A solo business idea doesn't always have to take a ton of time and capital to implement.

The space between what needs to be done and what people are willing to do for themselves is called a service business opportunity. Successful businesses are started every day by people who recognize that opportunity and seize it. Here are business ideas you can start without a big investment of time or money.

Home inventory taker

A detailed list of possessions is invaluable in the event of theft or natural disaster. Despite the urgings of both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the insurance industry, few people bother to create a home inventory. The work is tedious — and perfect for outsourcing.

Give your business a jump start by purchasing a complete business package. Alternately, you can make your own business plan and invest in a software system. Whichever way you choose to get up and running, you will be providing a valuable service.

Virtual assistant

Virtual assistants (VAs) are a great example of today’s remote work opportunities. These off-site workers take the place of in-house employees, handling tasks that eat up the time of busy executives and entrepreneurs. If you have experience sorting through and answering emails, setting appointments and making travel arrangements, you can set yourself up in the VA business.

Create a website touting your skills and experience and reach out to your network. You can also find work through sites like Redbutler or Remote.co where you will be paired with clients in need of your services.

Errand service

There is nothing virtual about an errand service. Whether it’s simple errands or a fancy concierge enterprise, there’s a business opportunity in saving clients time. Busy people want things done for them and they will pay competent, reliable people to do them.

Today there are companies specializing in everything from grocery shopping, to package delivery, to standing in line at the Apple Store. While these tasks can vary in the areas of profitability and practicality, you can make your own list of service offerings and refine it as you go.

Home junk removal

Call it downsizing, de-cluttering or minimalism — whichever way, tossing stuff is in. And it’s big business. Companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK? mainstreamed the concept of paying strangers to haul away unwanted belongings, but there is still room for new entries in all but the most saturated markets. In fact, the presence of local competition could be a sign that there is a lot of stuff to still be hauled.

Study the websites of the big players to learn how they market their upcycling and recycling capabilities, then decide how you’ll approach disposal. For a quick entry into the business, consider purchasing a franchise from an established player.

Virtual bookkeeping service

Online accounting software and remote work capability have made the bookkeeping office obsolete because number crunchers are no longer chained to on-site desks and calculators.

As a result, many entrepreneurs and small business owners choose not to hire full-time bookkeeping staff, but still need to keep track of their finances. If you’re experienced with popular accounting software, you can provide that service from just about anywhere.

Senior services

Service businesses catering to seniors have a bright future. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that by 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65 years of age. By 2050, one in 20 will be over 85. That’s a sizable percentage people who may be looking for help with a variety of daily tasks, such as gutter cleaning, light bulb changing, rides to doctors’ appointments or grocery shopping.

If you’re good with tools, consider offering construction services like widening doorways to accommodate power chairs and modifying bathrooms with grab bars and fold-down shower seats.

Parking lot cleanup

Even with “go green” movements trending, litter never seems to go out of style. Parking lots of office buildings and shopping centers become depositories for cans, bottles, and fast food bags every day; and someone has to clean it all up.

Parking lot cleanup may not be the most glamorous business, but it is a steady one. Startup costs are low and no high-tech skills are required. Property management companies are a good place to start when seeking clients.

Busy people want things done for them and they will pay competent, reliable people to do them.

House cleaning

Half of America’s families now include two working parents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And between working, preparing meals and spending quality time with each other, many families are choosing to spend their money on housekeeping instead of performing the tasks themselves.

If you’ve got money to put down, a housecleaning franchise can be a quick start. If, on the other hand, you choose to go solo, you can start your own cleaning business with a combination of experience, cleaning supplies and a network of friends and relatives to get the word out.

Bicycle repair

Bicycling is good for the environment. In fact, according to Forbes, there are at least 45 reasons to ride a bicycle, and millions of people are doing it. This also means a lot of flat tires, broken chains and riders calling for help. If you have a mechanical ability and a suitable work van, consider opening a mobile bicycle repair shop.

It’s already being done, so you can reinvent the (bicycle) wheel if you like, or purchase a franchise and be in business in no time.

Online seller

E-commerce sales have doubled in the last decade and that trend is not going to reverse itself any time soon. People want to shop online, and selling there is a great way to get into your own business with decent computer skills and minimal investment.

Etsy and eBay are two prime platforms through which you can break into e-commerce sales. An Etsy shop is perfect for handmade or vintage merchandise, while eBay is widely used for new merchandise, purchased from a wholesaler or through store closeouts. Both sites can be a great complement to your own website, as well.

Gutter service

Gutter cleaning is a task on nearly every homeowner’s to-do list. It’s also dangerous, dirty and almost no one wants to do it. Add to that the fact that it needs redoing on a regular basis and you’ve got the makings of a service business with the potential to develop repeat customers. If you’re not intimidated by heights and enjoy working outdoors, starting a gutter cleaning and repair service can be done quickly and for a small investment.

In addition to cleaning, consider adding the installation of leaf protection, also known as gutter guards, to your menu of services. By focusing on a specific home maintenance issue, you can keep set up costs low. Insurance, and some business cards, a good ladder, a suitable vehicle to transport it and just a small array of hand tools should be enough to get started.

Instructor/trainer

Instructors help others excel in everything from pasta making to wallpaper hanging. To open an instructing/training business, you need three things: a particular skill, the ability to effectively share that skill and clients willing to pay you to do so. Your first decisions will be what to teach, whether to do it online or in person and how you will attract and keep clients.

A review of potential competitors will reveal what qualifications are standard for a particular discipline. For some — cake decorating for example — a certificate showing you’ve passed a course may be sufficient. For others, acquiring certification as a trainer may be helpful in attracting clients and substantiating your fees. Fitness instructors can obtain certification from organizations like The National Federation of Professional Trainers. Likewise, life coaches can gain certification through the International Coaching Federation.

Garage organization

Garages store extra belongings, house home gyms and function as woodworking and mechanic shops. Some garages even shelter vehicles from the elements. No wonder garage organization is big business.

The necessary products are already out there. Pegboard and Slatwall, specialized floor finishes, overhead storage and racks and sleek, attractive cabinetry can be combined to maximize the usefulness and attractiveness of any garage. Many of the manufacturers of these products offer advice on their installation. If starting your own business from the ground up sounds daunting, some offer dealership opportunities.

Tutoring

Tutors give students the extra attention necessary to succeed, generally using materials provided by an educational institution. To open a tutoring business, you — and any staff you hire — should have an excellent understanding of the specific subject matter, and a patient, caring demeanor.

Since distance learning has become the norm, the need to travel to students’ homes or provide a physical business location has been eliminated, significantly reducing overhead and startup costs. Technology has also effectively removed any geographic boundaries, allowing you to sign up clients from just about anywhere. While certification is generally not required, it may help get your business off the ground. It’s available through, among other sources, The National Tutoring Association.

Custom closet construction

A well designed and outfitted closet no longer means a white wire shelf and a wooden rod. Uber organization has become a lifestyle and fancy closets are big business. Not only are custom closets on trend, there are actually trends in custom closets. Those special rooms for clothing, shoes and handbags now feature upholstered furniture and wall paper. If you have a flare for design and possess some cabinet-making skills, you can launch a custom closet business for a small investment and service that upscale market.

Alternately, today’s attractive DIY systems are meant to provide similar style and organization to the closets of the more budget-minded. Even with the design and installation support offered by manufacturers, however, not everyone has the time or desire to do the actual work. Once you’ve mastered the learning curve — perhaps start by installing a few for friends and relatives — your installation time will decrease and these smaller ticket jobs can become profitable.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published May 23, 2019