Forget Uber and Facebook — you can launch a startup with zero coding skills and under $100. You just need to get a little sweaty.
Think sweaty startups, like lawn care, home painting and window cleaning. These low-cost, low-risk, local service businesses may not be glamorous, but they sure can be lucrative.
Brian O’Kelly started ABCleaning with nothing but a commercial window cleaning kit stuffed in the trunk of his car.
“I’ve always been a self-starter,” he said.
In his first month, he made just over $10,000 in revenue. In his second month, he made nearly $10,000 — in a week.
6 Sweaty Startup Ideas
Here are six sweaty startup businesses you can start with spare change and elbow grease — no venture capital required.
Bucket, squeegee, extension pole and rags. With that simple list of equipment, you could become a self-employed window washer. (Don’t have an extension pole lying around? A starter kit will run you just over $75.)
How much you should charge depends on the job. Residential or commercial? Inside? Outside? Both?
O’Kelly charges homeowners $10 per window for an exterior wash. Extra charges apply for screens ($50) and second stories ($50 to $100). That adds up to a pretty penny: $250 for a typical home.
Plan for lulls on rainy days.
“Folks want to get their money’s worth and they think they’ll get streaks on the windows,” O’Kelly explained.
Where there are pets, there will be pet waste – and pet owners willing to pay for someone else to clean it up.
All you need to start a dog waste removal business is a poop-scooper and some bags. With that $20 investment, you could earn $40 an hour.
Warning: not all dogs are friendly! Keep your guard up around unfamiliar pets.
Studies show that 40% of Americans with a lawn hire someone to take care of it. Maybe that someone should be you.
Pricing will vary by area and job, but typical lawn mowing services can run anywhere between $48 and $206, with homeowners paying $124 per visit on average. Locking in clients with a monthly or seasonal rate is a common (and smart) way to boost long-term earnings.
You can get started by walking a $100 push mower around the block, but you probably don’t want to end there. A van packed with a commercial mower, weed whacker, leaf blower and hedge trimmer might be worth the investment to generate thousands, not hundreds, in revenue.
Some people find it satisfying. Others find it disgusting. Clearing gutters is one of those home maintenance tasks many people are all too happy to outsource.
You can expect to earn $115-225 for a standard gutter cleaning.
There is more than one way to clean gutters. Blowing, vacuuming and simply scooping the gunk out are all valid options. At minimum, you will need a ladder, gloves and trash bags. Those pieces of equipment alone will eat up your $100 budget, so consider renting equipment if you want to try other methods.
Always put safety first: 15% of workplace deaths are from slips, trips and falls. You do not want to slip, trip or fall off of a roof. A sturdy ladder, gloves and safety goggles are musts.
People hire home painters when they move, when they sell, and when they just get bored with their old color scheme.
The national average price for home painting is $1.50-$4 per square foot for the interior. That’s $3,000-$8,000 for a 2,000-square-foot job.
For the exterior, that cost jumps to $3-$7 per square foot. Bear in mind, you would need a week, a helper or both!
Unless you already have equipment lying around from DIY projects past, a $250 trip to your local hardware store is a must. You will need brushes, rollers, paint, painter’s tape, safety equipment like goggles, a ladder and drop cloths.
Gamers spend hours pretending to clean mildewed sidewalks in PowerWash Simulator. Why not get paid to do it in real life?
Companies charge $50 to $160 an hour on average or $.40 per square foot, depending on the job size. But make sure to adjust your estimate according to the job’s difficulty and cost-of-living in your area.
The biggest barrier to entry is, of course, the pressure washer. (Or power washer, which uses heated water.) A basic pressure washer is under $100, but a commercial model is more like under $1,000. Consider renting, to start with.
A word of caution: It’s surprisingly easy to do serious property damage with a pressure washer. Be sure to read up on proper technique.
Protecting Your Sweaty Startup, And Yourself
So you’ve decided to create a sweaty startup. You might want to consider creating an LLC. An LLC, which stands for limited liability company, is widely considered the smartest first business move.
It legitimizes your business in more ways than one. Not only does it make your company sound more official, but it comes with legal benefits like liability protection and tax benefits.
Another way to protect your sweaty startup is to buy liability insurance. General liability insurance can help protect your business against claims like property damage and bodily injury.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s our sister site’s roundup of the 10 best general liability insurance companies for small business.
Growing Your Sweaty Startup
Your sweaty side hustle does not have to stay that way. You could have a booked and busy business sooner than you think.
There is no need to mastermind a social media marketing strategy. Good old-fashioned door-to-door sales works just fine.
“If you knock on 100 doors, at least one person will say, ‘oh, give me a quote,’” O’Kelly said.
To really sell it, mention a neighbor who has already hired you.
Like, “‘Hey, do you know Peter up the street? He gave us a five-star review.’”
That script has helped earn O’Kelly thousands of dollars in business.
Hate people? Try yard signs. Put one in your yard, then ask clients if you can put one in their yard, too.
If people are getting a little too excited when they hear your quote, double check your prices. They might be too low.
“There’s a fine line between making sure they get a good deal and getting a good deal for yourself,” O’Kelly said.
Just don’t spend so much time researching that you forget to start your business.
“When you’re five miles from the bridge, don’t worry about how you’re going to cross it,” O’Kelly said.
“Like Nike says: Just do it.”
Contributor Ciara McLaren is a freelance writer with work in HuffPost, Insider, and Codetic. You can find her on Substack (@camclaren).