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When starting a business, finding a good idea is half the battle. The other side provides financial support.
A great business idea with zero capital doesn’t mean your entrepreneurial journey is over. There are many ways to start a business with no money. In most cases, all you need is an entrepreneurial mindset: patience, hard work, creativity and a willingness to try new things.
This guide describes how to start your own business with minimal money. The goal? You can then invest in growth to start making money.
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From validating an idea to earning your first dollar, here’s a plan to start a business with no money.
The first step in starting a business is to develop an idea. If you’re not sure what that might be, here are six creative business ideas you can start with no money.
The easiest way to start a business without money is to sell your service. Even if you don’t master a particular field, being better than the average person in a field means you can start a business that helps them. So start with what you know how to do better than most people. Set this skill in service like:
“Since you don’t have capital yet, start with things like experience, knowledge, skills and resources you have. This is the best investment you can make if you only have $0. – Kei Nishida, owner of a Japanese green tea company.
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Don’t rule out a service business if you don’t have a particularly strong skill set. Your time is valuable; Busy people often pay an hourly rate to have someone else do tasks they don’t want (or don’t have time for). This includes jobs such as:
Many entrepreneurs write off these small business ideas because of fear of minimum wage. But service-based businesses can be profitable. Some freelance writers make six figures annually within two years of starting their business. A window cleaner hit the $250,000 mark in 12 months.
Dropshipping is a popular business model for entrepreneurs who want to start a small business with no money. Just create an online store and choose a dropshipping supplier like DSers or AliExpress. When an order is placed, your e-commerce platform will send the order information to your supplier. Their job is to pick, pack and ship the order to your customer.
“As a master’s student, I didn’t have much income, so I decided to learn dropshipping. I decided to join Wish because shipping to your store or Amazon wasn’t talked about. – Zaid Shahatit, Founder of Fithouse
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The best part about dropshipping is that you can start with a small budget. Instead of buying inventory before you sell it and storing that stuff in an expensive warehouse, sellers charge you for the inventory when you sell it. Get started with the Business Starter Plan for $5/month.
The global market for personalized products is worth $38 billion. Take advantage of this opportunity even if you don’t have the money to invest in upfront inventory with a print on demand business.
Print-on-demand is the process of privately labeling products (such as bags, t-shirts, or hats) and selling them to order. Suppliers like Printful will print your design in stock, ship it to the client, and charge you for the service upon receiving payment from the client.
“We started with a print-on-demand service, raising our initial operating investment to $0. Basically, we were just a website to start – to validate ideas. — Catherine Liebert, co-founder of #muhoov
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Similar to dropshipping, there are minimal costs associated with starting this type of business, as you only pay for inventory when a customer places an order. With a print-on-demand model, there are no storage fees, making this a valuable option if you want to start your business with $0.
Prefer a more hands-on approach to starting a small business? Turn your hobby into a side hustle by selling handmade items in your online store or on a marketplace like Etsy. This may include:
“We started in a garage buying powder from websites and getting mixing jars wherever we could. Our first sample was hand-delivered with powder in Ziploc bags and funnels. – Carl Starkey, founder of AWSM Sauce
Catherine Bell is an entrepreneur who took this approach when starting a business with no money. Now the owner of Copper Bell, Catherine chose to sell candles because they “don’t have a steep learning curve, don’t require any government oversight and regulation, and can easily be made in larger and larger batches.”
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What started out as a fun side hustle eventually turned into Katrina’s full-time job after she was laid off at the start of the pandemic. “After that, I decided to really push my business online, and after a few months of full-time work, there was tremendous growth,” she says. “Sales really took off in the fall of 2020, and now I’m running the business not only from my home, but from a commercial production facility.”
Bonus: For extra cash when you’re just starting out, wrap your handmade items in a subscription box. Recurring income you receive from repeat orders can be reinvested in new inventory, providing start-up capital without external funding.
Digital products are something you can create and sell with just an internet connection, making them a great way to start an online business with no money.
Start by identifying areas where you have more knowledge than the average person. Then do some online research to see what issues people in the space are struggling with. Package your solution in a digital product such as:
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The beauty of digital products is that they are scalable. Build them once and sell them many times over with a digital download app. No wonder many entrepreneurs are using digital products as a way to generate passive income.
The term “influential” has taken on a life of its own over the last decade. More people than ever are making money through social media. All it takes is patience, social media savvy, and interesting content to share—three things you can do for free.
Start by building your social media presence on popular platforms like Instagram or TikTok. But don’t engage in the hard sell just yet. Followers can be monetized if they know, like and trust what you have to say.
Entrepreneurs have used this route to raise money for manufacturing-based businesses. For example, YouTuber Emma Chamberlain started posting videos on YouTube in 2017. She launched her first direct-to-consumer company, Chamberlain Coffee, just two years later to capitalize on her audience.
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A business plan is a plan for developing your business. Your content will depend on the low cost business model you choose. But in general it includes:
Need help with your writing? Here’s a free business plan template with examples to get you started.
The next step in starting a business is choosing a name. It is attractive, recognizable and most importantly not yet accepted. If you’re stuck, use this free business name generator for inspiration.
Remember: the name you choose will serve you for the life of your business. To avoid headaches, make sure you like it and see how it works with you.
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The process of starting a business from scratch has been seamless so far. While it’s possible to go the $0 route, it’s one of the smartest investments you can make in an online store. Your website is the virtual home of your new business—you can use it to educate potential customers about the products or services you sell.
If you’re on a tight budget, the Starter plan costs just $7 a month. It’s a small price to pay for an attractive, professional website that will help you make your first sale.
Starting a business with nothing is trial and error. Some ideas will be hits; Others may not be as popular as you first thought. Reduce risk by testing your ideas with pre-orders.
Pre-order works by taking money for goods you haven’t produced yet. It provides you with upfront money to invest in the product, creates publicity and creates a sense of exclusivity. People buy the chance to try something new in front of a crowd.
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Remy Martin is one such entrepreneur who took this approach. After Remy came up with the idea for Natural Girl Wigs while working a full-time job, he decided to start Instagram.