Entrepreneurs start businesses with different goals in mind. Some want to create products that change the world. Others want to build an exciting work culture. But every business centers on one priority: profitability.
A profitable business model can make it easier to bootstrap, or reel in investors looking for high-value opportunities. Being in the right industry — with low barriers to entry, high industry growth, and high potential revenue and margins — can help you weather economic woes.
So, to get started, here are some of the most profitable businesses you can start today — from CBD ecommerce to beauty bloggers.
Most Profitable Businesses
The pandemic greatly shifted how people view hygiene and cleanliness, especially in high-traffic areas such as restaurants and offices. Launching a cleaning service taps into this demand — the industry is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1% from 2020 to 2027.
Commercial cleaners stand to make the most profit. Workplaces must meet hygienic standards, but small businesses often can’t afford a full-time janitor. A cleaning business addresses these concerns, especially if your area lacks competition. Small businesses in this space make between $70k and $100k per year, with profit margins falling between 10% and 28%.
Supplies make up the bulk of a cleaners’ expenses, including power washes, vacuums, mops, and other tools, depending on your specialty. For example, your business can specialize in green cleaning — which requires more eco-friendly, organic products to get started.
Financial consultants help individuals and organizations strategize and manage their money — think of them as experienced professionals who get paid to put in their two cents.
Most financial consultants have some level of formal education, typically through a bachelor’s degree in economics, business, statistics, or accounting. If you plan on working for a corporation, you will likely need a college degree. But when starting out as a freelance consultant, you have greater flexibility if you lack formal education. You only have to convince customers of your value as shown through your work, projects, or experience.
Fortunately, the industry favors freelance financial consultants, as many companies want the expertise of an individual consultant without the high cost of hiring a large firm.
Freelance financial consultants bring in an average of ~$84k per year — far above the national average salary of ~$53k. Many financial consultants pay little costs, as they can work from home and keep most of the money they bring in.
Leverage your college degree or work experience to start a profitable tutoring business. You could teach high school students mathematics or finance, or walk a college student through an essay.
You can also turn any specialized knowledge — like finance, accounting, economics, and statistics — into a lucrative tutoring service.
Tutoring will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4% from 2020 to 2026, driven mainly by demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) tutors. Tutors make an average salary of ~$54k, but STEM fields generally bring in more. For example, a chemistry tutor reels in an average salary of ~$63k.
You can also create a STEM-based education company and hire other tutors, who usually get paid 20%-30% of the session fees, leaving 70%-80% to the business owner. Launching a tutoring group near large school districts or private schools could help increase your profits.
Most Profitable Online Businesses
While some businesses require in-person work, many services can be conducted virtually. Online operations enable entrepreneurs to go into business with low initial investments and startup costs.
Affiliate Beauty Blogging
Also known as affiliate marketing or writing, affiliate blogging makes money by promoting products in articles. A blogger plugs products or services in posts, then earns a commission whenever the reader clicks on a sponsored link and buys an item.
If you want to launch a profitable affiliate blog, the beauty industry could help you get started quickly. For example, you can mention different products in an article about mascara trends, and link out to online stores.
Researchers at Trends identified certain queries, such as “short french tip nails” and “french tip acrylic nails,” that have high search volumes with extremely low ranking difficulty. In other words, you could launch a blog targeting these keywords with affiliate links — and they will likely rank high on search engine results pages.
Although it takes work to get started, Affise polled affiliate bloggers and found that 25+% make between $81k and $200k. By targeting keywords with high search volume and low difficulty — like the ones mentioned before — you can rank higher and drive revenue faster.
You can start a blog for free, but a domain and branded website will help you stand out. You may also want to spend money on SEO tools such as Ahrefs to find other keywords you can target. Learning how to identify trends will help your affiliate blog stay up to date with changes.
Many entrepreneurs have tried to cash in on the rise of cannabidiol (CBD). Between 2022 and 2028, the market for CBD is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.7%, eventually reaching $56B+ in size.
Selling CBD products online is one easy way to get started. Typically, businesses will find a supplier and hawk their products on their own sites. Business owners usually have general knowledge of finances, marketing, accounting, and other core skills.
But CBD also exists in an uncertain legal landscape. As the industry grows, regulations have continued to develop — including a 2018 law stating the legal amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products can contain. Entrepreneurs entering the space should brush up on laws surrounding CBD, including FDA regulations.
Despite the risks, CBD startups bring in, on average, a whopping 32% in profit margins. Shopify considers a margin of 10% as average, meaning CBD ecommerce stores have significantly higher margins than other shops.
Dropshipping is an ecommerce fulfillment method where products are sent directly from the manufacturers to the customers. As an entrepreneur, you’ll create and maintain an online storefront that takes orders and responds to customer inquiries, but you don’t have to maintain a warehouse of inventory.
As such, dropshipping requires little capital to start and has exploded in popularity; ~33% of online stores use this method as their fulfillment model.
From 2019 to 2025, dropshipping will have a CAGR of 28.8%. Besides low upfront costs, dropshippers often see a profit margin of 15%-20% compared to an industry average of 10%. High-ticket dropshippers, or businesses that sell expensive items, bring in margins closer to the 35%-40% range.
Dropshippers can make $100k per year or more, and choosing a high-ticket category — like 3D printers — can optimize your earnings.
Freelance Technical Writing
Freelance writers are hired by organizations to draft content related to their products, services, or goals. In general, freelance writing has no formal education requirements. You can learn to write through free online courses, such as this one provided by Harvard University.
Most freelance writers start by creating articles in the field they want to write in. You could get started by using platforms like Medium, where you can house written samples. Successful freelance writers have a portfolio of work they can share with prospective clients.
Although freelance writers create content across all industries, those working in high-demand fields such as business and tech see higher earnings. For example, marketing writers make an average of $76k per year. Although these fields tend to require technical knowledge, you can leverage work experience from previous jobs.
Once you have a solid set of samples, you can start soliciting clients on platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr. While you could source clients using your own website, these platforms will match you to clients already on the lookout for writing services.
Online Business Courses
Online courses create passive income for professionals with expertise to share. Once you dedicate the time and resources to making an engaging course — including videos with slides, do-it-yourself assignments, and online quizzes — it can generate revenue indefinitely with minimal updates.
The industry has also shown large increases in demand. Online learning platform Coursera saw a 338% jump in registered learners from 2016 to 2021.
While you can create courses across different topics, business, personal finance, information technology, and career development offer the highest earning potentials. Most successful course creators earn between $1k to $10k per month. Many creators work on courses part time, so you can get started without quitting your day job.
User interface/user experience (UI/UX) professionals design how users interact with technical products, from gadgets and websites to coffee machines and robot vacuums.
Making it easy for consumers to use complicated products plays a huge role in how buyers choose companies and purchases. The field has few subject-specific degrees; most UI/UX designers earn degrees in related areas like psychology or computer science, but it typically takes 2-4 years to learn the skills necessary.
Alternatively, many learn about UI/UX through online courses or work experience. For instance, Google offers a free UX Design Certificate that promises to give students skills needed to get hired in less than six months.
A fast growing field, UX design was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top five in-demand skills of 2020. On average, UI/UX designers bring in $89k per year, compared to the US national average salary of ~$53k. For those who want to be their own boss, freelance UX designers make ~$70 an hour, per Udacity.