniture is a great way to add character to a modern design, but it needs touching up. Pick up old tatty furniture (with character) and do it up then sell it on.
73. Antique dealer
If you don’t know what this means, don’t consider it.
Sounds obvious but if you’re talented then don’t sit around wasting that talent. Even if it’s just a hobby, stick your excellent work on the market and see what happens.
One of the hardest things in the world of startups is finding high-quality designers. We burnt through about five design teams at my old startup before we found somebody awesome. If you have a knack for web design, then get yourself a Behance profile and start raving about how awesome you are and soon enough you’ll get requests.
76. Chocolate/cake/baking retailer
Are you the sort of person that watched the Great British Bake Off and thinks “I could win this”? If so, get on it, and create a Shopify or Etsy storefront to sell your awesome creations.
77. Car boot sales
Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Buy and sell at car boot sales; some people make so much money from this that it’s a full-time job.
78. Pop-up shop
If you have great products, be it fashion, food or anything else, grab yourself your own storefront for a day or a week using WeArePopup.
79. Market stall
Same as above – if you have physical products to shift then get in front of people. Did you know you can rent a market stall at Camden, a world famous market, for as little as £15 a day?
80. Pretty much make anything
Showcasing stuff is one thing, but if you have a product, you can also get it online to maximise your reach through places like Etsy – a marketplace specifically for homemade crafts.
Miscellaneous business ideas
This post could’ve probably been ‘300 business ideas’ but I just don’t have the time. Here are some of our favourites that didn’t fit into the other categories.
81. Flyering agency
Companies always need people to flyer in public places or via letterbox drops. I even suggested flyering in some ideas earlier on. A lot of professional flyering agencies charge massive amounts for a simple task, undercut them and you’ll win lots of business.
82. Event/Party planner
Partner with wedding and event venues for instant customers.
83. Tour guide
If you’re in London, there’s a bunch of ‘walking tours’ so don’t assume you need a bus! All you need is a tour, a theme and enough confidence to drum up business from passers-by.
84. Ticket reseller
Sell tickets for shows and concerts, either directly for the venue as a reseller or buy them yourself and sell them at a premium nearer the time.
85. Lemonade company
When life gives you lemons… make lemonade and sell them to supermarkets! I’m not joking, a friend of mine runs WeMadeDrinks, a drinks company which started out as a lemonade company at university.
86. Delivery company
Own a van? Create a “james-manwithvan.com” style website and promote your services through social media and posting on sites like Gumtree.
87. Removal company
Own a really big van? Same as above.
88. Snack/coffee stall
You can buy a coffee stand for a few hundred pounds, they’re all over the major cities and the markup on a cup of coffee is typically over 60%, not bad!
89. Disk jockey
Partner with venues, events companies, wedding planners etc to provide DJ services.
You’d be amazed how much money you can make by working the doors at a nightclub as a contractor.
Get to drive an awesome car and get paid to do it. Register as a driver for UberLux.
92. Mystery shopper
Get paid to go shopping, what an easy life!
93. Car wash
Maybe not quite as extreme as the one in the photo above though.
94. Private investigator
Become Sherlock Holmes and solve crime for a living. If you’re licensed, and good at it, it can be pretty lucrative.
95. Debt collector
There’s a lot of money in this too, and it requires pretty much no expertise. Get paid to knock on doors and ask for cash, from people that have agreed to payment plans, then get a cut of everything they give you. You typically own territories too, so you’re not competing for business with anybody else.
Buy a big powerful printer and copier and sell printing services to local businesses.
97. Equipment rental
I know people that make a stupid amount of money renting out snow machines, foam machines and more. This stuff doesn’t cost a fortune and there’s always somebody looking for it.
Did you know you can get paid for taking stuff to be thrown away or recycled? There’s a lot of money in things like copper piping, offer to rip it out for free to your neighbours and sell it on at a profit.
If you’re stuck for an idea, you can just buy into something from somebody else. Franchises are when you buy into a larger business model, like a Pizza Hut and open your own store under their brand.
100. Bed and breakfast
If you have a family home and the kids have moved out, why not turn it into a B&B?
101. Voice over
If you have a distinct voice or are great at impressions, you can sell your services as a voice over artist for videos and TV productions.
102. Motivational speaker
If you have a particularly inspiring story, or are just amazing on stage, you can make a lot of money touring the speaker circuit. Conferences shell out thousands of pounds for 1 hour long sessions.
Related: How to start a business