By Rachel Bridge
Just a few years ago, asking how to start a business with no money would have been unthinkable. But now, technology means that startup costs and barriers have crashed. For many business types it is now possible to get off the ground with very little cash.
Access to funding can still be a problem. The banks are reluctant to lend to start ups, a tough economic climate makes it hard to borrow from friends and family, and funding it on your credit card comes with big risks.
If you do need some cash, government-backed Start-up loans are a good place to start. But funding isn’t always necessary. The good news is that providing you follow a few basic rules, starting a business with almost no money is entirely possible. Here’s how to do it:
1. Use the resources at your fingertips
Work from home or a local café or library which offers free wifi. Have a car? You could offer a local delivery service. Have a kitchen? You could start making cakes or providing catering for parties. Have a spare room? You could let it out with Airbnb or Bookings.com.
2. Build a business round the skills you already possess
What can you do that someone else might be prepared to pay for? Can you make clothes, paint and decorate, programme a computer, speak Italian? Do you have a hobby you could turn into a business? If you possess a skill that other people don’t, or would need to invest time and money learning for themselves, that immediately puts you at a big advantage.
3. Sell a product or service which people need rather than want
It also needs to be something that they instantly understand, and which they feel comfortable buying without having to consult anyone else first. Umbrellas at £10 each are a better bet than hot tubs at £10,000 each.
4. Get customers to pay you upfront
– or at worse, half upfront, half later, so that your costs are always covered. Late payments are one of the biggest causes of business failure, so make sure you have a plan for getting cash in quickly from the start.
5. Tap into free advice on how to start a business with no money
National Enterprise Network members often deliver free advice and events. Checkout Meetup for free or low cost business and creative development events in your area. The British Library Business and IP Centre National Network has a wealth of resources and events for start-ups across the UK.
6. Source any equipment you need for free
Checkout Freecycle, a community website where people can recycle unwanted items, or the freebie section of listings sites such as Gumtree, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
7. Do virtually all the work yourself
Plough virtually all income straight back into the business. Thankless and austere, yes, but also the only way you will be able to build up enough cash reserves to invest in new equipment or premises, and so grow the business.
8. If you have a job, hold onto it
A surefire solution to the question of how to start a business with no money is to start your business in your spare time and only give up your day job once your venture is able to pay you a wage. If the venture doesn’t work out, you still have your job. If it does, the transition to being your own boss will be a lot less risky.
9. Replace fixed costs with variable ones by linking your costs to your sales
Hire meeting rooms by the hour, staff by the day and services as you need them. Platforms like fiverr make hiring freelancers, for small jobs, easier than ever.
10. Make the most of free technology to promote your business
Build a website for nothing using an online website builder such as wix.com (though if you can afford it, it is worth paying a small amount to go ad free and have a professional URL). Then get social networking. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s an amazing way of promoting your business without spending any money. There are lots of channels – like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn – so focus first on the social media channel that your ideal client hangs out on.
Ready to start? Download our quick and easy set up your business checklist and make sure that you are operating in line with the law and not missing any important steps.
How Kate Jenkins built her business with no money
Kate Jenkins has effectively grown her chocolate brownie business for free using Twitter. She started out in 2007 making chocolate brownies in the kitchen of her home in Llanmabog, Wales. When a friend told her about Twitter she signed up and began running competitions to win brownies on Twitter. She quickly built up a supportive community of followers and more than 70,000 tweets later, her business, Gower Cottage Brownies, now has nearly 5000 followers. Turnover has risen to £120,000, a third of which Jenkins estimates has been directly due to Twitter.
She said: “It is not just that people are buying my brownies, they are also supporting me and doing PR for me because they are talking about my brownies. Twitter is like the biggest word of mouth.”
Success in business is not about starting out with lots of money. It is about adopting the right attitude, thinking your way around problems, and having the determination to put the effort in and give it your best shot. So now you know how to start a business with no money – what are you waiting for?