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2021-05-24 12:04:00Starting a New BusinessEnglishDreaming of starting your own business but think you don't have enough money? In this guide, we'll show you how to turn your existing skill...https://quickbooks.intuit.com/au/resources/au_qrc/uploads/2021/05/start-a-business-with-no-money-feature-au.jpghttps://quickbooks.intuit.com/au/resources/starting-a-new-business/how-to-start-a-business-with-no-money/How to start a business with no money | QuickBooks Australia

How to start a business with no money

10 min read

Dreaming of starting your own business but think you don’t have enough money? Whether you want to be your own boss, make money from a side hustle or achieve a better work-life balance, so long as you are willing to work hard and be creative, owning your own business is within your reach.

The internet, software as a service (SaaS), and marketplace and sharing economy platforms have all but erased many of the capital requirements to set up a business. It’s faster and easier than ever to get up and running in a wide variety of businesses, with barely any financial investment. There are also many options for low-capital businesses and options for funding them if you don’t have money set aside to invest.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to turn your existing skill set into a successful business on a shoestring budget.

Find a no-capital business idea

What kinds of businesses can you start with no capital? When you think about starting a business, these are some of the costs you could expect to incur:

  • Rent
  • Tenant improvements
  • Office furniture and supplies
  • Labour
  • Tools and equipment
  • Raw materials
  • Opening inventory
  • Website design and hosting
  • Advertising or promotions
  • Software
  • Insurance, licences or permit fees

A low-to-no capital business would be one where most of these costs don’t apply. An online business or home-based business lets you eliminate rent, tenant improvements and office costs—and maybe even take a tax deduction for using part of your home for business. If you do everything yourself, you can eliminate labour costs.

By choosing a business that uses the tools and equipment you already have, you can eliminate that cost. Service- or knowledge-based businesses don’t require inventory or raw materials since you won’t be making or selling any physical goods. You will probably require a computer, although you may be able to run some businesses entirely through your phone.

What about a website, or advertising and promotion? You may be able to eliminate these entirely by setting up shop on one of the many service provider marketplaces and sharing economy marketplaces that handle all that for you. To name just a few:

  • Airtasker and Helpling for errands, handyman work and household tasks
  • Mad Paws and Pawshake for dog walking
  • Fiverr or Upwork for media and technology professionals
  • Airbnb or Vrbo if you want to rent out a room in your home
  • Parkhound or Spacer if you have a desirable parking space to rent
  • DriveMyCar or Car Next Door if you want to rent out your car when you’re not using it
  • Etsy, Amazon or eBay for homemade or resale products
  • Uber, DoorDash or Deliveroo if you’re willing to deliver food or taxi passengers

Some of these platforms may even provide some form of insurance as part of their offering, but you should be sure to understand what is covered and whether you need supplemental insurance.

Of course, all of these platforms take a healthy cut of your payment, so you are still paying for the website, advertising and insurance—just not as an up-front, out-of-pocket cost.

If you really want to spend no money at all, you could do all of your accounting on paper and only accept payment by cheque or cash, but as a practical matter you’ll probably want to use some kind of accounting and tax software and set up a merchant account so you can accept credit cards, as that is the preferred payment method for Australian consumers.

The only costs you may not be able to avoid as a business owner are any licensing or permit fees required by your city, state or territory for your type of business, and legal fees if you decide you want to incorporate.

You really can start a business for little money if it’s one that’s home based, has no employees, doesn’t do any manufacturing or retailing and requires no up-front investment in a website or marketing. If you’re looking for ideas, simply search the web for “no capital” or “low-cost” business ideas and you will find an abundance of lists to inspire you.

Set realistic expectations

Just because it’s easy to set up a business with no money doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to run one—or that you’ll instantly find the freedom, gratification and work-life balance you’ve been seeking.

Entrepreneurship is hard work, and you may find yourself adjusting to the fact that now you have multiple bosses (only now they’re called “customers”). Since you have no employees, you have to do everything—and there may be parts of the business you really dislike or are not good at. You might find that you’re putting in more hours at work than ever. And even though you started the business with no money, you still need money.

Plus, you’ll still need income while you’re building the business, and you may also have ongoing business expenses that you must fund. Make sure that you do your due diligence to get a realistic appreciation of how long it can take to get to a steady income in your chosen business. Prepare a business plan that shows your projected income ramp and also includes all of the ongoing expenses you’re likely to encounter. These include taxes, fees, subscriptions, transportation, office supplies, software and any others that are specifically related to your business.

Even if you are independently wealthy, have a spouse or partner who can carry you, or have a nest egg set aside for just this purpose, chances are that there’s a limit to your tolerance for running a money-losing business, so you really need to create some financial projections. And, if you’re not independently wealthy or supported by a partner or a nest egg, you’ll need some source of funding to keep you afloat until the business takes off. Here are seven possibilities:

1. Keep your day job

Keeping your day job gives you a steady income as you grow the business. But now you essentially have two jobs. You will either have to work a lot of extra hours on top of your full-time schedule, or your new business will have to take a back seat. That could slow the growth of the business, so be sure to consider that in your financial projections.

2. Family and friends

Funding a business from friends and family is a common source of finance to help you get your business off the ground. After all, who has more faith in you and your abilities? But be wary of relying on handshake deals and verbal agreements, or you may risk strained relationships if things go badly.

Treat it like any business deal. Make sure you know the terms and conditions. Is the money a gift you don’t have to repay? Is it a loan? If so, what is the time frame for repaying? Is it an investment, and if so, what percentage of the company does your funder own, how much say do they expect to have in operations and how soon are they expecting the investment to pay off?

All of this should be discussed, agreed on and documented, the same way you would with any other lender or investor. If would-be friendly funders are not willing to engage in that kind of process with you, perhaps it is not a good idea to look to them as a funding source.

3. Apply for a small business loan

It can be difficult to get a small business loan if you’re just starting out. But check with your bank on your options. You will need a lot of documentation and a detailed business plan. It is also important to carefully read the repayment policy of the loan before applying for it and include that in your financial projections. Learn more about small business loans.

4. Apply for a grant

There are many, many grant programmes from government and private sources, and unlike a loan, grants don’t have to be repaid. Grants are not for everyone though. They are typically available for specific types of business that the grantor wants to incentivise, such as nonprofits, green businesses or rural businesses, or for veterans or certain categories of historically disadvantaged people.

The application process can be lengthy and exhausting and to win grant funding, you must have a detailed business plan. This kind of funding can come with spending constraints and reporting requirements that may restrict the way you do business and force you to spend time and money on compliance. It is important to understand the terms and conditions of the grant, first to see if you qualify before spending time applying, and then to understand how those will impact your business because the grant can be revoked for noncompliance.

Learn more about small business grants and how to apply.

5. Use a line of credit

Established businesses can often obtain a line of credit, but for a new business, you might have to give personal guarantees to obtain it. That will require you to have a good credit rating and collateral.

6. Use personal credit cards

Many a venture has been funded using the owner’s personal credit cards. If you have a good credit rating, this can be a much faster and easier way to get a loan, as you don’t need a business plan and don’t have to go through a lengthy application and underwriting process. The downside is that interest rates can be very high—ranging from about 14% to 23% as of this writing. Those interest costs can become significant if you’ll be carrying the balances for a long time, so be sure to include that in your financial projections.

7. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter are changing the landscape of the traditional methods of raising capital. From tech gadgets to making an art documentary, any type of business and product can raise money from anywhere in the world to bring the idea to reality, typically in return for some kind of consideration, such as free product or shares of stock.

Crowdfunding also helps to gauge the reaction of the market before you actually launch the product. You don’t have to undergo any kind of credit check or provide an extensive business plan. However, it requires a lot of expertise and effort to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, and the outcome is far from guaranteed.

Of course, one time-honoured way to start a business with no money is to use other people’s money, so if you have the kind of business that can qualify for loans or grants, the creditworthiness to obtain a credit line or credit cards, or the savvy to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, you aren’t necessarily limited to the type of businesses that have no up-front capital requirements.

Start your business today

Many people dream of owning their own business, and now more than ever, lack of startup capital need not hold you back. And with today’s marketplace and sharing economy platforms, it’s easy to try out any number of business ideas and see if you actually like them, and like being a small business owner, without risking your own capital. Money may still be required to scale, but you can start your entrepreneurial journey without any money and bootstrap your way to success if you’re willing to work hard.


This content is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, accounting or tax advice, or a substitute for obtaining such advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by state/territory or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit Inc does not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit Inc does not warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.

We provide third-party links as a convenience and for informational purposes only. Intuit does not endorse or approve these products and services, or the opinions of these corporations, organisations or individuals. Intuit accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of these sites.

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Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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