And entrepreneurial boom might seem like an unlikely byproduct of an economic downturn, but that’s exactly what’s been happening over the last few years. A lot of people have lost their jobs, and have had to take pay cuts, or accept positions for which they’re overqualified just to keep a paycheck coming in. Others have taken matters into their own hands.

Starting a business used to mean getting a big loan, buying or renting office space, and taking a huge risk with little guarantee of success. But we live in a different world now, where just about anyone can start a business with a computer, an Internet connection, and a willingness to work hard. Here are three startup ideas that don’t require a large up-front investment.

Voice Acting

You may not sound like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman, but if you have a unique voice, you may be able to build a career as a voice actor. The first thing that pops into your head may be cartoons. Sure, that’s one area where voice actors are critical, and can sometimes find long-term work. But voice actors are critical to other ventures such as television and radio commercials, corporate training videos, and telephone answering systems. And in what’s probably the most fun yet challenging career for voice actors, they voice characters in role-playing video games.

Becoming a voice actor doesn’t take a lot of startup capital. You can create a demo with just a microphone and your computer. That may be enough for a resume and to get your foot in the door, and find voice work with companies that have recording studios. Many sought-after voice actors eventually set up their own recording areas, and can perform their parts from home. That does take some investment, but the point is, you can start small and work your way up.


Tire of office politics? Your cubicle mates driving you crazy? Why not trade all that in for four-legged, furry coworkers who don’t talk back and are easily appeased with treats and belly rubs? Americans own about 78.2 million dogs, and 86.4 million cats. Even in an economic downturn, the pet supply industry has continued to thrive as more people see their pets as members of the family rather than just, well, pets. Part of that spending is on doggie daycare and pet-sitting.

While a lot of companies are becoming pet-friendly, many people still have to leave their beloved pets at home alone, and they feel guilty doing it. It’s those same people who would rather leave their pets at home during a vacation rather than board them, an experience that can be very stressful for a pet. If you love animals, and you’re good with dogs and cats (or birds, fish, guinea pigs, reptiles…), start a pet-sitting business. You can start small in just your neighborhood, and then branch out if you like. All you need is a reliable car to get you from home to home, and liability insurance is always a good idea.

Freelance Writing

If you have a computer—which you must if you’re reading this—you can start a career as a freelance writer right now. Many Web sites are often actively seeking writers who can compose blog posts, product descriptions, how-to articles, and much more. All you need is a computer, a word processing program, and Internet access, and you can be on your way.

Whoa, not so fast, actually. Do you have experience? A portfolio ? In order to build credibility as a writer, any education, previous experience, or work you can show potential clients will help you land the best-paying writing gigs. Think about it. Anyone can say they’re a writer. Gather some information that lets clients know you’re worth whatever you’re charging. Again, you may have to start small and work your way up, but it’s something you can do with little startup capital, and from home.

These are just three of the many business ideas out there that don’t require you to drain your savings account or apply for a small business loan. But don’t think that means they won’t require just as much hard work in order to be successful. You can start small, but have a plan in place for growth. You never know. Your small enterprise just might take off.

About the Author: Sarah Stockton is an Outreach Coordinator for, a site connects businesses with professional voice talents. She enjoys helping potential voice talent find their start in the voice industry.

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