How to Start a Business Without Money - A Short SBG Guide

ByJulija A.
March 23,2022

Many people assume that you need a lot of money in the bank to start a company. But, as you’ll discover in this post, that’s not always the case. While capital helps for certain types of enterprises, it’s not always necessary. In today’s world, you can start something from scratch with no cash outlay at all and, in some cases, even build an income that far outstrips your regular salary.

In this post, we'll take a look at how to start a business without money and then provide some business idea examples that are affordable and easy to pursue.

How To Start a Small Business Without Money

Fifty years ago, start-ups had to do virtually everything themselves. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built Apple computers in a shed, and Bill Gates didn’t exactly have a ton of investors lined up to support Windows when he started out. 

Things have changed in recent years, though, and starting a business with no money is considerably easier than it was in the past. These days, it’s more about leveraging the tools that are already out there in new and interesting ways. Good business ideas often still need some money, but there are ways around that, too.

Here’s how to start a business from scratch with no money saved up: 

Find a Problem To Solve That Uses Your Skill Set

The best business ideas are those that sit at the confluence of your skillset and a problem that needs solving. Pursuing a passion of yours at any cost is not necessarily advisable. While you might love the work, it may not align with a problem in the marketplace.

Instead, look for a small subdivision in the market where consumers’ needs aren’t being solved and then look to fill the gap. For instance, you could:

  • Chop a larger product into smaller, more manageable chunks (such as chocolate buttons or apple slices).
  • Improve how often or in which ways you interact with customers (for example, eBay reviews).
  • Change how quickly you deliver products (such as next-day or same-day delivery).
  • Combine two existing ideas (such as providing a play creche in a coffee shop).
  • Take something out of a product that people don’t like.
  • Exaggerate your love of ugliness (such as misshapen fruit and vegetables to reduce waste)
  • Automate an activity that used to require human labor (such as picking products in a warehouse)

Of course, your imagination will be much better than ours. But the principle remains the same: your idea needs to provide a meaningful improvement in your customers’ lives in a way that others on the market aren’t offering at the moment.

Create a Minimum Viable Product

After you find a novel problem that requires your skill set to solve, you need to create a minimum viable product (MVP). Your MVP should offer at least a minimum feature set that people will pay you for - it’s basically a demo meant to attract buyers.

When starting a business with no money, MVPs are essential. You need to generate revenue as quickly as possible to keep your head above water. You should not wait until you’ve built out your entire feature set before you start selling the product or idea. 

Set Up a Payment Mechanism

Once you have your MVP in place, the next step is to set up a payment system. If you want to open a retail store with no money, you can work with a merchant account service. These provide you with the POS tools and accounts you need to take credit and debit card payments at your premises. 

If you are setting up an online shop, eCommerce websites will provide you with various ways to take payments. Similarly, if you want to sell courses or training, you can use an online platform, such as Mastermind or Kajabi. 

If you’re selling something else, look for existing payment platforms in your niche. Usually, you’ll find a company that provides you with all the tools you need to make payments so you can avoid relying on old-fashioned paper invoicing, bank transfers, and cash. 

Go Public

The next step is to go public with your plans. Even if you are an entrepreneur without money, there are still plenty of ways to do this. 

Start by setting up a website on a free platform, such as Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress. Then acquire a domain name from a reputable provider. 

You will need to pay a small fee for this, depending on the name you choose. However, prices are low for more obscure domain suffixes (such as .co or .us), meaning that you can get a URL for just a few dollars a year. 

If you want to start an eCommerce business with no money, there are plenty of platforms to choose from, including WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Shopify, and Magento. 

Next, maintain a constant social media presence. Make sure that you: 

  • Regularly respond to users’ questions and queries.
  • Ask other people in your network to promote your posts.
  • Post one to three interesting items about your brand per day.
  • Regularly check in with your audience to make sure they’re happy and address their concerns.

Get Some Help

Great business leaders don’t try to go at it alone. They always ask for help and try to find ways to make the universe conspire in their favor by:

  • Getting friends and family to pitch in and provide extra funding or ideas.
  • Asking for mentors to listen to sales pitches and offer advice on how to improve them.
  • Going to reputable lenders for small business loans when extra cash is needed.
  • Looking for local grants and small business funding opportunities.
  • Finding potential angel business investors who might be willing to take a punt on their business idea.
  • Looking for additional sources of funding, such as peer-to-peer lending and crowdsourcing.
  • Learning more about how to start a business without money.

Grow Your Business

The final step is to grow your business so that it becomes profitable. If you don’t push forward hard, you may not build enough momentum to make a good return on your investment. 

Here are some inexpensive or free ways to market your business and ensure that it thrives: 

  • Invest in SEO

You can pay an agency to do this for you, or if you’re really short of money, you can do it yourself for free. Ensure that you include relevant keywords on your website, write content relevant to your audience, and get links from partner sites to your pages. 

  • Market on social media

You can pay for this with ads or do it for free by creating content for your pages and accounts. If you are struggling to gain traction, try working with influencers.

  • Do content marketing

By writing useful articles and creating helpful videos, you can provide prospective customers with the value they can’t get from your competitors.

  • Cold outreach

Lastly, you might want to try cold outreach. While challenging, it is a great way to get your foot in the door and build more sustainable clients long-term. 

Examples of Businesses You Can Start With No Money

Wondering how to start a business with no money or credit? There are plenty of examples already out there and they provenly work. Let’s take a look at a few:

Life Coaching

A life coach is simply someone who offers guidance to other people on how to live better. Many coaches focus on a particular dimension of life, such as relationships, finances, spirituality or career. To stand out in this industry, you’ll need to have the ability to truly change someone’s outlook on a particular area of life. 

Pet Sitting

Becoming a pet sitter can be a fun line of work. You walk or groom dogs and, in return, their owners pay you a fee. Pet sitting is popular in cities where professionals don’t always have the time needed to look after their pets properly.

Handyman Services

If you are good at fixing things around the house, then you might consider handyman services. These professionals charge callout and service fees for fixing broken windows, putting up curtain rods, and removing mold from tile grouting. You might need some initial investment to buy the necessary tools if you don’t already have them, though.

Selling Printed T-Shirts

On-demand, customizable printed t-shirts are a viable, low-cost business option. Here, you simply set up an online store and then work with a t-shirt printing partner to distribute apparel to your customers. This is not exactly a free option and is something you’ll need to invest at least some funds in, but the overall returns make those modest initial investments worth it. 

Selling Books

You might think of writing as a different category from business, but it’s not. After all, a book is just another product that gets bought and sold. 

There are many types of books you could create. These include:

  • How-to manuals.
  • Professional books for a particular industry niche.
  • Novels and fictional literature.
  • Scientific books and journals (not really a money-maker, though).
  • Self-help or philosophical books.
  • Photo books.
  • Comics.
  • Customizable books for children and adults.

Again, this is one of the best businesses to start with little money because you don’t need to set up the printing shop yourself. You just work with an existing publishing house that provides the features you want to offer your customers. With that in mind, you’ll still need to scrounge up some starting capital.

Selling an Online Course

If you are thinking about how to start a business online without money and are serious about not having even a tiny bit of seed capital, there are still options to consider. One is to simply sell your skills – something that you already know how to do well, but other people will find valuable learning.  

Selling a course online is much easier than you might think. Today, there are many platforms that host your course and help it reach your target audience. What’s more, it’s the type of work you can do without having to quit your day job, and, on many platforms, you won’t have any upfront costs, either. 

Selling Print-on-Demand Cards, Posters, and Prints

Print-on-demand services are becoming more popular as consumers look to personalize gifts or items in their homes. Therefore, selling these products could be a great way to scale a business fast. Again, you don’t need to pay for the printing facilities or worry about shipping yourself: you can partner with a dropshipping service and a publishing house and get them to do it for you. 

Child Care

Have you ever said to a friend, “I want to start a business but have no ideas on where to start”? Child care is a very popular profession in this age of overworked people who cannot dedicate the time they’d like to their children but still want them to be in good hands. Parents want to leave their kids with people who will look after them properly and provide educational support. 

If you get a license, you can start using your home, which will allow you to look after multiple children simultaneously to earn more money from this venture. 

Test Prep Services

Parents want their children to perform well at exams. Hence, test prep services are just as popular as private tuition, if not more so these days. All you need is some experience in academia or a background in education. 

Car Detailing

If you love cars, you might want to offer a car detailing service. Proud owners are often willing to pay a premium for specialists who can make their vehicles look great, and the start-up costs to set up such an operation won’t cripple your budget. 

Food Trucks

Food truck businesses aren’t free, but they are much more affordable than setting up a restaurant or getting a retail unit in the middle of town. 

These days, you can rent food trucks to test your business model – you don’t have to buy them outright. To be successful, you’ll want to offer people niche food that they love. 

Electronics Repair Services

If you know a lot about electronics, such as smartphones and notebooks, you might want to offer an electronics repair service. Here, people bring you their broken items, and you’ll attempt to fix them. Again, you’ll need both knowledge and a set of tools, but if you’re keen on electronics and have been fixing your own hardware for years, chances are you’ll already have everything you need.

Refurbished Electronics

A similar idea to the one above is opening a refurbished electronics business. Here, you take old devices, factory reset them, clean them up, repair any obvious damage, and then sell them on while making a profit.

Landscaping

The landscaping business can be a very lucrative option. If you are careful with the type of projects you take on, this can be a great way to make money. Start with small items that you can complete with simple hand tools, and then use the cash you earn to buy more equipment that will let you take on larger projects. 

Vending Machines

Believe it or not, there is actually quite substantial money to be made from getting into the vending machine business. It’s not an entirely passive income stream after the initial investment, though - at least not if you want to keep making money. The ongoing work involves restocking machines and fixing them if they go wrong. To make truly good money, you’ll eventually want numerous vending machines and a team of staff to help with restocking and repair work.

Airbnb Business

It’s easy to start an Airbnb business without money, but you will need a place for people to stay. Your home is more likely to be in high demand if you are close to a tourist hotspot or a business district.

Selling Subscription Boxes

Selling subscription boxes is a great way to start a business without experience. The way it works is simple: instead of building your own products and packaging them, you curate those of other brands and then pass them on to consumers in boxes. The value is in the selection process itself: you’re telling consumers what’s good instead of relying on them to figure it out for themselves. 

Selling Phone Accessories

Today, there’s a huge market for smartphone accessories, due to the sheer volume of people who now own these devices. They need Bluetooth headphones, tripods, cases, dashboard holders, portable and wireless chargers, and so on. What’s more, they are often willing to buy on impulse, either online or in-store, so you’ll likely have a high demand for your products. Just bear in mind that this is another job that will require some reasonable starting capital. 

Online Consulting

If you have had a long career and are starting a business from nothing, you might have success with online consulting. Here, you provide firms with guidance and advice on topics they might not understand. They may then ask you to directly intervene and perform tasks for them, paying you fees for the privilege. It’s another great job to put your skills to good use without having to spend any money upfront.

Conclusion

Starting a business without money is surprisingly easy in the modern world. Thanks to the internet and other communication technologies, it’s now something that’s accessible to most people. That said, some of the ideas we presented here still might require some sort of seed capital, but you won't need a large amount of funding to get your idea off the ground. 

Frequently Asked Questions
Can a business run without money?

There are many ways to start a business without money. However, many companies have running costs (unless they are dormant). Therefore, revenues will need to exceed expenses if you want to stay in business and avoid having to constantly dip into your savings. 

What do I do if I can’t get a loan to start a business?

If you can’t get a loan but need funding to start your business, you can look for alternative financing sources.. For instance, you may be able to fund a business with crowdsourcing or angel investors. If you are still struggling, you might want to save up and self-finance or explore business opportunities that don’t require any upfront outlay of cash. 

What are some cheap, profitable businesses?

Examples of cheap, profitable businesses include child care, pet sitting, renting out part of your home on Airbnb, digital marketing, blogging, personal training, home and office cleaning, product licensing, and translation services. 

What are the most successful small businesses?

The most profitable small businesses tend to cluster around professional skills. For example, consulting, bookkeeping and accounting. However, you can make virtually any business highly profitable, so long as you adequately scale it and provide good value to your customers.

What business can I start with no money?

If you’re wondering how to start a business without money, check out our detailed guide above. There are plenty of businesses that you can start with little or no money, but you’ll have to pick one that matches your skillset to do well. Some of the better options are online coaching, home remodeling, catering, child care, print-on-demand cards, handyman services, and pet sitting.

About the author

Julia A. is a writer at SmallBizGenius.net. With experience in both finance and marketing industries, she enjoys staying up to date with the current economic affairs and writing opinion pieces on the state of small businesses in America. As an avid reader, she spends most of her time poring over history books, fantasy novels, and old classics. Tech, finance, and marketing are her passions, and she’s a frequent contributor at various small business blogs.

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By Danica Djokic · September 21,2022
The eCommerce landscape is constantly evolving. What was popular last year may not be so hot this year, and what’s trending now may be totally different a year from now. In the aftermath of the pandemic, we’re seeing even more changes in the way people shop online. To stay ahead of the curve and nail your strategy, you need to stay up to date with the latest eCommerce trends. We've put together a list of factors that will shape eCommerce in the next few years so that you can make the necessary changes to your online store and outdo the competition. B2C ECommerce Will Overtake B2B Traditional in-person shopping may never be the same again. The pandemic has pushed people to shop online out of necessity, and many have found that they actually prefer it. Convenience, safety, and a wider selection are all big selling points for eCommerce. It’s no wonder that 52% of people who switched to online shopping for groceries said they wouldn’t switch back. As a result, we expect to see a continued increase in online shopping even after the pandemic is over. This shift will have a big impact on the types of products that are being sold online. We can already see new trends in eCommerce - a move away from heavy, bulky items that are difficult to transport and an increase in sales of smaller items that can be easily shipped. This trend is likely to continue as people become more accustomed to shopping online for items that they would traditionally have bought in-store. Another big trend that we’re seeing is a shift from business-to-business eCommerce to business-to-consumer eCommerce. The rise of B2C over B2B is being driven by the fact that many small businesses have had to move their operations online in order to make it through the pandemic. Even traditional businesses that relied on in-person sales are now turning to eCommerce to reach their customers. Manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, and insurance are just some of the industries that are starting to sell directly to consumers online. This new approach and innovative trends in the eCommerce industry might bring some new challenges. However, the benefits are likely to outweigh the drawbacks in the long run. ECommerce Companies Lean More on Augmented Reality The rise of augmented reality has been a game changer in the eCommerce industry, especially in fashion and home furnishing. This technology is being used by some of the biggest names in retail, including IKEA, Dulux, Lego, Sephora, and Nike. AR allows shoppers to see how products would look in their homes before they buy them. This is particularly useful for items like furniture and home décor, where it can be difficult to visualize exactly how something would look in your home space. Following the new eCommerce trends, AR has recently been used to create virtual showrooms and allow customers to try on products before they buy them. This can benefit the clothing and makeup industries, where you need to see how something looks on you before you make a purchase. We expect to see even more retailers using AR in the next few years as the technology becomes more widespread and available to everyone. AI Will Further Personalize the Shopping Experience Artificial intelligence is already being used by many top-rated eCommerce platforms to personalize their customers’ shopping experiences. This is one of the latest eCommerce trends, and it helps businesses learn about customers’ individual preferences and use that information to recommend products based on a customer’s past purchases, browsing history, and search queries. This technology is also being used to create dynamic pricing models that automatically adjust prices based on demand, competitor prices, and other factors. AI can also be used to help businesses manage their inventory and fulfill orders more efficiently. In the future, AI is likely to become even more involved in the eCommerce experience. It will be used to provide customer support, process orders, and handle returns. We may even see robots being used to pick and pack orders in warehouses. The use of AI will enable eCommerce shoppers to have a more personalized and convenient experience. It will also allow businesses to save money on labor costs. Chatbots Will Become More Common Today, customers expect their online shopping experience to be streamlined, so when they encounter a bottleneck or poor customer service, it’s very easy for a potential customer to abandon their cart. This means that eCommerce businesses need to find ways to speed up their fulfillment process. One way to do this is by using chatbots to automate customer service tasks. A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation. Ever since the first chatbot, ELIZA, was created in 1966, the service has been used to provide customer support, answer questions, and make recommendations. Many eCommerce businesses are already using chatbots, and we expect future trends in eCommerce to make them even more common.  For example, a chatbot can be used to answer common customer questions, provide order status updates, and take care of returns. This frees up customer service representatives to handle more complex issues.  In the future, we expect chatbots to become even more involved in the eCommerce experience. They will likely be used to handle a wider range of tasks, including processing orders and payments. As AI becomes more sophisticated, chatbots will become more realistic and able to hold natural conversations with customers more easily. Voice Search Will Become a Big Deal As voice-activated assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home become more common, we expect voice search to become more prominent in global eCommerce trends. Voice search allows for voice input, which is faster and often more convenient than typing. As statistics indicate, about 75% of US households will own at least one smart speaker by 2025, making voice search an important factor in eCommerce.  As the use of voice-activated assistants grows and as they become an integral part of eCommerce’s future, we expect businesses will optimize their eCommerce sites for voice search. This means using natural language instead of keywords, including long-tail keywords that are more likely to be spoken than typed, and making sure that product pages are listed when someone searches for relevant keywords. It will also become more critical for businesses to provide concise and accurate information on their product pages. This is because people are more likely to get frustrated with a voice-activated assistant if they have to keep asking for clarification on product descriptions. Conventional Payment Options Will Take a Back Seat As the world becomes more digital, we expect to see a shift from traditional payment methods to newer, more secure methods such as mobile payments and cryptocurrencies. Unlike recent B2B eCommerce trends, this one will have a more profound and lasting impact on the way businesses interact with customers.  With a variety of ways to pay for goods and services online, customers will have more choice and flexibility when it comes to how they make purchases. We expect mobile payments to become more popular as people become more comfortable using their smartphones to make transactions. Contactless payments have become common during the pandemic, and established players such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are likely to benefit from this trend. Cryptocurrency is another payment method that is gaining popularity, particularly among younger generations. Bitcoin payments, one of the major new trends in eCommerce shopping, have been on the rise lately. As more people become aware of cryptocurrency and how to use it, eCommerce customers will have more options when it comes to how they make payments. Headless and API-Driven Commerce is Gaining Momentum Headless commerce is an architecture that decouples the back-end systems from the front-end. This allows businesses to build their eCommerce store using any programming language and framework they want. API-driven commerce is a similar concept, but it takes things one step further by allowing businesses to connect their eCommerce store to any third-party service using APIs, a type of software that allows two applications to communicate with each other. This eCommerce industry trend is gaining momentum because it gives businesses more flexibility and control over their stores. Companies can also get the advantage of the incorporated SEO, content marketing tools, and digital experience features. Finally, back-end developers and front-end developers can work independently of each other, which speeds up the development process. Product Videos Will Become More Popular As broadband speeds continue to increase and more people watch videos on their smartphones, customer engagement through product videos will continue to grow. Short video content is a great way to show off your products in a way that is more engaging than traditional product photos. They are also a great way to showcase how your products can be used in real-world scenarios directly from your eCommerce store. Unlike photos or descriptions, video content can quickly grab a viewer’s attention and give them an idea of what your product is all about. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to start thinking about how you can use video content to showcase your products or services effectively. Conversion Strategies Will Focus on Building Trust In order to convert leads into customers, businesses need to focus on building trust. Multi-channel selling, Facebook advertising, and Instagram marketing are great ways to convert leads into customers, provided you focus on building trust with your target audience.  As recent online sales trends indicate, consumers are more and more skeptical of advertising and are looking for brands they can have confidence in. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as by displaying customer testimonials and reviews, social proof, and security seals. Another way to build trust is to offer a money-back guarantee or free shipping. This shows that you are confident in your product and that you are willing to stand behind it. Finally, focusing on transparency (e.g., disclosing your business practices, the manufacturing process, etc.) and building a strong social media presence can also help any business in the eCommerce industry build trust with potential customers. Big Data is a Game Changer Big data is a term used to describe the large volume of data that businesses now have access to. This data can come from a variety of sources, such as social media, website analytics, CRM systems, and more. Big data can be used to improve the customer experience in a number of ways, such as by personalizing the experience, identifying customer pain points, and improving customer service. We've all experienced seeing suggestions on shopping platforms or search engines, and most of us have found them to be pretty accurate. The more data a company has, the better it can cater to its customer's needs, and this will become increasingly important in future eCommerce trends. However, big data carries big challenges as customers are more and more concerned about data privacy. So, businesses need to make sure they are handling customer data responsibly and transparently if they want to keep using it to boost profits. Mobile Commerce Will Continue To Grow Mobile commerce is expected to continue growing in the coming years. According to statistics, mobile devices are used for over 40% of online transactions, their rising popularity indicates that this is one of the trends in online shopping that’s here to stay. Mobile commerce offers a number of advantages for businesses, such as increased reach, shorter buying cycles, and improved conversion rates. It also offers many advantages for customers, including the ability to shop anywhere at any time. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, it’s important to make sure your eCommerce platform is mobile-friendly. This means having a responsive design that looks good on all devices, as well as providing a smooth and easy-to-use mobile shopping experience. Omnichannel Selling Will Become the Norm Omnichannel selling is a term used to describe the practice of selling products through multiple channels, such as brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, mobile apps, and more. This eCommerce trend and approach allows businesses to reach more potential customers and provides a more seamless shopping experience. In the past, businesses have often treated each selling channel as a separate entity. However, this is changing as more and more businesses are adopting an omnichannel approach. This shift is driven by the increasing popularity of online shopping and the need for businesses to provide a more cohesive customer experience. As omnichannel selling becomes more common, it’s important for businesses to make sure they’re building eCommerce websites that can support it. This means having a platform that is integrated with all of your other selling channels and that provides a consistent experience for customers regardless of how they shop.  Environmental Sustainability Will Play a Big Role As we become more and more aware of the impact our consumption has on the environment, sustainability is becoming an important factor in purchasing decisions. Customers that follow new online shopping trends want to know if the products they’re buying have been ethically sourced and if the company they are buying from is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint. In order to stay ahead of the competition, businesses need to make sure they’re considering environmental sustainability in all aspects of their operations. This includes everything from the sourcing of materials to the packaging and shipping of products. Customers are now more willing to pay extra for sustainable products, so there is a big opportunity for businesses that are able to meet this demand. How To Make the Best Use of ECommerce Trends ECommerce is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up. However, by staying informed and making sure your eCommerce platform is up to date, you can ensure that your business is able to stay ahead of the competition. To make the most of the latest eCommerce developments, consider the following: 1. Keep Up With the Latest Trends To stay on top of your game, you must be proactive and regularly seek out new information. There is a number of ways to do this, such as reading industry news, following relevant blogs and industry influencers, and attending eCommerce conferences. You can get to know what’s going on in the industry and find inspiration for your own business.  Read up on the research data and statistics that are available on eCommerce growth trends. This can help you understand the current landscape and make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts.  2. Take Advantage of Digital Tools There are a number of digital tools that can help you improve your eCommerce business. From marketing automation software to customer relationship management systems, there’s a variety of features that can make it easier to run your business and provide a better experience for your customers. Check the data and sales figures, and invest in analytical tools so you can understand where your customers are coming from and what they are looking for. 3. Learn From Your Competitors It’s important to keep an eye on your competitors to see what they are doing and how they are reacting to the latest eCommerce retail trends. You can learn a lot from observing their strategies and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Should they fail, you can learn from their mistakes. If they succeed, you can try to replicate their success. Final Words As the global eCommerce ecosystem continues to grow and evolve, it's important to stay on top of the latest trends. Instead of leaning on traditional shopping methods, more and more consumers are turning to the internet to purchase items. Mobile phones play a big role here, as they provide a convenient way to shop on the go. What's more, consumers are getting more comfortable with new technologies such as AI, AR, chatbots, and voice search. These eCommerce trends in technology are changing the way we interact with eCommerce platforms and retailers. With all that said, we're confident that you now have a solid understanding of the current eCommerce landscape. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled for new trends so you can stay ahead of the curve.
By Danica Djokic · September 15,2022

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