How to Start a Business With $0 (Or Pretty Close)

By Tom Drake, writer
Dec 17, 2015
Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

For many, owning a business is a dream.

However, it remains a dream for many because of the realities of funding. It costs money to start a business.

If you are already in business and looking to expand, you might be held back by a similar concern: you don't have the funding to take your company to the next level.

However, it remains a dream for many because of the realities of funding. It costs money to start a business. If you are already in business and looking to expand, you might be held back by a similar concern: you don't have the funding to take your company to the next level.

The good news is that it is possible to start or expand a business for free, or pretty close to it, if you are strategic in your thinking and take advantage of the resources out there.

Related Article: Old Dog, New Tricks: What's the Best Age to Start a Business?

Businesses With Low Overhead

Many businesses with low overhead costs can be started on a shoestring and then scaled up. There are business owners who have started small, working out of a home or a small shop, and then expanded and had to hire more workers and find a larger location. If you are looking to get started for less, here are a few businesses that are relatively easy to start with a small amount of capital:


Any freelance business comes with low overhead. Whether it's writing, graphic design, web development or software coding, your skills can get you started with your own business. All you need is what you likely already have -- a computer and access to the Internet. Over time, build up your clientele and hire others to do some of the work. It's easy to scale a freelance business up to include scores of workers.


If you have knowledge and skills others can benefit from, become a consultant. There are medium-sized consulting firms that started out with a single person. Today, technology consultants are in demand. If you have a skill, you can teach it as a consult and found your business based on what you know.

Handcrafted Items

If you have an artsy or crafty side, you can use that to start a business. Turn your crafting hobby into a business by making items for sale. If you are an artist, you can create beauty others are willing to pay for. As your business grows, hire other talented people or find other ways to produce what you need.


Whether you are taking care of the elderly or providing a pet-sitting service, this can be a low-cost way to start a business. Successful pet hotels and hospice businesses often start with a single person, growing over time.


If you have household cleaning supplies, you can start a business taking care of others' homes and offices. As your business grows, you will need to buy more supplies and hire more workers. If you focus on quality work, there is a good chance that you can establish a well-known cleaning company, all without a big expenditure up front.

Virtual Assisting

Help others with a variety of tasks, from sorting through email to improving social media presence online. You can get involved with scheduling and other tasks that allow others to better manage their own businesses. As you gain more clients, you can hire additional assistants and even get your own assistant to help you.

All of these businesses have the potential to scale rapidly. Eventually, you'll have to put money back into the business or it won't be successful, but you can quickly grow, with the low initial overhead providing you the savings you need to invest capital when it's time to expand.

Related Article: To Borrow or Beg: Small Business Funding in 2015

Resources for Expanding Your Business at a Low Cost

If you hope to expand your business for a low cost, that is possible with the latest in technology. There are a number of ways you can leverage others to get good value for your business without breaking the bank.

If your business has an online presence, Neil Patel's Quick Sprout is a great source of information on getting more traffic to your site. He's also created a guide that highlights some other experts in online marketing made simple.

One of the best ways to expand your business is with the help of crowdsourcing. There are a number of resources that allow you access to workers at a low cost. You can get help with content creation through sites like Upwork. If you are looking for even higher quality work that might be more regular, sites like Skyword and Contently can connect you to content creators that can free you up to focus on other aspects of your business.

Crowdsourcing works well in other ways as well. If you want to redesign your website, turning to a resource like 99Designs can allow you low-cost access to ideas and people who can get the job done. Fiverr is another great resource, whether you are looking for audio, video, content or social media help. You can get help with marketing and other tasks by outsourcing to these low-cost resources.

Don't underestimate the benefits of outsourcing mundane tasks that are taking up a great deal of your time. If you want to expand your business without spending a lot of money, you can find virtual assistants around the world with good skills and a willingness to work. You can outsource tasks like accounting as well, using resources like ZenPayroll and to stay organized with your invoicing and payroll.

If you are interested in expanding your business and accepting a variety of payment options, you can use devices like Square and PayAnywhere to accept credit card payment. For a low cost, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a point-of-sale device. This allows you to grow your business without buying a lot of costly equipment, especially if your business has mobile aspects. These types of tools work especially well for service businesses like salons, spas and massage therapists, but they can be adapted for almost any type of business.

Finally, don't overlook the resources available to help you stay in touch and expand your business worldwide. Skype allows you to make low-cost calls around the world, saving you money as you look for new clients and customers. Services like GoToMeeting can make it easy to hold video conferences and training with people in remote offices, cutting down on travel costs for your business. It's easier to focus on expansion when you don't have to spend money on traveling around the globe.

Related Article: Will Work for Funding: 7 Ways to Finance Your First Small Business

Technology provides a number of opportunities for you to start a new business or expand your current business without huge expenditures. While you'll always need to spend money to make money, the amount you need is smaller, and the returns can be bigger than you expect.

Tom is a financial analyst and personal finance writer. His personal finance expertise has been sought out and featured on Forbes, Globe and Mail, MoneySense, and Inc.. He can also be found on his own sites, including and
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