What types of business are cheap and easy to start, and can make you money? In this What Business Should I Start series of articles, we’ll look at various possible ventures that aren’t complicated to set up. And since most businesses listed here require low investment, there is also lower financial risk involved.

A service business is cheap and simple to operate because it doesn’t require purchasing (and management) of inventory. Besides, you can make use of skills or know-how that you’ve already acquired. Think about it; you’re offering something you already know how to do to another person for a fee.

Oh, do you know what the other thing about consumer service business is? It is so broad that you can explore a plethora of possibilities. And what if you don’t fancy any of the typical consumer services that are already available? Why not make up new ones? The sky’s your limit here!

What Are The Common Consumer Services?

While these services are already available in the market, the door is never closed. Moreover, you can creatively introduce new technology or disruptive ideas to reinvent the services. What you need is to think beyond, and think different!

Pet Care

If you love animals, why not channel some of that love into a business? There’s a host of services in pet care that you can specialise in:

  • Pet grooming – The grooming business is also a booming business. Proper training is required, but it’s not that difficult to obtain.
  • Dog walking – Simple but profitable business with absolutely no investment required (except maybe a good pair of walking shoes?). The going rate ranges from S$15 – S$30 for a 30-minute walk.
  • Pet sitting – Some pets (cats, for example) prefer their own home over any kennel or pet hotel. Pet-sitting service would require you to visit homes to feed and play with the pets and clear their litter boxes when their owners are out of town.

Wedding/Party Planning

Whether during a recession or a booming economy, people still get married or celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Given a choice, most people prefer to leave the planning to a professional. If you’re well organised, love planning and coordinating, and have a refined taste for food and decor, I’ll say, “Go for it!”

Household Organising

Go ahead and “Marie Kondo” the hell out of the homes and closets of hoarders and slobs and put some order in their lives. If you’re a neat freak, being a professional organiser can not only earn you a decent living but also spark joy in your life!

Massage Therapy

Stress-relieving services are in demand in these, well, stressful times. Some training would be required, but on the other hand, there are also many accessible courses available. You can offer your services either at your home or your clients’ homes or workplaces.

Babysitting

This can be either a full-time or part-time service offered to couples craving for a break or a date night out without their kids. Or, if you have what it takes, why not open your home to those who need your help in looking after their kids during the day?

Elder Care

With an ageing population comes the growing need for elder care services. Some of the home health aide services you can consider include elder companion, in-home physical therapy and private nursing.

Tailoring

If you have a knack for sewing and dressmaking, why not turn your passion into a tailoring business? Seamstresses and tailors are hard to find these days while clothing alterations service is still in demand.

Personal Fitness Training

Everyone wants to have a body like Jason Momoa or Jessica Alba, which is why the fitness industry is still booming. The possibility here is broad, ranging from personal trainer, Yoga and Pilates instructor, Zumba dance instructor to chiropractor and nutritionist.

Make-up Artist/In-home Hairstylist

When it comes to beauty, some people simply have better style and taste than others. If you have it, sell it! Make-up artists and hairstylists are needed for so many occasions – weddings, engagements, photo-shoots, family/company portraits, parties, celebrations, gala dinners and online webinars. The list goes on.

Handyman Service

From fixing broken hinges, installing light fixtures to hanging paintings, there are surely things that need fixing at home. That’s where your handyman service, well, comes in handy. I can say from personal experience that good handyman services are hard to find, and if you can provide trusted, reliable services to your clients, word-of-mouths alone can fill up your schedule faster than you can say handyman.

Any Unique (or Weird) Business Ideas Out There?

Are the business ideas mentioned above too traditional for your taste? Why not try something unique, or even a little weird? Here are five examples of real, but unusual businesses to get your creative juice flowing:

1. Reef Balls

Would you like to preserve your legacy while protecting the marine environment even after you pass on? Eternalreefs.com does precisely that for you! This business creates memorial reefs by making a person’s cremated remains part of a reef ball. The reef ball is then placed in the ocean to become part of a new or existing reef, creating what the company calls a true living legacy. Reef balls for pets are also available.

2. Potato Parcel

Potato parcels are way more fun than greeting cards or flowers! You simply write your messages on the potatoes and send them to anyone you want. You can upload and print your face or the receiver’s face on the potatoes too. Or send a whole gift box of potatoes. Whatever. Featured in Shark Tank, this service is great for birthdays, love notes or making someone laugh.

3. Plant Consultant

Are you a plant enthusiast who is dying to show people the right way to grow plants in their garden, balcony or corridor? How about helping plant owners keep their greens healthy and thriving for a fee? Consult them on what to plant, how to prevent the plants from withering, how often and how much to water. You’ve no idea how clueless most people are when it comes to gardening.

4. Party Cleanup

Too tired to clean up after a huge party? The guys from Hangover Helpers will do the job for you, making the place look like the party never happened. They are even equipped with drinks for you so you can choose how you want to rehydrate.

5. I Do, Now I Don’t

When Josh Opperman’s fiancée left him, all he was left with was a $10,000 engagement ring he’d worked so hard to save up for. However, when he took the ring back to the jeweller to return it, he was only offered $3,500. So he started I Do, Now I Don’t, a website that allows people to sell their engagement rings (or any other fancy jewellery) to other users, cutting out the middlemen and their mark-ups.

What’s Good & Bad About The Service Industry?

Good:

  • The barrier to entry is very low, and if you are proficient in something that is of value to others, you’ve already got a competitive edge.
  • Most of these businesses require very low start-up capital. If you’re doing this on your own or with a partner, you can even work from home. Just convert that spare room into a home office or find a cosy corner to set up shop.
  • You can take in as many or as few clients as you wish at any point in time, so that means you have absolute control of your life!

Bad

  • The real challenge is not setting up the business but finding your first customers. People generally want to hire professional service providers who are reputable or experienced. If you don’t have anything to show for, landing your first jobs could take a while.
  • There are good clients, and there are bad clients. The bad clients will take up more of your time than they deserve. And if you don’t know when or how to say “no” to unreasonable requests, you’ll end up burning your candle at both ends.
  • While having a low barrier to entry is a good thing when you’re getting into the industry, it also means that you’ll also be facing some fierce competition in your field, unless you’re offering something truly unique.

What’s The Risk Involved?

You can always dip your toes and test the water by starting out as a freelancer. The risk here would mostly be the opportunity cost and your reputation (i.e., if you do a lousy job). In other words, the financial risk involved is relatively low.

As you expand your business, so would your risk. Running a service business is very much like running any other business – you need capital, good staff, space and more clients to keep it going. The only difference is that you won’t need to worry about inventory since you aren’t selling any physical products.

How Much Does It Cost To Set Up?

If you’re planning to be a freelancer, the cost involved is low. If you’re working from your home, your start-up expenses would be business registration, computers, office equipment and marketing costs like creating and maintaining a website and maybe name cards and brochures. If you’re game, you can even create your own website, which can not only save you some money but also allow you full control of your website content. To find out how to set up a website and power it with SEO, please read our article How To Build A Small Business Website On My Own? and DIY SEO Tips For Small Business Owners.

If you prefer to a proper office rather than a home office, the start-up cost can range from $30,000 to $80,000, depending on how swanky you want your office to be. This includes business registration, rental deposit, renovation, furniture, insurance, advertising, etc. Please refer to our articles HDB Retail & Office Space In Singapore and What Is Virtual Office & Should I Lease One? for some ideas and options for commercial space in Singapore.

To set up a business, you first need to decide on the type of business structure, and then register your business (if you’re doing this in Singapore, the agency to register your business with is ACRA). For more information about the types of business structure and how to register a business in Singapore, please read our articles here.

About the Writer:

Judy Tham is a writer and founder of One Elephant, a copywriting firm in Singapore. She co-authored Are You Brand Dead?, one of the few books on branding in Asia that focuses on SMEs.