How to Start a Business With No Money: Strategies for Success

woman daydreaming about a new business

Depending on the type of business you'd like to launch, you may or may not be able to get started with no money. Some types of businesses require a significant initial investment, but not all. If you're wondering how to start a business with no money, the strategies provided here can help you begin.

Decide What Kind of Business You Want to Start

The first step in becoming an entrepreneur is to decide what kind of business you want to start. When you're seeking to start a business without having any money, it's generally best to focus on services that you can provide to customers for which you already have any tools or equipment that will be needed. A few examples of businesses that require no investment, or a very minimal one, include:

  • Artistic services - crafting, photography, illustration, calligraphy
  • Content production - freelance writing, blogging, ghostwriting, academic writing
  • Caregiving services - babysitting, in-home child care, senior citizen aide
  • Entertainment services - party planning, singing for special events
  • Food businesses - catering, cake decorating
  • Pet services - dog walking, pet sitting, dog bathing

These are just a few ideas. The key is for you to brainstorm about what kind of business you want to start, taking into consideration your goal of becoming an entrepreneur without a significant financial investment. Make a list of your skills and talents and consider which ones you'd like to pursue professionally.

Identify What You Need to Get Started

Even though some business types may not require you to have much startup capital, there are costs associated with starting just about any type of business. Unless you plan to simply offer freelance services in a field that doesn't require business registration, you'll at least need a business license. Fortunately, researching what's involved in starting a business doesn't cost anything but your time. What you learn along the way will be invaluable.

  • Find out what city, county, and state requirements apply in your location for the type of business you want to start. Begin with your local business license office and the website for your state's Secretary of State.
  • Research to identify any special requirements that might apply to your type of business, such as special rules for home-based childcare or unique requirements for at-home food preparation businesses.
  • Speak with an insurance agent to get a sense of what business insurance will cost for the type of company you are planning to start.
  • Reach out to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) to connect with a mentor who will help you figure out how to best proceed. The organization's mentors are retired executives who volunteer their time to help entrepreneurs.
  • Find free or very inexpensive entrepreneurial training via the local office of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to gain the knowledge you need to move forward.

Start the Business Planning Process

Once you have a good idea of what you'll have to do (and pay for) before you can get started, you can make plans to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Start planning by:

  • Researching to identify if there is truly a market for your business idea, as well as to identify the primary and secondary customer groups you should consider targeting.
  • Making plans to adapt your schedule to free up enough of your time to handle all of the duties and responsibilities associated with building and running a business. After all, without money, you won't be able to hire employees.
  • Making a list of everything you will need to launch your business idea, and brainstorm ways you can get what you need for free or at the lowest possible cost. Check Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, and other resources for freebies and super-bargains.
  • Considering if there are ways you can barter to get items you'll need for your business. For example, if you know a web designer, offer to trade pet sitting or birthday cakes (or whatever you are selling) in exchange for creating a basic website for you.
  • Building a business budget based on what you've learned about startup costs, and an estimate of what you'll need to operate until the business starts bringing in enough revenue to support itself.
  • Writing a solid business plan that details the nature of your business, how you will promote it to attract customers, and reasonable financial projections. This will help you decide whether to move forward, and it will be useful if you seek funding.
woman making business strategy

Explore Options for Accessing Business Funding

While you're putting time and energy into researching how to start your business, explore your options for ways to secure operating capital that will allow you to get started. Some helpful tips and ideas are:

  • Start saving money to build up seed capital to pay for initial and early business expenses. Even if you plan to borrow money, you need to do this so lenders will see you are serious about getting started, and so you have some collateral.
  • Set aside additional savings to make sure you have money to pay your personal bills and expenses during the early days of your business. Entrepreneurs often go months (or longer) before being able to draw a salary from a new business.
  • Consider if you have friends, family members, or business contacts who might want to form a business partnership with you or otherwise invest in your business idea. If you go this route, you'll need an investor proposal to pitch your idea.
  • Identify funding programs that may be available to you, such as a second mortgage, SBA loan, angel investors or other funding options for small businesses. Be aware that you'll likely need collateral or a co-borrower to get a business loan.
  • Search to see if there are any grants for starting a small business for which you might be eligible. But take into account that such programs are rare for any for-profit business venture.
  • Explore creative business financing options, such as the possibility of launching a crowdfunding campaign to secure funding to finance the launch of your business.

Build Your Business Network

You don't have to wait until you actually launch your business to start building your business network. Building relationships with other professionals and prospective customers can help set you up for success. You may meet other entrepreneurs with whom you can partner, or even connect with potential customers so you have a built-in clientele when you officially launch your business. Take the following steps to build your business network:

  • Create a solid entrepreneurial profile for yourself on LinkedIn. Get active on the site and connect with others with whom you can establish mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Consider setting up professional profiles on other social networking sites as well. For example, you could create a Pinterest profile to showcase examples of your work or services. You'll already have followers when you announce your grand opening!
  • Attend local business networking groups as a guest, so you'll know which ones you might want to join once you launch your business. Most let visitors attend a few meetings for free, or for the cost of any meal that is served.
  • If the company you work for now has a Chamber of Commerce membership, start attending networking events that are available to members employees' at no cost. The people you meet there will still be your contacts when you start your company.
  • Get active in the alumni groups for your high school and/or college, especially if your business venture will have a local focus. The old friends with whom you reconnect just might be prospective customers or business partners.

Prepare Today to Become an Entrepreneur Tomorrow

Starting a small business takes a lot of time and dedication. It also requires financial resources. You can do a lot of the pre-work and planning that is required before you have access to the funds you need to move forward. If you want to start a small business, but don't have any money, go ahead and start investigating your options and putting a plan in place. Doing so will allow you to select a business type that doesn't require a lot of startup capital, and provide you with the information you need to make wise decisions about how to best move forward.

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How to Start a Business With No Money: Strategies for Success