Who’s to say you can’t start a small business without money? Not us! Starting a business might seem like a daunting task, but you can do it without spending a cent of your hard-earned money. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to starting your business out strong.
1. Develop Your Business Idea
Successful businesses start with a passion. Sometimes, it’s noticing that something is missing that could make a system or process a lot easier, like having an all-encompassing site such as Yelp that shows you all of your eating options in a town without having to Google search everything. Other times, it’s having a deep-seated passion for self-development like motivational speaker Tony Robbins does and believing sharing it with the world can make it a better place.
Identify potential opportunities in your life that match what you love. Ask yourself these three questions, and allow for some time to answer them:
- What’s missing from the world that, if realized, could completely change the way something happens?
- What do you love, and how can it help others?
- What do you see other people struggling with that you know you could fix?
After answering the questions, consider this: If people are already doing this, what can you do to make it better? If people aren’t already doing this, how can you affirm that people will pay for these services?
2. Leverage Your Existing Skills
Have you been tutoring your little brother in math ever since you can remember? There’s no doubt other kids need help, too. Do you paint murals in your friend’s homes for fun? Maybe you can make a business out of it. See what your existing skills are and what you might want to make into a business. Test several to start and see which ones stick. It’s always best to start broad and narrow things down based on what works and what you love doing.
3. Focus on Services Over Products
Knowledge is priceless, and it’s also free. By using the power of your knowledge and experience, you can save on startup costs that would otherwise require the cost of supplies. Starting a service-based business will help you monetize quicker, using the knowledge you already have as an income-generating asset. Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your thinking:
Have you gained an excess of knowledge on coding, owning a brick-and-mortar business, or brand marketing? There might be entrepreneurs and business owners who would love to pick your brain on a professional level so they can learn from your experience.
If you want to do this at scale, see the online course below.
SEO Business Services
If you know the behind-the-scenes works of search engines like Google and have experience working with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices for yourself, then you may want to offer SEO services to help other businesses get noticed.
You might need to dust off that Sony DSLR. Those pictures you’ve taken of your dog, your family, or scenery could be the beginning portfolio pieces for your small business.
The enhanced need for digital marketing brings the need for writers to make it happen. Blog posts, web copy, and social media copy are ways you can offer writing services to businesses looking to expand their message through the power of the written word.
Web Design Services
Do you know WordPress like the back of your hand? Web design services are used by lots of big businesses and blogs that need an optimized backend for tracking metrics and best SEO practices, and not everyone is a pro at it.
If you’re a numbers guy or gal, good news: Lots of people aren’t. If you are a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or aren’t afraid to get the certification, you can help businesses with ongoing bookkeeping and accounting needs. Also, consider tacking on financial consultancy services to your business offerings.
Want to share your life with the world? Content creators and influencers around the world are showing up in Instagram stories, on TikTok videos, and through other social media platforms. They’re sharing their lives, whether it’s through decorating their fixer-upper, mastering video games, or becoming a parent. This “service” is really creating an experience for someone else. Start becoming familiar with things like brand sponsorships, promotional posts, and offering paid digital products to supplement your content for your audience, which requires lots of time and patience to build.
Launch an Online Course
If you’ve been through an experience once before, chances are others are working to navigate it, too. Oftentimes, people think that if they haven’t started their own business or made a million dollars, they aren’t qualified for giving advice, but that’s not true. Did you graduate from college? There are lots of college students struggling to figure out how to organize their classes, take effective notes, or graduate with honors. Do you live in a big city? Chances are there are a lot of people who want to move there but don’t know what to expect.
Have you hosted parties since grade school? You might love being an event planner, helping businesses organize and manage events like conferences, workshops, and seminars.
Virtual Assistant Services
If you’re a fast learner, organized, and open to tackling a variety of different tasks, being a virtual assistant is a great remote option, especially for those who might prefer a more flexible schedule.
Online Tutoring Business
Tutoring isn’t limited to when you were in high school. Starting your own online tutoring business is as simple as getting the word out about your expertise and perhaps a few testimonials of past clients.
Social Media Management
If you love keeping up with all of the trends on social media, know how to make a feed look beautiful and love interacting and connecting with people in the comments, then being a social media manager could be the perfect job for you. By taking on some clients, you can help with content creation, scheduling, analyzing metrics, and working on content strategies like a campaign or rebranding.
Video Editing Business
With a growing group of full-time YouTubers, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram reels, video content is among the most popular type of content. Offering your service as a video editor can help growing content creators continue sharing engaging videos with the world.
4. Start Small and Build Slowly
So many people think that once they announce they’ve started their business, that inquiries and money will flood in, but this isn’t the case. A lot of behind-the-scenes work happens with many small business owners, including solidifying what their offering actually is. If a few of the ideas on the above list stood out, try to do all of them. See which ones you love and are good at before narrowing your choices down to just one thing.
5. Make a Plan of Action
Dozens of business plan templates are out there to try on for size, but it’s important that whichever one you use, you include:
- Business concept — what your business is and what problem it solves
- Target market — the prime audience is who will benefit from this
- Estimated expenses — how you’re going to budget for this without landing yourself in debt
- Timeline — what the time frame is that you’re giving yourself to complete certain milestones
6. Develop Your Brand
Your business’s brand is deeper than just what you do. It represents what you believe in and, in turn, will attract the clients you resonate with. “Building a Storybrand” by Donald Miller will help you outline exactly how your beliefs, mission, and purpose can be built into a story that your dream customers will be drawn to.
7. Use Free or Low-Cost Marketing Strategies
Even the most expensive marketing strategies don’t necessarily yield direct sales. Studies show that Super Bowl ads only yield brand awareness and don’t result in an uptick in sales. More money out doesn’t necessarily mean more money in.
When you’re starting for free, you can use free social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook accounts to showcase your service through creative content creation. Blogs are content marketing efforts that show up on people’s search engines and when optimized correctly could bring lots of clicks.
You’ll need to have a solid, value-centric content strategy in place. Just like you wouldn’t like to be constantly sold to, your customers do not want to feel like all you’re doing is selling to them. Watch some YouTube videos about content creation and how to generate valuable content for your readers so they know, like, and trust you. That way, they’ll be more likely to buy from you when they’re ready.
8. Identify Legal Requirements
If you’ve already started your business, you’ll want to legitimize it so you can be qualified for opening a business bank account, get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and become qualified for tax benefits and, if needed, small-business loans.
Take a look at doola University, our educational hub of business guidance to help you decide whether an LLC, sole proprietorship, or corporation would work for you.
9. Track Your Progress
Progress comes in two forms: hitting goals and sticking with habits. Go to the local library and check out a few books to help you track your business’s progress. “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield is a great book to help you track goals, and “Atomic Habits” by James Clear helps you establish habits to help you achieve them.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
The business owners who seem like overnight successes failed countless times before hitting the top. Oprah got fired from her first TV job for being unfit for television news. J.K. Rowling was living on welfare before writing the Harry Potter series. Steve Jobs got fired from his own company after releasing Apple products that flopped. Successful small-business owners look at failures as learning opportunities or pivots. It might be scary, but you’re not at it alone.
Creating a business with no money is a step-by-step process, starting with forming it. Start your business formation process with doola to take the next step in pursuing your business owner dreams.
Is it possible to start a business with no money?
Yes! If you have skills and a few hours, you can start your business with something as simple as a thought-out service and a social media account. After you’ve begun, you can invest in a paid website, and any technology needed and establish an LLC so you can write off what you invest in.
What is the easiest business to start with no money?
No business comes easy, but we recommend starting a service-based business, like freelance writing, consulting, or social media management, as it generally has fewer startup costs compared to a product-based business.
What is needed to open a business bank account as a sole proprietor?
To open a business bank account, you need an Employee Identification Number (EIN). You can get one by visiting the IRS’s designated page here.