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Starting a business today is no longer a complicated and lengthy process, especially when you have motivation and a good educational background. The same applies if you have taken some courses which are sought after on the digital market. Moreover, governments around the world have realised the importance of small companies for their economies, so they encourage start-ups.
The pandemic has sparked a desire to be a small business owner too. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) cites that there were 5.5m small businesses at the beginning of 2021 and they account for 99.9 per cent of the business population.
What you need to consider is giving a legal form to your business, such as the limited liability company, sole trader, business partnership, limited company or GmbH, if you plan on setting it up in developed European countries like Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
Remember to factor in costs for company registration, equipment, running costs e.g. heating, water and printing, website and business insurance.
Given the facts above, you must only choose the type of business you want to open based on your budget and skills. Even if these factors are very important and you are considering the budget for starting the company, the good news is that you can set up several types of businesses with a very low budget. Below are five of the most useful low-cost business ideas you can open in any country.
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1. Start an IT company
Information technology, or IT, is a great idea for setting up a low-cost business. You will only need a computer and your mind to create software or to offer services in this industry. And the number of services you can offer are unlimited. From app, graphic and web development to offering cyber security advisory services, you can open several types of businesses which are low-cost.
2. Open a digital marketing agency
This can seem complicated and costly, but the truth is you only need a computer and some knowledge about social media and online marketing in order to start this type of business. This a one-man type of business which can be completed from anywhere, even from home, and offered to people in the other corner of the world. It all depends on how you promote yourself.
Find your niche before you begin. A smaller, more invested audience can be more lucrative than a larger, general one. Think of where consumers are focused and what problems they might be facing – especially post-pandemic. Have a look at how much competition there is out there to steer your decision.
Next, you want to establish a payment model. Charge on percentage of spend, retainer/flat fee, billable hours or other method such as commission.
Set up your website and social media channels and you’re ready to go. Keep your branding consistent among the different platforms.
3. Set up a translating business
Translating is an evergreen business idea, because people will always need such services. So, if you know any sought language, or even better: if you live in a country like Germany which is one of the most important business centres in Europe, attracting many foreign investors who need translating services, go for it. Try one of these more popular languages:
Alternatively, you could go for a lesser-spoken language pairing (Estonian-English, perhaps?) with less competition and the potential to earn more money.
You don’t necessarily need a qualification either, though it will be beneficial to have a degree in translation such as an MA or a diploma. As long as you’re fluent in the translation language and you have strong English writing skills.
As with the other businesses, it’s better to offer up a niche rather than general services. Translating legal documents into another language or doing copyrighting in a popular language are sound ideas.
The business start-up costs are some of the lowest for this type of venture. As a tip, you can use the German GmbH, limited liability company in translation, in order to take advantage of tax breaks.
4. Become a personal/virtual assistant
Even if becoming a virtual assistant seems more like a job, it can, in fact, be a business because you can have more than one client and work from home, if you want. This way, you can offer specialised services or simply complete tasks given by the client with no costs.
Having some specialist skills such as efficiency in Microsoft Office, bookkeeping knowhow or experience with social media will give you a leg-up from employers looking for someone to complete specific tasks. The more skills you have, the more you can charge per hour.
Decide if you want to be a sole trader or a limited company or if you want to sign up with an agency. Quick warning: don’t sign up to an agency that will make you pay to work with them.
Have a look at the Society of Virtual Assistants for more in-depth knowledge and a community of VAs. Their research reveals the average virtual assistant earns £27 an hour. Now, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to charge clients. Will you be paid per hour or on retainer?
As for getting yourself out there, don’t advertise – network. For an assistant, a personal recommendation is far more powerful than an advert.
5. Transform your passion into a business
This is perhaps the best low-cost business idea because you don’t need too much money to transform a passion into a business. Writing, blogging, photography and even bookkeeping can be great business ideas which can be explored to the maximum at very low costs.
Start small, but like a virtual assistant, view yourself as a serious business from the start – set a work schedule along with short, medium and long-term objectives. Be realistic with yourself and break your goals down into manageable chunks.
Stick to your day job at the beginning so that you have some financial stability. Aim to stay until your business can comfortably support you full-time – Forbes suggests at least 75 per cent of your current salary. Have at least six months’ worth of living costs held back in case of emergency too.
How do I start my business?
If you are planning on starting a small business, you can set it up in any country and then expand around it. All you need is a good idea. You can use the ones above or simply make your own plan and adapt it to the market you’ll be operating on. The best place to start is your business plan – take a look here for some example business plans.
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Further reading on business ideas
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