When people think about profit, they think about it in different ways. For example, there is a considerable difference between the most profitable businesses and the most profitable small businesses.
When you look at the Fortune 500 breakdown by segment, it’s dominated by a few sectors:
But if you wonder what the most profitable businesses for small business owners to start are, that’s often a separate category. Most of us don’t have access to venture capitalists or the ability to run a business for ten years before it starts making money. So I’m constraining the list to the most profitable small businesses.
We’ll identify what small businesses are most profitable, look at some of the most profitable businesses to start from home, and provide examples of successful business owners in those fields.
Let’s get started!
Identifying the most profitable small businesses
The process I used to establish the most profitable small business ideas followed these steps:
Hopefully, these real success stories and small business ideas will stir your creative juices and help you rise to a lucrative income.
#1. Business Consulting
A consulting business is focused on helping other business owners solve their problems. You can choose a niche if you have a specific area in which you are an expert, or you can be an all-in-one solution.
When I initially started my consulting business, I was consulting on everything. One day I’d analyze payment processors, and the next, I would look for good influencers for a brand. I eventually gravitated to writing about business and technology because it makes it easier to pass knowledge on to thousands of people per month.
Business consultants can make anywhere from several hundred per day to billions per year. Consultants that specialize in mergers and acquisitions can earn huge commissions.
Check out this interview we’ve done with Ryan Gromfin, who makes $35K/month with his consulting business:
#2. Real Estate Agents
While only ⅙ of real estate agents become successful, those that do can start a lucrative business. Santino Fillepelli told us:
Check out our interview with him below to learn how to become a successful real estate agent.
Waiting for the link to be released.
Keep reading to learn about other small businesses in profitable industries.
Find out how award-winning real estate agent Paul Balzotti, was able to built his real estate business in our exclusive interview.
Then check out another interview we’ve done on real estate investing with a legend real estate broker Santino Filipell, where he also shares how he built his agency:
#3. Cleaning Services
One of the most profitable businesses to start is a cleaning service. Whether you choose to start a housekeeping service or a more specialized niche like carpet cleaning, you can make great money in the cleaning industry.
Matt Crimi of North Seattle Carpet Cleaning told us:
Today he is making three times that every month. Read our blog about how to start a carpet cleaning business to learn more about why it is one of the most profitable small business ideas.
You can also check out an interview we’ve done with Chris Mondragon, who makes over $125K/month with his cleaning business. He told us:
Read his incredible story here or watch the interview below:
#4. Social Media Management
Social media marketing is a vast industry. According to Statista, it is a $153.7 billion industry. All you need is a computer, some software, and to find some clients.
Jason Yormark told us:
That means a single person can make up to $40K per month from home without investing in inventory. Find out how Jason turned Socialistics into a $500K social media marketing agency per year:
#5. Creating Online Courses
Another of the most profitable businesses involves creating online courses. E-learning is expected to grow at a 14.6% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) and reach $374.3 billion by 2026.
Developing an online course can cost as little as a few hundred dollars if you know how to do it yourself, or it can be up to $20,000 per hour, of course, if you are paying others to create it.
Not only is it relatively inexpensive to start, but people are willing to pay for online courses if they add real value. In fact, some of the most recognized learning courses can run up to $5,000. Most are under $300 for a course, however.
#6. Start a Small Business that Makes Candles or Soap
One business owner that I have found most impressive since I started writing for UpFlip is Jazmin Richards, the owner of BlkSunflower. She started her small business in early 2020 with $100 and has grown it to over $200K annual revenue.
Most candle makers have a 40-60% margin if they sell in bulk and even more if they are direct to consumers. That makes it a highly profitable venture. Check out our interview with Jazmin:
#7. Payroll Services
Payroll services charge a monthly fee for their time plus an additional cost per employee. There are two routes to go:
- Buy the software, onboard clients, and manage them yourself.
- Become an affiliate and get commissions for encouraging people to use the provider’s software. You can do this with a variety of tech companies.
You can become an affiliate with some of them fairly easily, help people register for the services, set them up, and earn a commission on their monthly fees.
I am personally signed up with Gusto’s referral program. It offers:
- $500 sign-on bonus for each client (Each client also gets a sign-on bonus)
- Up to $360 per year for each client
- $2.40 per year for each employee on your clients’ payroll
This can be a highly profitable business, especially if you combine it with something like accounting or tax preparation because it’s extra money to make your job easier.
Check out our blog about the 15 best HR outsourcing companies to learn more about payroll services.
#8. Delivery Services
Delivery services can be some of the most successful small businesses. While the major players like Uber and DoorDash take the lion’s share of the delivery service revenue, the industry is expected to grow to $192 billion by 2025.
According to Uber’s annual report:
- Delivery service gets 18% of the total bookings for each delivery.
- Drivers pay Uber, so their earnings are excluded from revenue.
- They spend 33% on marketing (approximately 3X what most businesses do).
- They spend 15% on research and development (unnecessary for most small businesses).
If you start something similar, focus on the local area only, and find a better way to market the business. You can reach around a 17% net profit margin. That’s why delivery services are one of the most profitable business ideas.
#9. Graphic Design Services
If you enjoy creating websites, logos, and marketing materials, graphic design might be a good fit because it is always in demand. You can start with just your computer and some design software. Find customers on Fiverr or Upwork and start a profitable business from home.
Below is an example of the pricing people charge for different kinds of graphic design work.
Not too bad, given that many of these projects only take a couple of hours to complete.
#10. Food Truck
Many people start food trucks because they are more profitable than owning a restaurant. You save money on:
- Costs associated with a building
- A more focused menu.
Kyle Gourlie, the owner of Vet Chef, told us:
Check out our interview with him below to learn how to start a profitable food truck.
Keep reading for more small business ideas that are profitable.
#11. Personal Training
Personal trainers make a great living too. They can earn between $50 and $250 per hour while training people to reach their fitness goals. While a personal trainer does not have to have an education, income tends to be up to 140% more with a master’s degree as opposed to a high school education.
Given people are paying for your knowledge, the main costs are business licensing and marketing. If you are passionate about fitness, maybe training is right for you.
#12. Manufacturing Construction Supplies
The construction supply industry has a 22.73% gross margin and a 7.92% net margin, but companies that do it well can make far more. Paul Akers started FastCap when he was a cabinet maker and needed something to quickly cover the holes from screws.
More recently, he manufactures over 600 products, has only increased prices three times in 21 years, and has never laid a person off. Check out our interview with Paul to see how he does it.
#13. Catering Business
If you are a foodie, this one might be for you. Running a catering service allows you to prepare delicious food and take it to events like weddings and corporate meetings. At the events, you’ll either set up a buffet or serve the food in whatever capacity you select. You may also serve alcohol to increase the profit margin dramatically as long as you have a liquor license.
According to Cater Source, catering averages 7-8% pre-tax margins. In addition, the market is supposed to grow to $328.11 billion in 2025. That means there might be between $85 and $97 billion of pre-tax profit to go around.
If you enjoy cooking and serving customers, catering might be right for you.
#14. Post-Pregnancy Services
Post-pregnancy services, sometimes called postpartum services, are a type of business that helps moms recover after childbirth. If you aren’t familiar with them, it’s part of the medical field and can help with things like:
- Medications women need after giving birth
- Help with siblings
- Light housework and other responsibilities
- Teaching life hacks to adjust to being a new parent.
According to the Health Care Cost Institute, it is estimated that women spend an average of $3,100 on their care during the first year after giving birth. If someone created an Uber-style post-pregnancy care service, it could be a multi-billion dollar achievement. For example, medical and other visits could happen directly in the home and simplify the lives of women, perhaps a postpartum doula via an app service.
#15. Start an eCommerce Business
The current small business landscape is favorable to eCommerce. The startup costs are low (less than $1,000), and you can make more than $120K per month. In our interview with Marcus Harvey, owner of Portland Gear, he told us:
Hear more from him below.
#16. Courier Service in Major Cities
Courier services can be highly profitable if you have the right professional network to get clients who need paperwork and other items delivered quickly. Courier services can be operated with motor vehicles or bikes.
A courier service will typically charge a fee that is based on $1.50-$1.70 per mile plus additional fees for reasons such as:
- Multiple stops
- Delivery out of the normal area
- 1-hour service
- Notarize and return service
Courier Services are expected to reach $68.48 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 14%.
Becoming a notary would be an excellent ancillary service to this business. Let’s discuss notaries next.
#17. Mobile Notary or Remote Notary
Becoming a notary is usually a simple addition for a business owner. It often costs less than $1,000 to get:
- Business licensing
- $10,000 Surety bond
- E&O insurance
- Certified as a notary
- The notary stamp and notary journal
Most states allow you to charge a small fee for the notary service and additional charges for the drive time and other expenses incurred. The clients will be real estate agents, legal firms, accountants, and financial institutions that need contracts signed and notarized.
Find out what your state requirements are on NationalNotary.org.
#18. Mobile Car Wash Services
Some of the most lucrative businesses we have interviewed have been mobile car wash and car detailing companies. Mobile car washing and detailing businesses can cost about $2,500 to start and might make $40K a month.
Abu Waggeh turned a $300 investment into a $40K per month car washing business and told us:
Watch our interview with Abu to learn how a mobile detailing business can make you $480,000 a year.
#19. Copywriting, Blogging, Content Marketing
As far as home-based businesses go, this is one of the best ones if you want to be your own boss. The pay can be pretty fair. For example, you might find content marketing professionals making up to $1 per word. More commonly, this work lands around $50 and $200 per thousand words.
While I wouldn’t recommend doing so, you could operate your entire business from your cell phone with modern technology. All you need is an internet connection, a computer or tablet, and some software. My annual expenses land around $5,000, and everything else is profit. That is why it’s one of the best online business ideas.
#20. Landscaping Business
Lawn care and other landscaping companies can be highly profitable too! We have interviewed a ton of lawn care professionals over the last couple of years, but one of the most successful is Mike Andes, the 26-year-old CEO and Founder of Augusta Lawn Care.
We followed him and one of his franchisees, Nic Reed, for a year. Nic told us:
Nic is making over $200K a year as a franchisee, while Mike makes over a million per year selling lawn care franchises and operating his own locations.
Check out our video with Mike below.
#21. Tax Preparation
Zip Recruiter estimates that an independent tax preparer makes a median salary of $53,767, but some make over $100K. You’ll need to:
- Take tax prep courses
- Get a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)
- Take a test at a Prometric location
- Apply to become an enrolled agent and pay a fee, which may be subject to inflation-based increases.
- Help people and businesses file taxes
- Conduct 72 hours of continuing education every three years, including:
- A minimum of 16 per year
- Two ethics focused hours per year
- Reapply every three years.
If you are already an accountant or bookkeeper, I strongly recommend adding this to your offerings to increase your value to your clients. Others can tremendously benefit if they can offer competitive rates.
If you are interested in helping people with their taxes, I strongly suggest you get started in the spring so you’ll be certified by the next tax season. Between the training courses, testing, and application processing time, it may take several months to get approved.
Don’t assume you can get the idea during the holidays, take the courses, pass the tests, and get certified in time. Prometric administered tests are some of the hardest tests I’ve taken.
This can be a seasonal career or year-round, depending on how you structure it and whether you have consumers or businesses as clientele.
#22. Start a Photography Company
Photographers can make a great living as entrepreneurs. Korbin and Whitney Korzan, owners of Mile High Productions, make over $400K per year, and they told us:
They also told us:
That coincides with my experience in the photography industry. It’s one of the best small business ideas because it’s fun, has a low barrier to entry, and most of the work can be accomplished using social media and marketing services that offer free plans. You can do it from home too.
Check out UpFlip’s interview with Korbin and Whitney:
#23. Web Development
Web developers create software for businesses, governments, and non-profit organizations. Given this is a technology job, the profits can be huge.
InfoWorld estimates that people who develop software make between $70K and 200K per year as employees. It’s even more if you own an app development company. If you know how to develop software, I highly recommend it. Technology has been the number one creator of wealth since 2000.
Put your app development skills to use and build a technology empire. If you don’t have coding skills but love technology, keep reading because there are still tremendous opportunities to discover.
#24. Technology Consulting
Many of the major tech companies rely on small business owners to help drive the adoption of their software. Whatever industry you are in, you might want to consider adding tech consulting to your offerings.
You can make substantial money by referring people to other businesses, even if it is just sharing your referral code with other people in your industry. High Paying Affiliate Programs have lots of recommendations of software and hardware you can earn recurring commissions when you refer people to use their products.
#25. Property Management
Property management is a great business to run if you want to start a business that makes a profit, involves lots of interaction with people, and requires supervising subcontractors and finances.
You’ll be responsible for ensuring property maintenance is performed on commercial properties or home rentals.
There are over 275,000 property management companies in the US, and most property management companies make about 10% of each rental payment plus additional fees. Small businesses can expect around a 20% profit margin making it a profitable business idea.
#26. Start a Handyman Business
A Handyman business can make more than $250K per year with only one employee and only costs $5,000 to start. It’s a great business to start! Northern Seattle Handyman makes between 50-60% gross margin while charging $100 per hour.
Check out our interview with the owner below.
#27. Personal Chef
Another business idea that can be highly profitable is a personal chef. According to Indeed, this small business idea has an average salary of nearly $100K. Being a personal chef includes:
- Creating meal plans
- Shopping for ingredients
- Monitoring trends and cooking techniques
- Preparing and serving meals
- Maintaining the kitchen
- Preparing snacks
- Traveling with the client if desired.
This business idea is mostly labor, so you can reach levels of profit of nearly 70-80% if it’s only you. The margins may drop to 40-50% if you hire employees, but that is made up for by freeing up more time for you.
#28. Pet Sitting Business
Pet sitting makes the list of most profitable businesses for a couple of reasons:
If you own a dog boarding business, it can mean up to $750K per year. Find out how Metro Dog Seattle does it.
#29. Virtual Assistant to Executives
Becoming a Virtual Assistant for clients you choose is a profitable business to start. Some of the top virtual assistants on Upwork make $85 an hour. That’s up to $152K per year for things like scheduling appointments, sending emails, completing research, and other jobs you can do remotely.
Like other jobs that use a knowledge-based business model, the main costs are licensing and software. If you want to make more than that, you can start a VA agency and hire other people to help with this small business idea.
#30. Open a Gas Station
Gas stations are highly profitable if you want your own business. There are no educational requirements to start the business, and the in-store sales have 30-40% margins. Buying one has a startup cost of up to $3.5 million, but they can make $37 million per year.
Read our blog about how to start a gas station, or watch the interview below.
Start a business that requires an undergraduate degree or higher
Many small businesses that experience success and increased profits need at least some level of education. Professional skills and education are typically valued more for their expertise.
Great business ideas that require a bachelor’s degree or higher include:
- Financial advisors
If you don’t already have a degree in these fields and are willing to take academic courses, you can often choose from online courses, in-person college campuses, or a combination to get your degree. The government offers lots of student aid to help people pay for school.
In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the median weekly income is twice as much for a bachelor’s degree as for a high school diploma.
Let’s look at each of these high-demand fields and how to get into them.
#31. Become a Certified Public Accountant
To become a certified public accountant, you will need 150 hours of education in accounting. That’s a bachelor’s degree and passing the CPA exam, which is a test for proficiency created by the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
Once you have a CPA license, you can start a company and make a great living. There are only 40,000 AICPA members and over 80 million tax returns filed every year by tax professionals.
Granted, some of those are done by tax prep services, but CPAs do the big ones. Even at the low end of $100 per tax return, that’s still $8 billion in revenue, and that is just part of what they do.
Add in payroll, quarterly minimum filing, certifying businesses for SOC2 compliance, managing business sales tax payments, and other business finances, and that makes working as a CPA one of the most lucrative business ideas in 2022.
#32. Become a Lawyer
Starting a legal services business can be accomplished in two ways. The easiest way is to become a paralegal, but paralegals aren’t allowed to give advice on the law. To provide legal advice, you have to pass the bar exam.
Unfortunately, Frank William Abagnale Jr. (the main character from Catch Me if You Can) ruined it for everyone. People used to study and take the Bar Exam, but now you have to either:
- Go to law school to earn a Juris Doctorate or
- Perform a 3 to a 10-year apprenticeship to take the exam (Only allowed in Washington, Vermont, California, and Virginia)
Upon passing, you can practice law and make a median pay of $127K (even more if you start a highly successful firm), making it one of the ten most successful businesses to start in 2022.
#33-38. Become a Doctor or Other Medical Professional
Business is Booming! The Covid-19 pandemic caused a considerable uptick in long-term care. Given that nearly one in five people living in the US have gotten Covid and 50% of people who survive it claim to have new ongoing health issues, we need doctors.
We’re not here to discuss politics, but there’s a huge market for all medical professionals when you combine that with our aging population. If you’ve ever wanted to be a doctor, now is the time to spend a decade in school, then become a small business owner.
Oh yeah! They make $208,000 median pay, and healthcare makes up 20% of GDP. That’s $1 in every $5 of economic activity. Get your share.
If becoming a doctor sounds like too much time in school, other medical professions you can get into are:
There’s a lot more! Check out an article from nurse.org for more.
#39. Personal Financial Advisors
Financial advisors help entrepreneurs and other high-net-worth individuals increase their wealth through various financial instruments. They focus on establishing goals for entrepreneurs, developing a strategy to help them reach success, and managing their financial investments.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in business, finance, mathematics, or other applicable fields and licensing from state and federal agencies. The median pay is around $90K, but many operate on commissions based on the value of funds managed.
#40. Stock Brokers
If you have a firm grasp of finance, mathematics, and economics, starting a stock brokerage can be an excellent way to invest business capital, capitalize on your knowledge, and help other families build wealth.
Brokers typically have an MBA, but you can get started with a bachelor’s. You’ll need to pass several tests and complete the registrations with FINRA.org, but once you’re fully approved, you can sell stocks and bonds. The barriers to entry on this one are higher than some categories, and there are plenty of risks, so make sure you have some experience before you start asking families to invest with you.
Median base pay is around $65,000 according to the BLS, but commissions can lead to brokers making millions.
So what is the most successful business to start?
We’ve discussed ways to look at the most profitable businesses. Some are unusual business ideas, some you can start from home, and some are not as easy to get into because of education or barriers to entry.
If you want low-cost business ideas with high profit, go with blogging, social media management, or other marketing and business consulting ideas.
If you want to work with the most profitable businesses to start with $200K, get into real estate or bookkeeping.
If you want the businesses with the lowest failure percentages, they are:
- Grocery stores
- Local trucking
- Plumbing, heating, and air conditioning
- Security brokers and dealers
Honestly, the most profitable business for you to start is one you have knowledge in, you know how to find customers for it, and you want to spend the rest of your life exploring and working with it.
Any business can be profitable if you:
What business are you thinking about starting?