Having an entrepreneurial spirit can get your business ideas up and running. But that’s not all you need — what about capital? Fortunately, when you start small, you can get your company off the ground with little to no money.
If you vet your business idea, take advantage of free business resources, minimize personal spending and maximize your efforts, you’ll be on your way to being your own boss in no time.
Opening a business with limited resources is like starting any other company. You will need to follow the same standard steps to become a successful entrepreneur, including, but not limited to, the following:
Using your home instead of a brick-and-mortar location or joining an online marketplace instead of building your own website can help test the waters and save significant funds. If your service or product proves worthwhile, you’ll have opportunities to add investors or partners, and to crowdfund to increase your cash flow so you can scale at your own pace.
Although it’s possible to start your own business with little to no money, you will still need to put in an incredible amount of work to pull it off. The more time and energy you put into your company, the faster you can see its viability and turn a profit. You may not want to quit your day job just yet, either. Making a profit can take several years when you start a business, so you will initially require the cash from your nine-to-five to make ends meet.
Many businesses with low overhead costs can be started on a shoestring and then scaled up. Some business owners start small, working out of their homes or online, and then expand to hire more workers and find a larger location. If you want to get started for less, here are a few businesses that are relatively easy to begin with a small amount of capital:
Any freelance business comes with low overhead. Whether through freelance 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.
Don’t spend cash on a personalized website when starting to freelance. Focus on perfecting your LinkedIn profile and adding a solid network of mentors, fellow freelancers and relevant groups. You can also generate interest in your LinkedIn profile by posting short industry or conversational articles on your feed free.
If you have knowledge and skills others can benefit from, become a consultant. There are midsize consulting firms that started with a single person.
Today, technology consultants are in demand. If you have a skill, you can provide services based on your business knowledge.
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 will pay for. As your business grows, hire talented people or find other ways to produce what you need.
Taking care of the elderly or people with special needs can be a low-cost way to start a business. Hospice and in-home care businesses often start with a single person and grow 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 must 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 without a big upfront expenditure.
Help others with various tasks, such as sorting through email or improving their social media presence. You can get involved with scheduling and other tasks that allow others to manage their own businesses better. As you gain more clients, you can hire additional assistants and even get someone to help you.
Selling digital products only requires an internet connection. You can use third-party websites like Etsy, eBay and Amazon to sell your creations. If you specialize in design or a particular industry, you can create e-books, online courses or printable downloads.
Digital products are easy to market test. Simply keep the designs that sell multiple times and discard those that do not gain traction. Once you have a library of successful digital products, you can continue to collect passive income.
According to Zippia, 70 percent of U.S. households have at least one pet. If you start a pet walking or pet sitting business, you can collect a piece of the $76.8 billion U.S. pet services market.
Start by canvassing your neighborhood for clients or offer to watch the pets of your friends and family while they are away. Once word of mouth spreads about your excellent care, you won’t have to spend time marketing your services and can concentrate on doing what you love.
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. Still, you can grow quickly. Plus, the low initial overhead will allow you to save money so you’ll have investment capital when you want to expand.
Although starting your business may require little to no money, there is a good chance you will have to pay for something along the way — especially if you are expanding. Take advantage of several resources to help fund your business.
When you are just starting out, your business may be strapped for cash. There are several ways to save money when starting your business. Free tutorials and courses, crowdsourcing, low-cost payment options, and technology can help stretch your funds when needed.
Finding current digital marketing advice isn’t difficult if you know where to hang out. If you like reading blogs, you will appreciate Social Media Explorer (SME) and its expert-published authors.
Other sources include the Social Media Examiner and the free digital marketing short course by CareerFoundry.
Quality business advice can be difficult to find when you’re a beginner. Volunteer business mentors are available for free through a nonprofit partnership of the Small Business Administration at SCORE. You can access all kinds of business experts, so choose one for every specialization (like marketing) you need help with.
One of the best ways to expand your business is through crowdsourcing. Several resources allow 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, too. If you want to redesign your website, a site like 99Designs can allow you low-cost access to ideas and people who can do the job. Fiverr is another great resource, whether you are looking for audio, video, content or social media help. Find assistance with marketing and other tasks by outsourcing to these low-cost resources.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of outsourcing mundane tasks that take up much of your time. If you want to expand your business without spending a lot of money, you can find virtual assistants worldwide with good skills and a willingness to work. You can also outsource tasks like accounting if you use resources like Gusto and Due.com to stay organized with your invoicing and payroll.
If you are interested in expanding your business and accepting a variety of payment options, use devices like Square and PayAnywhere to accept credit card payments. You can turn your smartphone or tablet into a point-of-sale device for a low cost.
Low-cost payment options can help you grow your business without buying expensive equipment, especially if your business has mobile aspects. These 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. Zoom allows you to make low-cost calls worldwide, saving you money as you look for new clients and customers. Services like GoTo Meeting 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 traveling around the globe.
Technology provides many 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 more significant than you expect.
Julie Thompson and Skye Schooley contributed to this article.