When you think of what makes a successful business, it’s likely you think of a high cash flow business. It brings in plenty of money and expenses are low.
Here we’ll share some of the best cash flow business ideas, along with tips for financing your new business.
Table of contents
- What Is the Criteria for a High Cash Flow Business
- Best High Cash Flow Business Opportunities for 2024
- 1. Digital course creation
- 2. Pressure washing business
- 3. Consulting/coaching in area of expertise
- 4. Accounting or bookkeeping services
- 5. Graphic design services
- 6. Vending machine services
- 7. Youtube channel or TikTok channel
- 8. Landscaping/Lawn care business
- 9. Moving company (especially for niche items like fitness equipment)
- 10. Virtual assistant/admin services
- 11. Personal trainer/fitness coaching
- 12. Web design/development services
- 13. Government contractor
- 14. Tutoring/test prep services
- 15. Online store/eCommerce site
- 16. Laundromat
- 17. Airbnb property management
- 18. Subscription box
- 19. Car wash
- 20. Independent insurance broker
- 21. SaaS
- How to Finance a High Cash Flow Business
- How To Maximize a High Cash Flow Business for Success
- How Nav Can Help Simplify Cash Flow Management
What Is the Criteria for a High Cash Flow Business
What makes a high cash flow business? Businesses with high revenues, low expenses and no serious delays between money in and money out experience strong cash flow.
“The frequency money goes in, higher transaction amounts and how much is kept,” advises Spencer Shaw, CEO of Podkick, which provides podcast production for businesses. “You can wiggle only so much with those areas. There has to be cash movement and serious margins, few exceptions.”
The best businesses have a “negative cash conversion cycle,” elaborates Ryan Condie, a business owner and online business broker. “This is where you get paid before you have to pay your expenses.” But he cautions this is “quite rare as most businesses have to pay for expenses before they are paid.”
On the flip side, Condie warns that anything that requires a lot of capital is likely to be a low cash flow business. “These would be anything in which growth requires you to scale labor, equipment, land, buildings, inventory, etc.,” he notes.
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Best High Cash Flow Business Opportunities for 2024
If you’re looking for a high cash flow business idea, and you’re flexible about the type of business you want to start, here are 21 ideas. Many can be started as a side hustle, so you don’t have to quit your day job. With luck and hard work, they could turn into full-time income.
“High cash flow businesses don’t require high capital expenditures,” Condie points out. “They also have a build once, sell twice. You build software once but can sell it 100 times.
Keep in mind there will be upfront costs to any business. You may need a business license, and most businesses will need some type of business insurance. It’s often smart to form a business entity like an LLC or corporation. Even online businesses often require hosting, platform fees, and other subscriptions.
The goal is to recoup these costs quickly then keep expenses low.
1. Digital course creation
If you have expertise of almost any kind, you may be able to create and sell a course. There are courses teaching just about anything: all types of business skills, how to play music, how to tach toddlers to read, or how to be a horse trainer.
“You build a digital course but can sell it 100 times,” Condie says.
You can’t typically just hit publish and rake in the cash, though. Marketing can be challenging and time-consuming, and paid advertising doesn’t always pay off either.
2. Pressure washing business
A pressure washing business can create high cash flow due to relatively low startup costs and strong demand across residential and commercial markets. Clients often seek pressure washing for home exteriors, driveways, decks, and commercial spaces, ensuring a diverse customer base.
However, work can be seasonal in some parts of the company, and it is physically demanding. Hiring and retaining employees will affect cash flow.
3. Consulting/coaching in area of expertise
If you have specialized expertise, you may be able to use it to consult in the business, technology, finance, or personal development fields. You can charge hourly or package rates, or sign up customers on monthly retainers. Depending on your area of expertise, your earning potential can be high.
Unless you can charge a lot for your services, though, you will likely want to scale one-on-one consulting to include workshops or online courses, providing additional ongoing revenue opportunities.
4. Accounting or bookkeeping services
Small businesses often hire bookkeepers and/or accounting professionals to help them keep up with tracking their finances and preparing tax returns. Some also use these professionals for payroll, sales and use tax returns and other accounting tasks. Since these tasks must be performed year in and year out, it can provide ongoing revenue.
You will often need training or certifications, and accounting software is making it easier for some business owners to manage at least some of these tasks themselves.
5. Graphic design services
Graphic designers work in a variety of industries, including advertising, corporate branding, web design, product packaging, social media and more. The ability to work across different mediums and platforms – from print to digital – allows for a broad client base and diverse income streams. Additionally, as most design work can be conducted remotely, overhead costs are typically low, enhancing profitability.
However, this field is extremely competitive with global competition. AI tools are affecting graphic design services as well.
6. Vending machine services
Once you’ve bought vending machines and inventory to fill them, and secured locations to place them, vending machines can typically generate income with minimal ongoing daily management. High-traffic locations such as schools, offices, and hospitals can provide a steady stream of customers.
Vending machines can be expensive to purchase and install, though, and you may need a small business loan or financing to get those first few. They also require regular servicing, restocking, and repairs, which can eat into profit margins. Plus finding the right locations and securing contracts to place your machines can also affect profitability.
7. Youtube channel or TikTok channel
YouTube’s creative ecosystem contributed more than $35 billion to the US economy in 2022 and supported more than 390,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2022, according to research by Oxford Economics.
Content creators on TikTok and YouTube can make nothing (or next to it), or thousands—or millions—of dollars. Most start making money by getting monetized from ads, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, or brand partnerships, though the most successful ones often sell their own products.
There are many examples, such as this TikTok creator who has sold millions of dollars worth of her journal on TikTok. (For most, earnings will be much more modest.) You don’t need fancy equipment to get started: a smartphone will do.
The creator economy is highly competitive and it often takes months or years of creating content before you’ll earn a meaningful income. Overnight success stories are rare. But if you can stand out, this can be a very profitable business.
8. Landscaping/Lawn care business
Grass, plants and weeds grow year after year. You can start this type of business and create a regular income stream relatively inexpensively by focusing on lawn mowing, trimming, and seasonal yard clean-up. Upgrade your skills and equipment, and you may earn higher revenue through landscaping projects, such as garden design, hardscaping, and installation of irrigation systems.
You will need some equipment to start, and those needs will grow as you expand your services. You’ll also need insurance and you may need to be licensed. It can be seasonal, depending on where your business is located.
9. Moving company (especially for niche items like fitness equipment)
Starting an interstate moving company will require a lot of capital for commercial moving equipment, licensing, employees, etc. But you may be able to start a specialty moving business delivering bulky items the average person can’t move themselves, such as fitness equipment or pieces of furniture purchased from other people online.
However, there is increased liability and risk associated with moving expensive and heavy equipment. The potential for damage to these items during transport requires comprehensive insurance coverage, which can be pricey.
10. Virtual assistant/admin services
Virtual assistant or administrative services can be a high cash flow business, and one of the easiest businesses for beginners to break into. Virtual assistants can offer a wide range of services, from email management and scheduling, social media management, or managing freelancers. This business usually has very low overhead costs since work is usually done from home. A good computer and some software subscriptions may be all you need.
However, one challenge is intense global competition. Workers from lower-wage countries may offer services at prices that are difficult to compete with elsewhere. Marketing and client retention can be a challenge.
11. Personal trainer/fitness coaching
If fitness and health is your passion, options range from one-on-one client sessions to group classes, which can take place in gyms, client homes, or online.
Training and credentials may be required, you may need specific business licensing, and you will often need business insurance. It can also be competitive, and the cost of renting a studio or traveling to client’s locations will impact cash flow.
12. Web design/development services
Businesses of all sizes need websites. Companies that can design websites, and help them attract customers. Services can range from simple website design to complex e-commerce platforms and custom web applications, offering varied revenue streams. Businesses can also add ongoing services like search engine optimization. The ability to work remotely with clients globally expands the potential market significantly.
Competition, changes in technology, and AI can create challenges for this business.
13. Government contractor
The federal government, along with state and local governments, spends billions of dollars each year. Often a percentage of those contracts are set aside for small businesses, and business owners considered disadvantaged. Government contracting can offer high rewards with less than usual market risk.
Breaking into government contracting will involve a learning curve, and you’ll need to be persistent. Not all government contracts will ensure high cash flow, but many of the top areas where the government spends money are featured in this article.
14. Tutoring/test prep services
Tutoring and test prep services represent a high cash flow business opportunity, given the competitiveness of school and college admissions. Tutors and tutoring businesses provide personalized academic support, ranging from elementary school subjects to specialized test preparation for exams like the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT.
However, this business is often seasonal, and customers will come and go as they reach their goals. This industry is also experiencing disruption from tech tools and AI.
15. Online store/eCommerce site
An online store or eCommerce site can be a highly profitable business with strong cash flow potential, tapping into the growing trend of online shopping. Instead of trying to find the perfect location for a retail store, you can reach a national or global customer base 24/7, increasing the opportunity for sales beyond traditional store hours.
Be careful, though. Great sales may not mean you have a high cash flow business. ”If your ecommerce business is growing, you are now buying twice as much inventory twice as fast,” Condie cautions. “Your growth is eating up all your cash. From the outside, you look amazing. On the inside of the business, you are bleeding cash and trying to find ways to fund the growth.”
Laundromat businesses can be a very attractive, says Dave Mentz, who is known as “The Laundromat Millionaire. They offer a simple cash business model with high profit potential (20-100% cash on cash ROI according to Mentz). Offering ancillary services like wash-and-fold for local businesses, dry cleaning, or ironing can further increase revenue.
The cost to start a laundromat from the ground up is steep, though, so some entrepreneurs start by buying a laundromat (perhaps using seller financing), then expanding after they have more experience.
17. Airbnb property management
If you love the Airbnb vacation rental business, but can’t invest in real estate, you may still be able to make money managing them. The demand for well-managed, high-quality short-term rental properties is significant, especially in tourist-friendly locations or cities with major business centers. Property managers can charge a percentage of the rental income, ensuring a steady cash flow that correlates with the success of the properties they manage.
Changes in zoning laws (like in New York City), seasonal traffic, and the ability to find and retain employees all pose challenges for this type of business. But it can be a lot less expensive and risky than buying a vacation rental.
18. Subscription box
There’s a subscription box for just about anything: fishing gear, escape room games, kids and teens who like to cook—even tinned fish! (Browse CrateJoy to find hundreds of ideas.) Subscription boxes deliver a curated selection of products to subscribers on a regular basis. Recurring income ensures a predictable income stream, and the element of surprise or discovery in each box can help create a loyal customer base.
Churn, inventory and marketing expenses can all hurt cash flow. But for business owners who match demand to the right items, this can be a lucrative business.
19. Car wash
The demand for car washing services is relatively stable and can be boosted by offering a range of services, from basic exterior washes to premium detailing services. The business model can vary from self-service facilities, where customers wash their vehicles themselves, to full-service or automated car washes that require more staff and investment but can also charge higher prices.
But getting started isn’t cheap. The initial capital investment can be significant, particularly for automated car washes, which require expensive equipment and technology. The ongoing maintenance costs for this equipment can also be high, and regular upgrades may be necessary to keep up with the latest car wash technologies and customer expectations. Environmental regulations can also be expensive.
20. Independent insurance broker
An independent insurance broker business can be highly profitable with strong cash flow potential. Insurance agents act as an intermediary between clients and insurance companies, providing clients with expert advice on selecting the best insurance policies for their needs. Insurance products, especially life and health policies, often involve regular premium payments over a long period of time, which can provide a steady income stream for brokers through commissions.
You’ll need to invest in training and licensing, and keep up with changing products and regulations. Online insurance sites are a major competitor, but there is still a need for individuals who can provide personalized service and advice.
SaaS refers to “software as a service,” and it’s a business model Shaw loves. SaaS companies that have monthly or annual recurring revenue, low operating costs, and are scalable can be a gold mine. “Some of my favorites are email newsletters, plugins for marketplaces, and tools that solve a specific niche problem,” he says.
Niahll Doherty regularly features these types of businesses in his newsletter, eBiz Insider. Just a couple of recent examples include $2000 a month from an AI quiz generator and $10,000 a month helping creators write better Youtube titles. (His business is doing well too, as evidenced by his income reports.)
There are plenty of SaaS failures too. Some entrepreneurs try multiple times before they find product/market fit. But since these businesses can often be started inexpensively, the payoff can be enormous when it does work.
How to Finance a High Cash Flow Business
Some high cash flow businesses need little financing. But Shaw points out a common mistake is growing too slowly “in alignment with current cash flow and not utilizing lines of credit, presale to customers or better terms with vendors.”
It’s almost always helpful for small business owners to have two essential financing tools available when needed.
1. A line of credit
A small business line of credit allows you to access financing quickly when cash flow isn’t flowing quickly enough. It can also help you take advantage of a time-sensitive opportunity to pick up cheap equipment or inventory, for example.
2. A business credit card
Even if you pay in full each month, most small business credit cards let you buy now, pay later, which is helpful for cash flow. And a 0% APR business credit card can be helpful for financing purchases for up to a year while you build positive cash flow. (Most business credit cards are available to new businesses, as well as established ones.)
Establish business credit to increase your financing options.
How To Maximize a High Cash Flow Business for Success
Just because your business is bringing in money, that doesn’t mean it’s a high cash flow business.
“The biggest mistake owners make is thinking profit is cash flow,” warns Condie. “Cash flow is when cash comes into a business or leaves a business. You can be profitable at the end of the year but not have enough cash in the middle of the year to make payroll or pay suppliers. This gap in cash will put you out of business.”
Growing too quickly, or too slowly, can both cause problems.
A common mistake Shaw points to: “spending today’s cash flow on borrowed dreams of tomorrow, or worse, thinking there’s profit but simply money movement.”
If you think cash flow is better than it is, you may use business capital for “unrealistic owner compensation (or) inventory that’s not proven,” he says, as examples.
“The business must have a proven model that works,” he stresses.
How Nav Can Help Simplify Cash Flow Management
Take back time with Nav’s Cash Flow Tool.
- Your Cash Flow Health Score gives you an instant look at your overall performance so you can make timely changes.
- Anticipate gaps in your cash flow and find the funding you need (before you need it).
- Get balance alerts to help you stay on top of your finances.
This article was originally written on December 6, 2023.
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