15 Ideas for Businesses to Start in a Crisis

Author: Noah Parsons

Noah Parsons

Noah Parsons

7 min. read

Updated October 29, 2023

If you’ve been laid off during the current health and financial crisis or you’re just looking for a way to make extra income from home, there are still plenty of business opportunities. While some parts of the economy have ground to a halt, many sectors are still growing. In particular, delivery services, e-commerce, home fitness, collaboration tools, and remote workforces have seen a surge in growth. 

We’ve collected a list of businesses that, even in a crisis, you can still start from home. The majority of these businesses can be started online, require little overhead or equipment and don’t require any kind of physical presence in the world, which is ideal for where we are right now.

Online and home-based businesses you can start today:

Online kids fitness classes

Sports are shut down and kids can’t go to practices or interact with other kids who love to be fit and athletic. If you have an athletic background and have ever been a volunteer coach for a kids’ sports team, there’s a good opportunity to offer indoor training and fitness classes via an online video conferencing system. Parents are more than willing to pay to keep their kids occupied.

Personal Shopper/Errand Runner for Quarantine

There are at-risk people who should not be going to grocery stores. And while there are some services across the country like Instacart, there’s room to create a business that has a more personal touch. Less tech-savvy customers, and even tech-savvy customers, want to talk to a real person, and go through their shopping list and pharmacy pickup list with specifics about items they need. Some of the potential target market could also turn into a long-standing customer, post quarantine. 

Strategic Advisor/Accountant/bookkeeper

Businesses still need to keep their books, even when business is slow. More than ever, businesses need smart accountants that can also be strategic advisors. Start your business with a focus on not just getting the books and taxes done, but helping configure financials and financial reporting so that your clients run better businesses, survive this crisis, and are ready to thrive.

Financial Planner

Many people will suffer financially from this crisis. If you are certified to provide financial planning or have the skills necessary to get the certification, this could be a booming business. This service is easy to offer virtually, and someone with good financial planning skills combined with good people skills could make a big difference in the lives of people struggling to re-think their financial situation. You will need to have a strong online presence and offer relevant services and pricing. 

eCommerce Consulting Company

Laid off from a tech company? Know how to use tech tools for business? More than ever any existing business will need an online presence. We don’t know how COVID-19 will affect the way we operate a business in the future, but there are sure to be some big changes. Help small businesses go online, add eCommerce, and add the right customer service tools to streamline their businesses.

Dog walking & pet care

High-risk folks need help to get their dogs out and folks who are sick are looking for people to care for their animals until they’re back on their feet. This is more of a side-hustle than a full-time business, but there might be some money to be had.

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Virtual Assistant

Everyone working for home, while quarantined, is dealing with A LOT. If they have school-aged kids, they are trying to work from home while also keeping kids on track with online schooling, or just flat out trying to homeschool kids. Offering virtual assistant services in a  cost-effective way to organize and help the busy executive who just got busier and could give you a business that grows quickly, and also survives once life has returned to some kind of normalcy. 

Virtual Tutoring Service

All of a sudden pretty much every kid in America, and across many countries, is home. Schools are trying their best to teach kids and adjust, but many kids need more, and some of those kids have parents who will pay for more. You will have to pull together a stable of tutors that have credibility, as well as a full virtual game plan. 

Remote Tech Support

This business can target all those small businesses and individuals that are stuck at home and more dependent on TV, internet, and screens, than ever. Help troubleshoot internet connectivity issues with routers and hardware, help protect machines from malware and viruses, help configure wireless routers in houses for best connectivity to all members of the household. Clearly, to start this business you have to have networking and IT knowledge. If you were laid off from your job, and this is your expertise, you may be able to thrive with this business.

Digital courses / Online coaching

Do you have a skill you can teach? If you have expertise in a subject matter now is the time to think about turning that expertise into online courses and or online coaching. Maybe you are a photoshop wiz or can teach people how to put together effective PowerPoint presentations, or how to improve their speaking skills. 

Maybe you understand search engine optimization (SEO) and can teach businesses how to maximize their online exposure. The key here is to translate your skills into a packaged or live online course, or online coaching, and then market them online to your network. Use an online learning management system (LMS) and create an online course to offer your skills.

Affiliate marketer/Drop shipper

Every eCommerce seller is looking to maximize their sales right now. If you have skills that allow you to drive traffic (maybe you are a great blogger, or YouTuber, or have a large social media footprint) then you could turn those skills into a business. Become an affiliate for online products, and potentially offer drop shipping services to the vendor, helping them expand their capacity to ship to more customers. 

Etsy Seller

Now is the time to turn your crafts into a business. Do you do amazing woodwork? Are you a skilled knitter? Maybe you turn old boxes into amazing beautiful jewelry boxes?  Don’t be filled though. In order to make a good go at making a business selling on Etsy, you must really have skills that you can turn into beautiful products. If so, then start small and give it a go. 

Virtual birthday party provider

A lot of people are having very different birthdays, graduations, proms, anniversaries, etc. If you can figure out how to use video, virtual platform, music, and perhaps add delivery of presents and goodies for the special person/people, there may be an opportunity to help people celebrate in these very strange times. 

Transcription services

As businesses have to turn to online conferences, meetings and webinars there will be a higher need for transcription services. If you have the patience and a knack for fast accurate typing you can build a business that delivers transcripts from online video and virtual meetings. If you happen to also speak a second language, you can add this skill to your services. You will have to think through managing the work, and potentially hiring some outsourced help. This could be a great business opportunity.

Educational products

Welcome to the new world of educating children. Children around the world are stuck at home and all of a sudden doing all their school work online. Different schools are dealing with this in different ways, some better than others. Education will most likely forever be changed by this immediate move to online learning, and schools, educators and parents will be looking for more and better educational tools and products for this new way of teaching. 

Planning for your new business

If any of these ideas piqued your interest or if you have something else in mind, the best way to get started is to write up a business plan for your idea. Doing so helps you outline the specifics of your new business and cover some of the planning aspects that you may have missed. I recommend that you start with a lean plan, which can be done in as little as an hour and can be turned into a living plan for you to reference and update as your business grows.

You can download our free template and get started right away. Or if you’d rather try an online option that helps you develop your plan through a step-by-step process, you may want to check out LivePlan

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Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.