6 Businesses You Can Start for Under $5,000

By now, many Americans have received their tax refunds, or will be receiving them soon. Many people take that “bonus” money and go on vacation, get a new wardrobe, start an emergency fund, or buy a large-ticket item they’ve had their eye on. Maybe you’re thinking, all of these are great options, but none of them provide any long-term benefit.

Say you’ve calculated your tax return amount and now you’re wondering what to do with that money. Why not make an investment in yourself that can net you sustained returns? One way to achieve this is by launching your own business. Consider the possibilities: no more cubicles, no living paycheck to paycheck, and, best of all, being your own boss and essentially running your own life. If all this sounds good to you, why not take that tax return, create a business plan, and get started?

First examine what you’re passionate about and think about the skills you have to offer. Make an inventory of the resources you can devote and imagine what pitfalls you might encounter on your journey. Identify the markets that would offer the best environment for your business; you might even want to consider relocating to an up-and-coming city with plenty of opportunities. For example, Philadelphia has a thriving startup culture, is only an hour from New York, has 80 universities within a short drive, and at any given time, boasts well over 100 apartments for less than $800 a month.

If you need a little more help brainstorming, here are six businesses you can start for under $5,000.

1. Tutoring or online courses

Tutoring and online learning can be terrific business opportunities, and quite attainable with seed money from a tax return. If you have strong math or language skills, thoroughly know the differences between neutrons and protons, or can teach English as a second language, why not start a tutoring business, either in person or online? Alternately, you could develop a full-fledged course in a specialty subject of your choosing and offer it as a package of tutorials. For either option, the steps are relatively straightforward:

  • Figure out your target audience (i.e. children, high schoolers, college students, adults, DIY crafters, non-English speakers, etc.).
  • Develop your course outline and offerings.
  • Assemble your online infrastructure — a basic website, Skype or another communication app, or a video or screen-sharing platform.
  • Acquire and utilize some marketing skills to get your name in front of potential clients.

These preparations can be made with a laptop, a little cash, and some very practical planning. Figure out your special knowledge and share it with people who want to learn!

2. Make a product and sell it online

If you a special creative talent (jewelry fabrication, knitting, quilting, or pottery are just a few examples), why not take your hobby and kick it up to the next level to make yourself some money? You can still enjoy your pastime, but you’ll design and make items with the intent to sell them. Set yourself up with these steps:

  • Start with a well-fleshed out business plan.
  • Accumulate several items in your inventory.
  • Take clear, well-lit, and attractive photos of your products.
  • Create a simple, clean website where people can find you.
  • Join a sales platform like Etsy or Ebay.
  • Get the word out about your goods!

To gain exposure to potential customers, you can pursue marketing measures both online and in person: Establish a strong presence on Pinterest and other social media channels, and make plans to attend trade shows, festivals, fairs or similar events to promote your business and your products.

3. Open a consulting business

Do you possess specialized knowledge? From landscaping to accounting and payroll work and pretty much anything in between, there are potential customers actively seeking out expertise and willing to pay for it. Here are some top opportunities that consultants can pursue:

  • Home or office organization and efficiency
  • Home security
  • Designing and building gardens and landscaping features
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Human resources and organizational management
  • Insurance
  • Home interior design, color, and décor
  • Green living
  • Career counseling

To get started, you won’t need much overhead. Build a website that clearly demonstrates your expertise, get some business cards printed up, and start cultivating a solid social media presence. Once you get the basics established, you can work on building clientele from there.

4. Create an app or game

Mobile technology has become a part of our daily lives, and it’s not going away anytime soon — much like the world’s appetite for entertainment delivered digitally. Also, due to the continuous growth of the Internet of Things, a good percentage of consumer products are focused on connectivity. These factors combine to offer almost endless business opportunities for app or game developers. To get started, take these steps:

  • Decide on an idea.
  • Research to see if your idea fills a market need. If you explore other apps in the same niche and find it’s been done already, consider whether your idea could significantly improve upon what the other apps do.
  • If you have the coding or programming skills to do the actual building, then get to work!
  • If not, identify the person or service that can help you realize your vision.
  • Set up the necessary methods to market and sell your app.

Currently, the app marketplace continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The consumer market desire for apps likely will continue to expand for years to come. If you’ve got the right tech know-how and skills, this is a great business to get into. Best of all, you can start on a shoestring budget.

5. Become a real estate mogul

OK, $5,000 in cash won’t exactly make you a real estate tycoon, but it’s an amount that can give you a good start — toward a down payment on one property, for example. Using the help of certain types of loans, you could buy a vacation rental property with as little as 3% down. In return, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • A steady rental income
  • Extra tax deductions for property owners
  • A ready-made vacation location (For times you aren’t renting to others, you can take your own vacation and save yourself rental fees)

As you collect rent each month, you can strive to pay down your loan and set aside some income with the goal of buying additional properties. Over time, you can actually realize that dream of becoming that real estate mogul.

The key to success is to get a handle on how real estate investment works, carefully research vacation property options, invest wisely in the properties you choose … and, of course, develop a knack for handyman skills! (Or at least build a list of reliable contractors you can call.)

6. Virtual assistant

Many companies turn to virtual assistants to manage the administrative tasks they don’t have the time, expertise, or available staff to handle. Just a few assets are needed to get into this game:

  • An up-to-date computer
  • A reliable Wi-Fi connection
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • An organized mind and solid grasp on prioritizing

Virtual assistants are currently in high demand and forecasted to grow even more. A startup business focused on these skills can be easily pulled together for under $5,000. Depending on the number of clients you have or want, you can do this full time or as a side gig.

Whatever kind of business you decide to launch, you can further stretch your dollars when developing your website and other online assets by hiring a college student who would love the opportunity to build their portfolio. Search for web designers, programmers, or graphic design students.

The risks of starting a small-scale business are few, but the rewards can be many! If you’ve ever wanted to become your own boss, why delay? Take your cash and get started today.

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