Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
It’s a vicious circle – you want to launch your own business to start making money, but it seems to cost a large amount of money to start a business.
So, how do you disrupt this pattern and begin building a brand with little to no capital? It’s actually easier than it sounds.
In this article, we explore a number of techniques you can employ with little to no money.
1. Take Stock of Your Existing Resources
Whether or not you already have a clear idea of the exact form your business will take, you should first create a clear and honest list of the resources you can already access and the benefits they may offer your venture.
These could be as simple as a functional laptop, a good-sized social media following, or a space in your property that could be used as an office.
Next, check for any “gaps”. What key elements do you still require before you can safely launch your business?
Some of the points below will give you a little guidance on how to fulfill these outstanding requirements.
2. Capitalize on Existing Skills
What are you good at? What are you great at? Before settling on an idea for your business, you should first note down the monetizable abilities you already possess.
Everything is relevant, even if you’re not sure a certain skill is of a professional standard yet. It will at least give you a starting point – something to develop and work on until you’re confident that people will pay good money for it.
3. Find a Discipline with Little to No Overheads
The cheapest businesses to start and run are those that require very little equipment and materials and can be undertaken from anywhere.
To this end, you might consider working as:
- A web designer or coder
- A copywriter
- A blogger or influencer
- A consultant
- A dog walker, pet sitter, house sitter or babysitter
- A delivery driver or taxi driver
- A gardener, janitor or handyperson
Of course, some of these roles do require particular tools or tech – like a laptop, for example. We’ll cover how to get hold of things like this a little later.
4. Look for an Obvious Gap in the Market
The term “gap in the market” refers to a specific product or service that is not readily available to a certain audience or in a particular locality. If you can identify a clear gap that you are able to fill, your business is likely to be in high demand with little competition.
“This means that it will cost less to be successful, and your venture will face a lower level of risk than it might if you were entering a more saturated sector,” comments Ruban Selvanayagam from the home valuation and sales company Property Solvers.
5. Enter Competitions
Depending on your field of discipline, there may be opportunities to enter competitions with prizes like equipment or tech such as a laptop – or just a decent sum of money to help you get off the ground.
Be sure that everything you enter is totally legitimate and that there is no shady small print attached.
6. Apply for Grants or Loans
Depending on your background, the field you plan to enter and the resources available in your town, city or region, there may be grants available to support local start-ups.
Take time to seek these out and apply – every little cash injection helps.
There is always the option to apply for a bank loan too, as long as you have decent credit.
You can raise a little cash by setting up a crowdfunder. This works best with ventures that will clearly be beneficial to the general public – or at least to the individuals you expect to donate.
Offer rewards in return for donations – whether this is a share in your company, a free gift, branded merchandise, an experience connected with the business or anything similar.
Remember not to spend too much on these little “thank yous” – or a large chunk of the cash will already be gone.
8. Find a Tenant
If you need to raise some cash to support the development of your business, you might decide to let out a room in your property. Whether you do this via AirBnb or draw up a more long-term, official arrangement depends on your preferences.
If you rent but don’t own, talk to your landlord about the rules surrounding subletting.
The same goes for owning or renting a workshop or office space – could you share it with someone else for a little money?
9. Release Equity in Your House
If you’ve owned a property for a number of years, you may be able to access some of the equity that has been built up and use it to fund your business.
You should only take this route if you are confident that you’ve built up suitable equity, and that you won’t be needing it for anything else in the near future.
Remember: put in a good amount of effort planning how you will do this, or you may risk losing your property!
10. Sell Stuff
Do you own anything of value that you could easily do without – or do you have the capacity to “downsize” certain aspects of your life?
Consider selling some of your more superfluous belongings online to build up more capital for your business. After all, should your venture be successful, you may be able to replace these items.
Don’t part with anything too crucial, though – certain items may be handy for your business, or just to help you maintain a lifestyle that you enjoy.
11. Start Small
There’s a lot of advice out there encouraging the owners of new businesses to “go big or go home”, but this can be dangerous.
All companies need a good amount of investment in order to succeed, but this investment does not need to be entirely financial – and it should never come at the expense of other major elements of your life.
Throwing everything at your business at once can lead to you running out of resources very fast. Instead, start small and build from a strong foundation.
For example, if you plan to manufacture products, design a wide range by all means. But consider “eking out” those plans over a number of years.
Why not launch a single, high-quality flagship product first, then, as it begins to gain success and renown, you can slowly start adding more items to your range?
Not only does this allow you to apply focus in a sensible and risk-averse way, but it also creates a “narrative” for your business, helping you to retain the ongoing interest of the general public.
12. Find Free Resources
The internet is rich with free or low-cost resources that you can use to further hone your existing skills, learn new ones, or access vital business resources.
Keep an eye out for free online courses – though these are often for beginners, with more specialist or advanced training usually coming with a price tag.
YouTube, however, has tons of handy, in-depth how-to videos that are totally free. You can also access free operational or legal advice on various small business forums.
You can even build your website for free. Sites like WordPress and Wix provide a platform via which you can undertake simple web design yourself. You can pay for a professional version to access more sophisticated tools, but this often isn’t necessary – especially at the very start.
13. Use Your Home as Your Office
Do you really need to rent office space? You may be able to achieve just as much work from home.
Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone. If your home doesn’t have the space to support your business – or if it just isn’t a suitable environment – you might consider looking for a co-working space or something similar that commands very low rent.
14. Seek Out Preloved Equipment
Don’t scrimp on the vital elements of your business. For example, if you’re a digital artist or designer, you’ll need a laptop or tablet with an exceptional graphics card and large memory.
However, if you just need the basics to get started, look online for free second-hand items for local collection. Sites like Freecycle and Freegle will help you do this.
If you’re setting yourself up as a handyperson, you may be able to find free or cheap “job-lots” of tools. You may even find free office furniture.
15. Use Social Media for Market Research
You can pay for market research specialists to help you position your brand – or you can do this yourself via your socials.
Consider using a free tool like SurveyMonkey to put together a questionnaire about particular elements of your chosen industry – including the availability or quality of certain products or services, what they think there’s too much of, and what may be missing.
Next, share this questionnaire via your socials, using the right hashtags to make sure it’s discoverable by relevant users. You may be surprised at the number of responses you receive.
Of course, if there are particular individuals and experts whose opinion you consider extra-valuable, it may be worth targeting them in person.
16. Keep Your “Day Job”
It can be tempting to jump straight in with both feet as soon as you see success, but this is never sensible. Even as you begin to gain interest from clients, you need to retain stability and some kind of “safety net”.
If you are currently in employed work, don’t ditch it until your own business has had regular custom and a steady cash flow for at least a year. This way, if anything falls through, you still have an income to fall back on.
17. Make the Most of Your Time
Any successful business owner will tell you that you need to be willing to put in a huge number of hours when you first start out.
Make appointments to work on your business whenever you have free time, and stick to them. If you need a period of unbroken focus – for example, when you’re drawing up a business plan – consider taking a brief vacation from your main job in order to do so.
As your business grows, you may find it beneficial to ask to reduce your employed hours – either temporarily or permanently – to achieve a suitable balance.
This will allow you to save money, as you’ll be able to achieve more by yourself instead of having to rely on hired help simply because you don’t have enough time in the day.
Don’t forget to schedule in a little downtime, however. It may seem cliche, but you are your business’s most valuable resource, and working yourself into a state of burnout will only have detrimental effects.
18. Call in Favours
Do any of your friends owe you a favor? If their unique skills are likely to be of use to your business, now is the time to get in touch with them!
Of course, you shouldn’t exploit their good nature too extensively. Offer something in return where you can, and know when you’ll be asking too much.
You might even ask for help from people with whom you might collaborate further down the line. If putting in a little work for free right now may result in professional opportunities for them in the long run, they’ll be more likely to say yes.
19. Use Existing Connections
If you already know professionals within the field you wish to enter, take the time to reach out to them with any questions. Don’t be shy to approach friends of friends or people you only vaguely know – the worst they can do is say no.
20. Network with Other Businesses or Businesspeople
Look for free online or in-person networking opportunities wherever you can. Often, new connections are just as valuable – if not more so – than a cash injection in the long run.
If you know someone with their own business in a relevant field, see if you can team up with them on a professional project. This will help you to get relevant experience and build connections with other specialists or potential customers.
You and your friends could also agree to recommend one another to clients in order to grow your audience.
22. Get Notified About Opportunities
Many organizations send out regular emails featuring commission opportunities, free training courses, and more. Create a dedicated email account to receive information from relevant mailing lists without your main account getting full of spam.
You could also “cleanse” your Twitter, leaving only businesses that offer relevant opportunities regularly. You should display up-to-date information about your business on industry-specific listings too so that you’re easy to approach.
23. Be Smart with Your Cash Flow
When you start providing products or services to clients, you need to have clear contracts in place – including detailed requirements regarding when and how you’ll get paid.
If you’re working with a tiny budget, every penny counts, and it all needs to arrive on time.
24. Do Your Own Digital Marketing
You can learn basic SEO and keyword optimization for free. It will make you more discoverable and send you further up the search engine results than competitors who don’t invest their time and effort into the same practices.
Create a free account with Google My Business – as this will make you easier to find on Google Maps.
You can include an optimized description of your company and its products as well as share images and video, promote events, and displaying up to date opening times and contact details to make client interaction as easy as possible.
25. Join an Agency
If you can ally your business with an industry-specific agency, they will reach out to clients on your behalf – saving you a lot of time and effort when it comes to promoting yourself and finding new projects.
Of course, you’ll need to consider any “cut” they’ll take when deciding whether it’s worth doing this.
26. Be Active on Social Media
All of your competitors will be on multiple social platforms, so you should be too. Post relevant, high-quality content regularly on all the platforms you consider suitable for your business.
The greater the range of content type – including text, video, infographic, image, and interactive posts – the more successful you’re likely to be in building your follower base and achieving more reposts.
Use the right hashtags and follow the right people for the best results.
27. Attend Events
Whether you do so as an expert on a panel or just a face in the crowd, it’s important to attend industry events to keep your finger on the pulse of your sector and to get recognition.
The more others in your field see your name or bump into you at these functions, the more you’ll be seen as a stand-out player within your industry.
28. Narrow Down Your Target Audience
Getting a lot of attention is great, but if it takes too much valuable time and effort with very few “conversions” to show for it, that effort may be better placed in narrowing down your focus to the people you know will buy from you.
Depending on your specialisms, you may be sensible to adopt a local rather than national or international focus and to be more specific when it comes to your online content.
29. Develop and Maintain a Clear Identity
Everything from your tone of voice in an email to the design of your website and logo should cohere perfectly. The more unique you are, the more recognizable your brand is likely to be – which should help you to develop a clear audience base.
Given plenty of time and a well-managed process, you can sculpt your business’s identity in full by yourself for free.
Just try not to be so out-of-the-ordinary that you alienate potential clients!
30. Stay Adaptable
Always have a backup plan. What will you do if there is a financial crash? A pandemic? What if your premises are destroyed? What if a key product in your range becomes obsolete?
A contingency is one of the most valuable things you can have. If a much bigger organization lacks a suitable safety net, it may crumble upon meeting adversity while you survive.
Be savvy and never burn a bridge.
Any combination of the above tips will help your company to thrive based on little to no capital. If you apply this guidance sensibly, you may find that you can build something out of nothing much more quickly than you anticipated.
Plan extensively, undertake plenty of research, be sensible with your risk-taking and all of your efforts will pay off in the end.
Are You Starting a Business with No Money?
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