Can you start a business with no money?

Yes, it’s possible to launch a business without any money at all.

Assuming you have marketable skills and already own some equipment, you should be able to start generating an income.

This might include things like:

  • Cleaning
  • Dog walking
  • Delivery services
  • Repairs.

That said, most startups require at least some money – but you don’t need vast amounts. Almost a quarter of UK startups launch with less than £1,000.

If you have a job or are receiving Universal Credit, you might want to set money aside and launch once you have a suitable buffer.

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Step 2: Research your startup idea

An idea for a new product or service is just an idea until you’ve spent a lot of time doing market research to test its viability. Part of the market research is to look at what the competition is doing, see what you can offer that they don’t, or what kind of crossover there is. What do they do well that you can learn from, or what do they do poorly or overlook that you can take advantage of?

For example, a competitive survey might show that the geographical location you are thinking about for your electrician services business has a lot of other electricians working in it. Perhaps they are charging lower fees than you intend, or they have an extensive social media presence — something you haven’t thought about yet. 

You also need to research the potential market for your services — the customers who will use your services. Of course, you can speak to people who you know in your intended demographic to get their feedback. But you should also do surveys that reach out to a much broader audience. It’s very simple to get started with tools like SurveyMonkey and Google Surveys for instance, and SurveyMonkey even has free and paid-for options.

With enough information, you can develop buyer personas of your potential customer types, so you have a complete picture of what drives their purchasing behaviors and likes and dislikes. For example, you might find that consumers have a particular distrust of electrician pricing, fearing large bills for any work done. This makes it clear that you need to be very upfront about your pricing, perhaps giving average costs for sample jobs, such as installing new smart light fixtures. To help start developing your buyer persona, you can start by asking yourself these questions.

Discovering there may be problems with business ideas can be dispiriting. But it’s lucky to find them early in the business development process, so you can refine the idea or pivot to a new one before you’ve invested heavily in the business.

What is the easiest business to start with no money?

The easiest business to start without money is the one that you already have the skills and tools for. Mike Andes told us:

If you want to start your own business without money, the easiest way is to sell your time.

He gives an example of starting a weed-pulling business. It doesn’t require any tools, just time and attention to detail. When I was growing up, I used to do this and make $20/hour cause the neighbors couldn’t get normal landscapers to do it the way they wanted.

Russell agrees that a lawn care business is one of the easiest ways to get started with little or no money. He told us:

If you don’t have the tools and the money to start a landscaping business, you can always require 50% upfront and go buy the tools with the retainer.

Funding

The primary ways of funding are:

  • Personal funds
  • Loan from family or friends
  • Business partner(s) – inc.com has a great blog on considerations about a partnership
  • Business loans- Check out our partners

For More Business Ideas

Check out BusinessTown’s most popular article, The 300 Best Small Business Ideas. This comprehensive multi-page article offers expert advice on every business idea. Includes home based, online, steady income, low cost, product and service ideas. Many of the businesses on this extensive list can be started with $2,000 or less.

Minimise your outgoings

If you’re looking to start a business with no money in the UK, it’s essential to keep you costs as low as possible.

Here are some simple steps you can take:

Work from home

Starting a business from home with no money is much less expensive than renting an office, warehouse or shop.

It also minimises your travel costs.

Use free or cheap online services

There are plenty of free services online that can be used to cut costs.

You can build a basic website for free with services such as WordPress or Wix and effectively market your business through the likes of Facebook or Instagram.

You can also find people to do many tasks for you at a low rate through websites such as Fiverr and People Per Hour.

Get free equipment

Most businesses require at least a computer to get running. You may already have one, but it’s often possible to find free equipment using websites such as FreeCycle.

You may also have a friend or relative who can loan you gear until you have enough money to buy your own.

Otherwise, try to cut back on your personal spending when starting out. It might mean less fun for now, but it should pay off in the long run.

Network With Communities of Support

There’s no need to go it alone as you jump into entrepreneurship. And in fact, joining in-person and digital communities of like-minded peers can be an incomparable help in moving you forward.

“You can attend events and trade shows where prospective investors can be found,” says Eliza Nimmich, cofounder and COO of Tutor The People. “Through social networking platforms, you can even access different online communities where you can find helpful advice and support to bring your company to life.”

Tapping into the knowledge, advice, and even funding that others offer can be done without spending anything, though it’s important to have a lot of congeniality and goodwill in the bank.

Bonus: How to Market Your Business with No Money

Forget business cards, classified ads, and the telephone book now. Who still reads that stuff anyway? Market your business for free online.

Use , set up a Facebook page, email all of your friends and family to help get the word out.  Or consider using Thumbtack. You can post your business online for free and just pay when a customer reaches out. All you need is one initial client to get the ball rolling. Do a kick-ace job with that first client and they’ll send you more business.

Get 1 Customer -> Do a Great Job -> Ask them to Refer You -> Do a Great Job Again -> Repeat

There are people in this world who would love to help you get started with your business. People love the upstart entrepreneur. Just put yourself out there, tell people what you need to get started, and then overwhelm them with your service and skill.

Once you have some cash rolling in, use it to legitimize your business and grow your business into something that can sustain you.

Ask your friends and family for extra funds

Remember, you’re not asking for charity. You’re not asking your friends and family to support your wacky business idea. No, you’ve got a dream of a business and your business plan is solid. You’ve crossed your t’s and dotted the i’s. That’s why you’re looking to those closest to you when making your pitch. Use your friends and family as multi-layered resources.

Practice your sales pitch with them. Ask for feedback. And, when you’re ready to launch your business, ask if they can help with a small loan to kickstart the business. Just be sure to get everything down in writing and when you’ll pay them back. You can even use a crowdfunding platform to encourage the people around you to encourage their networks to pitch in.

How to Start Almost Any Business With No Money

Almost any business can be financed if you can find the right investor or willing lender.

Friends and family are the most common financing source. Angel investors – wealthy professionals and investors who invest in startups – are another common source.

Other financing sources include crowdfunding, online lending, merchant cash advances, SBA loans, personal loans, government grants and many more.

Look to small business grants and local funding opportunities

Truthfully, grants for small businesses aren’t always the easiest to find or get. But, once you’ve got your business up and running (no matter how small), you can begin searching in earnest for free cash. Always remember that grants will usually have specific application requirements. So long as you meet those, you’re in the running for a pot of cash that’s all yours for the taking. Start your search in government databases and always be sure to ask your local small business administration chapters for help.

Types of new businesses to start with limited capital

The businesses that emerge when entrepreneurs have limited capital and adopt the alternative mindset for new venture creation typically have certain characteristics. They often fall into one or more of the following broad categories: Service, Events, Performance, Brokerage or Education.

  • Service businesses depend on the skill and time of the person starting the business. Such a person can make their skill available to others with relatively little upfront investment. To start a service business you merely need the tools of your trade.
  • A consultant may require a computer, a handyman some tools and a dressmaker a sewing machine. With these tools on hand you can use your contacts to start selling your service. Events-based businesses are a little more complex but can still be started with limited capital (see the March edition of Entrepreneur for a feature on events-based businesses). Events-based businesses include ventures that put on sports events, expos and concerts. The advantage of such businesses is that with effective marketing, you can sell the tickets before you incur the major costs, limiting the amount of capital required to keep the venture afloat.
  • Performance-based businesses depend on the ability of entrepreneurs to perform and to pull together other people who can enhance the performance.

Mark Lamberti, the entrepreneur who turned Makro into what it is today, says he learned some of his most important business lessons when he played in and managed a band in his young adult years.

Performance-based businesses depend on the creative skill of the entrepreneur coupled with an ability to market those skills to a broader audience.

Musicians, comedians, motivational speakers and singers all have the potential to create performance-based businesses.

Brokerage businesses are amongst the most popular kinds of ventures for people with little capital. They bring buyers and sellers together. You find brokers across multiple industries from real estate (e.g. estate agents), hospitality (e.g. website portals marketing B&Bs), recruitment (e.g. recruitment agents), and sports (e.g, sports agents bringing sportsmen and sponsors together), to speakers and performing artists (e.g. speaking agents marketing speakers to conference coordinators) and the list goes on.

The key to being effective in brokerage businesses is having contacts and fostering relationships and effective marketing on both sides of the equation – to buyers and sellers.

Many modern brokerage businesses – such as Privateproperty.co.za and Wheretostay.co.za– now leverage the web to create a broader reach between buyers and sellers.

But the essence of the business is still what it has always been, filling an information gap between buyers and sellers. People with lots of contacts in a particular industry and a flair for marketing and selling should consider a brokerage business as a low capital way to get into business.

Education is another area where people find opportunities with little or no capital. Anyone with skills and insights that others wish to learn, and a passion for helping others develop could move into education.

From an ex-teacher setting up a business that provides extra lessons to school-going children, or a sports fanatic setting up a coaching business, to a person with training in photography helping others take better pictures, there are multiple low capital opportunities in the education arena.

Although these five categories of businesses – service, events, performance, brokerage or education – may spark some ideas within you, low capital start-up opportunities are not limited to them.

With ongoing development in technology, there are many new opportunities emerging in the software and web services space (e.g. creating iPhone apps) and in the media space (e.g. with website and blogging tools there is no longer the need to spend R5 million to create the foundations of a media company).

The key is to start with what you currently have – the resources you can access, the skills you can leverage and the connections at your disposal – to help you figure out a low-cost path to a sustainable and profitable new business.

Step 4: Pitch your own business idea

Your pitch deck, or presentation, should have everything needed to get potential investors and lenders excited about your business. Once you have your presentation down, perhaps created with a free PowerPoint template, you need to practice presenting it. If you say to a potential investor that you need 10 minutes of their time, you better deliver your pitch in that time frame.

Among the examples of sales pitches that close deals is the one by Scrub Daddy founder Aaron Krause, who successfully pitched his idea for scrub brushes that change texture based on water temperature on the TV show “Shark Tank.” In less than two minutes, he wooed the celebrity entrepreneurs with a pitch that graphically demonstrated how the product works, with a deft explanation combining humor and whimsy.

While pitching your business idea may seem intimidating, practice makes perfect, especially if you really believe the idea is a good one. For inspiration, there are a lot of examples of winning pitches and advice on how to create winning ones online. For example, Forbes suggests that a good investor pitch deck include these components:

  • Company overview
  • Mission/vision of the company
  • Team
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Market opportunity
  • Product
  • Customers
  • Technology
  • Competition
  • Traction
  • Business model
  • Marketing plan
  • Financials
  • The ask

Your pitch might focus on the fact that as a previous employee for an electrical services company, you have wide experience doing both large commercial and small home jobs. Without the high overheads of a large company, you can be much more competitive in your pricing.

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