So, you know you want to start a simple business. But what to actually sell?
The best reason to start a business is that people already want to be your customers. They’re telling you what they’d pay you for, and you know you’d have customers lined up as soon as you submitted the business paperwork.
However, people might not know what you can help them with just yet. You might need to try out a few small and simple business ideas – with minimal or zero time and money invested – before people know what you’re great at.
Here are some of the simplest small business ideas to start in 2023, without needing to quit your job or spend much time or money.
What’s the simplest business and business model you can create this year as a new source of income?
Simple business ideas to start in 2023
1. Offer consulting sessions on a topic you’re great at
Offering services is one of the fastest ways to start making money in your business. One easy way to do this is via consulting sessions. This was a key part of my business model when I first went self-employed.
To get started, you can just let people know that you’re available to advise them on something you’re great at (such as marketing strategy or how to train a puppy) and off you go.
To market your consulting work, reach out to your network for referrals (and guarantee more referrals with great service and happy customers), show your experience on your website, and publish blog posts, stories, or videos on your area of expertise.
The main drawback is that you’ll find yourself in the trap of exchanging your time for money. To avoid this or mitigate it, you can:
- Increase your rates as you gain experience, working with fewer clients while still earning the same amount or more
- Introduce products to give customers a DIY version of your one-to-one services, as a cheaper alternative or a complementary source of value
2. Provide done-for-you services to achieve a specific goal
You can also actually provide the service yourself, rather than just advising your clients on how to do something.
In my business, this has included writing blog posts, creating marketing strategies, making websites, overseeing website redesigns and translations, inventing brands, and much more. The commonality is that I helped my clients to achieve a specific goal that they couldn’t do themselves (or couldn’t be bothered to do).
As I wrote about in Simple Business, it took me a while to work out what my thing really was. This is pretty common for new freelancers and companies of one.
The key is to get started and see where your customers guide you. What products and services do they most want your help with? What’s in demand and what’s ignored?
3. Create an online course or membership site
One of the best ways to escape the time-for-money trap is to create a product that doesn’t require any one-to-one input from you after it’s live and ready to buy. For example, a course or membership site that you can easily create and share with the world.
(The actual process of creating your course can be time-consuming and a recipe for procrastination and self-doubt, but try to keep your product simple and launch fast.)
I use Kajabi (affiliate link) for this, which is the gold-standard product for online courses, but it’s expensive. Unless you know you can justify the cost, there are tonnes of cheaper options out there to use when you’re getting started and have a low budget.
One choice (for an email-based course) that combines user-friendly email with online payments is ConvertKit. I loved using this before switching everything to Kajabi, and while I can do more with Kajabi, I still miss ConvertKit a bit.
4. Start a blog about a topic you love
Can you make money from a blog in 2023? Yes. I’ve shared before about how I make money from a book blog, and while it’s still a small bit of income, it’s not nothing.
That said, monetising a blog or content website takes time. Usually this means 2-3 years. It takes a while for Google to trust your website, index your posts quickly (or at all), and display them near the top of searches.
You also need to create a lot of good quality content (aim for 100+ posts before you can really assess things), and that requires patience, consistency, and a willingness to wait it out until money starts coming in. To make this easier, choose a niche that you really love writing about (and people love reading about).
If writing isn’t your thing, you could also start a YouTube channel or podcast and share value, inspiration, or entertainment in a way that comes the most naturally to you.
5. Offer 1-1 coaching or classes on your area of expertise
Are you great at inspiring others and helping people to achieve goals? Maybe one-to-one coaching or classes could be a good business idea for you, as a business model which is flexible enough to scale up or down around other responsibilities.
Whether it’s health coaching, life coaching, yoga classes, or anything else you can share your wisdom on, with one-to-one sessions you can really impact people’s lives.
As you gain more experience, collect testimonials to use in your marketing, build a community via an email list, design your business for referrals, and consider introducing products to supplement your sessions.
6. Write a useful non-fiction book
One common goal that can also be a fun side hustle is writing a book. Now, unless Penguin is giving you a six-figure advance (and probably even not then), don’t quit your job to write a book.
Write a book because you want to write a book. If you make any money from your book, then that’s great. But if not, you’re now an author!
If you’ve always dreamed of writing a novel, that’s even more of a reason to do it for fun. Writing a non-fiction book about how to achieve a goal gives you more chance of making money, especially if it’s about a topic that you know loads about and you’re a good writer.
To learn how to write a helpful non-fiction book, my absolute favourite book recommendation is Write Useful Books (affiliate link) by Rob Fitzpatrick.
7. Start an Etsy store for handmade products
Do you have a creative side? One fun business idea is to start an Etsy store, which opens up your products to the world.
You can also sell your products directly on your website via Shopify, which is how I sell my Mountain Song books and paper goods.
8. Create a group program
Do you love working with groups of people? Instead of one-to-one coaching sessions, you could create a group program to help more people in less time. This could consist of weekly sessions for a set time period, plus course materials and resources.
To encourage interaction, you could offer a private group within the program for members to discuss the program and congratulate each other’s progress.
9. Sell your products via other businesses
If you want to create products, you don’t have to sell everything yourself – you can sell via other businesses too. As a small and simple example, I used to make greetings cards and sell these through local businesses that were interested in selling handmade products.
10. Create a DIY toolkit for a specific goal
Is there a product you can create that allows people to achieve a specific goal themselves? Maybe this is a spreadsheet, Notion template, or piece of helpful code if you’re a developer.
Whether your DIY tool helps people to manage their finances or design their website, the key here is to simplify the steps and guide customers through the process to success, without any actual one-to-one interaction.
What about you – can you start any of these simple business ideas in 2023? Remember to start small, make money as early and easily as possible, and avoid complexity wherever you can. Business really can be simple, but it needs to be designed that way.