Starting a small business can be a rewarding process for people who value being in charge of their workplace and enjoy turning their business visions into a reality.
As a small business owner, you will have the opportunity to develop your product and service offerings, while maintaining control over business tasks behind the scenes, such as scheduling, marketing, bookkeeping, and hiring. With your small business, ultimately, you get the final say.
A small business owner can benefit from a strong desire to learn, an interest in innovation, or motivation to work toward their ideas of success. According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), there are 32 million small businesses and startups in the United States, as of December 2021 —and every one of those small businesses started with one thing: an idea.
The SBA defines a small business as “an independent business having fewer than 500 employees” . Running a small business can be a person’s full-time job, or it can be something they do in addition to another job that serves as their primary employment. A small business pursued on the side of another job is commonly referred to as a side hustle.
In this article, we’ll focus on small businesses that people often treat as full-time jobs.
The first step toward launching your own small business is knowing the type of business you’d like to launch. Use this list as a starting point for your own creativity. Here are a few questions to consider as you read through the options below:
What skills do you already have, and what are you interested in learning more about?
What kinds of tasks do you enjoy doing?
Do you have any limiting factors to consider, such as scheduling blocks or start-up costs?
An IT or computer consultant helps other small businesses set up and fix their computer systems. Often, these other businesses won’t have internal IT departments, so when they run into an issue, they’ll call their consultant. An IT consultant may also deal with computer vendors when clients require new systems or parts for repair.
Good for people who like: building and fixing computers
Requires: a tool set, local travel, some physical strength
This is your path to a career in IT. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than 6 months. No degree or experience required.
927,228 already enrolled
Average time: 6 month(s)
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Skills you'll build:
Debugging, Encryption Algorithms and Techniques, Customer Service, Network Protocols, Cloud Computing, Binary Code, Customer Support, Linux, Troubleshooting, Domain Name System (DNS), Ipv4, Network Model, Powershell, Linux File Systems, Command-Line Interface, Directory Service, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Backup, Cybersecurity, Wireless Security, Cryptography, Network Security
Just about everything requires some maintenance from time to time, whether it’s clogged gutters, a leaky faucet, or a gate that won’t latch closed. A repair person fixes issues around the home or workplace. These can range from odd jobs all the way to more specialized problems, like repairing air conditioning systems or installing new water heaters.
Good for people who like: working with their hands, learning how things work, and fixing things
Requires: a tool kit, local travel, physical strength, and flexibility
People living in suburban or rural areas will often have yards to maintain, and a landscaper or gardener can help with that. They may mow the lawn, tend to shrubs, plant flowers, or help manage minor pest problems, such as installing fencing to keep squirrels away from blooming fruits.
Good for people who like: physical work, being outside, and yard design
Requires: landscaping equipment, local travel, and physical strength
Many people opt to hire professional cleaners to help them keep up with dust and grime build-up, having them come clean their home or business weekly or monthly. This type of predictable scheduling can be helpful for people who like to plan ahead. Cleaners may vacuum, dust, and scrub sinks regularly, and offer deep cleaning services for harder-to-reach areas as needed.
Good for people who like: cleaning and organizing
Requires: cleaning supplies, local travel, and maneuverability
Professional organizers help people manage clutter in their homes. They may organize closets, clean out junk drawers, or sort more visible belongings. In dealing with their client’s things, professional organizers may help get rid of things that they no longer need via donation, disposal, or sale, and some specialize in organizing for people living with disabilities or seniors.
Good for people who like: sorting and organizing
Requires: organization supplies (such as bins), local travel, and maneuverability
Personal chefs make sure their clients are well-fed, incorporating both their nutritional needs and taste preferences into the menu selections. Personal chefs may work for singular clients, or they may prepare meals for many clients on a daily or weekly basis. It may help to take nutrition courses or cooking classes before becoming a personal chef, though it is not a requirement.
Good for people who like: working in the kitchen and nutrition
Requires: cooking tools, local travel, access to ingredients
Interior designers furnish and decorate their clients’ homes, doing everything from selecting paint colors and light fixtures, to filling rooms with furniture and art. Some interior designers also oversee contract work, such as cabinet installation or wall tear-downs. Interior designers may frequently collaborate with other local artists, woodworkers, or furniture crafters to get better deals for their clients, and they’ll often build a roster of reliable contractors.
Good for people who like: design and styling
Requires: people skills and organization
People often like to hire photographers to capture big events, like birthday parties or weddings, as well as personal moments, such as an engagement or their family’s growth. Some photographers may specialize in one type of event, while others offer a range of services. Either way, photographers play a big creative role in many people’s most special days.
Good for people who like: art direction, artistic expression, and capturing moments
Requires: camera equipment, local travel, and maneuverability
Create photographs you will be proud to share.. Build a solid foundation in digital photography, growing in knowledge from camera to composition!
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Average time: 6 month(s)
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Skills you'll build:
Social Media, Photography, Copywriting, Writing, Confidence, History, Creativity, Art, Project
Event planners help organize and coordinate events such as birthday parties, weddings, and conferences. They work with vendors like caterers and photographers, secure any necessary permits, keep to a schedule from set-up through clean-up, and manage any needs that pop up on the day of the event. Some event planners may also work on virtual events, which includes coordinating digital access and sending guests any physical items they’ll need in order to participate from home.
Good for people who like: hosting and creating memorable moments
Requires: organization, people skills, and travel
Bookkeepers work with businesses to organize their finances. They may process payroll, invoices, and expense reports. They’ll also track spending and balance bank accounts to make sure all of the business’s money is where they expect it to be. Bookkeepers may be able to work from home if their clients use online banking systems, however some businesses may still process paper invoices, requiring local travel. In some locations, bookkeeping requires a certification.
Good for people who like: balancing checkbooks, math, and budgeting
Requires: the ability to work independently
Launch your career in bookkeeping. Gain the professional skills you need to succeed in the bookkeeping field. No degree or prior experience required.
33,074 already enrolled
Average time: 4 month(s)
Learn at your own pace
Skills you'll build:
Double-Entry Bookkeeping System, Bookkeeping, Bank Reconciliations, Accounting Concepts and Measurement, Basis Of Accounting, accounting software, Accounting Cycle, Creating Financial Statements, Accounts receivable and cash receipts, Inventory costing methods, PP&E Accounting, Asset Accounting, Depreciation, Accounts Payable and Payroll, Owner’s Equity and Owner’s Draw, Accounting, Long-Term Liabilities and Note Payable, Accounting for Liabilities and Equity, Cash Flow, Bank Reconciliation, Financial reports analysis, financial statement analysis
Personal trainers are exercise partners for people who want to work on their physical health. They may offer private sessions to individual clients or organize group classes as a fitness instructor. Personal trainers typically need a certification to get started, and they may rent space in a gym, set up their own gym, travel to people’s homes, or organize virtual classes online.
Good for people who like: physical activity and working with clients
Requires: certification, physical strength, and exercise equipment
Learn more: How to Become a Fitness Instructor | 10 Tips
A life coach is someone who helps clients change areas of their life, and a career coach is someone who specializes in navigating career changes. Coaches may work with individual clients in private sessions or organize group sessions with clients hoping to achieve similar outcomes. Many coaches will take a class or seek certification before becoming a coach, but that is not a requirement, and coaches might work with clients in person or virtually.
Good for people who like: helping people navigate change
Requires: emotional intelligence
If your ability to travel is limited, you may prefer the option to work from home. Operating a small business from your home may require a computer, internet connection, and sometimes specialty software.
Graphic designers create digital imagery like logos, flyers, or infographics for brands. This work calls for some collaboration between the designer and their client. As the designer, you will listen to your client’s needs, offer your opinions on how to best deliver those needs, and create the assets based upon your agreement. You’ll often be working independently while you create graphics, but depending on the project, there may be some back-and-forth required.
Good for people who like: design, visual storytelling, and collaboration
Requires: a computer and a design program, such as Photoshop or Canva
Website developers build websites for other businesses or individuals. This service blends IT skills with design skills, as you need some knowledge of both in order to create websites that are functional and user-friendly. As a website developer, you will build websites according to your client’s needs and offer suggestions on how to create the best website experience for their users. You may also work with companies that host websites or sell domain names if your client doesn’t yet own a website.
Good for people who like: IT, coding, and design
Requires: a computer with internet connection
There are many ways to be a writer. For example, you might focus on editorial writing for publications; content, copywriting, or social media management for brands or businesses; or resume writing for individuals. Many writers incorporate a variety of services into their business offerings. Writers who manage their own small business may offer their services on a freelance or contract basis, allowing them to maintain control over the projects they take on and how they spend their time.
Good for people who like: writing and storytelling
Requires: a computer
Virtual assistants or administrators are discreet professionals who keep their clients organized. They may manage schedules, sort emails, create itineraries, or help with other digital tasks. Typically, once they onboard a client, they’ll likely work with them consistently for a period of time, opening the potential for long-term, collaborative relationships.
Good for people who like: digital organization and personal collaboration
Requires: a computer with internet connection
Learn more about working with Microsoft programs with the Microsoft 365 Fundamentals Specialization, available on Coursera. These three courses are designed to familiarize you with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, commonly used by businesses everywhere.
There are many ways to measure the success of a small business, but one dominant perception of success is whether your business earns a profit. A profitable business is one that generates more money than it spends. The majority of small businesses are not profitable for the first two or three years in business, but there are some areas that can help you forecast whether your business will become profitable.
Every business costs some amount of money in order to run. These costs are often split into start-up costs and operating expenses.
Start-up costs are upfront expenses that you’ll incur before you can start offering your services. These may include equipment purchases, office space, furniture, insurance, and incorporation fees.
Operating expenses are recurring costs that you’ll routinely owe as you run your business. These may include utility bills, transportation, and employee salaries.
Developing a business plan can help you estimate how much money you’ll need to launch and run your business. Once you’ve determined your anticipated business costs, you’ll be able to calculate the amount of money you’ll need in order to launch your business, as well as the amount of money you’ll need to earn each month in order to make a profit. Depending on the amount of money needed to launch, business owners may rely on business loans, personal savings, investments, or a combination of all three to fund their business.
The ability of your business to make a profit will largely depend on the services you are offering and where you are offering them. For example, if you are offering highly specialized and necessary services in an area where the availability of similar services is limited, you’ll be able to charge more for your work.
Additionally, consider variables that may contribute to the overall value you are providing. Being able to complete work quickly may help you earn more money in the same amount of time, or offering higher quality work than your competitors may help you attract more customers.
Conducting market research in the areas you are hoping to run your business and assessing the value of your services can help you forecast the potential profitability of your small business.
Learn more about conducting market research with the Market Research Specialization from the University of California—Davis, available on Coursera. These four courses will walk you through the process of initiating, conducting, and analyzing market research.
As you consider the skills you want to incorporate into your small business, keep learning about the logistics of your upcoming launch. Wharton’s Entrepreneurship Specialization is designed to guide learners from the ideation process through their business launch, with coursework that covers development, growth, profitability, and more.
1. US Small Business Administration. “Frequently Asked Questions, https://cdn.advocacy.sba.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/06095731/Small-Business-FAQ-Revised-December-2021.pdf." Accessed February 7, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.