Yet our companies are smaller, employ fewer people, and we still earn only 80 cents to every dollar a man makes.
While we’ve made great strides in some areas, we still lack the social networks, experience, and confidence needed to close the entrepreneurial gap.
So how do we get over the hump and make business ideas for women more competitive?
By starting our own businesses, with whatever resources we have.
20 Low-Cost Small Business Ideas for Women
Very few things can compare to the feeling of pride that comes with earning income from a product you created or a service you personally fulfilled. But extensive research shows that women tend to raise less financial capital from outside investors and rely more heavily on their own savings for start-up costs.
Fortunately, there are many low-cost small business ideas for women that can help you take the leap into entrepreneurship without straining an already tight budget.
Online business ideas
All you need to earn money online is a computer and a desk. These resources and courses will help you build and scale a business that’ll give you the freedom and fulfillment you’ve been looking for.
1. Freelance writing
Every year, companies make quality content a higher priority, so the opportunities and jobs for freelance writers become easier to find and more lucrative.
Freelance writing takes more than grammar skills and AP formatting. You have to know where to find jobs, what to charge, and how to become more proficient to scale your work.
Holly Johnson’s Earn More Writing course is great for beginners to start learning the business side of freelance writing. It’ll teach you how to set your rates, land jobs, please your clients, and turn freelance writing into a lucrative business. Johnson is an award-winning writer and blogger who makes over $250,000 per year freelance writing.
The course also has a Facebook group where you have direct access to Johnson and other writers in the course, creating an invaluable network to help grow your business.
Free Workshop: How to Build a Six-Figure Freelance Writing Career
Court reporters, self-publishers, and marketers all need proofreaders to ensure their work is understandable and free from errors. If you have an eye for detail and are meticulously thorough, proofreading could be a great business for you to start.
Like freelance writing, it takes more than knowledge to build a business around your skills. To gain access to mentorship and opportunities within proofreading, Proofread Anywhere has several courses that will help you hone your skills and grow your business.
The first is General Proofreading: Theory and Practice. You’ll learn the detailed mechanics of proofreading and how to market your services to find clients. The second is Transcript Proofreading. This course focuses on how to proofread court reporter transcripts and build a business in that niche.
These courses, taught by long-time proofreader Caitlin Pyle, will give you the tools you need to start and grow a proofreading business.
Free Workshop: How to Turn Your Passion for Words into a Thriving Business
3. Virtual assistant
Virtual assisting, or being a VA, is a simple business for ladies who are reliable, organized, and good problem solvers. VAs do a range of tasks for business owners from social media and calendar management to personal tasks like booking hotels and restaurant reservations. The tasks themselves aren’t difficult and can be a great way to take the leap into self-employment.
The $10K VA course, taught by Kayla Sloan, will teach you what people are looking for in a virtual assistant and how to run a successful VA business. Lessons include onboarding clients, legally protecting yourself and your business, and creating systems for efficiency that will allow you to scale.
Sloan consistently makes $10,000 per month as a VA and is now a sought-after resource for other business owners looking for VAs. She passes those opportunities on to her students in the course’s closed Facebook group.
Free Workshop: 5 Steps to Become a Virtual Assistant
4. Graphic design
Some of the best business ideas for women include working as a graphic designer making websites, designing logos, and developing innovative products. Trying your hand at a variety of design techniques in different industries could give you the confidence you need to start your own design agency.
Design or creative agencies do all aspects of branding in-house, including campaign direction, design, public relations, and content creation. This is a great way to build a business that’s scalable and can create jobs for others.
Teachers looking to be their own bosses can thrive with a tutoring business. Start by using an established service to hone your skills. For high school and college tutoring, Chegg offers 24/7 tutoring in a variety of subjects. If you’re more comfortable with younger ages, VIPKid is a tutoring service for Chinese students learning English.
Once you’re comfortable tutoring part time, you can grow and expand to your own full-time tutoring business by finding your own students and hiring other tutors that specialize in topics you’re not proficient in.
6. Reselling high-end fashion
Buying secondhand clothes and reselling them on Poshmark, Mercari, or eBay can be a lucrative job for stay-at-home moms or anyone with a passion for fashion. High-end luxury brands are best for building a business around because of their high resale value. If you live in or near an affluent neighborhood, you can find high-end clothing in local thrift stores.
Then expand your business by offering free closet cleanout services and offering to purchase pieces clients no longer want. You can also sell items for clients and take a portion of the sale.
Traditional business ideas for women
These business ideas for women may sound traditional, but there are plenty of ways female entrepreneurs can innovate and set themselves apart to build a thriving business.
7. Wedding planner
About 29% of couples hire a professional wedding planner to help pull off their special day. Whether it’s full-service planning or day-of coordinating, there are a number of business ideas for women in the wedding planning industry.
Couples splurge on details that make their wedding personalized and meaningful. If you can niche down and become the go-to expert in a particular category such as destination weddings, Jewish weddings, or luxury weddings, then you’ll be able to market yourself to prospective clients more easily.
As a small caterer, you may not have the equipment to feed a 100-person wedding. But you can easily serve bridal showers, baby showers, and small holiday parties, providing a personalized menu and an experience they couldn’t get from a large company.
And catering doesn’t just include food. You can start a traveling bar offering custom cocktails for weddings and parties. Be sure to check your county and state health departments and abide by all food and beverage permitting and licensing laws.
9. Selling crafts
Are you exceptionally talented at crocheting, painting, or throwing pottery? You can sell your crafts and create a decent business. While selling goods on Etsy or your local craft fair may earn you some profit, commissioned work can be more lucrative.
Creating custom art for interior design firms, sewing stuffed animals for baby showers, and designing high-end jewelry for clients are some of the ways you can make your passion a viable business.
10. In-home daycare
In 33 states, the cost of infant daycare is more expensive than college. There’s a need for more licensed in-home daycares to keep those costs lower for struggling families.
While in-home daycare can be more affordable than traditional options, daycare business owners keep their profits instead of paying a franchise fee or being paid as an employee.
This type of business isn’t as flexible as others, but it’s great for moms that have a child at home already. Check your state’s licensing requirements to find out what licenses you need and how to maintain them.
11. Dog grooming and boarding
Americans love their pets. Collectively, pet owners in the U.S. spend over $6 billion annually on grooming, boarding, training, walking, and other pet services. If you love furry babies more than human ones, a mobile dog grooming business, pet boarding, or pet exercise service could be a great business to start.
Start by signing up for Rover and seeing what breeds and activities you like. Then you can advertise your business on social media by targeting people in your area who like dogs.
12. Laundry service
If you put it off long enough, doing laundry can be an all-day event. Many busy parents and professionals don’t have the time to do all the family’s laundry. As a mobile laundry service, you pick up, wash, fold, and drop off clothing for clients. Depending on the garments and number of items, you could earn $30 to $50 per load of laundry.
This is one of the best business ideas for housewives. Many laundromats offer this service. To set yourself apart and build a client base, start by signing up with a service like Laundry Care that takes care of some of the marketing for you.
Start-up supplies cost $95 and include laundry bags, processing bags, garment covers, business cards, brochures, and anything else you use to market your services. The company then adds you to their directory of service providers and starts marketing your business for you.
13. Sewing and alterations
A sewing and alterations business is one of the best business ideas for women at home who are proficient in sewing and knowledgeable about fabrics. Start by specializing in a specific type of alterations and become the go-to seamstress for those jobs. You can start small by hemming pants and work your way up to items like wedding dresses.
Make relationships with vintage clothing store owners in your area so they can refer customers to you. You can also offer beginner sewing classes to earn more and get the word out about your services.
Photography can be a competitive industry to get into. But if you diversify your offerings and develop a unique style, you can attract customers that want something different. Another option is to specialize in a specific niche, like only offering newborn shoots or specializing in weddings.
There are several ways to get paid to take pictures. You can do family and event portraits or headshots for businesses. You can also sell your photography as art or stock photos on the web.
If you want to do weddings, reach out to popular wedding photographers in your area and request to be their second shooter. Eventually, the relationships and trust built through assisting them will turn into referrals.
15. Interior design/decorating
The competition for luxury home decorating and commercial space designing can be fierce. But there are a variety of ways you can build an interiors business from scratch.
Some examples are a minimalist design package with decluttering service or wedding designer with a reception liaison add-on. By getting creative with what you design, how you do it, and where you’ll work, you can build a successful business.
You can even design spaces from home. If you know where to find the best prices on home decor, you can help homeowners design their spaces on a budget with just a picture of the space, a few dimensions, and style preferences.
Home-based business ideas for women
Online business and traditional business ideas for women aren’t the only ways to make money. Women entrepreneurs can make money at home in plenty of unique ways.
16. Teach music lessons
Musicians don’t have to be starving artists, and you don’t have to pass out demo tapes to build a music business. Instead, you can teach music lessons anywhere in the world.
Traditionally, music lessons had to be taught in person and one on one. Musicians can now utilize YouTube and online course platforms such as Thinkific and Teachable to build an audience, teach basics, and charge for advanced virtual lessons. This can expand your client base and make it more affordable to start.
17. Personal trainer
If you love running, playing sports, or working out, you can use your passion or hobby to make money.
Your extra room or garage can become a boot camp for busy moms or personal training space for clients. You can even rent it out to other personal trainers who don’t have enough space to see clients.
By being open at times other gyms may be closed or operating in a community that may be far from the gym, you can build a health and wellness business without leaving your home.
18. Marketing and public relations
Small business owners find social media intimidating. If you have a background in marketing or you’re comfortable with social media, you can build and scale a great business in this space.
The demand for these services is so great you don’t have to stop at offering marketing and public relations services, you can start your own marketing agency from your kitchen table.
Marketing mogul Tai Lopez recommends to start by marketing yourself on social media. By building your own brand and social media following, clients can see what you can do for them. Then scale by hiring people to do the heavy lifting for you.
19. Bookkeeping & accounting
Some business ideas for women who are great with numbers are digital bookkeeping and accounting. Bookkeepers are responsible for keeping track of a business’s transactions, expenses, and income. They also produce reports for business owners to show them their financial trajectory.
You can find free online bookkeeping lessons, but it helps to become certified by a professional bookkeeper organization. Specializing in a specific industry will also help you grow your business and reduce the time it takes to learn the finances involved with multiple industries.
20. App development
If you’re a tech lover, creating an app is a great alternative to starting a website. The app market is exploding and you can build a profitable app if you have an idea. And if you don’t, you can start a firm developing apps for other companies.
If you’re unsure where to start or don’t love writing code, you can still build a business around an app or suite of apps. Work on the things you can and hire out the rest. Take advantage of Upwork to find affordable designers and coders for your project.
Remember to Deduct Business Expenses
When you start a business, your business-related expenses are deductible on your taxes. If you make $10,000 and have $2,000 in tax-deductible business expenses, you only pay taxes on $8,000 of your income.
There are dozens of fully deductible expenses and even more that are partially deductible. Keep track of these 10 popular deductions when starting your business.
Home office: If you do work-from-home jobs, you can deduct a portion of your home’s utility bills, mortgage interest, property taxes, and home insurance from your taxes.
Advertising: Any promotional materials, website hosting, email marketing costs, Facebook ads, and more are 100% tax-deductible.
Office supplies and tools: Cleaning supplies, stamps, pens, and any tools you use in your business are deductible.
Salaries and wages: If you bring on a VA or hire out some tasks, you can deduct those expenses from your taxes. You can also deduct payroll taxes when you hire employees.
Meals: Save your receipts because if you purchase a meal or coffee while working, you can generally deduct 50% of the expense.
Business use of your car: Anytime you use your car for business purposes, you can deduct the cost of the trip. There are two ways your car expenses are deducted: mileage driven and actual expenses such as gas, oil, repairs, etc.
Depreciation: When you buy something for your business, like a laptop, the depreciation of it is tax-deductible. Typically you have to spread out this depreciation over a few years, but there are several ways to take the entire deduction in one year such as the de minimis safe harbor election.
Education: Any courses or continuing education related to your business are 100% tax-deductible.
Telephone & Internet: If you’re using your phone or home internet to do business, you can deduct a portion of your bill.
Child Care: Business owners can claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit for children in daycare, which is 20% to 35% of the expense.
Starting Your Own Business Is Hard, But It’s Worth It
Starting any business often requires unpaid startup work and late hours. But being your own boss and choosing the work you do is worth the sacrifice. There are more than just 20 business ideas for women. Take what you’re good at, certified in, or passionate about and explore ways you can build a business around those.
When you start your business with a growth mindset, you have the opportunity to do more than offer services. You can build a company that serves you and invests in your community, so think big and keep pushing.