Babysitter reading at the table with a little girl

Flexible Small Business Ideas for Teens

10+ min read • Jul 14, 2022 • Rachel Mennies

They want to try it, too—41% of teenagers already think about starting their own businesses. And why shouldn’t young entrepreneurs give it a go?

Below, we’ll share some business ideas with unique possibilities for teens—first, however, we need to answer a key question: Are teens even qualified to run businesses?

Do Teens Make Good Business Owners?

The short answer: yes, yes, yes! Age alone doesn’t determine if someone will make a good entrepreneur—after all, Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as a teenager. Running a business helps teens learn valuable life skills like sales, marketing, and negotiation techniques. 

Every business idea is not suitable for a teenager, though—and some, like selling alcohol, are legally off limits. Many teens lack capital and have limited resources, so they need to find business options that offer flexibility, are easy to start, and require little-to-no up-front investment.

Additionally, for minor teens (those under 18), a parent or guardian may need to be involved with certain key legal aspects of forming a business entity, signing contracts, and paying taxes, among other vital considerations.

Small Business Ideas for Teens

Teenagers can find business ideas by examining their unique strengths and seeking ways to capitalize on them. For inspiration, here are some business models that make viable options especially for teens. 

Start an Online Store

You can do this by creating and selling your own products or adopting a drop-shipping model, when you work with a supplier to fill orders on your behalf. The supplier ships the order directly to the customer under your store’s name—so the item appears to come from you. This fulfillment method is popular because it doesn’t require you to hold your own inventory. 

Here’s an example:

Let’s say a customer visits your online store and buys a $30 product. After you receive the order from the customer, you would reach out to your supplier and purchase the item from them at a discounted price. The supplier would ship the item to your customer, and you would keep the profit. So if you sold the product for $30 but the item only costs $10, you would make a $20 profit. 

Shopify is a good place to set up an online store if you’re 18 or older. The platform is beginner-friendly and caters specifically to e-commerce operators. This model is one of the more expensive options, however, because you still have to advertise your products—and drive traffic to your store. In addition to marketing your brand, you would have to pay an additional $29 per month for a Shopify subscription. Total cost to get started could require an up-front investment of $200–300. 

Sell on Other E-Commerce Marketplaces

Teens who choose to capitalize on the success of an existing brand can sell on e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. The profit margin will be lower, but these sites will allow you to gain the immediate trust of your customers. 

Here are some marketplaces to consider based on what you want to sell:

  • For everyday general products: Amazon, eBay, or Bonanza
  • For unique handmade items: Etsy or CrateJoy
  • For artwork or graphic designs: Minted or Society6

Tons of other e-commerce marketplaces exist. You could also sell on multiple marketplaces to reach different customer bases. 

Become a Social Media Influencer

As a social media influencer, you can grow your audience over time and build a loyal following. Some teen-geared social media sites to consider include Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube

To start, consider your passions. You can pick any niche, from cooking and crafting to gardening and DIY. Then publish relevant content that promotes engagement—and do so regularly. It takes time to gain the trust of an audience, but once you have it, you can monetize your account and get endorsements. Just make sure to check the age requirements for each platform, as some have specific restrictions for teens.

Offer Babysitting Services

A babysitting business is one of the easiest to start. It requires no upfront investment, and teens probably know a lot of people who need the service in their neighborhoods. 

This flexible model can be run as a side hustle, where you babysit a few kids now and then—or you can turn it into a business and establish a regular relationship with a family who needs your help.

First, start by considering everyone you know who needs this service. Set aside the days and times when you’re available and go to your prospective clients with your availability—then schedule people to fill those time slots. You can even set up multiple recurring agreements where you babysit for the same families every week. 

Provide Graphic or Web Design Services

Many local businesses can benefit from web design services. Some of them don’t have the budget to hire professionals, so they’re more likely to work with a teenager. 

Teenagers with the visual know-how can start a graphic or web design business creating logos, flyers, and marketing materials or designing websites. You can operate as a freelancer and find your own clients, or you could offer services online through a site like Fiverr. There, the age requirement to sell is only 13 years old.

Blogging

Even in the visually driven era of social media and video-based content, there’s still a powerful interest out there in written blogging—and it’s a great side job for a young entrepreneur. 

First, consider your niche: what do you have enough authority to write about in an engaging, educational way? Bonus points if you can create saleable digital downloads (hello, passive income) or partner with another company as an affiliate marketer, depending on your age and the type of product being endorsed.

Photography Business 

From holiday cards to weddings to new babies, nearly every occasion these days benefits from having a professional photographer around—and a teen that’s talented with a camera is the perfect person to take those photos.

When you’re ready, start small: whether shooting mini sessions for neighbors or graduation photos for high school friends, it’s a good idea to begin your business with folks willing to give you feedback. And don’t forget to budget for camera equipment and software, which can get pricey.

Social Media Marketing

Perhaps no one’s as savvy with social media as teens—and if you’re more interested in the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a social media account than being in front of the camera as an influencer, consider lending your skills to an existing brand as their social media marketer.

Demand for this skill is booming, too, creating sustainable active interest in freelance social media managers: roughly 50% of companies outsourced at least some of their social media marketing efforts in 2020.

Tech Support

When I was a teenager in the 2000s, my parents constantly asked me for help with our computers and printers—even though they’d purchased them, I grew up on them, and I knew how they worked inside and out. 

As hardware and software alike booms, young entrepreneurs remain the best at understanding and solving tech issues. Why not monetize that knowledge with a solo tech support business? You could develop a specific niche for a particular software or product, or else run a website to answer tech questions on demand.

Tech Consulting

Young entrepreneurs with a more in-depth understanding of how tech systems work—say, instead of knowing how a single computer works, you could install them for a whole commercial office—should consider starting a tech consulting business.

This could include writing tech compliance documents or figuring out the best software for solving a particular workflow problem. Spread the word to other local small businesses first, and from there, word-of-mouth should help land you in neighboring businesses in no time.

Podcasts

The podcast-listening market is booming: “57% of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast, and 78% of Americans are now familiar with podcasting,” according to Shopify. Teens looking to reach this growing audience with a podcast should first identify their niche, not unlike blogging or influencing: what’s your passion, and what can you teach others about it?

From there, monetizing that passion into a podcast requires some specialized equipment, a few sound editing skills, and a whole bunch of creativity.

Tutoring

You may already tutor through your school or in your neighborhood—if you’re a teen entrepreneur who’s already in demand for your smarts, it’s time to start a tutoring business. 

Your best bet (this will sound familiar by now) is to market your specific niche, as opposed to being expected to cover every single subject. Maybe you aced the SATs, or else are an expert coder; maybe you’d prefer to tutor in small groups online, vs. one-on-one in-person. Find your stride, and then find your new clients.

Data Entry

Data entry, unlike social media influencing, has been around for decades, and there’s a reason it’s a classic—it’s an easy job to do remotely and on a flexible schedule. Teens interested in data entry should consider this option for additional nights-and-weekends income, especially if you’re a fast typer with access to a computer.

According to The Balance Careers, “local government, elementary and secondary schools, and accounting firms are among the top employers of office-based data entry clerks.”

Pet Sitting

You’re surrounded by neighbors with pets, and you might even know them by name already. Have you considered asking them if they need a pet-sitter? With doggy daycare prices soaring and people returning to post-lockdown traveling in record numbers, this is the perfect opportunity to make yourself competitive by offering at-home pet-sitting services. That could include dog walks (more on that below!), cat playtime, fish feeding, and beyond.

Washing Cars

Another classic and time-honored business option for teens, washing cars requires minimal start-up costs and a neighborly attitude. You can even partner with friends to grow your network and resources, offering your services across an entire community or town. 

If you’re going to hold a car wash at a particular centralized location (like a business’s parking lot or a school), just make sure you have permission first.

Gaming Livestreams

Play video games for a living? For a select few teens and adults, this fantasy has become a reality—but it’s far from easy money. According to Alex Bybek at Restream, “if you’re ready to put in the work—a lot of it—you can make money by streaming too.”

Generating income as a livestreamer takes many of the same pathways as other personality-based online businesses: you can receive online tips, start affiliate marketing programs, generate advertising revenue on your streams, or create sponsored content like social media influencers do.

Music Lessons 

As with tutoring, if you’re a talented teen musician, you already have the chops to start your own music-lesson business. Determine your niche and desired student body (want to teach other teens, young kids, adults, or a mix?), and you’re ready to begin.

And in the age of Zoom, you no longer need to limit yourself to in-person lessons—try marketing your offerings virtually or creating YouTube content to instruct others on your instrument of choice.

Landscaping (aka – mowing lawns and pulling weeds)

This is another great option for a group of young entrepreneurs looking to pool your resources—and profit. And if you like working outdoors, landscaping is an even more appealing option. 

Start off small. Since you’re probably not rolling in expensive equipment is required for landscaping, start with mowing lawns and pulling weeds. Gain regular clients and then look for opportunities to remove debris, trim shrubs, etc. Tell people about your business the old-fashioned way — flyers and door-to-door contact — as well as social media sites, including Neighbor.com.

Art Lessons

Just like with music, if you’re a budding teen painter, sculptor, or graphic artist, you’ve already got the hard-earned skills to teach those talents to others through art lessons. You could teach children the basics or specialize in a particular skill—and you can also use social media to offer free “teaser” lessons as advertising to hook a new client. People are ready for your content: there are 2.6 billion views on TikTok for videos with the hashtag #artlessons.

Video Editing Services

Video media is king these days, especially due to the advent of video-forward social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. And nobody knows video content better these days than teens.

If you’ve already been editing videos for fun on social, it’s time to monetize that skill by starting your own video editing business. Depending on your editorial skill set and equipment access, you could make content for social media, capture major life events like weddings or graduations, or edit advertisements for other small businesses.

House Sitting

Lots of work goes into maintaining a house, especially one full of plants, pets, and outdoor gardens. As a result, house sitting is a super low-maintenance and accessible first business for teens—you need no equipment to get started and the skills needed to house-sit are mainly conscientiousness, neatness, and attention to detail.

Ask around your neighborhood for your first-time clients—customers are more likely to let someone live in their house short-term if they already know and trust them.

Dog Walking

With remote workers returning to the office, all those pandemic puppies suddenly face longer, more lonely days at home. Those workers may suddenly need dog walkers to keep their pets company and get them exercise—and that’s where a young entrepreneur like you steps in.

Building trust is crucial for a dog-walking business: “Pet parents trust you with their most beloved family members and expect professional and responsible pet care,” says TimeToPet. If you already know your neighbors’ pups by name, this is the perfect first business for you.

Cleaning Service

Cleaning a house might not be as fun as walking a dog, but it’s unquestionably profitable: First Research predicts that global cleaning services may become a $74-billion industry by 2022. If you’re a neatnik teen—and, as with landscaping or car washing, you know other friends who could join you in this endeavor—starting a cleaning services company is a great way to make money without needing a ton of specialized training.

Personal Shopper

Do you have past retail experience, or maybe you just love to shop? Got an eye for fashion? You should consider offering up those skills as a personal shopper, whether in-person as a consultant or virtually

As we all trade in our lockdown sweatpants for more adventurous looks in 2022, we’re going to need some guidance—and as a young entrepreneur, this is a great opportunity for you. Just make sure you’re old enough to be able to access online cash-handling platforms, as most require you to be 18 or older to utilize them.

Transcription

Like data entry, transcription has been around for decades as an accessible work-from-home option—one that’s perfect for fast-typing, quick-talking teens to capitalize on. Businesses need audio and/or video transcription for a vast range of reasons, and most typically work with contractors (that’s you!) to meet their needs. 

If you have a computer and need flexible hours, great news: you’re ready to get started.

What Is the Best Business to Start as a Teenager?

As the next generation of entrepreneurs, teens have to get their start sometime: and what better time than now to learn the ropes of owning a small business?

To choose the right business to start, brainstorm your talents, passions, and unique skill sets. From there, seek out the best opportunities to capitalize on what you already know—we hope the above options will give you a running start! 

 

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Lendio. Any content provided by our authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice on any particular matter. 

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Rachel Mennies

Rachel Mennies is the owner of The Little Book, LLC, a small business that provides writing and editing services to individuals, nonprofits, and businesses of all sizes. At last count, Rachel's writing and editing skills have helped shape nearly 500 articles and blog posts for Lendio.com.