The emerging world of work flexibility is great news for workers, yes, but also for entrepreneurs and customers. If you’re considering mobile business ideas, then you’re already well aware that this changing landscape has opened up opportunities for a whole new slate of companies to serve customers on-demand. Businesses that go to a customer can be extra convenient for those who want to spend money—and mobile business owners can charge a premium for services delivered to a client’s door.
In many cases, you can take a current business or area of expertise and put it on wheels for a strong new mobile business idea. Others are a little more tailored to the fact that they’re on-the-go enterprises. Really, it just matters what kind of mobile business you want to build.
We’ll review some mobile business ideas with the potential to make money for you. You’ll figure out how to start a business that’s mobile, as well as some of the basics of getting a mobile business off the ground. That includes drawing up your plans, financing your business, and more.
Starting a mobile business
Starting a mobile business is more than just picking your favorite mobile business idea. You have to treat your mobile business like any other company you might start, which includes giving it a strong foundation with a solid business plan, and making sure the idea has legs so you can successfully generate a business model.
So, as you’re reviewing mobile business ideas, remember to think past the initial concept and consider it as a real operation. What are services your community needs? What skills and resources do you have right now that can help take you to the next level? You’re going to have to grow your mobile business just like any other!
The benefits of a mobile business
Flexibility is a huge perk for a mobile business: By its nature, a mobile business is a flexible work arrangement, allowing its owners to set unconventional own hours, work in a variety of places, and more. But, beyond that, strong mobile businesses can bring your much-needed services directly to customers who want what you have to offer. In other words, the fact that you’re on wheels may actually be the difference as to why a customer chooses you over a brick-and-mortar competitor.
For instance, say you offer wedding-prep services via a mobile van. In the haste and hustle of a wedding day, clients may choose you—and even be willing to pay a premium—because you can travel directly to their hotel, venue, photo location, and more.
17 lucrative mobile business ideas
We’ll review some mobile business ideas that already have proved they can work in practice. Remember, though, to use these ideas as a jumping-off point—these certainly aren’t the only types of companies and services that can travel!
Hair and makeup services
As we mentioned before, the wedding market is a big one—and people are willing to pay for great services that are extra convenient during a busy day. Among the services wedding parties often demand are hair and makeup, which provides an excellent mobile business idea: Unlike running a traditional salon, you can take your styling van or trailer directly to your clients. Of course, weddings aren’t the only occasions for which people need glamour teams—there are lots of special occasions, and just regular ones, too—but they can be a great initial identified market to try to target.
It can be tough for some pet owners to corral their pets into the car and get them to the groomer to be washed, dried, and fluffed. That means that people who’d otherwise be spending on their pets aren’t seeking out services. As a mobile pet groomer, you can provide an on-demand, on-location service to pet owners by creating a mobile salon in a van or trailer. Making sure you cater to cats as well as dogs will expand your market—more than one-quarter of U.S. households have cats.
There are plenty of brick-and-mortar tech repair shops, but often, people find it difficult to make an appointment that’s convenient for them—after all, tech help is usually needed in times of emergency. A tech help vehicle can be a huge boon to both business owners and private individuals who need specialized help—data recovery, screen repair, wireless troubleshooting, and more—where they are and as fast as they can. If you’re able to specialize in heavier tech equipment, such as servers, you could also expand your market, since the only way to repair such large equipment is on-site.
Handyman and other specialty repairs
If something goes wrong with your house, you can’t take it with you to a repair shop, of course—you have to call help. That’s why setting up a mobile handyman or other specialty repair business could be lucrative if you’re good with tools. If you’re able to make emergency repairs during odd hours—kind of like how you can call a locksmith 24 hours a day—then you may be able to both charge a premium for your services as well as cater to a larger clientele.
House cleaning or other specialty cleaning
Much like repairs, cleaning services often need to go to the places where the tasks are. You could start a house cleaning service to offer a top-to-bottom clean of a customer’s home. But you may want to think even more specifically, too: You could also focus on certain types of cleaning, such as carpet cleaning or silver polishing, which require a little more specialized skill but may have limited competition among cleaning services.
Food trucks aren’t a new idea, but they’re a stalwart for a reason. There are many opportunities for food-loving entrepreneurs to create beloved ventures for food-loving customers. To make your mobile restaurant stand out, consider doing some market research to figure out where existing food trucks aren’t doing a good job of serving customers—maybe that’s with a certain cuisine or for a certain diet, for instance.
Coffee, smoothie, or other specialty cart
If a truck is too big of a mobile business idea, consider a cart-based business instead. You don’t have to think of a food cart as a lesser version of a food truck. Rather, what you make may not require a whole truck setup: There’s a lot of demand for specialty foods that don’t take up much space, such as high-end coffee, vegan ice cream, smoothies, or something else. It could be fun to hang out with your cart on a busy boardwalk on a nice day, but also consider that these kinds of businesses can be great for corporate events, parties, and more.
A traveling bar may sound silly at first blush, but if your city’s bar scene is either lackluster or bursting at the seams, there may be plenty of room for you to pursue this mobile business idea. Consider opening up a bar with some salon seating that people can come into for a drink with friends or colleagues. You can park at local spots that you know people love to sit and enjoy that may not have good options for socialization (like a beach or boardwalk), and, with good marketing, you can encourage customers to come follow you around wherever you roam. Just don’t forget to check out the permitting for your state’s liquor license!
Cloth diaper service
As consumers become increasingly eco-conscious, cloth diapers are emerging as a sustainable alternative to disposable diapers. But cloth diapers can be—no pun intended—a pain in the butt to clean and must be laundered often. Consider creating a cloth diaper service that picks up cloth diapers for cleaning, and delivers batches of laundered diapers at the same time. You may even want to advertise yourself as a baby registry gift, so expecting parents can have their friends and family purchase vouchers for your services.
If you love the idea of catering to parents, but can’t see diapers in your perfect mobile business idea, you may want to start a doula service. Becoming a doula requires certification and training, but you’ll be able to serve clients in their home and help them on their journeys to becoming parents. You may even be able to team up with other doulas to create a larger, more comprehensive resource for parents that still comes to them both before and after birth.
In-home care service
There’s never a lack of need for health professionals with a caring side. If this sounds like you, you may want to set up a care service, which could offer things such as elder care, emergency care, and infant care. Depending on your certifications, you may be able to separate yourself from the competition by offering not just in-home care, but medical attention, too.
Children’s play tank
Busy parents can often use a break from their children, whether that’s to get work done or simply decompress. If you’re creative and love kids, you may want to get a van or trailer filled with fun, stimulating activities in which you can entertain children for an hour at a time. Projects like Mobile Mommies have found their niche offering specialized childcare for parents on-the-go at special events.
Personal assistant service
Many people want more time in the day. You won’t be able to provide them that, but you can create a personal assistant service that takes care of tasks that are eating up their time. That can be something as simple as picking up their dry cleaning, or more complex like shopping for gifts. It’s up to you to determine what kinds of services you offer, and the clientele to whom you’ll market yourself. But consider getting a sense of what tasks potential customers wish they could outsource before making your menu.
Organizing isn’t just a question of Marie Kondo-ing someone’s home: It’s helping them get in better mental shape, too. You can bring your mobile organizing services to clients’ homes who need help with a top-to-bottom reorg, or simply help get them get a handle on specific rooms. You may also want to see if you can team up with a moving company to help those who’ve just bought new homes to make sure that they step into their new houses as the most organized versions of themselves that they can be.
Specialty clothing shop
If you have a tasteful eye, you may want to think about opening up a mobile specialty clothing shop. Picture it: a chicly outfitted trailer with well-curated wares. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find a recurring place to park your vehicle where customers can expect you—like a craft market, for instance. But you may also want to embrace the fact that you’re on wheels and travel a bit to be able to expose lots of different audiences to what you have to offer.
Tutoring or education service
Creating an onsite tutoring or educational service can be extremely helpful for students who need extra help in certain areas during the school year, but particularly around test time. One important thing to note about this type of business is that it’s relatively seasonal with the school year, so if you’re considering this mobile business idea, then you may want to also create a summer-specific service that can help round out your offerings.
Specialty fitness service
In an era of so much on-demand fitness via streamed classes, why not create an equivalency in person? The market for personal trainers is growing, after all. If you’re a certified personal trainer, or can teach certain types of classes such as yoga or barre, consider setting up a mobile fitness business. You can either cater to private clients who want extra attention or even market yourself to workplaces as a teacher who can come in and lead stress-relieving classes. Don’t forget the mats!
Mobile business ideas: Next steps
Hopefully, something from this list has piqued your interest. If you’re ready to go ahead with one of these mobile business ideas, or another you’ve been thinking about for a while, you have a few next steps to take.
We’ve said it before, but it’s important to say it again: Just because your business is on-the-go doesn’t mean that you can skip key steps to getting your business off the ground. In fact, your business plan may be a little more complex, since you’ll have to take into account the unusual circumstances of not being in the same location all the time.
1. Make a business plan
First, like any other business, you’ll want to write a business plan. Your business plan will help you understand where you fit into the market, how you’re going to make money, how you’re going to price your product or service, who your team is, and what kind of problem your business is solving.
A business plan isn’t just a perfunctory document; for instance, if you go on to apply for major business financing like SBA loans, lenders may require you to provide your business plan for loan approval.
2. Create a marketing strategy
Sometimes, business owners think that marketing is a secondary concern, but many businesses fail as a result of poor—or no—marketing. This should especially be a consideration for you as a mobile business owner since people won’t be able to easily find your business at a consistent address, or walk by it on their commute every day.
As you plan your small business marketing strategy, ask yourself a few big questions:
Where will you find your customers?
How will you position yourself to stand out?
How will you let customers know where you are at a given moment?
What kind of customers are you targeting?
What kind of messaging will you use to communicate the need you’re filling?
How will you pay for your marketing efforts?
3. Figure out financing
Starting a business is generally a capital-intensive process, but can be especially expensive for mobile businesses that need to create a physical footprint and get gear. Think about how much money you’ll need to invest in your business, and where you’re going to pursue that capital—whether from investors or lenders.
Many small business owners begin with a business credit card for foundational expenses, especially since securing funding as a startup isn’t always easy. You may be able to put initial startup costs on a business credit card, and then build up your financial profile to get hold of a more substantial business loan, like a business line of credit, equipment financing, or even an SBA microloan. Some lenders will work with businesses as young as six months.
The bottom line
If you’re a determined entrepreneur, you’ll find the right mobile business idea to pursue. Make sure you do your homework to identify a need in your community for your specific business idea, and then continue the legwork to develop the business correctly. It’ll be a lot to take on, but the result will be incredibly rewarding—especially as you see people lining up outside your car, truck, van, cart, or trailer waiting for you.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.