Working a 9 to 5 job isn’t for everyone. Many people have dreams of making it on their own and not only that, but making it big for themselves. Starting out in the business world can be daunting. And financially? A few years ago it was unthinkable of starting your own business without start-up capital but today, there are so many free or affordable resources that making a go at your own business is actually something quite doable. 

Don’t get us wrong. You’ll still need to put in all the hard work and effort, long hours, spending a lot of time on research, and fine-tuning your business idea, but in the end, it might just be worth it.

If you’ve got the determination to start your own business but don’t have all the cash resources on hand and you’re wondering how to start a business without money, then this post is for you!

1. Research and test the market

If you’re thinking of focus groups, employing the services of a market research company, sending out surveys that cost thousands to compile, send and analyse or something similar – you’d be starting off on the wrong foot. After all, the point is to start a business without money, right?

While you’re on the right track to want to research your market, customers, and competitors, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on this foundational and critical aspect of getting your business off the ground.

First, to save on costs, find a library where you can do your research in a quiet space (with free Internet, of course) and allocate several hours for your research venture. First things first – you’ll need to figure out which product or service you’re going to sell, who you’re going to sell it to, and who your competitors are in the field. Look for clues on how they’re marketing themselves, what prices they’re charging, what images and specific keywords they’re using. 

The beauty of all this is that you can do this for free. Type in “keyword analytics tools” on Google, add the word “free” to your search, and start reading up and finding out about your products and services and especially what type of demand there is for them. Online forums are another excellent source of determining customers’ pain points, which is ultimately what you will want to resolve. Remember that your business isn’t necessarily for you. You should actually aim it at your customers. 

Figure out where you can step in and fill a void. Ask your friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, former colleagues what they think. Try to use social media with polls (which you can run for free) to gather analytics and insights into your business idea. 

2. Generate your idea 

There are three main types of businesses you can start with little or no money. These are service-based, talent-based, and internet-based.

Here are some examples of each. 

Service-based: walking dogs, painting houses, lawn services, cleaning homes, organising things professionally, removing junk, delivering groceries, party planning, being a companion to senior citizens, giving guided walking tours, cleaning gutters, or even watering plants. 

Talent-based: tutoring and training, consulting, photography, writing, and editing, translation, graphic design, or digital marketing.

Internet-based ideas are those that revolve around dropshipping or ultimately selling a product that you don’t have on hand but which your customer pays for and which you supply. 

3. Create your business plan and a low cost business model

You now know a bit more about the importance of research and finding your niche. But there’s also the question of how to become an entrepreneur with no money. Remember that every entrepreneur has a business plan and a business model.

In all cases, you need to overestimate your total costs so that there are no surprises at the end of the day. Try to keep your overheads low, such as working from home, outsourcing your bookkeeping to a trusted company (and importantly, affordable), and even registering your patents, intellectual property, and trademarks. Here are some of the major costs you’ll need to consider when you work on your business plan and model:

Calculate your business costs

  • Marketing: this could include paid ads, flyers, pamphlets, banners, etc.
  • Assets: vehicles and other movable property or even immovable property.
  • Registration fees: you’re likely to need to register your business – in this case, it’s most likely you’ll go for a sole proprietorship. Check the applicable fees at your local municipality or small business centre.
  • Professional services: these may include bookkeeping and accounts or legal fees.
  • Fixed costs: salaries and wages (if you plan on employing others or even paying yourself), water and lights, rent or a mortgage, among others. 

These are just some of the cost considerations when it comes to thinking about how to start a business with no money. 

Use free resources to minimise expenses

Some further tips to help you on your business journey include:

  1. Work from a library to save on Internet costs
  2. Don’t hire anyone at first, do all the work yourself
  3. Source your equipment cheaply (or for free if you can)

Sourcing financing

On your journey of how to start an online business with no money, there will come a time when you’ll need at least some funds. These can be obtained through the following channels: 

  • Building up your savings
  • Bank loans
  • Government grants
  • Friends and family
  • Crowdfunding
  • Angel investment

4. Promote your business

There are many free or cheap online tools and technology to help you promote your business, so take full advantage of them. Whether it’s Facebook for promoting your products/services through social media or Instagram – having social media accounts is crucial in today’s business world.

Also, remember that your reputation will grow based on reviews you receive from your customers, so don’t forget to ask them to leave an online review for your business to help others choose you in the future. 

5. Getting paid

You’ll need to get paid upfront. Otherwise, you could get stuck in a vicious cycle where your customers don’t pay you and you’re the one left in debt. Make sure they do payment upfront or at least employ a 50-50 strategy if you’re service-based, with 50% paid at the beginning of a job and the rest when you deliver. 

6. Keep your day job

Almost every business expert online will tell you to keep your day job as you venture out on your business journey. We’re here to tell you the same. It will not only help you with your savings (see the earlier point above) but it will also give you an added layer of security if things don’t pan out exactly according to plan.

This way, you can rely on your day job for your income and sustenance while your business takes off. While you could see success early on, others may struggle to see results. It will be different for every individual. And this brings us to the next point – starting small. 

7. Start small

Since you won’t have copious amounts of time on your hands to dedicate to your new business, and you’ll be keeping your day job, you need to start in a small but scalable manner. Manage your expectations and your growth incrementally until it’s time to bring others on board. If you take on more than you can handle, you face burnout and the risk of failure early on. So the key lesson here is to pace yourself and your growth. 

8. Get familiar with the law

Finally, take some time out to get familiar with the law that dictates how your business can and should be run. The better prepared you are for this, the better you’ll be able to expect any future obstacles. Sure, the law isn’t for everyone, but asking a law graduate or speaking to your local council regarding legal advice for free or just advice and doing your own research online (yes, in the library) will help you stay clear of any legal hurdles you may face down the line. 

Conclusion

In this blog post, we tried to help you figure out how to start your own business with no money. It’s not a comprehensive list of things you need to do because every business will be different and has different requirements and criteria. However, you have the basics in your hands to help get you started.