07 Aug

Written by Kathryn Vercillo on August 7, 2009

One aspect of the American dream seems to be to have the opportunity to work for yourself. This is particularly true today when your options for being your own boss include everything from starting a business to being a work-at-home-Mom to launching a creative career as a solopreneur or innerpreneur. But what do you do if you don’t have any money to realize the dream of being your own boss? Many people want to know how to start a business with no money. Can it be done? Yes. Here’s a look at ten things that you need to know if you find yourself in this position.

1. It takes money to make money. First things first, you should know that you’re probably not going to start a business entirely for free and then never invest anything into it. However, it doesn’t take money to initially start a business. You can start a business with no money. Just be aware that once your business starts to make some money, you’ll need to reinvest some of that cash back into the business. For example, you may be able to avoid paying fees to incorporate your business in the beginning but eventually you’ll need to pay them.

2. Take the time to learn about bootstrapping. This is a term that defines a number of practices engaged in by people who want to start a business without money (see startbreakingfree.com/273) and without relying on investors. Bootstrapping includes everything from financing your business with a credit card to delaying payment on all purchases to minimizing expenses as much as possible. If you want to start a business with no money, you should first start by getting an education in bootstrapping. You can do this for free by checking out bootstrapping articles on the web or getting books about bootstrapping from your local library.

3. Start where you are. When you’re ready to start working, you should start where you are. What this means is that you should make an honest assessment of what resources you already have at your disposal (including the skills that you have). This can help you to define a starting point for your new business. For example, let’s say that you want to open an art gallery. That costs a lot of money. But let’s say that you already own art supplies and have a website. You could start creating art and posting it for sale in an online gallery to begin your business with baby steps starting with only the resources that you already have.

4. Try to focus on selling a service instead of a product. You’re going to do a lot better for yourself in a new business if you’re selling a service instead of a product. That’s because a product costs money to purchase or to produce whereas a service requires only your time. Even if you want to eventually sell a product, you might be able to launch a business providing a service first. For example, the person who wants to open an art gallery in order to sell the product of art could first start off in the business of offering consulting to art students interested in learning about how to get into a gallery. Get creative!

5. Be prepared to invest a lot of time into your business. You should know that what you don’t spend in money you are probably going to have to spend in time if you want your business to get off the ground. When you start a business with no money you really need to be committed to it. Make a business plan. Work every day. Make it a full time job. Be passionate about it!

6. Look for collaborators. If you have a good business idea then you may be able to bring on talented people as collaborators on the project. These people would be able to help you with some of the things that you can’t do and don’t want to pay for. For example, you might bring on someone who can help with web design. This person would do the work for free in exchange for a stake in the business or some other benefit. Look to people who might want to barter services with you in order to get what you need at no cost.

7. Seek out mentors and educators. You are going to need information to do well in business. A lot of people get this information by hiring a business coach or attending expensive seminars. Don’t do that. Instead, start your business for free by getting free assistance from mentors and educators. Take free classes through the SBA. Sign up for a business mentor through SCORE. Take advantage of all of the great free resources there are out there.

8. Get what you need for free! Speaking of free resources, don’t forget that you can get a lot of the material things that you need for free. Check out the “free” section on Craig’s List or join a group like Freecycle. These are places where people are giving things away for free every single day. If your business needs office chairs, a specific computer program or a vehicle to get around town then you may be able to get it for free here if you’re persistent.

9. Word of mouth is the best advertising that there is. Since you don’t want to spend money advertising your business, you’re going to need to get the word out there in some other way. Once your business is up and going you can start asking people to spread the word about you. Initially, you could offer some free services to people in your area so that they’ll spread the word about your work and get you some paying clients.

10. A lot of internet marketing is free. Remember that you can do advertising for your business online without spending money. Get active on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Learn what it means to promote your business online for free. This can help you to launch and grow your business without spending a lot of money.

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  1. 6

    adrian powell
    February 15th, 2011

    i lost my job 6 months ago and now have applied for over 400 positions and got no where fast. i used to have my own company 2 years ago but it folded leaving me in finacial trouble. as i cant get a job i have now thought of resarting a window cleaning/cleaning company but have a bad credit rating and no funds. is there anyway i can get some help to get this off the ground. i need a van and ladders and equipment plus finance for leaflets to start knocking on doors. i developed my last company from a small business to a semi national company.. please help me

  2. 5

    Christy Brown
    August 5th, 2010

    The best way to have a career is to follow what you love doing. I’m sure you will succeed.Working out your strengths and weaknesses against the job you are after should help for when you are out of it.Work and Love your work and all will follow.Having a career is not only based on your experience but also the perseverance on learning new skills.

  3. 4

    Mark Copeman
    March 25th, 2010

    So many great concepts here – especially the bootstrapping one. I’ve started a business twice with no money and it’s tough – but massively rewarding.

    It’s a subject I’m passionate about, and so (hope you don’t mind the plug) I’ve created a video course about how to do it with a REAL expert in his field.


    The first video is completely free.

    Best wishes,

  4. 3

    Amber Riviere
    August 7th, 2009

    Great post, Kathryn. I started my business using every one of these tips, and it absolutely works! The best for me has been the power of word of mouth advertising and that you don’t have to spend a fortune on marketing to succeed.

    Great tips!

    Amber Riviere | upstartsmart.com

  5. 2

    Lisa Sims
    August 7th, 2009


    Great article! The points that you touched on are so very true. I started my web and custom software design business in 2004 with less than $500. I utilized many of the tips that you pointed out and more. To help others that are interested in starting their own businesses while stretching their dollars, I just released my first book titled Stretching A Dollar To Save And Make Thousands: An Entrepreneur’s Guide To Doing More With Less. It’s available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

    I’m glad I came across your article this morning and will subscribe to your blog! Keep up the good work!

    Lisa Sims
    Business Professional Network Founder

  6. 1

    August 7th, 2009

    Thank you for your tips! I barter my services at BarterQuest.com.

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