The fastest-growing small businesses of 2024

Next Insurance compiled a list of the fastest-growing industries to explore for career opportunities using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and research firms.

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From developing our next must-have tech innovations to generating sustainable energy and treating health conditions, there are many profitable opportunities for the self-employed.

This is good news for entrepreneurs looking to start a new business or expand their products and services. Entering entrepreneurship has become easier due to technological advancements, online resources and the gig economy.

In particular, the gig economy offers flexible work options, allowing individuals to pursue self-employment on their own terms. More companies are open to employing self-employed individuals and independent contractors to fill employment and skill gaps.

To compile this list of fast-growing industries to explore for small business opportunities, Next Insurance analyzed the Fastest Growing Occupations rankings from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as well as national news headlines, cultural trends and data from respected research firms. Finally, the analysis applied a small business perspective: Is there opportunity for an individual to become self-employed doing this work? The resulting list is not exhaustive or ranked in any order.

Trade small businesses

Wind turbine technicians / windtech

The transition to cleaner, renewable energy is gaining momentum, with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasting that wind and solar energy will lead to growth in U.S. power generation in the next two years. This tracks with wind turbine technician taking the #1 spot on the BLS' list of fastest-growing jobs, which has a growth rate of 45% from 2022-2032 (much faster than average).

While most techs are employees of energy companies, there is certainly the opportunity to run your own self-employed windtech business and get hired independently. Most wind techs attend technical schools or community colleges to obtain a certification or associate's degree in their field. They will typically receive on-the-job training.

Wind techs must be comfortable working at heights to maintain or repair turbines. (Tower ladders are usually at least 200 feet high.)

Solar panel installers

Like wind techs, solar panel installers are in demand. Installers assemble, set up and maintain solar-electricity systems that convert sunlight into energy. Employment of solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow 22% through 2032, according to the BLS.

Electricians, roofers or other contractors can transition into this career path with minimal training. Entry into the field usually requires a high school diploma, and most installers train on the job with experienced professionals.

Residential remodeling

Rising mortgage interest rates have impacted the housing market and reduced housing demand. As a result, homeowners have moved to an "improve in place" mentality.

According to the home remodeling and design website Houzz, the most popular remodels are bathrooms and kitchens, and 91% of homeowners plan to hire at least one professional, including general contractors, electricians and cabinetmakers, to help them execute their vision. Thus, the time may be ripe to start a home improvement business.

Health-related small businesses

Nurse practitioners

While most nurse practitioners are employed privately or through public hospitals, there is a growing trend of facilities hiring nurses as independent contractors on gig platforms to address worker shortages. The BLS projects overall employment of nurse practitioners to grow 38% through 2032, much faster than the average.

While not as easy to get into as other occupations on this list — usually, a master's degree, plus certifications and licensing, is required — gig nursing is a growing option for existing nurses looking to have more freedom and flexibility in their work. While each state will have its own regulations for practicing, there are more self-employed opportunities available today for full-time and part-time work than ever.

Home healthcare workers

According to BLS data, the number of home healthcare workers is projected to grow by almost 22% through 2032. In-home caregivers who assist the elderly population and patients with disabilities or chronic illnesses can expect to earn a comfortable wage without a huge investment in formal education.

Most states require a high school diploma or equivalent to start. Other state requirements for home health aides and personal care assistants vary. Some states may require aides to have a license or certification, which can involve completing training and passing a background check and a competency exam.

Service-based small businesses

Anything wedding-industry related

According to the National Diamond Syndicate, 2024 is expected to mark a rebound in wedding proposals post-pandemic lockdown, with an estimated 2.4 to 2.5 million engagements in the United States. Signet, one of the largest diamond retailers in the world, notes that couples get engaged about 3.25 years after they begin dating, so the COVID-19 disruption resulted in the number of engagements thinning out at 2.1 to 2.2 million in 2023.

This presents numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs in fields like bridal styling, wedding planning, DJ services, catering and more. If you have considered starting a business in the wedding and wedding events industry, this could be a promising year to pursue your aspirations.

Massage therapists

With no advanced degrees required and a median annual wage of $55,000, becoming a massage therapist has a low barrier to entry for health-focused entrepreneurs. Even better: The BLS projects job growth for massage therapists to increase by 18% through 2032.

Not just perceived as a way to relieve stress anymore, massage therapy has become a popular treatment for managing pain and recovering from sports injuries. Demand for massage therapists is expected to increase as more people become interested in maintaining their health and well-being.

Pet care and animal trainers

Pet care of almost every kind is on the rise. 66% of households have at least one pet, according to Forbes Advisor. In 2023, people spent $147 billion on pets, a figure that has been growing since 2018.

This interest and demand in animal services are reflected in job growth. The BLS projects job growth for animal care and service workers to increase by 16% through 2032, much faster than average across job categories.

With a high school diploma, some vocational training and, in some cases, certifications and licensing, opportunities in pet boarding, dog walking, animal grooming or pet training abound.

Veterinarian

Speaking of furry friends, veterinarians are in high demand, and the field of veterinary medicine is experiencing fast growth — 20% through 2032. With more people considering their pets as integral members of their families (97% of owners!), interest in their pets' health and wellness has increased.

As a result, starting a small business as a veterinarian or opening a veterinary clinic can be a promising venture, offering opportunities for growth and success. However, entry barriers are quite high. Veterinarians must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and get licensed in order to practice.

Technology small businesses

E-commerce businesses

The convenience and accessibility of online shopping have led to a shift in consumer behavior, with more people preferring to shop online for familiar products and services. According to a McKinsey & Co. business buyer survey, 75% of respondents foresee online business playing a significantly larger role in their overall strategy, highlighting the increasing importance of e-commerce platforms.

With e-commerce in place to capture 41% of global retail sales by 2027 (up from 18% in 2017), it's become more enticing and easier than ever to start an online retail business, spurred by various e-comm platforms, payment systems and digital marketing tools. With minimal upfront costs and the ability to reach a global customer base, e-commerce provides a level playing field for small businesses to compete with larger established brands.

Anything artificial intelligence-related

Artificial Intelligence (AI) made headlines in 2023 with the generative AI chatbot ChatGPT garnering 1 million users within the first five days of its release. The tool's capabilities gave the general public another glimpse at AI's potential to shape the future.

While many fear AI will displace workers and cause job loss, the World Economic Forum estimates AI will create around 97 million new jobs. Forrester's findings also confirm that the percentage of jobs influenced by generative AI will outpace the jobs eliminated.

If you have AI-related skills (or wish to develop some), the moment could be suitable to become a solopreneur consultant, freelance research scientist or AI engineer, offering your knowledge to companies hungry to improve their products and operations. According to an Indeed report, generative AI-related job posts have increased on its platform by nearly 250% from July 2021 to July 2023, making it a hot opportunity for freelancers.

Software developer

While there are concerns that generative AI will replace the need for developers, that won't happen any time soon. Despite headlines of tech layoffs at big companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon, the demand for developers hasn't dwindled.

Outside of tech, many industries, from finance to healthcare to insurance, need developers. The BLS forecasts this occupation to grow 26% through 2032. It's also a well-established occupation for self-employed individuals to work as independent contractors.

Typically, developers need to obtain a bachelor's degree in computer or information technology. However, some developers are self-taught or attend specialized training programs to learn skills. Software developers also gain skills through experience on the job and continued training.

Cybersecurity professionals

Cyberattacks are proliferating and leaving a $2 trillion business opportunity for technology and service providers in their wake, according to McKinsey & Co.

Additionally, the McKinsey study states that chief information security officers worldwide struggle to find enough talent to fully staff their organizations. "A global cybersecurity talent shortage means that IT leaders often have little choice but to do business with third-party service partners."

If you have some experience working in-house on a security team, the time could be ripe to transition into a freelance security analyst or IT consultant. While starting a gig business straight out of school may be possible, most clients will want a proven track record. Contractors in this field may find more success after gaining real-world experience and training before going solo.

This story was produced by Next Insurance and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.






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