Whether you want to just make some extra money in your free time or desire to one day quit your day job and create a full-time business, starting a low-cost business on the weekend is an easy way to test the entrepreneurial waters. You'll need to invest little more than your time, and before long, you'll know if owning a business full time is the right choice for you.
To help you get started, we've developed this list of 10 great businesses to start. No matter where your interests or talents lie, you'll be sure to find an idea that'll fit you like a glove.
If you like to party...
Party Balloon Service
The demand for a party-balloon decorator is endless and certainly not limited to only children's birthday parties. Marketing this service is best achieved by creating a colorful presentation to be distributed to all local event planners, children's stores, daycare centers and banquet halls. Likewise, attending local networking clubs or chamber of commerce meetings is also a fantastic way to get the message out about your new service. A small amount of research into your local market will assist you in product pricing as well as determining demand and competition. Should you encounter a great deal of competition in your local community, you may want to offer additional services like party cleanup or event planning to create a competitive advantage. This is a business that can be easily run from home, but you will need adequate transportation to bring the balloon arrangements to events.
If you like working around the house...
Storm Window Installations and Storage
Starting a business that provides residential homeowners with a service of installing storm windows in the fall and removing the windows in the spring is a very straightforward endeavor to initiate. It probably won't make you rich, but it can provide a great seasonal income of $15 to $25 per hour, with the potential for additional cash if you also offer optional window cleaning and repair services. The equipment necessary to get rolling includes a few ladders and basic tools, such as hammers and screwdrivers. Ideal customers for this service are owners of Victorian and heritage homes as wood storm windows often do not open or provide air circulation in the summer, requiring them to be removed and reinstalled later.
If you've got a green thumb...
Trees make the earth a greener, cleaner, more beautiful place, but occasionally even the best tree needs a trim. Branches become diseased or damaged--and dangerous--or grow too close to power lines. And most homeowners lack the skills or the courage to climb up to the trouble spots and chop away. If you've got the right stuff--both tools and expertise--you can earn green with a tree-trimming service. Leave fliers on homeowners' doorsteps, especially after heavy storms, and advertise in your local Yellow Pages.
If you like to work hard...
Garage & Attic Cleaning/Hauling Service
Nobody likes to spend a weekend cleaning out the garage, attic or garden shed--it's dirty and time-consuming, and when it's done, there's still the task of hauling off all that discarded junk. But if you don't mind the physical labor, a cleaning and hauling service can be a lot of fun. You can usually find a few treasures among the trash, which most people are delighted to give away, and you can add to your income by recycling bottles, newspapers and metal cast-offs. You'll need a pick-up truck or other vehicle capable of carrying everything from cast-iron sinks to old timbers. Start off by advertising in your local newspaper.
If your favorite friends are furry...
What could be a better business for a pet-lover than playing with Patches or Princess? That's what a pet-sitter does for out-of-town or work-all-day owners: feeding, watering and horsing around with four-footed clients, providing love and attention along with essential nutrients. Some pet-sitters also handle medical needs, administering insulin injections or providing in-home after-surgery care. Remember that you'll be on duty during the holidays when people tend to leave town and you'll need wheels to take you to clients' homes. To get started, distribute fliers to veterinary clinics and pet stores and ask them to refer customers to you.
If you've got an eye for auctions...
Thousands of prospective business owners just like you have found a niche online without investing much more than a dime through online auction services like eBay. Got a closet full of junk? CDs or videos you no longer want? An eye for garage and estate sale finds? Snap a picture, upload it to the web, write a description and wait for people to bid on your product. Okay, it's not that easy. (Is anything ever?) You'll be making many trips to the post office, continually honing your description skills and understanding the different auction posting options for the site you use, and spending a lot of time e-mailing buyers. Customer service is key in this business and it will take up your time. But there's no easier and cheaper way to start selling products online, and many people have formed full-time businesses around selling solely this way.
If you like being on the road...
The snack vending business is a multibillion dollar industry in North America and continues to grow each year. Entering into the vending industry is very easy. Simply purchase a few vending machines, stock and locate them, and you're in business, right? Wrong. This industry also has one of the highest failure rates due to the fact that people may invest in a shady opportunity, choose the wrong location, or not realize it takes constant maintenance to keep machines in tip-top selling shape. To get started, you must purchase the machines as well as the merchandise being vended. Don't slouch in your research of the vending machine, merchandise supplier(s), and potential locations. You must pay the location owner a percentage based on sales. The big secret to any route deal is to get locations in high-foot-traffic areas and, of course, as close to one another as possible. If your locations are spread far apart, you'll waste time and traveling expenses servicing them.
If you're a wire whiz...
Home Entertainment/Car Stereo Installer
If you're one of the rare few who can hook up all those wires and cables at the back of the television, DVD player, digital video recorder, cable, CD player, video games and stereo system and make the whole thing work, then this is the business for you. You'll work at customers' homes, putting together new systems or adding new components they've purchased, or hooking things back together after a move. You can also make money by installing customers' car stereo systems. Attract customers by leaving fliers with cooperative electronics sales stores and place ads in your local newspaper.
If you're book smart...
For parents wanting the peace of mind that their child is receiving the proper education, extracurricular tutoring can be the preferred method of extending educational training beyond public school. There is one main requirement for starting this type of instruction business: You must be an expert in the field in which you intend to teach or tutor. Beyond that, this business is very simple to start. It can be operated on a mobile basis by going to the client or from your home office with the client coming to you. Building a customer and referral base for this type of business can be accomplished by joining community business associations and parent teacher associations. Networking and self-promotion are probably the best marketing strategies. Tutoring is a competitive industry and to gain the upper hand requires explanation and disclosure of credentials firsthand.
If you've got a head for numbers...
Every business needs a bookkeeper to pay the bills, send out invoices, reconcile bank statements, and handle all those record-keeping tasks that send most of us running the other way. If you're a whiz with figures and you like the satisfaction of putting things in order, you can earn a tidy sum and help fellow small-business owners as a part-time bookkeeper. You'll need to stay abreast of current tax rules and regulations, and you'll want a computer, printer and accounting software--with a laptop, you can even travel to clients' offices. Send brochures to local businesses, place ads in your local newspaper, and be sure to have a business card at the ready for word-of-mouth opportunities.
Slideshow source: Success for Less: 10- Low-Cost Businesses You Can Start Today by Rob & Terry Adams
Looking for more weekend business ideas? Weekend Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur Press) has 101 businesses to start, plus advice on running your own part-time business.