How to Start a Business with No Money

Allison Martin
woman working in home office

Establishing a business with no money is possible if you are willing to exert a substantial amount of effort while leveraging your existing resources. With the proper roadmap in place, you can definitely accomplish business objectives needed to yield long-term success.

You Can Start with No Money

Many people who have a clever idea for a start-up often get discouraged due to a lack of funds. There is no reason to give up as long as you are willing to do some research and find ways to avoid opening your wallet.

Bartering

Through bartering, it is possible to secure the necessities that will get the business up and running. In some instances, the other party in the bartering arrangement will contribute a substantial amount of money or labor to the venture because they will derive a great benefit from what they receive in return. Examples of bartering include:

  • Free copywriting services in exchange for web-design services
  • Free office space in exchange for consulting services
  • Free printing services in exchange for graphic design services
  • Free online promotion in exchange for training materials
  • Travel discounts in exchange for coaching services

Conduct Free Research Online

Allocate some time to acquire as much knowledge as possible about your line of business. Use major search engines to research your potential competitors, the market where you hope to sell, and whether or not you need a license to do what you're doing in your state.

If you will be selling products or services, you will also need to obtain a state tax identification number. You can find all the information you need through the Internet or at your local library at no cost. Allocating time for research will provide the knowledge needed to prevent you from making very costly mistakes in the future.

Write a Business Plan Using Free Software

A business plan will provide a roadmap to follow initially and in the future. Be sure to take advantage of websites that offer free templates for creating and writing your business plan. In addition, the Small Business Administration offers step-by-step training at no cost on how to write a business plan. This is an integral part of any start-up business as it establishes goals and milestones while holding the owner accountable for the performance of the business.

Get Advice Through Free Mentoring Services

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers free mentoring to business owners to help them get started and be successful. All you have to do is visit any one of their offices to schedule an appointment.

Free mentoring is a valuable resource as it provides the owner with a chance to acquire knowledge from others who have been in the same position and successfully ran small businesses. This information can give the owner a better indication of which direction they should go in and the common pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Become a Sole Proprietor to Avoid Fees

Avoid incorporating from inception. Instead, take the sole-proprietor route because there are no fees required to get started. All you will need is an Employer Identification Number, which can be obtained through the Internal Revenue Service, and is available at no cost.

Accounting Without Fees

If you are unfamiliar with basic financial reporting, take an online Microsoft Excel training course. The courses are offered free of charge and teach you how to quickly manage your initial revenues and expenses. An accounting system is an essential component of any business as it conveys the financial health of the business to the owner in a coherent manner and identifies major revenue generators along with expense categories that need improvement.

Free Office Space

Obtaining office space from inception can be very difficult if adequate funds are not available. However, there are ways to break through the barriers.

Service-Oriented Businesses

Service-oriented businesses can operate from a home-based office. To change the scenery, visit your local library, Starbucks or McDonald's and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. If you need to meet with clients, simply schedule a lunch meeting.

Product-Oriented Businesses

In some instances, space for inventory and manufacturing is required for product-oriented businesses. If you do not have the funds available to rent space, reach out to local businesses that can benefit from your offerings and propose free services in exchange for space utilization at their location.

Marketing Your Business for Free

Marketing your business is an essential key to success. However, it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Eliminate the extras, such as fancy websites and stationary, and create the necessities on your own.

Build a Presence Online

One way to let your potential customers know who you are is to build an online presence. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways:

  • Use WordPress or Weebly to create a free website and blog.
  • Write a free e-book and offer it as an incentive to subscribe to your company's mailing list.
  • Submit guest posts and comment on the blogs that are most appealing to your target market to elevate exposure.
  • Create pages for your businesses using social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to use keywords commonly searched by your prospective customers to boost search rankings.
  • Upload video advertisements that showcase your products and services to your YouTube Channel. Embed the links in your website, blog posts, social media pages and forums that members of your target market visit most frequently.
  • Post a free advertisement about your offerings on Craigslist. The site also includes a link for those who are interested to email you.

Well-crafted copy will definitely distinguish your business from the crowd. Copy Hackers and Copyblogger provide free resources to subscribers of their mailing list; these tools demonstrate how to create a unique selling proposition, write effective web copy and convert website visitors to customers. You can also find other helpful information on their blogs.

Networking

Word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. You can also spread the word about your new business through:

  • Vista Print and Club Flyers are companies that will allow you to print 250 business cards free of charge, and you can use one of their free online templates to design the layout. You can also create flyers to place in local businesses and churches.
  • Demonstrations or free workshops to individuals or groups in your local community to market your products and services.
  • Networking events at your local Chamber of Commerce

Relationship marketing is also extremely beneficial when starting a business and can quickly boost exposure at no cost to you. In order to incorporate this strategy, you must locate established vendors who can help you promote and sell your products and services. As an incentive to the seller, they will earn a commission on each item sold at their location. For example, if you are selling nail polish and convince a spa to carry and promote your products on a consignment basis, they will receive a specified percentage of every sale that they make.

Conducting Transactions for Free

In many instances, there are fees associated with the shipping of goods and collection of funds. However, there are ways to complete transactions for free.

Shipping

If the goods must be shipped to the customer, pass this cost on to the customer and wait until funds are received to cover the shipping costs.

Accepting Credit Cards

Instead of going with a fancy merchant processing system, use PayPal or Google Checkout to collect payments remitted through debit or credit cards. PayPal enables your business to accept payments online or through a mobile plug-in card reader. With the Google Checkout feature, customers can pay for purchases by simply tapping their credit card against the NFC reader or by selecting the Google Wallet button on the website.

PayPal and Google may retain a small fee from the remitted funds, depending on the amount of the transaction, but you will not have to come up with money out of pocket. Be sure to adjust the rate of your products and services to recoup the lost revenue.

Cash Alternative

To avoid paying fees assessed by merchant processors, you can choose to only accept cash for purchases. This typically does not present a problem for businesses only serving customers locally since ATMs are usually within a close proximity for customers to quickly retrieve funds, although you may find your revenue increases when you do allow customers to pay with a card.

Consistency Is the Key

Starting a business from scratch is no walk in the park, but consistency with your efforts over time will definitely pay off. Quality, and not quantity, is what matters most. Therefore, you should only take on as many clients as you can handle and focus on meeting and even exceeding their needs to ensure that they become repeat customers and tell others about you. If business is slow initially, keep giving the clients that you do serve a high-caliber of service and your clientele will eventually flourish.

How to Start a Business with No Money