How to start a business with no money, step by step.
According to the Small Business Association, corporate lenders fund most business start up costs. But obtaining a bank loan isn't always easy. That said, there's still plenty you can do to start up your business if you're short on funds and can't wait for an angel VC, crowdfunding, friends and family, or a bank to provide the capital you need. With just a little creativity, your costs of starting a business can be less than $350.00.
Call yourself a savvy bootstrapped business owner with these eight steps:
1. Establish the Legal Structure
Determining the legal structure of your business is the most costly aspect of starting up a business. To determine the legal structure of your business, you can access all the necessary information and forms on the IRS website and the Small Business Administration website.
You'll likely form an LLC, which will require you to finalize documents and provide a check payable to your state for the filing fee of the Certificate of Formation. Note that each state has different requirements and could charge anywhere from $50-$500, plus annual fees. You'll also need to register your business name, or Doing Business As name, which could set you back another $50. You can enlist the help of a lawyer, or you can do this on your own by consulting the corporate section of your state's Secretary of State website
COST: $300.00 (average)
2. Get an EIN
An EIN is like a social security number for a business, and it must be secured in order to do things like open a bank account, apply for business licenses, and file a tax return by mail. You can apply for an EIN for free online through the IRS website.
3. Set Up the Books
You can typically learn how to organize your own financial statements for your business in Excel instead of hiring a bookkeeper or investing in any sort of software right out of the gate.
4. Launch a Website
Starting a website shouldn't cost you much more than a vanity URL. You shouldn't spend an absurd amount to make your web presence official, assuming you want something like JoesOnlineCrabShack.com or redbaggr.com, and not something more expensive or competitive to secure. Use a free website hosting company like Webs.com or Weebly to create a website that can appropriately convey what your business is all about and how your products and services solve your customers' problems. Many free hosting companies provide step-by-step site builders you can use to create a website with no development or programming expertise needed.
5. Get Business Cards
Thanks to apps like Bump and real-time communication channels like Twitter, there's really no need for business cards. But, if you're an old school entrepreneur, search for "free business cards" and save yourself between $50-$100 when you see the inevitable Vistaprint or Moo.com ad. Or, be comfortable with the idea that a business card isn't needed, and not only will you save money, but you'll save yourself about 15 minutes of customization time too.
6. Create Basic Marketing Materials
Get creative with this one. If you're not savvy enough to navigate Photoshop or even Microsoft Word to create designs yourself, you can inexpensively outsource the design of a logo, social media images, templates, and more by reaching out to your local college and finding a student who is eager to build his or her portfolio. Or, you could turn to sites like Craigslist to barter your offerings in exchange for work from a fledgling designer.
7. Accept Credit Card Payments
If you plan to accept credit cards as online payment, try simple and cheap solutions to begin. Avoid full merchant accounts, which are typically complicated, come with monthly fees, and require programming knowledge to get integrated. Google Checkout or PayPal are both free to start with no monthly fees, though they do take a cut of each purchase.
8. Select a Coffee Maker
Congratulations, you've started a company! Like the rest of us, you'll be burning the candle at both ends to get your great idea off the ground, and it would serve you well to invest in an accessible source of caffeine. We recommend scouring Craigslist, neighborhood garage sales, and recycling sites like FreeCycle to get your hands on a free coffee pot. Worse comes to worse, you can pick up a basic Mr. Coffee percolator and a few bags of ground coffee for less than $30 at your local big box store.
All this for the grand total of ... drumroll ... $340.00!
Do you see an area where we might be able to cut costs even lower? Or, where do you feel we scrimped where we shouldn't have?