The American dream used to be owning your own home, but today most Americans dream of owning their own business.

But, starting a business is risky. Not all businesses survive, and according to a comprehensive study published by Forbes, over 90% of businesses fail within their first 40 months, which is just over three years.


With such a high failure rate, it’s not surprising that many people keep putting off their dream of owning their own business. Even with things like contactless retail, business owners are becoming increasingly worried about opening up their own shop.

One of the best things you can do to join the ranks of the successful 10% of business owners who make it past the 3-year mark is to start a low-risk business that will be profitable right now and in the future.

In this article, we take a look at 8 of the safest businesses to start in 2020. These low-investment business ideas require no inventory and can be started from your laptop.


Let’s begin.

1. Marketing Services

Some types of businesses inherently make more profit than others. But, if you want to increase your chances of being successful, a service-based business like a marketing agency is the way to go.

When starting a small business, you want to keep your expenses and overhead as low as possible. If you don’t have to think about inventory, such as you would with a product-based business, it will help you overcome some of the challenges that come with starting a business.

These days, more and more businesses are shifting online, and there is an ever-growing need for experienced marketers to help businesses meet their objectives, such as:

  • Brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • …and much more.

If you have the skills to deliver good results to businesses, or you have tools like Thrive Themes to help you run the business as a whole, then a marketing agency is a great business for you to start. All your work can be done remotely, helping you keep your overhead low and increase your profits.

2. Online Course Business

Are you a skilled personal trainer looking to work online? Do you excel in Math? Maybe you speak fluent French? Or you might be a gifted piano player – no matter what your skill or talent is, you can monetize it.

There are tons of ways to make money by sharing your knowledge with the world.

For instance, you can create a digital training course and market it to a ready-made audience on Udemy, Skillshare, Teachable, or any other learning marketplace.


All you need to start your online course business is a good camera or smartphone, and a skill that other people are willing to pay you to learn.

You can then choose the right course creation software to use and start shooting your videos and upload them to the platform.

3. Business Consulting

A lot of businesses are willing to invest in business consultants with the skills to help them get the results they want.

They are willing to pay high amounts of money for the right advice to help them achieve their objectives in the quickest and most efficient way.

If you have the relevant skills, such as the ability to help businesses grow their social media following on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, this is a great business for you to consider starting this year.

Business consulting has low overhead which makes it likely that it’ll be an extremely profitable endeavor.

One hot industry for this right now is ecommerce and many companies are looking for trusted partners.  All you need to do is start a consulting agency of your own and then apply to platforms like Credo to get listed as a trusted expert.

4. Website or Logo Design

Every business needs an online presence in order to compete successfully. These days, quality website designers are in higher demand than ever before.

If you are skilled at creating websites, logos, or any other graphic design, then this is a great business for you to start. As with the other businesses on our list, website and logo design has low expenses and high profits.

If you have the creative and technical knowledge required, then this can be a very lucrative business for you. All you need to get started is your skill or expertise, a laptop, and the appropriate design software to get started.

If you go this route, it’s not a bad idea to choose a specific niche to offer your services and become a specialist.  For example, if you wanted to be a book cover designer for thousands of authors, you could specialize in that area and use a book cover design platform to make your life much easier than a full-blown software.

5. Dropshipping

If you are great at marketing and sales, why not start a dropshipping business?

A drop shipping business allows you to create a source of income without having to worry about stocking products or shipping them to customers.

All you have to do is focus on promoting the products on your blog or any other marketing channels and spread the word to your customers.

When someone makes a purchase, you simply send the order to the supplier who then fulfills the order. You can use a service like Doba or Orbelo to get your business off the ground.

6. Virtual Assistant

In keeping with the theme, becoming a virtual assistant is yet another lucrative business that you can start with very little risk.

You can offer tasks such as coordinating errands, managing a schedule, putting together reports, and so on.

All you require to get started is a computer, an Internet connection, and a phone. Eventually, as your business grows, you may want to hire more people to allow you to take on more work.

7. Bookkeeping Services

This is another type of business that you can start that doesn’t require expensive equipment or fancy premises.

Bookkeeping comes with very low overheads and the standard rates for quality bookkeepers will provide you with a decent income to live on.

If you have the skills to help other people keep their finances in order, then this is the business for you to start in 2020.

8. Real Estate Brokering

Forbes reports that real estate lessors were among the most profitable businesses in 2019.

All you need to become a leasing real estate agent is a license. Alternatively, you can work under a licensed broker. The requirements are different for each state, and you need to check the regulations where you operate.

To launch your real estate business, all you need is to get your license, print out a set of business cards, and craft a solid marketing strategy.  In my research, I also found that many people are mentioning that callback software is really helpful for realtors as well.

Real estate is associated with high profits, and setting up a real estate brokering firm offers you the opportunity to create a solid stream of income.


These are just eight of the safest businesses that you can start this year to make extra money every month. There are, of course, other businesses that you can consider, such as residential cleaning services, pet sitting, or child-oriented businesses.

But, no matter what route you choose, remember that your success depends on hard work, determination, and consistency.

Can you think of any other ideas for starting a low-risk business in 2020? Let us know in the comments section below

Ron Stefanski is a marketing professor and online entrepreneur who’s passionate about helping people create and market their own online business.  You can learn more from him by visiting

You can also connect with him on YouTube or Linkedin.

Business stock photo by Jelena Zelen/Shutterstock