How Much Does It Cost to Start a Business? (2023)

Knowing how much it will cost to start your business is a crucial step to getting it off the ground. You can operate a website for less than $100 a month, while operating a restaurant is more likely to cost at least $10,000 a month. We've written out the complete guide on the major costs that a startup will face. We've structured a framework that any startup can use to note their biggest startup costs no matter what type of business they're launching.

  • The Biggest Expenses Your Startup Will First Run Into
  • Getting Help

The Biggest Expenses Your Startup Will First Run Into

While we may not be able to fully predict the exact startup costs your business will run into, we can break down the typical major costs that a business will face when starting up. Whether you'd like to open a bakery or start an e-commerce from the comfort of your home, all of the following are important to plan for.

Office Space

Unless you're operating out of your home, the biggest initial expense is typically office space. The cost for your office space is also the most variable, as there is a wide range of prices depending on the size of the office or space you're looking for. Before diving into the details of the cost per square foot, be aware that there are multiple costs associated with leasing a commercial space. Unless you opt for a coworking space, most commercial real estate also requires you to sign a five- to 10-year lease. Below are some of the major costs that come with traditional leasing:

  • Utilities and maintenance
  • Significant upfront down payments
  • Building maintenance
  • Taxes
  • Furniture, equipment and renovations
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Because of the high fees and costs associated with leasing a space, many startups consider coworking spaces instead. Coworking allows for different companies and startups to work in the same space. In return, you'll usually pay a membership fee of around $190 per person per month, and different tiers of memberships grant different benefits. A lot of startups are immediately attracted to coworking spaces since they provide much cheaper alternatives for the simple trade-off of sharing a space with other businesses. However, coworking spaces tend to make less financial sense as a business grows, more employees are hired and membership costs skyrocket. After a certain point, leasing an office will make more sense. That breakeven point will vary largely depending on your location, the number of employees you have and the cost of your membership fees compared to an office lease.

On average, it costs roughly $34 per square foot to rent an office space in the U.S. That number greatly increases in hot cities for startups. In the most major cities, costs can greatly fluctuate between submarkets.

City

Average cost per square foot

San Francisco$66.87
New York City$83
Austin$46.15
Atlanta$28.37
Denver$26.83

Registering an Official Business

When starting a business, you'll need to obtain all of the necessary licenses and permits. This can range from a generic business operating license to an industry-specific license, depending on what your business actually is. You'll need to research the requirements of your own business but you can usually, to pay $100 in total license and permit fees if you don't hire a lawyer.

On top of industry-specific registrations and permits, you'll also need to submit filings depending on the type of business you'd like to operate. Your business can operate as a sole proprietorship, general partnership, LLC and more, but there are registration details to pay attention to for each option. For instance, if you'd like to operate as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you'll need to conduct business only using your personal legal name. If you'd like to use any other name for your business, you'll either need to file a DBA or register as a different business like an LLC. Be sure to follow local regulations at either the county or state level, as rules can differ.

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Employees

When you first consider bringing on an employee, keep in mind that there's a lot more to paying an employee their salary. You'll also have to account for their benefits, employment taxes, applicable recruiting expenses and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that benefits alone make up 31.8% of the cost of an employee on average.

We can't tell you exactly how much you should be paying your employees because that will depend on the location, market and the employee's skill level. But here's a list of average weekly salaries across each state in the U.S. that should help give you an idea as to how expensive an employee truly is week over week.

State

Average weekly wage as of Q1 2019

U.S.$1,152
Alabama$919
Alaska$1,074
Arizona$1,025
Arkansas$879
California$1,352
Colorado$1,175
Connecticut$1,447
Delaware$1,202
District of Columbia$1,917
Florida$988
Georgia$1,095

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Inventory and Supplies

If you're planning on selling goods with your startup, you'll have to also estimate the costs required to first invest in your inventory. While we don't have an exact number for you to aim for, we recommend you work backward here. What's the target revenue goal you'd like to hit within the first few weeks or months of opening? From there, carefully consider pricing, the kind of product you'd like to sell and how many of each product you think you can sell given your specific sales strategy. All of this should be documented in your business plan.

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Taxes

Since the majority of small businesses are either sole proprietorships or general partnerships, most small businesses don't pay actual business taxes. Instead, the owners pay taxes on their businesses through their personal taxes. In other words, the revenue of the small business looks like personal income to the IRS and is taxed at the personal income rate.

If your business is indeed a corporation, your business will be taxed at both the federal and state level. The average corporate income tax rate is roughly 25.7%.

We don't recommend calculating taxes on your own, as business taxes can get quite complex. Work with a reputable CPA to make sure you comply with all necessary tax rules.

Business Insurance

Insureon, an insurance provider, analyzed data from more than 18,000 policies and found that the average cost of small-business insurance was roughly $1,281 per year.

The specific type of insurance you buy will depend on the specific industry you're operating in, the type of business you're running and what you'd like to insure. However, there are a few insurance policies that almost every business will want, including the following.

  • General liability insurance
  • Property insurance
  • Commercial auto insurance
  • Workers' compensation insurance
  • Cybersecurity insurance
  • Commercial umbrella insurance

Rates will vary depending on your location, carrier and risk profile. You'll need to contact different insurers for specific quotes, but insurance shouldn't be anything close to a cost that is going to make or break your business.

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Website

Depending on the exact services you'd like, you can expect to pay anywhere from $4.50 to $38 a month to operate a website.

Operating without some sort of online presence is a risky move for businesses these days. It's arguably even more important for startups, as the web is one of the most effective ways to spread brand awareness. Most businesses choose to build their own websites, and there are plenty of cost-efficient ways to do this.

We'd recommend a general purpose website builder like Squarespace, Wix or Wordpress. They offer a ton of templates and make designing easy. If all you're looking to do is put words online, they also offer free options.

Getting Help Estimating Business Costs

Assessing the effort required to start a business isn't easy, but luckily there are plenty of free resources that can help.

  • Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA): This is the only federal agency tasked with improving the competitiveness of minority-owned businesses.
  • SCORE: SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses grow through education and mentorship.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): SBDCs are located throughout the U.S. and its territories, and they provide assistance to small businesses.

As shown above, there are many costs that go into starting a business. These can be tough to meet alone or with bootstrapped funding. Most startups and small businesses explore external financing in the form of either debt or equity financing. Both options have their pros and cons, but the decision comes down to whether you'd like to pay interest on your loans or give up ownership of your company. There are plenty of options for both startup-specific financing or general small-business financing.

FAQs

How much money does it typically take to start a business? ›

How much does it cost to run a business? According to our research, small business owners spend an average of $40,000 in their first full year of business.

What business can I start with 5000? ›

If you need a little more help brainstorming, here are six businesses you can start for under $5,000.
  • Tutoring or Online Courses. ...
  • Make a product and sell it online. ...
  • Open a consulting business. ...
  • Create an app or game. ...
  • Become a real estate mogul. ...
  • Virtual Assistant.
May 1, 2022

What is the cheapest form of business to start? ›

If you want to start a low-cost business, these 25 ideas will help inspire your entrepreneurial passion.
  1. Content creation. ...
  2. Personal or virtual assistant. ...
  3. Event planning services. ...
  4. Errand/concierge service. ...
  5. Professional reviewer. ...
  6. Social media consultant. ...
  7. Etsy shop. ...
  8. Online courses and tutoring.

How much should I have saved to start a small business? ›

According to the SBA or Small Business Administration, most microbusinesses (with one to three employees) cost approximately $3,000 to start. Additionally, they estimate home-based businesses to cost between $2,000 and $5,000 to start.

Is starting a business worth it? ›

Starting your own business has several financial benefits over working for a wage or salary. First, you're building an enterprise that has the potential for growth – and your wallet grows as your company does. Second, your business itself is a valuable asset. As your business grows, it's worth more and more.

What is the quickest business to start? ›

What are the easiest home businesses to start?
  • Dog Walking.
  • Selling on eBay.
  • House Cleaning.
  • Freelance Writing.
  • Home Tutoring.
  • Social Media Service.
  • House Painting.
  • Yoga Classes.

Can I start a business with 20k? ›

$20,000 is more than enough money to get started and build a legitimate business. Your highest cost will be marketing, but you'll probably want to invest in some type of credentials to present proof you're offering a legitimate service.

Can I start a business with no money? ›

It's absolutely possible to start a business with no money, or at least with so little you'll hardly miss it. If you're ready to apply hard work, ingenuity, and resourcefulness, your business can be up and running in no time.

What business can I start with $1000? ›

In fact, there are business ideas you can start with just $1,000 or less.
...
Here are 35 ideas to consider.
  • Marketing consultancy. ...
  • Writing services. ...
  • Editorial services. ...
  • E-Commerce business. ...
  • Social media management. ...
  • Delivery services. ...
  • Personal training. ...
  • Yoga instructor.
6 days ago

What is the hottest business to start? ›

Here is the list f selected hot business opportunities with good profit potential:
  • Start a Blog. You can choose to start a blog of your own on a niche topic. ...
  • Web Designing. ...
  • Freelance Bookkeeping. ...
  • Graphic Designing Services. ...
  • Freelance Writing. ...
  • Online SEO Consultancy. ...
  • E-commerce Business. ...
  • Smartphone Repair Services.

What percentages of businesses fail? ›

Key findings. 18.4% of private sector businesses in the U.S. fail within the first year. After five years, 49.7% have faltered, while after 10 years, 65.5% of businesses have failed.

What business can I start with $100? ›

Direct sales representative. Being a local sales representative for companies like Avon, Mary Kay, and Pampered Chef requires you to spread the word about their products by hosting a party or selling them online. Most starter kits cost around $100 and provide you with everything you need to become a sales rep.

Is 20000 enough to start a business? ›

$20,000 is more than enough money to get started and build a legitimate business. Your highest cost will be marketing, but you'll probably want to invest in some type of credentials to present proof you're offering a legitimate service.

Do you need a lot of money to start a business? ›

Yes, it's possible to launch a business without any money at all. Assuming you have marketable skills and already own some equipment, you should be able to start generating an income.

What is the cost of running a business called? ›

Overhead costs, often referred to as overhead or operating expenses, refer to those expenses associated with running a business that can't be linked to creating or producing a product or service. They are the expenses the business incurs to stay in business, regardless of its success level.

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