How to start your own business with no money

5 min read
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Are you 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’re willing to work hard and be creative, owning your own business is within your reach.

The internet, Software as a Service (SaaS), online marketplaces and sharing economy platforms have made it easier than ever to start a business with no money. In this guide, we’ll show you how to turn your existing skill set into a successful business on a shoestring budget.

How much money do you need to start a business?

How much money you need to become a founder very much depends on the nature of your business. When creating your starting budget, these are some of the costs you could expect to incur:

  • Rent of a workspace

  • Office supplies

  • Office furniture

  • Tools and equipment

  • Raw materials

  • Website design 

  • Web hosting

  • Software

  • Labour costs

  • Marketing and advertising costs

The best businesses to start with little money

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 avoid having to spend money on renting a workspace and if you do everything yourself, you can eliminate the cost of employing staff.

By starting 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’ll probably require a laptop, although you may be able to run some businesses entirely on your phone.

What about the cost of creating a website, or advertising and promotion? You may be able to avoid this cost entirely by setting up shop on an existing online marketplace or sharing economy marketplace that handles all that for you. 

A few business ideas that you can start with no - or very little - money, are:

  • Offering errands, handyman work, and household tasksStarting a dog walking business 

  • Selling your media and technology skills 

  • Renting out a room in your home

  • Offering a parking space to rent 

  • Renting out your car when you’re not using it

  • Selling homemade or resale products 

  • Delivering food or taxi passengers

Of course, all of these platforms take a healthy cut of your payment, so you’ll still be paying for the use of the app/website, advertising, and any insurance that they might offer. On top of that, you may need to factor in the cost of any licensing or permit fees you need for your type of business. 

It’s also recommended to get accounting software to help you keep track of your finances and manage the tax that you owe.

Tip: set realistic expectations

Just because it’s easy to set up a business with no money, it doesn’t mean that 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 you now have multiple bosses—only now they’re called “customers”. Since you have no employees you have to do everything yourself, and there may be parts of running your business that you really dislike or aren’t good at. You might find that you’re putting in more hours at work than ever. And even though you started your business with no or little money, you still need money to pay for your ongoing expenses like taxes, fees, subscriptions, transportation, office supplies or software.

Make sure that you do your due diligence to get a realistic idea of how long it can take to get to a steady income from your new business.

How to stay afloat while starting your business

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 you can make a living from running your business.

Here are seven ways to fund your small business:

  1. Keep your day job. Keeping your day job gives you a steady income as you grow your new business. On the downside, you’ll be working two jobs, which can take a lot of energy and slow down business growth.

  2. Get funding from family or friends. Friends or family may be able to provide financial support while you get your business off the ground. However, make sure to discuss and document the details of your agreement to avoid conflict later on.

  3. Get a loan. You may be able to get a loan from the government, the bank, or a P2P lending service. Keep in mind that these types of loans require you to pay interest and you’ll need to provide several documents upfront for your loan request to be approved.

  4. Apply for a grant. If your business idea evolves around conservation, renewable energy, social and community projects or farming, you may be able to get a grant for the government. However, government grants are often hard to come by and involve a long application process.

  5. Make use of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding involves a lot of individuals lending you money, usually through a crowdfunding platform. Be aware that, in return, you may need to give away equity or pay interest.

  6. Find private investors. If you have a truly exceptional business idea, venture capitalists or angel investors may be willing to invest in it in return for equity and decision-making power within your business.

In another article, we give more guidance on how to finance your small business.

Many people dream of owning their own business, and now more than ever, money shouldn’t hold you back. With today’s online marketplaces and sharing economy platforms, it’s easy to try out any number of business ideas without risking too much of your own capital. For personalised guidance on how to start your own business, fill out our latest questionnaire and get a list of next steps sent straight to your inbox.


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