What are the best cheap SME business ideas that are cheap or free to start?

Can anyone recommend some cheap startup business ideas to start?

Top voted answer
Maini Homer

Maini Homer, Owner at

There are several ways that you can start a business for little or no money down.  I have created 8 successful businesses all from very little and these have been in many different genre's.

I actually have a book out on the subject of making money online, however, I am not sure that I am allowed to tell you that here.

Daniel Spark

Daniel Spark, Director

Depending on the scale you wish to achieve niche product are great with little to no money. You can check out the likes of for some ideas of some products that are cheap to make but sell for decent amounts.

I think it is safe to say that there is always an exchange of value, if you do not have money to exchange for items others feel are of value, then you will need to have creativity or persistance to bargain with.

Marcus Tjen

Marcus Tjen at

Top 10% Market Research

I think you're asking the wrong question.  The question you should be asking is: what things that I can do better than other people? There is no business that you can start that will cost you nothing.  If you're thinking of $$ value, there might be a business that you can start without spending a lot of money but it will definitely cost you time.  As you get older you'll realise that time is much more valuable than money.  So start thinking what are you good at? what value you can add to your community around you? Then naturally you'll find a business that suits you that have a low barrier to entry.

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Top 10% Business Ideas

There are plenty but most come with caveats. One, any business that is no-cost or low-cost is just as easy for anyone to start. This means that you will face a lot of competition (which isn't for the faint of heart). Also, depending on the industry the profit margins may be extremely low which mean you have to compete on volume. Another difficult thing to do starting from scratch.

However, as some of the others have touched on, you need to focus on a very few things.

  1. For any business to work you must be providing something of value whether a product or service. Novelty will fade.
  2. You need to be passionate about whatever you are doing because that will attract customers to you.
  3. As mentioned by others what are you great at doing? How do you do it differently than others? Frame your business with a story or narrative that is compelling and intriguing to customers (it has to be authentic, if you lie about it, people will find out). So be unique, because it helps you stand out.
  4. Take action. Ideas are fun but stuck in our heads they benefit no one.

Tom Valcanis

Tom Valcanis, Copywriter at

Top 10% Marketing

Usually creative service businesses are quite cheap or free to start. Even if you own nothing but the clothes on your back, all you need is a computer and some software. You could even keep costs down by using Linux or open source software instead of licenced apps like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Cloud.

That said, you're not only competing with people in your area, but the entire world. Graphic design isn't language dependent; so you will have to spend a bit of money marketing yourself.