3 Small-Scale Businesses You Can Start For Under $1,000

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There’s no doubt about it: it’s the age of entrepreneurship and start-ups. In the increasingly digitized world that we live in, the potential for handling small-scale businesses successfully, and working remotely, has skyrocketed. Roadblocks that were extremely challenging a decade or two ago, such as the requirement of high investment of capital or the lack of “instant” communication at a click, are much more navigable today in a virtual space as democratic as the World Wide Web.

This comprehensive guide should take you through some of the touchstones of starting and handling your own small-scale business in under $1,000 — with tips on the skill set required for each, how to get started, how to find clients, what you can expect to make and a few online resources and tools that can help you with the hiccups.

Social Media Manager

It’s only natural that we begin this piece with the position of a social media manager — a role that has evolved remarkably over the last five years alone, both in terms of importance within a company, as well as a lucrative profession for the individual. With the advent of social media, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become places where a brand can truly create its image and embody its ethos.

From being merely a position in the marketing department, being social media-savvy is something that has grown to be an asset in almost every profession today. A company or a brand’s online persona is a reflection of their values, products and services, and can really no longer be separated from the organization itself. The role involves managing the online social media platforms of brands through posts and graphics, handling analytics, online marketing and paid ads, community engagement and, in some cases, public speaking when representing the company or brand.

The number of social media marketing companies hiring executives or managers is staggering, and there’s a few skills and traits that they’re looking out for in particular.

Skill Set of a Social Media Manager

Copywriting Skills

This is, of course, one of the cornerstones of being a social media manager. Crafting the “voice” of the brand, and being able to convey this effectively through social media posts is at the core of the role, to maintain a consistent brand image that will build a loyal social media following.

Visual References

Visual aesthetics have never been as important as it is today, in a world where catching someone’s eye on a feed is a matter of timely placement and bold imagery. The idea is to make them stop scrolling and involve them in your post enough so that they click on it; according to Buffer.com, tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, while Facebook posts with images receive a whopping 120% more clicks than those without. The burgeoning popularity of visual-centric platforms like Instagram and Pinterest speaks of the importance of a social media manager’s ability to be able to identify a high-quality image that fits the bill.

While Photoshop skills are always a bonus, with an eye for good design and an understanding of what would catch someone’s attention tastefully, some basic photo editing skills should suffice in creating graphics for blog posts or social media posts. Being able to source images and edit them appropriately, if required, is important, and it’s worth noting that there is a shift taking place today, from images to videos, with a lot of companies prioritizing their video production departments.

Community Engagement and Communication Skills

Being “customer-oriented” is a definite requirement in this role, as it includes handling all queries, responding to the community promptly and moving difficult conversations offline, or into personal messages. A part of the role is being accessible to the community, so that there’s always a two-way flow of communication.

A Customer-Oriented Approach

The customer comes first, and a competent social media manager knows how detrimental a bad online review or customer dissatisfaction can be to a brand’s image.

An In-Depth Understanding of SEO Management and Online Marketing

It is imperative that a social media manager understands search engine optimization and online marketing, because there is a clear connection between social media reach and engagement and an improvement in search rankings.

Google and Facebook both function on complicated algorithms that have been thoroughly researched, and through the tools we suggest below, you should get an idea of how it works. While creating, presenting and promoting a social media post or blog post, the social media manager should aim to direct traffic to the brand’s website. The benefits of social media marketing done well are huge, and a social media manager needs to be able to crack this for maximum exposure online.

Other advanced marketing skills worth having are an understanding of hashtags, optimizing YouTube videos, custom Facebook apps and custom Twitter and YouTube headers as well as knowledge of Google+, email capture forms, etc.

Adaptability and Versatility

A curiosity for developing trends and a knack for being able to identify quality content that converts into revenue are invaluable in this line of work. From the example we stated above, about the shifting of public interest from images to videos, to keeping up with other relevant developments, an adaptable and versatile approach can make a social media manager an asset to any organization he or she works with.

How to Get Started

Zero in on Your Goals and Interests

While starting off, you’ll need to identify your goals and interests, and focus on exactly what kind of brands and clients you want to work with, and what you want to provide to your clientele.

Organize Your Resources

Building relationships with clients is a process that takes a lot of time and effort, and by organizing your resources effectively and planning well, you can successfully plan and execute social media plans; the idea is to come to be seen as a reliable social media manager who is good at their job.

Identify Your Audience

Knowing your audience is of utmost importance because they’re really the people that you’re going to be communicating with the most, and, more importantly, who will hopefully take the conversation forward, both online and offline.

Promote and Cross-Promote Quality Content

Crafting quality content with your audience in mind makes for a strong social media strategy, which can then be complemented with cross-promoting posts across platforms. It’s also important to drive traffic to the company’s website and, ideally, all posts and links should lead back to it.

Stay Up-To-Date with the Latest Trends

What’s relevant and trending at the moment is something that you always need to be on top of, to keep pushing your content to the front. Options like Facebook ads and other paid ads come into play if you have the suitable resources for it, and the tools we’ve mentioned below should help bring you up to speed on the intricacies of it.

How to Find Clients

Identify the Brands You Want to Work With

The first step is to identify where these companies or brands “hang out” or are most active online. Networking with the kind of clients you want to work with is important if you want to stay afloat in social media management, because it’s through these relationships that your business can truly grow to meet its potential.

Online Networking

Twitter handles and Facebook pages have made a world of a difference in making brands accessible, and once you’ve identified the ones you want to work with, it’s just a matter of following them or subscribing to them, and then getting in touch with a strong proposal. Keeping an eye out on LinkedIn, the hiring section of company websites and related Facebook pages and communities is also useful to look out for vacancies that your interests and skill set might fit into.

Offline Networking

Besides this, offline networking events such as those organized by BNI, local meetings and conferences of relevant communities would be great places to hand out your business card. There have also been a lot of co-working spaces which have been coming up over the past few years, and these are another great place to find clients and collaborators.

What You Can Expect to Make

You can expect to make an annual salary of $45,000 to $61,000, depending on your qualifications, knowledge base and experience.

Tools That Can Help

Social Media Manager School

Copywriting Resources



Google Analytics

Freelance Photographer

Working independently as a freelance photographer requires more investment compared to other small-scale businesses, due to how expensive the equipment involved is. But for those who are passionate about photography and prefer working independently, this is a small price to pay to do what you love.

As with a lot of professions today, the internet has made it easier for photographers to acquire skills, research equipment, find potential clients, collaborators and circulate their work amongst them.

There are several different bifurcations within photography such as photojournalism, documentary photography, wildlife photography, food photography, fashion photography and street photography, just to name a few. With a field like this, a deep-rooted interest in the subject matter and a passion for the medium is a must, along with a drive to tell stories through images in your own way.

Skill Set of a Freelance Photographer

A Knowledge of Photography and Its History

Since the first daguerreotype process was invented in 1839, photography has made leaps and bounds over the last two centuries to grow into a versatile and expressive medium. The history of the medium provides important context, and really lays the foundation for your knowledge base. Here’s an introduction to photography that can help, and you can access the works of most major photographers online through their websites and pages.

A Focus on the Type of Photography You Want to Do

Here’s a look at the different types of photography and what they entail. It’s worth noting that once you have acquired a basic set of skills and honed them, options like food photography, fashion photography and wedding photography can be very lucrative options, especially with the right clients.

If you are primarily interested in something like wildlife photography or street photography, taking on diverse jobs is a good way to exercise your passion without burning a hole in your pocket.

Understanding Photography Equipment and Techniques

Understanding the intricacies of gear and how to achieve a certain effect with the gear you have, is very important. Thanks to the internet, we have a multitude of resources that can help give you a crash course in photography, to begin with, and you can go on to hone your skills thereon, based on your inclinations.

Websites and blogs like Professional Photographers of America and Digital Photography School are invaluable resources, brimming with advice and tools suggested by seasoned professionals.

Photo Editing Skills

Lightroom or Photoshop is a good place to start editing your photographs because a photograph cannot be delivered to the client until it is created and then processed.

There are several online tutorials that can help you get familiar with your photo editing software, such as this one from Adobe for Photoshop.

Besides this, there are a number of forums online, such as the Photo.net photography help forum, where you can have your doubts clarified.

Business Skills and Ability to Manage Your Time

When you are working as a freelance photographer, you are not just supposed to be making and editing photographs, but also actively promoting your work, both online and offline. You should have business cards, an online portfolio and active social media accounts which are updated regularly.

Besides being the creative vision and the person behind the camera, you also have to carry out administrative duties for yourself to make sure your work receives enough exposure. Having a schedule that you work according to every day should help you organize your time effectively.

How to Get Started

Rent or Purchase Equipment

First comes getting your hands on the equipment. Here’s a look at some of the basic gear that’s good to start off this journey with. If you don’t have too much capital to invest, you can start off with a basic DSLR and a kit lens to start exploring.

Websites like BorrowLenses.com rent equipment out to photographers, which could be helpful since lenses can make all the difference to your work.

Mobile photography has become really big today, especially with the popularity of Instagram, and if you have a good eye for design, even a phone camera with good specifications would be a good place to start.

Shoot and Edit Images

Getting out of the house and exploring and observing the areas you want to photograph are very important, so you can start visualizing your frames before you start making photographs. You can start off by photographing things immediately around you, such as the streets around your locality, or making portraits of your friends and family.

Even after you’ve gone through all the tutorials and guides on photography in the world, there’s nothing quite like the practice of photography that helps you perfect it. For tips on how to use equipment to create the kind of photographs you want to, and how to edit them, refer to our tools and resources section below.

Create a Portfolio and Make a Website To Showcase It

Prospective clients want to see a well-put-together collection of photographs that showcases your work, and your unique style of photography. This is probably the most important part of becoming a successful freelance photographer — the ability to not just make great photographs, but showcase them in order to get traction and a consistent flow of work.

Keeping your audience in mind is another important factor, so that you can market yourself and the type of photography you specialize in, accordingly.

How to Find Clients

Online and Offline Portfolio

It’s a good idea to have both, a digital portfolio on your website, as well as some actual prints, so that you can have flexibility in the kind of clients you work with. Creating a blog documenting your own journey is a good way to keep prospective clients updated on your work.

Online platforms such as Pinterest, imgur.com, and Instagram are a good way to ensure continued exposure to your work, as well as to get the word out when you are looking for new projects.

Attend Photography Workshops and Photowalks

Attending workshops by professional photographers can help you hone your skills further, as well as give you the opportunity to network with like-minded photographers. Photowalks are a great way to explore areas you have visited in a new way, keeping photographing it in mind.

Create an Email Newsletter

You can use a free newsletter tool like MailChimp to send your work to a network of professionals and potential clients; this will keep them updated on your work and possibly offer you projects that are the right fit for you.

Assist a Professional Photographer

Get in touch with a photographer whose work you admire and ask to assist them. There’s nothing quite like advice from seasoned professionals to speed up your learning process.

Ask Your Friends and Family

Referrals through friends and family have been how many photographers have kicked off their careers, and chances are, there is someone you know who is looking for a photographer for their birthday, wedding or special occasion.


Self-publishing photo books are a fast-growing trend that makes it easy for photographers with a small budget to print a certain number of copies to distribute amongst like-minded people and professionals. Bookmaking in the hands of photographers is a powerful tool indeed, and Publish Your Photography Book can give you an idea of how to go about it.

What You Can Expect to Make

In the United States, freelance photographers make an average of approximately $20.50 per hour. Then again, how much you make would depend on various factors such as your skill set, which city you live in and the kind of project you’re undertaking, among other factors.

Tools That Can Help

Borrow Lenses

Professional Photographers of America

Digital Photography School

Lightroom — Free Trial

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial

Thom Hogan’s Nikon Field Guide

New York Private Photo Tours and Street Photography Workshops

Graphic Designer

As with the other two professions we’ve mentioned in this piece, the opportunities for graphic designers today have multiplied considerably. Along with that increase in demand, there’s been a massive rise in designers across specialties in the industry.

Creative freelancers now have the opportunity to represent themselves independently online and offer details of their specialties and services, such as web design, UI design, UX design, product packaging, motion graphics design or even T-shirt design, to prospective clients.

The challenge, in this case, becomes more about standing out from the crowd and truly being able to visually communicate what you stand for. Being a graphic designer is primarily about being able to most effectively be able to communicate an idea or theme visually, with a context and message.

To begin with, let’s take you through the skill set of a graphic designer.

Skill Set of a Graphic Designer

Ability to Visualize and Illustrate

As a graphic designer, your role is not just being able to create a visual, but to really be able to visualize an idea, from beginning to end. Ideas can be drafted on anything from whiteboards to being sketched on paper, irrelevant to the final medium.

While being able to illustrate is not necessarily on top of every employer’s list, they do appreciate being able to see the workflow, and it can be helpful for feedback.

Technical Skills

A reliable computer is a must for every graphic designer, and so is being well-versed in these Adobe programs, including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and Muse. While you can always outsource this kind of work, you will ultimately save on a lot of time and money by being able to deliver quickly in a deadline-driven environment.

Research Skills and Curiosity

Context is extremely important with design projects, as it is something the graphic designer has to set visually for his viewers in his work. The more in-depth the research done by a graphic designer is, the more it translates into his or her work.

With a natural curiosity and sense of empathy, a freelance designer can better understand his or her clients to give them exactly the kind of visual branding or messaging they want to represent. A lack of ego and the ability to be flexible with their design to best suit the purpose of the client, is another invaluable asset that organizations are looking out for.

Being Deadline-Driven

This cannot be emphasized enough, today. The value of meeting fast-paced deadlines has shot up considerably in the digital world, where so many options are available to us at a click. As we evolve towards quicker turnovers, graphic designers would do well to become proficient in design softwares and tools, and to know them like the back of their hands, so that they can focus solely on speedy execution.

Marketing and Communication Skills

There is no substitute for having your own marketing skills; after all, who would know your work better than yourself? In a world saturated with options, your marketing and communication skills need to effectively convey your unique style of work through every aspect of your aesthetic, regardless of whether it’s your online portfolio, website or Behance page.

All social media accounts should ideally lead back to your primary online portfolio so that your work receives maximum exposure.

How to Get Started

Figure Out Your Niche

UI design? UX design? Motion graphics, website design or product packaging? It’s good to identify your area of interest and the niche that you feel like you can build a career and sustain yourself in, early on.

While a graphic designer can be interested in several of these, it’s good to pick one or two specializations, and market yourself accordingly, for projects which are a good fit for prospective clients.

Take a Course in Graphic Design

While there are a ton of resources and tutorials online, a lot of graphic designers do eventually want to get a diploma, BA or BFA degree in graphic design. Not only does it brighten up your resume, it also beefs up your knowledge base quite a bit and familiarizes you with tools so that you can use them appropriately in your visual imagery.

There are a range of short courses available in everything from web design to computer graphics, as well as several graphic design schools offering full-time courses. Going through relevant blogs online should give you an idea about some of the top graphic design schools in the country.

Practice Graphic Design Constantly

Like with any other medium of expression, there is just no substitute for hard work and practice to hone your skills further.

Constant vigilance in observing design elements in your surroundings, traveling widely and exploring others designers’ works can be instrumental in shaping your own style and aesthetic as a graphic designer. This is one of those professions where you never really “switch off”, but keep absorbing elements and influences from your surroundings.

Create Your Portfolio

Presentation is everything; your portfolio, regardless of whether it’s on Behance, Etsy or WordPress, needs to succinctly and effectively communicate what you and your work are all about, and what you offer that is different from what everyone else does. Your “greatest hits” as a graphic designer should be showcased to portray the best of your potential.

How to Find Clients

Promote Your Portfolio

Just a glance at a graphic designer’s portfolio is enough for some seasoned industry professionals to decide whether they want to collaborate or work with him or her, so effectively being able to communicate your selling points, whether it’s logo-making, branding or poster design, is essential.

You need to be actively involved in this process by cross-promoting your portfolio across all social media accounts as a part of your introduction. Lead with the kind of value you can offer clients, and their offers will come pouring in.


Networking, both online and offline, is imperative to sustaining a continuous workflow and building strong relationships with clients and peers. Try and follow closely the work of artists and organizations you admire, and how they go about presenting their work.

Check for local design conferences, events and festivals, and try to show up at them; with most creative fields, merely distributing your business card at design events is not going to leave a great impression. Instead, keep your eyes open and try to connect with like-minded peers and prospective clients. While a lot of creatives find this side of working independently challenging, the marketing aspect of design is something you have to master if you want to build a sustainable career.

Personal Confidence

As a graphic designer, you need to have faith in your own work, along with a drive to do better and the willingness to be flexible with clients. When you exude personal confidence in your own work, it makes clients relax and feel like their projects are in the right hands, that can do justice to them.

What You Can Expect to Make

A freelance graphic designer can make an annual income of approximately $25.14 per hour in the United States.

Tools That Can Help

Best Graphic Design Schools in the US

Marketing Mentor’s Marketing Plan and Calendar


Meetup.com — Graphic Design

Adobe programs including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and Muse

Are You Ready to Take the Leap?

If you’re an “idea” person, or one who is inclined to work independently, the thought of starting your own business has probably crossed your mind before, either full-time or as a freelancer; there’s no time like the present to take the leap.

Creative freelancers have more aids and tools at their disposal than they ever have before to present their ideas, and by learning how to use them effectively, you can add value to any project you are a part of. There are a range of online tools and resources that can help you along the way, and an array of professions or business ventures that can be pursued in just under $1,000.

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