If there’s anything the madness of 2020 taught us, it’s that getting a job at a reputable company and working your way to the top is a thing of the past.
And when millions of people who thought they were “safe” actually lost their jobs last year, many of them decided it was time to start a business. But figuring out how to start a business with no money (or little money) can be puzzling.
The truth is it’s not that complicated. Like most people, you’re probably overthinking it.
You don’t need a life-changing idea, a fancy degree, or investors knocking down your doors.
Step 1: Give yourself a cushion
When people are learning how to start a business, they want everything to be easy and sexy.
The truth is, what will be absolutely most helpful to you as you start your own business is to build up a cushion — or a financial runway — that will give you some breathing room to experiment, learn, and build your business.
If you have zero money right now, starting a full-time business probably isn’t the wisest thing to do (unless you’ve done it before).
There will be too much financial pressure to cut corners or make exceptions you shouldn’t.
Instead, work an easy day job or work part-time while building your business until you can take it full-time.
Step 2: Worry about the essential; forget the rest
Before we go too far here, we’ve got a simple framework to help you finally start learning how to start a business with no money.
It’s this: Worry about the essential; forget the rest.
And, honestly, what you think is essential probably isn’t.
As an example, IWT has generated millions and millions of dollars … and we still don’t have stationery. We’ve never lost out on a client because we didn’t have business cards!
But we’ve focused on the things that were critical to growing the business to the next phase — and that has made all the difference.
So what DO you need? It’s simple. You need:
- something to sell (a product)
- someone to sell to (a customer)
- some way to communicate (marketing)
Here’s Ramit’s take on the question:
Step 3: Decide what to sell
While you don’t need a world-changing idea, you do need something to actually sell to people.
But until you have something to sell, you can’t start making money. And if you’re not making money, you’ve got a hobby, not a small business.
To start, select something you can make yourself and don’t have to hire other people for (yet).
Pro tip: Your product doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember, “done” is better than “perfect.” The idea is to move quickly here and not get stuck in the “brainstorming” or “creation” phase.
Here’s some help from Ramit on how to find the right business idea and scale the business.
Step 4: Find Customers
Here’s where a lot of would-be entrepreneurs get frustrated when trying to figure out how to start a business in general.
Finding clients or customers can be frustrating when you don’t have any money to grow your business.
Here are a few places to find and interact with potential customers 100% FREE:
- Facebook groups for your target audience
- LinkedIn hashtag threads from your industry
- Twitter conversations around your business idea
- Meetups in your area (once Covid calms down)
Step 5: Start promoting
Once you’ve got a product and an audience of potential customers, it’s time to start hustling.
When you’re learning how to start a business, you have to be willing to put in the extra hustle to make up for the lack of budget.
But no business worth having was ever built without some serious sweat equity. You can do this!
Start by reaching out to your close friends and family and asking if they know anyone who would benefit from what you’re selling. Call up local companies and offer your services. Email people and ask for feedback or give them a trial of what you’re offering.
The idea is to get creative here and put in the reps to bring in your first few customers or clients.
You can find way more tactics and ideas for actually promoting your business in our in-depth marketing guide.
Step 6: Plan ahead & take risks
Finally, as your business begins to take root and grow, you’ll want to start looking to the future.
Learning how to start a business is just the beginning of your journey. At some point, you’ll want to start asking these kinds of questions:
- Should you take out a business loan to continue growing your business without any money? (If yes, here are the best ones.)
- Should you post freelance jobs and hire contractors to help you scale without paying full-time employees?
- Should you quit your part-time job and work on the business full-time?
Of course, no business can be grown without a little bit of risk. So ask yourself, “How much am I willing to risk to grow my business?”
Remember: You’ve got this!
More resources for starting a business with no money
If you’re getting serious about starting a business, you might want to take the next step and join Earnable, one of our most famous and popular courses. Earnable breaks down the hidden steps behind starting a business. It’s all laid out, step by step. And you don’t even have to have a business idea to get started.