How to Start a Business With (Virtually) No Money

Right, reality check! There aren’t really any businesses that you can start or run without money. There’s always going to be something you need to pay for, whether it’s as simple as hosting, bank charges or a phone. And I’d go as far to say, that starting a business without money could impede it’s success.

Does that mean if you haven’t got a pile of cash in the bank that you shouldn’t start a business of your own? Or that you’ll never be the successful entrepreneur that you’re dreaming of? Absolutely not!

Starting a business with virtually no money requires an entirely different approach that challenges the traditional concepts and forces you to think outside of the box. And, while there is no one-fits-all solution, you can get there with a positive attitude, being organised and very very resourceful.

Here’s some tips to shift your mindset from ‘can’t start‘ to ‘can start‘ so you can get to where you want to be.

1. Adopt An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Starting a business begins with mindset. A traditional business owner will tend to first think of the resources and capital needed to start a business. An entrepreneur, however, thinks about turning the passion into a business, regardless of obstacles.  The traditional business approach can be pessimistic and restricts flexibility whereas the entrepreneurial attitude is adaptive and flexible.

The first thing you need is to think about what you can achieve with your limited reserves, rather thinking you cannot do anything with it.

2. Analyse Your Resources Realistically

Having low capital to invest in business shouldn’t handicap you, but you need to be realistic. By resources, I mean your financial resources, skillset, job or work experience, anyone who could join you, and so on.

So start by looking at what you do have, rather than what you don’t. Then begin to look at what pieces are missing in your jigsaw puzzle and the find cost-effective solutions to filling the gaps, doing everything you can do yourself for free.

3. Start Slowly With Your Limited Resources

Microsoft didn’t become what it is today in a day, McDonald’s didn’t open franchises around the globe in its first year.

Create a long-term vision for how you see your business and your future. Break down your long-term plan into small and short-term but achievable goals. Then start ticking off each goal one-by-one, slowly. That way you’ll avoid rushing in, making mistakes and worst of all, wasting money that you don’t have to spare.

These are your beginning steps that will become your stepping stones for your long successful business journey.

4. Align Your Skills With Your Business

We all need to start somewhere, so if you have limited resources, then choose a place to start that uses your own skills. That way, you can get your business off the ground until you can afford to hire staff or save up the start-up money you need so you can take your business in the direction you want at a later date. It’s all about pigeon steps.

These are some of the types of businesses you can start, depending on the skills you have

  • Service-Based Businesses: If you have any prior practical experience of your skill in the work, that’s an invaluable asset and you can start by selling your own time and abilities.
  • Educational Services: As an individual, this is the perfect start for anyone. Teach others what you have expertise in. Scale it further, and you can start an educational service both online and offline mediums to turn into a business for you.
  • Digital and Gig Economy: E-commerce and Freelancing have evolved a lot. Modern e-commerce concepts like drop-shipping require little initial investment. Similarly, Freelancing and the Gig economy have reshaped themselves with more individuals turning their skills into businesses.
  • Consultancy Business:  Similar to freelancing, this industry has evolved. For example, digital marketing agencies working through freelancing and social media platforms are replacing traditional marketing agencies. Brokerage and real-estate consultancies are following the same patterns too.

The list can go on. But, start by breaking down these broad categories and explore business ideas that match your skills.

5. Don’t Fall Into A Debt Trap

Taking debt to start a business can be costly and leave you paying off loans for years to come. Debt financing becomes riskier when you don’t have assets to offer as collateral in the event you want to clear the debt.

Instead, look for other solutions that provide you with the capital you need – turn to your friends and family, or low-cost financing by seeking special grants and schemes from the government.

6. Be Flexible and Adaptable

Starting a business is anything but smooth sailing, with or without money. Always be adaptable and flexible in your approach to problem handling, finding solutions that are always aligned to your long-term goals.

7. Go Big on Social Media

Social media is free and it gives you the opportunity to connect with millions of people online so you can start building your brand and making sales. Sign up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and invest your time in growing your networks.

8. Network

Get in touch with everyone you know and attending as many (free) networking events as you can.  Let everyone know who you are and what you are doing, including your friends. Never underestimate the power of personal relationships and the sales these can bring.

9. Keep Your Job

We all need money to live and when you start a business it is hard to know when the first sale will come from. So keeping your existing job or moving to a part time role may be a solution to starting your business while maintaining an income or saving up your investment money.

When it comes to starting a business without or with little capital, don’t stop dreaming big but always be realistic. Start slowly and continuously work towards your end goal, and you’ll achieve your dream.


About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek and money nerd helping financial DIY-ers organise their money so they can hit their goals quicker.