Starting a business with no capital seems like an impossible feat. But, the truth is, all you need to start a business is an entrepreneurial spirit, a willingness to work hard, and the right know-how.
Why Start a Business with No Money?
It’s easy to believe that you need a bunch of money in order to start a business. But unless you’re starting a company that needs a lot of expensive equipment or a large rented location just to get off the ground, you probably don’t need nearly as much money as you think. Plus, the willingness to start your business with no capital means you can start right now, today, no waiting for investors to fund your idea.
If you’re willing to create something of value from the ground up, you’re just as likely to succeed as those with funding. All you need is a solid business idea and strong foundations.
Furthermore, if you start a business without investors or business loans, you’ll have no financial burdens hanging over your head. You won’t need to worry about interest. Nor will you need to share any of your business with anybody else. You can use your profits to give yourself a salary and re-invest in the business.
If you’re struggling to get off the ground, remember that you don’t have to rely on external investment to get started. You can build a business for yourself using your existing skills, creative ideas, and perhaps any (non-monetary) assets or resources you have available to you.
5 Types of Business You Can Start with No Money
There are certain industries and business categories that require little to no investment. Here we’ll provide a breakdown of these types of ventures and share a ton of no-cost business ideas to inspire you.
1. Service Businesses
Anybody can start a service business. Though some services, of course, require more skills than others.
There’s a wide range of services you could offer, for instance:
- Tailoring and clothing repairs
- Gardening and landscaping
- Personal training
- Painting and decorating
- Pet sitting and dog walking
- Local tours
Some of these business ideas require no equipment and therefore no upfront costs, e.g. pet sitting. Some require assets you may already have access to, such as work tools, a sewing machine, a van, etc.
Plus, if you decide to start a service-based business, you can find your first customers through word of mouth, online listings on free sites such as Craigslist, and local social media groups.
If you have in-depth knowledge and experience in a particular industry, you may wish to become a consultant.
There are tons of areas you could go into, such as lifestyle, careers, business, marketing, art, theater, and more. It simply depends on where your skills lie.
There’s little to no overhead here as the business centers on you and your expertise. Depending on the industry, you’ll offer training, coaching, project management, strategic planning, and so on.
You can use free platforms such as LinkedIn to market your consulting service. In time, you can grow your consulting business by using your profits to build a personal brand.
Some entrepreneurs also use consulting as a jump-off point. In other words, they earn the capital needed to start a business in their industry through consulting work.
3. Brokerage Businesses
If you’re a people person and/or have connections in a certain industry, you might consider starting a brokerage business.
You can be the go-between for buyers and sellers in a range of industries, such as hospitality or real estate. Or perhaps, you could become an independent recruitment agent or a rep for artists and performers.
There’s little to no capital needed to start this kind of business because, again, it relies on your skills, connections, time, and the like. But bear in mind that you may need a license to operate in some cases, e.g. real estate.
To succeed, you need to be a good salesperson and good at building relationships. Getting started demands a lot of networking.
If you’re a self-starter and keen to be your own boss, starting a freelance business may be the right choice for you.
It could be a simple transition from your current career. You can take what you do now (or have done in the past) and go out on your own.
There are lots of freelance businesses you can start online. But some of the most common are:
- Web design, web development, app development
- Writing, blogging, content marketing
- Graphic design
- Video production, audio production
- Marketing, SEO
- Virtual assistance, customer service, data entry
- Tutoring, language teaching
You can start the business from home and you’ll do most of the work, at least to begin with.
Therefore, there are little to no costs involved in starting a freelance business.
Depending on your niche, you may need to use software and tools as part of your work. But, if you do your research, you’ll likely be able to find free tools and can upgrade to more advanced versions at a later date.
To start a freelance business, it’s a good idea to build an online presence or at least find a platform on which you can display samples of your previous work. Then, to get your first freelance gigs, try niche-specific job boards.
5. Sharing Economy Businesses
If you already have an asset that’s in demand, you can use it to start a business at no extra cost.
For instance, you may have access to a parking space in the city which you could hire out. Or you could rent a room in your home on Airbnb.
There are also some more creative routes you can take.
Let’s say you have a ton of well-maintained designer shoes – hire them out to people attending fancy parties. Or perhaps you have some pro power tools gathering dust in the garage. Hire your tools out to people who don’t want to buy their own for a one-time project.
This idea can sometimes overlap with service businesses–there’s at least one person who’s built a six-figure business as a bridesmaid-for-hire! If there’s a unique service you can provide in special situations, people may well pay you for it.
To start such a business, you could target those most in need of your offering through social media, for example.
6 Steps to Start a Business with No Money
Starting a business with no money has its own unique requirements. Here we’ll help you adopt the right mindset to start such a business, and walk you through the practicalities:
1. Get the Right Mindset
Traditionally, the process of starting a business goes something like this: Find a gap in the market, come up with a solution to fill that gap, figure out what resources you need to do it, create a business plan then go after funding.
But if you have no access to funding or you simply want to start a business at no cost you must shift your mindset.
Instead of following the traditional route, you may wish to consider what resources, skills, relationships, and so on you already have. And how you can use those things to your advantage to create a business that there’s a demand for.
2. Be Flexible
If you have no money to start a business, begin with what you do have. Then be flexible enough to adapt and grow over time.
As with the examples mentioned above, you may start a service business as a sole trader. Then go on to create a fully-fledged business with multiple employees. Similarly, you may wish to use consulting or freelancing as a starting point from which you can build capital to bring a different offering to the market.
Or you may just find that you dig the sole owner-operator route and it makes enough profit for you to live the lifestyle you want. The choice is yours. It’s your business to build as you please.
3. Evaluate Your Assets
Moving on from the more abstract concepts to some actionable steps… It’s time to work out which of your assets could help you create a business.
First, make a list detailing your skills, knowledge, and experience. You could take this a step further with an exercise from entrepreneur Pat Flynn’s book Will It Fly?
Write down your most recent educational and career-related experiences. Then describe what you did and didn’t like about each.
Hopefully, you’ll begin to see trends emerge which will help you decide how to proceed. For example, if you loved the creative elements of each experience, this indicates you should pursue a creative venture.
Listing any tangible assets and resources you have or have access to will also help spark realistic business ideas. Think about how many business ideas Monica came up with for Phoebe’s van in Friends.
4. Research and Plan
Once you have a business idea (or an idea of the direction you wish to go in), you still need to figure out if your idea will turn a profit. With this in mind, the first big question to ask is whether there’s a demand for your offering.
One way to discover this information is through so-called social listening. Go to relevant or local social media groups and forums to see what kind of discussions people are having.
Perhaps, there are lots of locals asking for recommendations for a certain kind of service. Maybe they’re complaining about a particular problem that you can provide a solution to, and so on.
You can also look at Google Trends to see if people are searching for your offering. You’ll be able to gauge whether there has been an increase or decrease in interest in your service over the past year.
In this example, you can see that there’s a strong and steady interest in personal trainers:
The next step is to research the market. Create a profile for your ideal customer which includes basic information, e.g. demographics, as well as information about their pain points, values, and desires (psychographics). This will help you target the right people and make more sales.
You’ll also want to analyze your competitors. You may pick up some insights on how to achieve success in your industry. Also, work out what you can do better than your competitors as well as what makes you unique.
When the research is done, you may wish to come up with a flexible business plan for the next 12 months. Include what you hope to achieve and how you’ll go about it.
5. Make Use of Free Tools
It’s amazing what you can get your hands on for free these days.
Utilize social media platforms for marketing and networking. Set up your business profile for free on the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn. Join relevant groups and network with other business people who can help you or who you can collaborate with. Being active in such groups also gets you on the radar of potential customers.
You can even establish a professional online presence at no cost using a free website builder. We recommend Wix as it offers a free plan with hundreds of website templates that’ll suit a range of needs.
Use Wix to set up a business website with your portfolio, a booking form, your contact information, and so on.
Wix also has 24/7 security monitoring and optimization, plus high-grade compliance for payment gateways and automated site backups. That all combines for a fantastically reliable and secure website building service.
There are also many tools that have free plans and will help you run the day-to-day aspects of your business, for example:
- Project management – Asana, Trello, Monday
- Accounting – Wave, ZipBooks
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – HubSpot, Zoho
Moreover, there are free tools that are specific to certain industries. For example, if you hope to become a freelance writer you can bag the writing assistant Grammarly for free.
6. Get Customers
With the free tools available it should be easy to launch your business. All that’s left is to bag your first customers.
Remember that a network is more valuable than money when starting a new business. Build genuine connections with non-competitors in your industry. They’ll be able to make introductions.
When customers start to roll in, be sure to ask for feedback, reviews, and referrals. This is another valuable customer acquisition strategy that costs nothing to implement.
Your next step is to come up with a fantastic business idea that’s right for you. Ask yourself, is this idea feasible with the resources you have available? Is there a market for your idea? If the answers to these questions are yes then you can start to plan and gather the (free) resources you need to get off the ground.