Selling Online
October 7, 2022

20 Businesses That Run Themselves (Low Maintenance Money)

Starting a business is hard work in any environment. And it's going to be even more challenging in a tough economy. A few self-running businesses that you can start include dropshipping, vlogging, and selling online courses.

Joana Regulacion
Table of Contents:

20 Businesses That Run Themselves (Low Maintenance Money)

Starting a business is hard work in any environment. And it's going to be even more challenging in a tough economy. Read on and find out how you can start businesses that run themselves while you kick back and relax. 

A few self-running businesses that you can start include dropshipping, vlogging, and selling online courses.

What businesses can run by themself?

In this post, we’ll be talking about self-running businesses that you can get into. Businesses that run themselves let you make money without having to work every day.

Fundamentally, you can do the majority of the work one time and continue getting paid. And if you want to earn more, you just need to put in some extra effort along the way.

A few self-sustaining business ideas could involve investing in property or stocks. You can also create a course, ebook, or videos. You might also like to start a blog or an eCommerce store.

These businesses will help generate money even when you’re not working every day.

Active business vs self-running business: Which one should you choose?

As of this writing, there are 33.2 million small businesses in the US. Most of us would like to be part of this statistic. You might even be reading this because you’ve already made up your mind to start your business.

The question is, how much time do you want to spend?

This is when you choose between an active and self-running business. 

Most of us grew up with the idea that you have to work hard to succeed. Most businesses require you to spend at least 50-60 hours per week.

This kind of business is called an active business.

With the amount of time you have to spend, you might think: “Is it really worth it?”

Some people would prefer to spend more time at home with family or have more time for doing the things they love such as traveling. This is where a self-running business comes in.

These low-maintenance businesses could fall into either of these two categories ⬇️

👉 operates without active involvement but has continuous income

👉 operates with active involvement from employees or outsourcing to a third party

20 Businesses That Run Themselves

Here is a list of 20 hands-off businesses you can start this year

1. Vending Machines

Businesses like vending machines can be run with almost no manpower needed.

A vending machine business is owning one or more vending machines in different locations. You make money from the sales generated by those vending machines.  

Most vending machines earn less than $5 per week, but a successful one can earn $100 or more per week.

Here is how to make money with vending machines:

➡️Select a vending machine style. Decide on what product you want to sell. Are you near a college or hospital? Then a vending machine that serves coffee can be a great option.

➡️Locate a prime location. A good location can decide how successful your vending machine business will be. It’s good to research about places with good foot traffic.

➡️Examine for licenses. To operate vending machines in some states, you must first obtain a permit or license. Make your operation smooth by contacting your local licensing office. It helps to learn about the requirements for owning and operating vending machines in your area.

➡️Maintain your vending machines. Keep your machines clean, well-stocked, and in running for all of your customers. Nothing is more annoying than looking at your Reese’s bar dangling after you dropped your money.

2. Laundromat

A laundromat has a high return on investment (ROI) and success rate. It can be a great hands-off business because people are likely to seek your service. I mean, we all have to do our laundry, right?

Here are important points about a laundromat business: 

➡️Repairs and maintenance. Your machine is your cash cow. This means that every broken machine is a lost income. Research and get in touch with the best repairmen in your area to keep your equipment in top shape.

➡️Hire people. There’s already minimal manpower needed for this business. However, it can be pretty helpful to have someone to help customers with change for the machine or to assist them in how to use it.

➡️Operation cost. You need to consider the location of your laundromat business, especially regarding rent and demand. There are already a lot of residential buildings that offer laundry equipment for use to tenants. So, you should definitely steer clear from renting space in that area.

The laundry industry has a 20-35% ROI. It has a 5-year survival rate that is nearly double that of the average new business startup.

3. ATM machines

Do you know a worker who has never used an ATM machine? I don’t. Most working people have definitely used an ATM machine. This is why it made it to the list of the easiest business to run.

Complete ATM Services gives you  $2.22 for every transaction from a $3 surcharge. According to their website, this kind of business has a 67% profit margin.

Here are important points if you want to own an ATM machine 👇

➡️Be ready for the cost. ATMs cost between $1,000 to $10,000. You can opt for an old and used ATM, however, this could affect user preference.

➡️Research about locations. An ATM business relies on users. This makes location pretty important. It helps to list retail locations that are best for an ATM such as gas stations, bars, and convenience stores.

➡️Consider Ads. You can expand your income by placing screens and ads on your machine. 

Businesses like vending machines and ATM machines will almost always have a demand. This just makes it one of the easy businesses to run because you don’t have to spend so much time on it.

4. Airbnb 

Airbnb is a service that allows property owners to rent out their spaces to travelers in need of a place to stay. Travelers can rent a room for a group, a shared room with private rooms, or the entire property for themselves.

As of this writing, there are over 7 million listings on Airbnb worldwide. You can even rent out your own sofa if you don’t have a big space.

Here are a few of the best practices for running an Airbnb:

➡️Write a creative listing. Good pictures are a must so think about lighting, angles, and composition. Make it look homey and hygienic so put the toilet seat down, clear up clutter and make the bed. 

➡️Trust in your guests. Trust the Airbnb vetting process and avoid asking questions that may sound more like an interrogation. You should still exercise your own judgment and get to know your guest before their stay.

➡️Respect your guests' privacy. Install locks on the door if you are renting out a room. Always knock or notify them with a quick message through the app. 

Businesses that run themselves already give you the opportunity to stay at home more. But if you want a business you can run from the comfort of your home, here are easy businesses online. 💻

5. Dropshipping

You make money from dropshipping by adding a profit margin to a product you are selling. 

When you dropship, you are moving goods directly from the manufacturer to the retailer without using traditional distribution channels.

Why is it a self-sustaining business?

Dropshipping is a hands-off business because you are not responsible for shipping or manufacturing. It can be a profitable business model for retailers.

It's a low-risk business model that doesn't make you incur huge costs as a wholesaler would. 

You need to find the right suppliers to help you earn a good profit margin.

Here’s how you can make a self-running business out of dropshipping:

➡️Find the right niche. When you pick the right niche, you are also setting yourself up with the product that people will likely buy again and again.

➡️Find the perfect supplier. The key is to find an excellent supplier for your consignment. This should be someone you can rely on so you don’t suddenly lose your buyers because of some crappy product. 💩

➡️Find the right people. Before you can sit back and relax, you need to make sure your dropshipping business is in good hands. Do you have a good SEO guy? A customer service expert? A creative writer? They can make the difference between a banging store and —meh!

One thing you can do is get into Private Labeling. This is where you can sell a product and put your logo on it. Just like what you can do with Dripshipper. Even better with Dripshipper the whole process from ordering to shipping to fulfilling is automated and they have multiple US-based suppliers on which you can count upon.

Amy Morin started as a writer but also decided to get into dropshipping. According to her, you will need to find a company that is willing to dropship directly to your customer. You also need to make sure they have a good reputation. 

6. Print-on-demand

Print on demand is one of the easy businesses for beginners like you. It is a low-maintenance business that can be an especially interesting source of income if you have a passion for design.

Why is it a self-running business?

Like dropshipping, print-on-demand is a hands-off business because you don’t have to handle shipping or manufacturing. All you need to do is upload a design (sometimes you only have to type fun quotes), and let the platform handle fulfillment.

Here’s how you can make print-on-demand as your hands off business:

➡️Test your product. Testing your product first will help you make sure you are selling something buyers would love. For example, make sure the shirt has the right material, or the mug is the right color for the design to pop.

➡️Hire a graphic designer. If you want to be as hands-off as you want, you can hire someone to create a steady flow of designs for you. This way you don’t have to brainstorm for a new design all the time.

➡️Get a virtual assistant. If you don’t have the time to receive special orders, you can always hire a virtual assistant. The VA can talk to customers and discuss which designs they want and even communicate with your graphic designer for you. You’d just be there busy delegating. 😉

So if you have a background in graphic design, or want to share your artwork with the world, print-on-demand is for you.

Check out this video below 👇

7. Flipping websites

If you have a background in web development then you can make a business by flipping websites. It is incredibly profitable mainly because of how valuation works. 

To prove that your store has potential, you’ll likely need it to generate some revenue.

But if you’ve got great design skills and can put up some content on the website you are selling. This could catch the attention of someone looking to purchase a pre-built dropshipping store. You could go to Shopify’s Exchange marketplace.

Here’s how to start low-maintenance businesses by flipping websites:

➡️Buy domain names. You can surf around GoDaddy or Namecheap. Hold on to a domain name for a period of time. After some time you can sell the domain name to people willing to pay for them to complete their brand. 

➡️Give a website a makeover. You can either find an undervalued site that has high traffic but poor monetization, or good monetization but bad SEO practices.

You don’t even have to do the makeover yourself. You can just hire someone to check the site for bugs or hire a writer to create content for the website.

Rob Boirun is a 50-year-old website flipper. He is now the CEO of PopNet Media LLC.

Boirun maintained a few sites over the years in various stages. 

  • Beginner sites - 10 to 20 posts
  • Established sites - year old with consistent growth
  • Authority sites - has good traffic earnings with more than $5,000/month income

8. Flipping deals

Flipping deals is taking advantage of price differences between what you can find and what the average consumer can find.

All you need to do is arbitrage the difference between your purchase and sale prices. You never know, you can end up with a following of people who follow your deals.

Here’s how you can make a passive income from flipping deals: 

➡️Use online sales platforms like eBay or Amazon. You can go on eBay to find great deals and then to Amazon to sell products that you found at low prices (and vice versa). 

➡️Find a trusty contact. A contact who can help you gain access to discounted merchandise can make this business especially effective. They can help you find valuable items that others have simply overlooked.

➡️Put aside a sound budget. You'll also need to invest money in all of your products for PPC until they sell, so you'll need a steady source of funds. 

There are numerous ways to generate passive income ideas. You could start by making a list of everything that interests you.

In fact, you can make money by talking about stuff that you love! The next items on this list are ways you can do this. 👇

9. Selling Photos

Being a photographer may look like an active business for you. However, if you like to make money taking photos, you don’t always have to find gigs covering events.

A self-sustaining business idea for photographers is through selling photos.

Here are some of the ways you can make a lot of money in photography:

➡️Sign up for stock image sites. Take high-quality photos and sell them on stock photography websites to earn royalties.

➡️Invest in hardware. You only need a good camera to get started. However, you can now capture stunning images with your smartphone.

➡️Integrate Print on Demand. Aside from selling your photos on Stock image sites, you can also use them for selling Print on Demand. Sign up for Print on Demand platforms and use your photos as designs on notebooks, bags, or calendars.

This way you don’t have to stress out about getting booked for events. You can even just take pictures during your walks and vacations and make money out of it.

10. Ebook Writing

Anyone with expert knowledge in a specific subject can write an ebook to share their ideas with the rest of the world.

But what if you don’t have time to write or think about a concept? Can you still make a self running business out of eBooks? Definitely!

Here’s how eBooks are one of the low-maintenance businesses:

➡️Hire a ghostwriter. Believe it or not, you are not required to go at it alone. Platforms such as Upwork make it simple to find book writers and editors to assist you with the process of making an eBook.

➡️Make your manuscript available to your target audience. You can do this by publishing your eBook on platforms like Amazon Kindle or Blurb

➡️Hire a virtual assistant. Some marketing is required to reach as many people as possible. If you don’t think you have time for this, you can hire a virtual assistant to help you with marketing. There are also digital marketing services that can help advertise your eBook online. This can be through search, social media, and paid channels.

Once you've broken into the ebook space, you can generate passive income from page reads and Kindle sales. This is how most ebook authors make money.

11. Selling Videos

Just like with photos, you can also make an easy business out of uploading videos to popular websites.

Here’s how you can make selling videos a self running business: 

➡️Sign up on a platform. Upload a few videos to platforms like Newsflare and Rumble. When your content gets bought, you could get 50% of all revenue generated.

You can continue getting royalties for videos you uploaded months or even years ago.

➡️Find your niche. Identify your target market, this will help you successfully sell videos online.

➡️Plan your content strategy. To ensure good quality, it is better to plan what goes into your video. Be mindful of search volume in your niche and follow the framework of trending content before creating it in your own style.

12. Selling online courses

If you are an expert in a particular subject or field, you can start a self-running business by selling online courses.

Here’s how selling courses be a self-sustaining business idea:

➡️Pick a platform to host and sell your course. Sell your course through your own website. You can also go on online learning platforms like Udemy or Skillshare. There will be plenty of people willing to pay to access your content.

Of course, selling on platforms like Udemy makes things easier because you don’t have to worry about building. You won’t even need to market. But it could have an impact on how much passive income you generate.

In contrast, selling through your own website gives you control over pricing, but would need more work and time.

➡️Choose a topic that sells. Invest a lot of time researching a topic. Most entrepreneurs fail because there is no market for their products. To get a better idea of what types of online courses sell, find out which courses will be interesting to people.

➡️Market your eBook. You won’t get enrollees unless people find out about your course. You need to promote your book through ads or social media promotions. If this feels too time-consuming for you, then you can hire virtual assistants to constantly post on pages about your course. You can also hire experts to help you with paid ads.

➡️Atomate what you can. Aside from hiring virtual assistants, it helps to integrate automated software to respond to inquiries and purchases. This means you can work for a few hours per week.

13. Selling printables

When you start, you can expect to earn between $10 and $100 per week selling printables. A properly set-up shop with good quality products in the right niche can usually make one sale per day fairly early on.

Printables are digital products that people can print and use. 

Like most items on this list, you don’t really have to come up with new designs all the time. You need to only work on them one time and you make money out of them for a long time after.

Here are the steps to make selling printables an easy business:

➡️Pick a platform. You can make a website or sign up for platforms like Etsy or Gumroad to sell your printables. It’s one of the easiest business to run because you don’t have to spend so much time on it.

➡️Make a list of Ideas. Unless it's a fancy planner, you're unlikely to make a living from a single printable. Figure out what other printable to make so your buyers have a variety of options.

➡️Sketch out your design concept on a piece of paper. Eventually, your design will end up on paper. This can help you write down your idea and make changes quickly.

➡️Test Print. Print your printable to ensure that it appears properly on the printed page. If you're making something that people will punch holes in in order to fit it into a planner.

14. Selling apps

Owning a self running business by creating stuff has now become a trend. This is even more true when creating new mobile apps.

More than nine-in-ten Millennials own smartphones. This is 93% compared to 90% of Gen Xers, 68% of Baby Boomers, and 40% of the Silent Generation. This is what the market looks like if you get into this business.

Here are the two ways to sell apps as a self running business:

➡️Charge a fee for people who want to buy your app

➡️Offer your app free and monetize with ads

If you’re a developer or programmer, you might want to try creating apps as a hands off business. 

Watch the video below to know more about self-sustaining business ideas like this. 

15. Selling audio

Like stock images and videos, you can make money by selling audio. If you develop an interest in audio production, you can experiment with a wide range of products.

Here are the types of audio you can sell online:

  • Intros
  • Outros
  • Full albums
  • Mixing samples
  • Jingle
  • Podcast Intro

As you can see, your audio track could range from the simplest to elaborate.

You can also create full songs and earn passive income through royalties.

Here are a few steps to follow.

➡️Pick a platform. You can license your tracks on platforms like SoundCloud and Audiosocket.

➡️Research the market. If you go this route, you need to research your audience and see what kind of content is popular.

➡️Start a portfolio. You can begin building your tune portfolio out of the music you made. This can prepare you for bigger things should you choose to.

One of the potentials you might be able to free time in your schedule. You may choose to spend more time with your family, pursue a creative project or new business idea, or travel the world.

If you have money to spare, you can just invest it and let time do the work.

16. Stocks Trading

Like most of the items on this list, investing in the stock market is a long-term investment. It just means that it could take time to grow your money. 

Here are a few ways you make money from stocks:

➡️Research companies. You will need to put some sweat into researching companies to earn good money from it. In-depth research will reveal to you how a company is actually doing ad avoid losing your hard-earned money.

➡️Diversify your portfolio. Stocks do not move up or down at the same time. Some stocks may rise while others fall. This is why diversifying your portfolio is important.  Diversifying keeps you protected from losses during an economic downturn. Remember the saying: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

➡️Pick a platform. Choose a platform that is perfect for you. Consider factors such as your objective, risk, and diversification.

When the stock you invested in goes up in value so does your investment. You can potentially earn much higher returns in individual stocks compared to index funds.

17. Invest in Royalties

Not having any songwriting doesn’t mean you can’t profit from the work of other artists.

Investing in Royalties is a hands off business worth getting into. 

What is a Royalty?

It is the sum of money paid to an author or composer for each book sold or public performance of a work.

Investing in royalty income can provide long-term returns for investors looking to make big money. It’s also a good option if you want to diversify your portfolio beyond stocks and fixed-income securities.

Royalty rights provide a consistent income that is relatively immune to fluctuations in the equity and bond markets.

Platform like Royalty Exchange allows you to invest in royalties and earn passive income from intellectual property.

18.  Invest in index funds or dividend-paying stocks

Big money almost always means higher risks. This is the same with investing in index funds or dividend-paying stocks.

There is no guarantee that investing in dividend-paying stocks will continue to be a self running business.

However, some people enjoy the thrill of the ups and downs of the stock market. 

How do you make money with this kind of business?

Dividend-paying stocks pay investors quarterly or annually. They also often allow investors to reinvest the dividends.

Dividend stocks is one of the simple businesses you can get into.

When you receive your dividend you can decide to: 

➡️Pocket the cash

➡️Reinvest the money in additional shares

As public companies generate profits, a portion of those earnings are transferred over and funneled back to investors in the form of dividends.

18. Invest in Crowdfunded Real Estate

Not everyone has thousands of dollars to spend on real estate. But if you have a bit of knowledge and would like to get into this business, you can invest in crowdfunded real estate.

What is crowdfunded real estate?

Crowdfunding is a method for raising money for businesses. It is a less complicated way to access such ventures for investors. It utilizes the Internet and social media outlets to reach an audience of potential investors.

You can always look into crowdfunded real estate sites like Fundrise which requires you only $500 to get started. You can also go to CrowdStreet or RealtyMogul.

How does this business model work?

This business model can be pretty technical. Here’s a video to help you understand more about it 👇

19. Selling old stuff

Do you think investing is too complicated for you? If you think you are more compatible with simple businesses, you can always default to selling your old stuff.

Chances are, you have a box of clothes, furniture, or books stored away in your cupboard. Why waste these particularly good items when you can sell them to others? This could even be a good opportunity for you to buy new stuff!

How can you start low maintenance businesses selling old stuff:

➡️Choose the best platform. Depending on which stuff you are selling you need to pick a platform where these products fit best. For example, Poshmark and Depop is a great website for selling clothing, accessories, and even shoes.

➡️Price it right. You need to make sure you put a price on your item that is still lower than most listings or at least lower than a brand new item. However, you should also have an eye for quality and brands. You never know when you sell a vintage bag from grandma that’s worth a few hundred dollars.

➡️Stage it. Make the necessary repairs or retouches on the items you will be posting. Make sure you take presentable pictures as well and stage it to better appeal to potential buyers.

This business model is perfect If you have extra time to declutter and want to make money without starting from scratch. You won’t be needing much more than a few hundred dollars, in fact you can start without any money at all.

20. Affiliate Marketing

Almost every major brand has an affiliate program. Affiliate marketing is a hands off business where you can promote some popular products and make a lot of money.

How do you make money with Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing works by giving you a commission on the sale. Most businesses only offer a $5 to $10 referral bonus. However, some businesses are quite generous. Shopify gives you up to $58 per referral.

Here are some ways to make the most money in affiliate marketing: 

➡️Conduct research. Before you begin, you should conduct some research into the best affiliate marketing programs.

➡️Make use of multiple platforms. Blogging is the most cost-effective way to earn recurring affiliate commissions without spending money on advertising. You can also join Facebook groups and leave posts or comment with your unique affiliate link.


We all have big dreams and being your own boss is usually one of them. Never having to clock in from 9-5 is a dream for many and gives you freedom of time. Finding a self running business means not having to work 40+ hours but still making that dough.

Yes, it might sound too good to be true, but as you can see from our list, these opportunities exist!

About the author
Joana Regulacion
Joana is an engaging content writer and dynamic virtual assistant. ✍️ She helps business owners and entrepreneurs deliver a clear message to everyone and attract and engage the perfect audience. She is a proud wife, mom, and animal lover.‍ She believes that her love for learning new things is her key to writing engaging content.

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