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You might be looking for new ways to make money but don’t necessarily have the time to invest. Maybe you would like to start your own business but need one that requires less work to keep it running.
There actually are businesses that run themselves! Streams of income that require minimal time to run. So you can just sit back and gain wealth.
The concept of a self-sustaining enterprise may seem like a novel idea or even a pipe dream, but with a little work, planning and investment it is possible.
From online businesses and passive income strategies to brick-and-mortar establishments, the possibilities are endless.
In this guide we will give some examples and tips for starting your own business that runs itself.
What is a Self Running Business?
You might have heard the term “businesses that run themselves” and are wondering what it actually means.
In simple terms, a self-sustaining business is one that doesn’t require constant intervention and time from the owner to keep it going. With the right systems in place, these businesses can operate on autopilot.
Which means a passive income stream for you! I have made a lot of money with my own Airbnb business.
I own a rental property that brings in profit each month without my having to spend a lot of time on it. Which is an example of a business that runs itself.
How Do You Create a Business That Runs Itself?
While you can get a self sustaining business, you will have to do some work initially to get it started.
You have to lay a foundation, get the business up and running, and figure out ways to automate the processes and workings of it. So that you don’t have to spend much of your own time on it!
How much you have to automate and delegate depends on the business itself. Certain businesses may require a team of employees to automate operations. While others may just need automated tools and software. You will have to figure out how to automate it.
For example if you own a rental property, you can hire a property management company to handle the maintenance and tenant interactions.
Or, if you choose an eCommerce business, you have an online store that automatically interfaces with customers.
The goal is to achieve a profitable business that runs on autopilot.
How to get started with a self running business:
- Research the types of businesses there are that provide passive income
- Choose the right business for you and create a business plan
- Do the initial work to get the business started
- Automate processes and operations to minimize your workload
- Keep an eye on how the business is performing to make sure it stays successful
Remember that achieving a self-sustaining business does not mean you can sit back and watch the profits roll in indefinitely without doing anything.
To stay successful, you need to strike a balance between allowing your self operating business to run itself while still maintaining a watchful eye on its processes and performance.
15 Businesses That Run Themselves
There are lots of passive income businesses to choose from to generate money with minimal work from you. The startup costs and ongoing maintenance required vary for each one.
There are online businesses that run themselves. But there are also physical brick and mortar self operating businesses and of course rental properties.
Here are some fantastic options you can choose from!
1. Vending Machine Businesses
We’ve all used a vending machine in our life for a quick snack or a drink! But did you know you can actually buy one and make money from it?
In a vending machine business, you own, place and routinely stock vending machines at strategic locations in order to make money.
To start a vending machine business you will need to purchase the machines and figure out a place where you can place them. You want to find a high traffic place so you can make more revenue.
Then you have to keep them stocked and also pull any hard money from them. Since you can hire someone to do this part, this business can be relatively hands-off.
A laundromat is a self-service laundry facility where customers can use washing machines and dryers for their laundry needs.
After setting up your laundromat and making sure all equipment is in working order, your involvement can be minimal.
Customers usually operate machines on their own, and many laundromats have change machines or card systems for payment. You will need an on-site person to open and close the laundromat each day.
You will also need someone who can service machines if they break. To maintain a successful laundromat, you just need to keep the environment clean, and the machines working properly.
However, the startup costs for a laundromat business are going to be a lot higher than some other businesses. You will need a location and then to purchase all the equipment.
An easier alternative might be to to find an existing laundromat and purchase it.
Laundromats tend to be a successful business with a higher return on investment. Here is a guide on how to start a laundromat business.
3. Self-Service Car Washes
Self-service car washes provide customers with equipment and cleaning supplies to clean their vehicles themselves.
These facilities usually operate with coin or card systems, which keeps the need for staff to a minimum. A car wash business does need someone to stop by and collect money from the pay and change machines.
Your primary responsibilities as a self-service car wash owner are to ensure all equipment is functional, supplies are stocked, and the facility is clean.
4. Rental Property Businesses
Owning rental properties can provide a steady stream of income with minimal involvement on your part.
You just need to purchase a home and then rent it out to tenants. Or as I have done, use it as a short term rental on sites like Airbnb or VRBO.
I purchased a rental property that I booked out on these sites and made as much as $8,500 a month! You can learn how to start this side hustle and my tips for success here.
Airbnb does charge host fees, but as you get your business going you can actually learn how be less dependent on Airbnb and start getting your own bookings!
For a long term rental property, the primary work involved will be making repairs to the property and finding tenants. But you can hire people to do both of these things.
With a short term rental property, the amount of maintenance needed will be higher. And you will need a cleaning crew.
You also need to message with guests, however you can hire a property management or vacation rental company that handles everything for you in exchange for a commission. Making this a passive income business that doesn’t require much work from you.
You will need to have 20% down payment in order to purchase a house and get started with a rental property business.
But once you have set things up and hired a property manager there is little work you will have to do to keep earning money from this profitable business!
Related reading: 12 Real Estate Side Hustles
5. Dropshipping and E-Commerce
Dropshipping and e-commerce businesses also fall under the umbrella of self-running businesses.
With a dropshipping business, you partner with a supplier who handles inventory, packaging, and shipping of products directly to your customers.
You will need to focus on marketing and creating an online store to sell products to get started. You can easily set up an online Shopify store and get started. Try this Shopify Launch Checklist to start.
Start an eCommerce Store
Shopify: You can easily and affordably start your own online business!
As an e-commerce business owner, you can automate functions like order processing and customer support, allowing you to focus on marketing and driving sales.
Amazon by Fulfillment is an excellent option of a self running e-Commerce business. You choose products to sell, purchase them and then ship them to Amazon.
Amazon will then manage the inventory and handle the shipping when customers purchase items. Less work for you!
You can learn more about getting started on the official Amazon FBA site.
Another self running business to think about is publishing eBooks. While there is some upfront work involved with creating the eBook, once that is done you can continue to make money for years to come.
You need to write the book, have a cover designed, list the eBook online and promote it to get this business going and successful. Passive income streams like this one will help you build wealth.
Amazon is a great place to sell eBooks, especially if you take advantage of the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.
You can find people to help with creating the cover and the eBook on Fiverr.
- How to Make Money on Fiverr Without Skills
- Shopify vs. WordPress: Which is the Better Selling Platform?
7. Online Courses and Membership Sites
Another profitable online venture is creating and selling digital products like online courses, digital downloads and memberships.
You can create and sell an online course in just about any subject. Whatever your skills and experience are, turn it into a course!
Yoga or fitness, marketing or PR, even crafting is a subject that will work. and help you to generate income.
Once your course is ready, there are several online platforms where you can sell it. For even more revenue, you can create a membership site where subscribers pay monthly fees to see for example your fitness courses.
Paid memberships can work for other resources and content as well, not just educational courses.
Here are some sites where you can sell your course:
Here is a guide on how to make a profitable digital course.
8. Sell Digital Downloads and Printables
You can also benefit from a passive income stream by selling digital products or printables.
Digital products can be anything from planners and calendars, to stationary and artwork or budgeting products.
Sarah Titus made over $52,000 in her first month of selling printables from her Shopify store.
You will need to create the products to start this business, but you can easily pay someone on a site like Fiverr to do the work.
Once you have created the digital product, this business idea will generate a steady income for you for years to come.
And it is an online business that will mostly run itself! You can sell the same digital item over and over again automatically through your online store. It requires minimal time and oversight from you beyond the initial product creation.
9. YouTube and Other Media Channels
If you are an extroverted person that doesn’t mind being in front of a camera you should think about creating a YouTube channel.
You can talk about pretty much anything! Pick something that you have a lot of knowledge or passion about and create helpful videos.
You can do makeup tutorials, marketing tips or even movie review. In order to really make money you will need to have a lot of traffic and subscribers which may take some time.
You can monetize your channel with ads, sponsorships, and merchandise to generate revenue.
Additionally, you can diversify your media presence by exploring podcasting or live streaming.
This actually isn’t however exactly a passive income stream since you will need to create videos for your YouTube channel and talk to your subscribers. But, if this is something you enjoy it might be the right fit for you.
Related reading: 27 Side Hustles for Women
10. App Development
Developing mobile apps can be a lucrative business if you have programming skills or can collaborate with developers.
Figure out a problem or need that your app can solve for people, then design and develop a user-friendly app.
Once your app is launched, you can monetize it with in-app purchases, subscriptions, or ads if it is a free app.
Or you can make money by providing the app for a purchase price.
With the rise of eCommerce, print-on-demand has become a popular online business model. Print-on-demand services allow you to sell custom-designed products without handling inventory or shipping.
You will just need to partner with a reliable online printing service like Printify to handle the production and shipping of your products.
This small business idea doesn’t require a ton of capital investment to get started either. And you can generate money for minimal involvement once things get set up.
Related reading: How to Double $10K Quickly
12. ATM MAchines
Another business similar to vending machines is owning ATMs. As you know, people use an ATM to take out cash, and there is always a fee for it.
You are the one who makes money from that fee if you own an ATM. You can place them in high traffic locations. Or, maybe in a location where people might need cash but there bank isn’t close by.
The only work you have to do is keep them stocked with cash which you can easily pay someone else to do for you.
Here is a helpful guide on how to get starting with an ATM business.
13. Storage Facility
Another low maintenance business is owning a self storage facility. The best thing about this type of business is there is no need for a person to be at the location!
Everything is self serve. People can reserve and pay for their space online and then get into the facility with a passcode.
The downside to this business however is it will take some serious start up capital to buy. But, you can consider buying into one as a partner in a real estate syndication deal.
Self storage facilities have very high success rates and a good ROI.
14. Amazon by Fulfillment
Another low key and self running business is Amazon FBS which is essential a type of drop shipping business.
You purchase products to sell but ship the inventory to Amazon who handles a lot of the work for you.
They take care of the inventory management and shipping, so you can stay somewhat hands off.
But you get to take advantage of Amazon’s huge marketplace of potential buyers.
A 2019 Statista report reveals that almost 150.6 million people used the Amazon app in one month. That is a lot of potential customers!
How to start an Amazon FBA business
- Choose a product to sell and source it from a wholesale company.
- Start an Amazon seller’s account and then sign up for the Fulfillment by Amazon program.
- List the products you want to sell through your seller account.
- Set the prices of the products and ship them all to Amazon at one time.
- Amazon will pack and ship each item as well as collect payment whenever someone buys something.
Here is Amazon’s official site for the program for more information on getting started.
15. Truck REntals
Not the most well-known business out there, but a lucrative and low maintenance one! You can buy trucks of pretty much any size and rent them out
Pick ups, small box trucks, vans or even a semi. Coop.com is a site where trucks can be rented for some serious cash.
You can start with one truck and keep adding until you have a fleet of money making vehicles!
Check out this article on how to rent out a truck for profit.
Tips for Creating a Self-Sustaining Business
Here are some tips to think about when choosing and starting a business that runs itself.
Choosing the Right Niche
To successfully automate your business, you should start by picking the right niche. Your niche should have consistent demand, minimal competition, and the ability to scale.
Focus on industries with repeat customers and high-profit margins, as they provide stability and longevity.
Research market trends thoroughly and adopt a data-driven approach when selecting your niche.
You should also think about what you will like the most. And of course, you can start more than one! Just preferably not at the same time.
Investment and Financial Planning
Smart financial planning is important for starting an automated, passive income business.
Figure out in advance how much investment you will need for system development, technology investments, and process automation.
Consider working with financial advisors who can help you in drafting a solid business plan to secure your business’s financial future.
Efficient Processes and Systems
A well-designed and efficient system is key to running a self-sustaining business.
Work on establishing standardized protocols and automating repetitive tasks to minimize manual intervention. Figure out in advance how to automate the day to day operations of your business.
Use tools like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems to streamline your business operations.
Regular evaluations and improvements in your systems are important to maintain efficiency and productivity.
Using these systems and automations will help your business get on autopilot and minimize the time required from you.
This state of “autopilot” might involve:
- Regularly reviewing and adjusting your systems to keep them up to date and ensure the best performance.
- Ensuring you have a reliable team that can operate independently.
- Establishing clear communication channels to maintain control and make informed decisions when required.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are examples of low-maintenance businesses?
Low-maintenance businesses typically require little time and effort from the owner once they’re operational.
Examples include vending machines, laundromats, and self-storage facilities. These businesses usually involve automated processes or low staff requirements, making them easy to manage.
What are Some online Businesses that Run Themselves?
Online businesses that don’t require as much oversight include selling eBooks, digital products or online courses.
Drop shipping and eCommerce businesses can also be set up to require minimal oversight.
Which franchises operate with minimal oversight?
Franchises that operate with minimal oversight are those where the franchisor provides a proven system and extensive support.
Examples include Subway, Anytime Fitness, and The UPS Store. As a franchisee, your role is to implement their system, and the franchisor typically takes care of marketing, training, and ongoing support.
By contrast Chik-Fil-A requires that owners are on-site and working with the business at least 40 hours per week so it would not be a self running franchise business.
Which businesses are in high demand and require less management?
High demand businesses that require less management often cater to essential needs and have systems in place to streamline operations.
Examples include fast-food restaurants, online retail stores, and home cleaning services. By using technology and efficient processes, these businesses can be managed with relatively low involvement from the owner.
What Are The Best Hands Off Businesses?
The best self-sustaining and hands off business ideas are those that generate consistent revenue with minimal intervention. Usually something with a passive income stream.
The best businesses like this are rental properties, e-Commerce sites, selling digital products and car washes or vending machine businesses.
How to create a hands-off business?
Creating a hands-off business involves several key steps:
- Choose a business model with minimal ongoing management requirements, such as e-commerce or subscription-based services.
- Develop a detailed business plan, including strategies to automate, outsource, or delegate tasks.
- Identify the necessary infrastructure, technology, and tools to get and keep your business running on auto-pilot.
- Hire competent and trustworthy employees, if necessary, to handle day-to-day tasks.
- Monitor performance and adapt your strategies as necessary to maintain efficiency and profitability.
There are plenty of ways that you can find to generate revenue and build wealth that don’t require tons of your time.
Choose a business that can be automated and that once set up will generate passive income for you for years to come.
You can have work-life balance and wealth at the same time! Just research the options, create a business plan and get started today.
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