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10 Business Ideas to Start in a Recession

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If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you’re not a fan of recessions. Unfortunately, they’re an unavoidable part of the business cycle. That doesn’t mean they have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, some of the most successful businesses were started during economic downturns. So if you’ve been thinking about starting a business, a recession may not be a bad time to do it.

Of course, not just any business will do. You’ll want to choose an idea that is both recession-proof and has the potential to thrive in the long-term. With that in mind, here are 10 business ideas to get you started.

1. Arbitrage Selling

Arbitrage selling is the process of buying low and selling high. It’s a great way to make money in a recession—or any other time, for that matter. It takes advantage of price discrepancies in the market. For example, you may be able to buy a product from Manufacturer A for $10 and then sell it to Customer B for $20. If you can do this enough times, you’ll soon be raking in the profits. There are many opportunities for arbitrage selling by finding products for sale by wholesalers and discounters and buying in bulk, then listing the products for sale on platforms like Amazon or Ebay. I even know one arbitrage seller that buys products in bulk from stores like Dollar General and then sells them on Ebay.

2. eCommerce

Thanks to the internet, anyone can start an online store and reach a global audience with ease. If you’re looking for a recession-proof business idea, eCommerce is it. What’s more, it’s easier than ever to set up shop thanks to platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce. You’ll need to put in some initial work to get things up and running—but once you do, you’ll be able to run your business from anywhere in the world as a digital nomad.  There are many ways to go about setting up your own eCommerce store.  I have seen huge success from clients creating their own brand and outsourcing manufacturing then selling on Shopify, Amazon or Walmart Online.  I have also seen others who create entire eCommerce stores using arbitrage selling mentioned above.

3. Phone Flipping

This idea to start a business is exactly what it sounds like: buying used phones and flipping them for a profit. To get started, all you need is a phone and some basic knowledge about how to refurbish it (or the willingness to learn). Once you’ve got that down, find some bargain phones online and get flipping!

Used phones are in high demand—especially if they’re refurbished well— so this is a great way to make money in a recession. Plus, it’s a low-investment business idea that can be done entirely from home. At first, this idea seemed silly to me, but then I met a couple of entrepreneurs doing this and they were both making $5000 per week or more consistently.

4. Exercise Equipment Flipping

Similar to phone flipping, you can start a business with exercise equipment flipping. This involves buying used fitness equipment and selling it for a profit. The great thing about this business idea is that there’s always someone who is looking to buy workout gear on the cheap—whether they’re trying to save money or don’t have space for bulky equipment in their home gym. There is also no shortage of people who buy exercise equipment in January as part of their New Year’s resolutions, but never keep the habit and later need to sell that exercise equipment that takes up space in their garage. If you’re handy with tools and have an eye for detail, give exercise equipment flipping a try!

5. Website Building

If you’re creative and technology-savvy and have experience with web design, website building could be the perfect business idea for you. In today’s digital world, every businesses needs an outstanding website—and they’re willing to pay top dollar for it too. This makes website building a great way to make money in a recession (or any other time). What’s more, as long as you have a laptop and an internet connection, you can do this job from anywhere in the world. So if your dream is to become a digital nomad or work from home, this could be the perfect opportunity!

6. Software Development

Another great business idea for those with tech skills is software development. If you have experience developing software, then you could start your own software development company or offer your services as a freelancer or digital nomad. This is a great way to make money during a recession because businesses still need software developed – even when the economy isn’t doing so well. I have 2 clients that work as fractional CTO’s and only take on 2-5 clients at a time.  They get paid 5 figure monthly retainers and in many cases they are offered stock options in the startups where they consult.

7. Social Media Marketing Agency

A social media marketing agency is another great option for someone with tech skills. With this type of business, you would help businesses manage their social media accounts. It can involve everything from posting content to replying to comments and messages. This is a great way to make money during a recession because businesses still need to market themselves – even when times are tough. And since social media marketing can be done from anywhere, this is also a great option for someone who wants to work from home or as a digital nomad.

8. Google Ads Agency

Google Ads is one of the most popular forms of online advertising. It’s impossible to ignore nowadays if you want to attract more clients to your business.  Google even offers a certification program where you can study how to setup and manage Google Ads for yourself and your clients. At the end of the program you get a certificate of completion, all for free.

I don’t know a single entrepreneur now that isn’t running Google Ads for their business. In all but the very smallest of businesses, they have a Google Ads Agency, employees or freelancers managing their Google Ads account.  I have clients running Google Ads Agencies in all forms.  Some created very narrow niche agencies working with only clients in such industries as Lawn Care, Construction, SaaS, eCommerce and more.  The best part is you can easily run this business from home or as a digital nomad.

9. Flipping Cars

If you’re looking for a slightly more hands-on business idea, flipping cars is an excellent option. While flipping cars is not the best option for someone interested in being a digital nomad, it is ideal for someone who is mechanically inclined, likes cars, has some tools, and enough parking to accommodate an extra car or two.  Oftentimes people need to sell their car quickly and don’t have time to deal with showing their car multiple times so they are willing to accept a low price to get rid of it quickly.

This is where a savvy entrepreneur can step in with his business of flipping cars.  You can offer a low cash price to buy now, take the car home, make some small repairs and improve the cosmetics, and take a bit of time to find the right buyer at the right price. One client of mine does this with cars and motorcycles and he has a clear system.  He contacts sellers he finds on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or local ads who are offering cars or motorcycles for sale that fit his criteria, then lowballs them, sight unseen. Normally he gets 1-2 out of 10 that accept his lowball offer, but his just plays the numbers game. He typically sells 1-2 vehicles per week and makes around $2000-4000 per motorcycle and $4000-8000 per car.

10. Drop Shipping Business

Drop shipping is another great opportunity for those who want to run their own business with little upfront investment. If you aren’t familiar with drop shipping business, it is pretty simple. You find products you want to sell.  That can be products you are interested in personally, or it could be anything that has a good profit margin.  I’ve seen my clients do this both ways.

Once you identify your products, you find manufacturers or wholesalers who are willing to fulfill your  order for you.  Then you create a website selling these products. You will create an order fulfillment process that automatically sends the orders to your wholesaler or manufacturer so they can process the order and shipment.  Your primary role would be marketing and customer service.  You may also want to hire one of the social media managers or Google Ads managers mentioned about to help drive traffic to your site.


These are just 10 of the many different types of businesses that you can start during a recession. When choosing an idea, it’s important is that you choose something that speaks to your interests and strengths—that way you can weather any storm (economic or otherwise) while still enjoying what you do!

About Author

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Rick Mak

Rick Mak is a 30-year veteran businessman, having started, bought, and/or sold more than a dozen companies. He has bachelor's degrees in International Business, Finance, and Economics, with masters in both Entrepreneurship and International Law. He has spoken at hundreds of conferences around the world during his career on entrepreneurship, international tax law, asset protection, and company structure. Business Anywhere Editorial Guidelines

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