How to Start a Business With No Money to Invest

If there’s anything the madness of 2023 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. 

We guarantee: You can start a business with no money — whether you want some extra cash from a side-hustle, want to start an online business, or want to give full-time entrepreneurship a try.

New to IWT?

And join over 800,000 readers getting our Rich Life Insiders newsletter:

start up team brainstorming business ideas

Table of Contents

6 Steps For Starting a Business with No Money to Invest

If you’re looking to start a business, but don’t have any money, don’t worry! It’s not as hard as you might think. There are several ways to work through this process and get started on your way to owning a successful business without funding.

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 part-time while building your business until you can take it full-time.

Step 2: Worry About the Essentials; 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 actually to sell to people.

You could sell freelance services, write and sell an ebook, develop and sell a video course or do something else entirely. Be sure it’s catered to your skillset. 

But you can’t start making money until you have something to sell. 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. 

The world wants you to be vanilla...

…but you don’t have to take the same path as everyone else. How would it look if you designed a Rich Life on your own terms? Take our quiz and find out:

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 must be willing to put in the extra hustle to compensate 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 promoting your business in our in-depth marketing guide.

Step 6: Plan & 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 ask these questions:

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. 

FAQs About How to Start a Business With No Money

Can I really start a business with no money?

Yes, a business can start out on a low budget, then expand later to a large scale. Many businesses start small and work from home or online, then grow and hire employees when they find a larger location.

When starting a business, when do I need to start working with the IRS and taxes?

The IRS considers a business to be incorporated on the date of its incorporation. This is why it’s important for new businesses to begin operating and charge their first startup costs on a particular day during the tax season.

When can I expect my business to turn a profit?

For most businesses, it takes between six months and a year to reach profitability. At this time, technological advancements and advances in communications have made it easy to start your own business with almost no overhead.

In a service-based economy, this means that you can start your business with almost no initial investment. The importance of a business plan shines brightest when projecting profitability; without one, you won’t be able to know whether or not your startup will be successful.

If you liked this post, you’d LOVE our Ultimate Guide to Finding Your First Profitable Idea

It’s one of the best things we’ve published, and totally free – just tell us where to send it:

Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.