How can you start a business with no money?
The “secret” is to get creative and be determined. Contrary to the cliché, it doesn’t always “take money to make money.” There are plenty of business owners who started their businesses with little or no cash. Here are 17 strategies that work to start a business without capital.
1. Recognize and Use the Assets You Do Have
If you’re reading this web page, chances are you have little or no cash to invest in a business. But you do have assets and abilities that you can use to get a business started. Using those skills and assets – in other words, using what you already have – is the key to getting a business started when you have little or no money.
Begin by making a list of things you already know how to do, are good at doing and like doing. Don’t limit this initial list. List even the simplest tasks like walking the dog or organizing closets, as well as more difficult or skilled things like analyzing financial data or creating software. Consider what types of business you could start using these skills and abilities.
Next, think about the physical things and money you do have that could be used in a business. For instance, if you are reading this page on a computer or mobile device that you own, you already have a piece of equipment that you can use to get your business started.
You can use your word processor (or other software if you have it) to write up promotional materials and distribute them by email to people who want information about your services. If you have an inkjet or laser printer, you can print some of your initial promotional materials in very small quantities. (When you know what works and want to print, say 100 copies, it may be cheaper to have a local UPS or Staples or an online printer run them off for you.)
Your smartphone can be used to create snapshots or videos to publicize your business to people you know on Instagram or other social media platforms.
If you own a vehicle, that’s something that might be useful to some types of businesses.
2. Sell Your Knowledge and Advice
Do you have skills or training that businesses or consumers need? You can start a consulting business, training program, or tutoring business without any funding. Everything you need to create the business is already inside your head. To get it going, use personal connections, phone calls, social media, and other online tools. Brush up on your offline networking skills, too.
3. Start a Service Business
If you don’t have any startup capital, service-based businesses are another low-cost startup option. Product-based businesses require you to purchase and then resell. Service-based businesses Service-based businesses such as coaching, being a virtual assistant, web design, or home cleaning services only need the knowledge and equipment you probably already have.
4. Capitalize on Your Hobby
At some point, you’ll have to quit your day job but that day isn’t today. Hobby businesses often come from the person’s love of something. Maybe you have a corporate job during the day but you love to bake when you come home. Start with people you know and allow your network to grow from there. Your marketing costs are zero and you still have money coming in from your day job.
5. Save Up the Money for Your Startup
Saving money isn’t easy to do, but neither is starting a business. If you’re serious about starting a business, look for ways to cut back on your spending. For instance, could you save money by cooking at home instead of eating out, or by bringing lunch to work instead of buying it? Could you enjoy local beaches and attractions instead of going on an expensive summer vacation? Can you watch movies at home instead of going out? Learning to pay attention to and minimize spending will not only help you save cash to start the business, it will also help you keep business costs down once you get the business going, too.
6. Work from Home
Renting office or retail space is expensive. It’s something you may want or need to do to grow the business in the future, but when you’re just starting out, look for ways to work from home. If you work from home, the business won’t need money for rent, utilities, and office furniture.
7. Conserve Your Cash
Yes, a faster computer might be nice. Or a new desk, a better camera, or an expensive software package or cloud service. But make do with what you have and look for the lowest cost options for anything you need to acquire until you start bringing in paying customers. If you search the web, you can find free and low-cost versions of many programs and services Hold off buying new or upgraded equipment and software until you can pay for them out of the business earnings.
8. Use Free and Low-Cost Marketing Techniques
There are dozens of free and low-cost ways to market your business. Learn them and implement them before you start spending money on paid advertising. Using free promotional strategies at first will help you see if there is a market for your goods or services, and it will help you start to understand what attracts customers so you don’t make expensive mistakes once you are ready to buy ads.
9. Get Creative with How You Raise Funds
Consider the story of how Outbox Systems started. The founders had a dream of connecting two software applications together but didn’t have the money to build it. Instead, they worked out a deal with another company where they would build a similar product for a discounted rate yet retain the rights to sell the product to others. That’s creative financing. How can you get creative with how you raise money?
10. Do All the Work Yourself at First
Rely on your own sweat equity to start a business with no money. Expect long days and the need to learn how to do things you haven’t done before such as marketing, selling, accounting or even building a website. You can learn how to do some of these tasks for free by searching the web or YouTube for “How to…” followed by the skill you need help with. You can also find low-cost classes on Udemy.com and elsewhere online. Doing all these tasks yourself at first saves you money and will also help you understand what type of skills each activity requires when the business is making enough profit to hire employees.
11. Investigate Non-Bank Funding Sources
Yes, there’s friends and family but today we have crowdfunding, local and national incubators, accelerators, and microfinancing. If you don’t know what these are, do some Googling and learn about them. Look for communities of investors in your area and tell others about your business. There’s plenty of funding that doesn’t involve banks and credit cards.
12. Start Simple
Your dream might include a pretty big business offering a wide variety of products and services but for now, keep it simple. Sell a single product or service. Build your customer base and later branch out into other products and services.
One of the most expensive parts of running a business is acquiring customers. If you gain their trust with one product or service now, selling something else later is much easier.
13. Work for Somebody Else
Although they may not admit it, most business owners became entrepreneurs thinking they knew more than what they did. In fact, many businesses fail because the person was ill-equipped to build a successful business.
Before you start your own business, work or intern with somebody in the business already. The experience you gain will allow you to start your business knowing what you truly need to spend money on and what you don’t. You’ll also gain insider knowledge of the industry and possibly a healthy customer list from the beginning.
14. Raise Money by Working Gigs
Gig workers may not make big bucks, but if you need money to launch a business, taking on side gigs while you keep your day job can help you raise the cash for the venture you really want to start.
15. Use Free Services
The Internet is full of high quality services you can use for free. Mailchimp is a powerful e-mail marketing platform that’s free for the first 2,000 e-mail addresses. Wufoo allows you to make online forms, and although Facebook and other social media platforms won’t put your ad in front of large amounts of people unless you pay, you can still gain some traction by telling people what you’re doing.
There are also freelance platforms like Fiverr, Elance, and Upwork that have quality freelancers willing to help with logo and web design, and another service for cheap. You could get a logo made for $5!
Don’t have any money? Offer to barter your services in exchange for somebody else’s. There aren’t many small business owners that aren’t looking for ways to get quality services for little or no cost. What you have, they want, and they’re willing to trade for it.
Finally, go into your business endeavor with a hustling mindset. Be ready to do anything legal and ethical to get your business off the ground. Don’t like cold calling? Do it anyway? Not a graphic designer? You can find templates online for just about anything. Don’t want to do any free work? It might be worth it to get your name out there.
If you don’t have the money to pay for services, you have to do them yourself or find somebody who can and will do it for free.
Don’t let a lack of funds discourage you. You may have to work harder to start a business than someone with more financial resources, and it may take longer. But resourcefulness, creativity, hustle, and determination are often better predictors of success than money.