Have you always wanted to start a business, but felt like you couldn’t afford the startup costs? We’ll show you how to start a business with no money.
Upflip is here to help you. We’re going to walk you through the steps of how to start a business with no money. We’ll share some of the business ideas that Paul Akers from Fast Cap and Mike Andes of Augusta Lawn Care Services see as great opportunities.
In addition, we’ll share information with you from Russell, an 18-year-old making over $100k/year by starting Legends Lawn Care Services. He started with $2,000 and explains how you can do it with less.
We’ll cover the following aspects about how to start a business without money:
- Coming up Small Business Ideas
- Market Research
- Business Plan
- Name the Business
- Structure the Business
- Preparing for Opening Day
- Tips on how to start a business without money
Keep reading to learn how to become an entrepreneur with no money.
Step 1: Come up with Small Business Ideas
You know “I want to start a small business, but have no money.”
Small business ideas can come from anywhere. Some of the best ways to come up with business ideas include:
- Looking at what other industries do and how it can be applied to yours.
- Looking at what other countries do and how it can be applied to yours.
- Observing a problem and finding a way to solve it.
Let’s look at each.
Look at what other industries do
Paul told us some of the products he sells came from other industries. Here are a couple of products that crossed from one industry to another.
CruisinCap sells billions of pieces worldwide. What business ideas could you solve with this type of thinking?
Look at what other countries do
Different cultures approach business ideas differently. When you travel, take note of what you see in the other places and consider how you can bring it back home. Paul told us about his travels to Japan:
He went on to tell us about one of the products that he really loves out there, hot coffee vending machines. They bottle their coffee and keep it hot in the vending machine. That way you can have a hot coffee straight from a vending machine.
Observe a problem and solve it.
Paul discusses how he comes up with the business idea for Fast Cap in his interview.
He goes on to explain how he goes about creating so many great products.
Watch the whole video below. He tells a great story.
What is the easiest business to start with no money?
The easiest business to start without money is the one that you already have the skills and tools for. Mike Andes told us:
He gives an example of starting a weed-pulling business. It doesn’t require any tools, just time and attention to detail. When I was growing up, I used to do this and make $20/hour cause the neighbors couldn’t get normal landscapers to do it the way they wanted.
Russell agrees that a lawn care business is one of the easiest ways to get started with little or no money. He told us:
How to Start an Online Business With no money
Personally, I think that being out in the sun all day, pulling weeds and operating machinery sounds like more work than I want to do. I tend to prefer using my mind over my body to earn a living that’s why I do freelancing.
Freelancing is taking on contract jobs online that businesses need help with but don’t want to hire a full or part-time employee to do the work. As long as you have a computer and internet, you can start freelancing on companies like:
There are five types of jobs that employers are typically looking for on these sites:
- Development jobs
- Graphic Design jobs
- Blogging and other writing jobs
- Digital Marketing
- Admin Work
If you don’t have experience in these fields you should look for a mentor to gain experience.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Business Idea: Software Development jobs
If you know how to build websites and work with coding languages, there is always a demand for software developers. Upwork has over 4,000 current listings looking for developers for projects.
If you know any of these languages, companies are looking for help:
Learn more about each one at Berkeley Extension. Most of the languages have free tutorials if you go to their websites, which can make it easy to learn them. In addition, Youtube videos can help you figure almost anything. Just don’t take on more than you can achieve because your ratings will impact what jobs you can get.
I know people who bill up to $500/hr for development work. If you can book these types of jobs, you’ll be well on your way to starting your own business.
Business Idea: Graphic Design jobs
Graphic design is another highly in-demand field where you can start a successful business with no money down. Upflip has nearly 3,900 graphic design projects looking for a designer. If you have some skills in Adobe Creative Cloud or comparable software, this can be a highly profitable online business idea.
Blogging and Other Freelance Writing Jobs
There are over 5,700 writing jobs on Upwork. This is my favorite type of online business because it gives me the opportunity to learn about new subjects and make money doing it.
I will warn you, that it takes more than just writing about a subject. Other business owners want to see results quickly and a great blog is not the online thing that goes into business writing. You’ll need to do Keyword Analysis and SEO Best Practices to help a new business get the most out of its content.
Many writing jobs will pay a price per word, typically between $.02 and $.15/word. You need to be aware that you cannot assume that your WPM can be directly converted to your hourly. Each Upflip blog will normally include:
- 1-2 hours watching videos
- 1 hour finding and reading links
- 1 hour editing
- 2.5 hours writing ( I only type about 30 words per minute)
- 1 hour back and forth with the client
- 1-2 days struggling to figure out what story I want to tell (insert laughing crying face emoji)
So I might be able to do three blogs a week on a good week. at $.02/word, it would only be $92, which comes out to $11.50/hour, but they pay me far better than that.
Just make sure you are aware of the time you spend on your business venture. If you bill based on 4 hours of time for the first 1,000 words and an hour for each additional thousand, you should be able to make a great living with this internet business.
Business Idea: Digital Marketing
Digital marketing is focused on helping businesses reach their customers. This can be through ads, social media marketing, or other marketing strategies. Businesses focused on this category will need to have familiarity with the platforms they are performing work on.
The four major platforms that businesses really need help managing are:
- Google- Check out Google Digital Garage to learn how to maximize the utility of their platforms.
- Facebook-Check out Facebook Blueprint to learn how to maximize the utility of their platforms
- Amazon- Check out Amazon Advertising Learning Console to learn how to maximize the utility of their platforms
- LinkedIn- Check out LinkedIn Marketing Labs to learn how to maximize the utility of their platforms
Pay can be hourly, by the project, or based on performance. Make sure when starting off you aim for hourly. While you are developing your skillset there will be quite a learning curve. You’ll be paying for your learning curve in its entirety if you charge by the project or based on performance.
When starting a business with little money, or even no money, you’ll need to research the product-market fit. A good business to start at a low cost is one that can be started with low upfront costs but has lots of demand for it.
High demand and low upfront costs make a cleaning service the best business to start with little money. You already have the products you need at home and your target customer is anyone who needs help cleaning. (Let’s face it everyone could probably use some help there.
In other businesses, you’ll have to do some market research to see whether your area needs them and how much money you can make when starting a business. Market research is simply establishing if there is demand for your product or service.
Mike spends quite a bit of time discussing how to conduct market research. He shows the basic concept of market research by surveying his employees. Watch his take on conducting research below.
He discusses aspects such as demographics, online surveys, and target market. Let’s look at each of these terms to better understand how to start a business.
What are demographics?
Demographics are statistical characteristics of a population or a subset of the population. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:
- Other Interests
- Marital Status
- Do they have kids?
- Job title
How do I find out who my potential customers are?
If you have a new product idea potential customers may not be easily identifiable. If a business requires surveys and focus groups to establish what demographics are drawn to your small business idea, you may want to ask yourself?
Paul has a great way of identifying your target market if you have a product. Just ask friends and family what they think of the product.
Take note of the demographics of the people who are most interested and they’d be your target market.
Identifying your target market
A successful business needs to know who its ideal client is. Since you’ve just barely come up with the business idea, you’ll need to figure out who buys the product or services you are selling.
Facebook has got this down to a science, but their ads can be complex to use if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Wordstream published an infographic with all of Facebook’s targeting options. If you want to get your target market as precise as possible, spend some time learning about each of the options.
A Business Plan for How to Start Your Own Business with no Money
Trying to start a successful small business without startup capital is going to be different than it would be when you decide to pursue a new business idea with available funding. The entire process will be focused on keeping costs low. Your business plan should be focused on this.
The following points are an excerpt from our blog How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates) with comments that should be different when starting a business with no money:
- Business Plan Cover Page
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- Description of Products and Services- This section should only be a product or a service. It’s hard to offer more than one until you have more money. Focus on one great minimum viable product
- Marketing Plan
- SWOT Analysis
- Competitor Data
- Competitive Analysis
- Marketing Expenses Strategy-This section should probably have an original strategy based on low cost or free alternatives, then plans on how to expand based on extra cash flow.
- Pricing Strategy
- Distribution Channel Assessment- At first, this will most likely be yourself, print-on-demand, or electronic distribution models. Business models that let you make more money each time you sell a single unit of work are the most scalable. Then build to a more complex distribution.
- Operational Plan- You’ll be doing everything at first. Specify the division of your time and how the work will be delegated later
- Management and Organizational Strategy- Current-you, future-provide chart.
- Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections- Without any money whatsoever, you’ll probably be starting a business slowly. Don’t put insane projections like making $100k profit in the first year if you don’t have clients. You might aim for that, but you’ll have to invest in the business and keep up with your living expense
- Funding- start with what you can do without funds, then what means you’ll be able to pursue funding once your business idea starts generating more revenue.
The primary ways of funding are:
- Personal funds
- Loan from family or friends
- Business partner(s) – inc.com has a great blog on considerations about a partnership
- Business loans- Check out our partners
How much money does it take to start a business?
According to Shopify, starting a business normally costs $18,000 for business owners with zero employees, while a business with up to 4 employees spends $60k during the first year. Shopify included 300 business owners in their study and found that they funded their business in the following ways:
- 198 used personal savings
- 90 reinvested revenue
- 69 got support from friends and family
- 63 got a personal loan
In other words, you’ll probably need some skin in the game because bootstrapping is the number one way of starting a business. Shopify goes on to explain the percentages a business should aim to spend on various aspects of the business. They suggest the following:
- Operations: 10%–15% – Software for managing business. This can be fairly low. For instance, Quicken is $100/year and will make keeping track of accounting easier. Cloud based services normally have free trial periods to get started.
- Product: 28%–36%: When selling goods divide the cost by.28 to get the price you should sell for. Use Printful to make this process easier.
- Shipping: 8%–12%=should be covered by the customer unless they spend over a certain amount.
- Online: 9%–10%=Cost of software directly attributable to selling product
- Marketing: 7%–12% =You or outsourced
- Team: 14%–30%=You starting off.
I have included some observations after Shopify suggested percentages.
The good news is that you’ll really only need about $1,500 per month to operate for a year.
Let’s look at some more commonly wondered things.
Can I start a business with no money?
Sure you can! It’s not as easy as if you have money, but plenty of small businesses have been started without any money. Small business owners will normally need to be in a service-based business as they generate cash flow by selling their time. We’ve been discussing some of these throughout.
How to start a business with no money or experience
Get some experience and while you’re getting the experience save money from getting a job in the field. Now you have money and experience. That makes funding a lot easier. People or businesses might even be willing to help you secure funding at that point.
You can try talking to venture capitalists, but you may find that talking to people who run a profitable business puts you at risk of them taking the idea and going to market quicker.
How to start a successful business with no money and bad credit
You’ll either need to get money from friends, family, a partner, or bootstrap it. Can I suggest getting a secured credit card and paying off your debts as you can? It is really difficult to find a business you can start with no money, but it makes it even more difficult if you have bad credit.
The credit card expiration is one example of bad credit that can hold you back. If you can improve your credit score, you may be able to get a business loan or credit card with a lower interest rate, which can help you save money on the cost of starting your business.
How to start a business with no money or credit
Get a secured credit card ASAP, use it to fund the business, and earn credit by paying it off each month.
Structure the business
Licensing and legal requirements are a major part of starting a business. the business will need to comply with certain requirements including:
- Business Formation
- Getting an EIN from the IRS
- Getting a state/local business license
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workman’s Comp
Let’s look at each
You need to establish the legal structure for your business. For best results, I’d normally recommend hiring legal representation that has experience starting a business, like an attorney, accountant, or tax specialist. They’ll help you get your business started quickly so you can focus on other aspects of starting a business.
Since you are trying to figure out how to start a business from scratch with no money, you’ll probably want to bypass the lawyers. Some law schools have programs that provide people with low cost/no cost legal services. Check with your local college to see if they can help.
Licenses, permits, and tax forms
Each location has different licenses, permits, or tax forms required. Use the SBA License and Permits page to identify what your business needs. Keep reading for information on different legal structures.
A sole proprietorship is the easiest way to start a business with no money, but the structure doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your business and any personal assets you own.
I would recommend this structure for the shortest time possible then upgrade to an LLC. Some places even allow free sole proprietorships. Just search starts a “sole proprietorship for free in my state”.
Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)
An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because the company protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.
Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements. People may register in specific states due to the cost of doing business. Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because of their business-friendly laws. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.
You’ll want to progress to an LLC once you have some revenue, but its not best for businesses to start with no money.
Partnerships and corporations
Partnerships and corporations are typically for massive organizations or legal firms. Unless there is a specific reason you need a partnership, it is better to do a multi-person LLC. Investopedia has good information about partnerships and corporations here.
You probably won’t need these, but they are good to know about.
Apply for an EIN
Every business operating in the United States needs an employer identification number. It’s like a social security number for your business. Apply for it on the IRS website. It’s used on tax forms when filing taxes and to tie employees’ pay to the proper employer.
They don’t cost anything so make sure to do this step.
State/Local Business Licenses
Each location has different licenses, permits, or tax forms required. Use the SBA License and Permits page to identify what your business needs. Keep reading for information on different legal structures.
Most places are fairly inexpensive for most industries, but you’ll need to check for your location. Avalara has a great list of sale tax license costs by state.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a ton of information on unemployment and also offers links to each state agency that handles state unemployment. You’ll have to pay $420 per employee on a federal level plus any state UI.
Workman’s compensation is basically insurance against injury or disability. Each state has different requirements. Check your state requirements.
Preparing for Opening Day
Preparing for your first day in business is not going to be like most people think of where they finally have an office space. You’ll either be going around to neighbors houses or working on your computer because the best business to start with little money from home is an online business.
Honestly this section should really be described as how to start an online business with no money. You’ve got a great business idea, but now you need to figure out how great business ideas become successful businesses.
You’ll need to find all the tools and free resources you can find to connect to potential customers. Here’s a list of some companies that offer free software;
- Social Media Platforms-Your social media presence can help you find clients by creating a Facebook page. You can then share info from your Facebook page
- Free Websites– Wix has a 100% free website, but top10best compares other options.
- Free CRM– Check out this list of Free CRMs for the one that will work best for your new business venture
- Free Accounting Software- Fundera has a list of 8 Free Accounting Software Providers.
Most software providers have at least a free trial period that gives you time to set up your business online before you have to spend money.
Some online advertising will also offer deals, but be careful when accepting them. I once accepted an offer for $500 for free when you spend $500. It started before I was ever given access to the account. I never got access to the account and 18 months later I got a call telling me I owed them $500 for services.
Online businesses are great cause they allow you to deduct some of your living expenses like utilities, rent, and internet connection from your taxes. You get to be your own boss, and a lot of the expenses are fixed costs. From my standpoint, you definitely want to understand how to start a business with no money online.
Keep reading for some tips on how to start a business without money.
Tips on How to Start a Business with NO Money
Here’s some extra tips about how to start an online business with no money.
- Don’t spend a lot of time on a registered trademark. It’s a waste of money until you drive revenue.
- Avoid merchant cash advances and other forms of credit with interest higher than your profit margin. They are slowly driving losses.
- You’ll probably be able to get personal loans or business cards before a small business loan. Small business loans need to be spent wisely because they aren’t earned.
- Online courses are so essential to learning business skills in today’s society.
If you own tools, you might consider starting a woodworking company too.
Good luck on your venture into Entrepreneurship. Let us know what type of business processes you’d like more information on .