Can you actually start a business with no money or experience?
One thing I learned in business and in life is that…
if you think you can’t, do it anyway, and see how it pans out.
Well, that’s as clear as mud! In this article, we’re going to explore the possibilities of starting a business with no money or experience. I would assume that this isn’t the first time you’ve Googled this question.
Catching the entrepreneurial itch is a serious matter. God planted a seed in you that fuels you into taking action but if you’re starting from scratch, and with not a lot of money, bootstrapping a business idea is the obvious answer.
The short answer to the subject line of this article is, of course, a big green “YES” but starting a business with no money isn’t as simple as most budding entrepreneurs think, heck starting a business, in general, isn’t a simple feat at all. As you may know, starting a business is difficult. It takes time, effort, and in most cases, money but as a natural-born entrepreneur, you would do it anyway.
As an entrepreneur, you are forever plagued with business ideas. The problem isn’t money. Most entrepreneurs do not fail due to lack of capital, they fail because they lack the knowledge, and they don’t take enough action to make their businesses successful.
What I observed is that you can make a lot of mistakes in business, and still end up successful. Your first couple of businesses may fail but it doesn’t make you a failure. The success stories you read about or watch in mainstream media are all tips of the icebergs. Successful entrepreneurs are often hailed for what appears to have been overnight successes but no one ever hailed these entrepreneurs publicly when they were failing at the many attempts in making their success stories.
The school system and society, in general, have designed everyone to fear failure. We get punished when we fail, so everyone strives hard to get it right the first time but how can you get it right every time? No one does, but some people are so good pretending that’s why I couldn’t endure the politics in a traditional job setting. Everyone’s trying to outpace someone else to look better at the boss(es) or to get the promotion, or get the raise. All this nonsense doesn’t matter when you’re trying to build a business.
If you’re starting a business with no money and experience, you will fail many times, and your business will not make money right away. I have been starting businesses since I was in high school, I have built and sold bamboo lampshades, I have sold recess snacks in high school, and I have joined a multitude of direct selling and network marketing organizations between my early 20s and 30s. I wouldn’t call those entrepreneurial attempts anywhere near success but what all those experiences taught me is self-sufficiency, gut, and sales skills.
Having the money to capitalize a business venture gives you leverage that you wouldn’t have if you’re starting a business with no money but don’t let not having money stop you on your track because you need to do it. Starting a business with no money or experience helps you gain experience, yes, you might not get rich or even be able to replace your job income but you would have learned. After your first attempt in business, you already have the experience, you may still not have money but you already have the entrepreneurial experience! You may find this funny, and think that I’m joking but I’m not. Taking action is more important than capital. When you take action today, you will find yourself having capital later!
While money gives you leverage, you may end up losing whatever money you have to invest in your business if you’re inexperienced but don’t worry because losing money while trying to build a business is a good thing in the short run. Far too many people dream of building big businesses but are too afraid to lose money in the short run.
The only difference between someone starting a business with money and with someone starting a business with no money is that the former can leverage the money to fail fast in the short run then recover fast. If you’re starting a business with no money, you may need to defer some actions that you need to take your business to the next level until you have enough sales to fuel the project.
So, while it’s possible to start a business with no money, I would suggest that you start with little money.
In the last couple of decades, the internet has empowered so many small-time entrepreneurs to build businesses with little to no money. Many of them started with less than $100 invested in a domain name and a Webhosting.
My mom, always thought it was impossible to start a business with no money, and I always told her that the concept is more important than capital. Now that I’m in my forties, I realized it actually isn’t the concept and not even the business idea that makes a business successful but it’s the person’s gut and willingness to take relentless, and consistent action that makes them successful.
If you’re anything like me or the many other chronic entrepreneurs of the world, you are not afraid to work hard, well, hopefully, you aren’t! And since, you’re going to work hard anyway, work hard on something that builds equity, and compound that equity over time through consistent action. Starting a business with money can make you successful very fast but if you’re starting a business with no money or experience, start where you are, and double down the effort in a singular direction.
What kept me from actually succeeding with the many failed businesses that I tried is the fact that I was always trying to start too many business ideas at once so I end up always trying to spread myself too thin. If you’re starting a business, especially if you’re starting with little to no money, focus on one thing, and make that successful. It may take a year, or even 10, as long as it doesn’t bankrupt you, keep going!
I’m not sure what kind of business you’re trying to start but in this time and age, I would suggest that you take advantage of the technology that’s available to us all, especially the internet.
I have been listening to the Almanack of Naval Ravikant – A guide to wealth and happiness by Eric Jorgenson which is based on Naval Ravikant’s teaching and wisdom.
To build wealth and happiness, Naval suggests that you productize yourself, and leverage either code or media. If you know how to code or would love to learn how you can use code to build a business, build a product (platform) if not you can take advantage of media. Media comes in the form of a blog, video, or podcast. Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur and angel investor. He founded Angel List, and Epinions, and is an early investor in tech companies such as Uber, Foursquare, Twitter, Postmates, ThumbTack, Poshmark, and many more.
As a side, note, we don’t have a cable subscription at home as I don’t watch TV and I try to avoid the news whenever I can. On the other hand, I try to learn as much as I can by reading books and blogs, watching YouTube, and listening to podcasts. Audible is my preferred way of reading books on the go, you can download the book’s Audible format here or you can download a free pdf copy here.
Code and media empower any bootstrapping entrepreneur to start businesses with little to no money. Anyone can learn how to code, and as Naval puts it, these robots are freely available for anyone to use to build their products (or platform), and media production has made it possible for anyone to start their own video and audio programs through YouTube, the Facebook creator program, and Podcasts.
I was assisting a friend of mine (Dexter Panlilio) yesterday process his music school’s occupancy permit, and our conversation quickly escalated to audio and film recording. He is a long-time passionate artist who was part of a popular Philippine alternative rock band, Orient Pearl in the 90s. Aside from being a music teacher, he also directs short films and music videos. During my time with him, we talked about cameras, Tascam, and video editing. He showed me one of the projects he worked on in 2019 with Eric Penner (YouTube channel). He said, one of the best businesses in the 90s were music studios because artists and bands didn’t have their own recording studios due to the high costs of audio and video equipment; nowadays, you can have a professional-grade music studio in your home because of the new innovations in the film and audio equipment industry. This empowers anyone to launch their own podcasts (much like a radio show before), talk shows, create and produce their own films, record music, create video courses, and more. This is the present-day media!
If you’re an artist, you don’t need the music industry’s approval to launch your music, you just launch it and see how the market approves it. Similarly, you can build a business with no money around content creation like niche blog publishing, a YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram, and a Podcast show. When you leverage modern-day media technology, you build your influence and productize yourself.
Naval said if you can’t code, use media and productize yourself! Productizing yourself is one of the best ways you can build a business with no money. If you have a smartphone, you’re in business! If you can write, you’re in business! Just start with what you have. According to Les Brown, start where you are, because you don’t have to be great to get started but you have to get started to be great!
Table of Contents
Business Ideas You Can Start with Little to No Money
The problem most chronic entrepreneurs have is that we’re cursed with so many business ideas that we don’t have the time nor audacity to build. if you’re starting small and with little to no money, it’s hard to spread yourself too thin and expect traction. You end up spinning your wheels without going anywhere, this is the case of many chronic entrepreneurs but I found that the best way to succeed is to focus on a single business idea, focus on it and build.
As a chronic entrepreneur, I find myself wearing many different hats trying to build a lot of businesses at once. As of this writing, I make my living as an advisor in the financial services industry. I also run an e-commerce business through Amazon FBA, I drop shipped on eBay, and currently dabbling in paid traffic affiliate marketing. Aside from these, I also run two local lead generation websites that bring in part-time but consistent income. My eCommerce business is in its baby stage, it produces part-time income but only when I have stocks in the Amazon warehouses, the pandemic has made it a bit of a challenge to keep inventories filled at all times as logistics seemed to have been heavily affected by pandemic restrictions, which keeps us all safe, by the way. So, as you see, I’m all over the place, not to mention that I’m also working on my content marketing campaign (content production) for my main business. I could probably hire them all out but I’m still developing my delegation skills at the moment, and since my financial services practice is focused on Canada, it’s pretty hard to find affordable writers who understand the Canadian financial services industry. Until then, I have to wear all these hats, which means that I have to cut down, and redirect my focus on a business that will bring me long-term ROI or return on investment.
But now, let’s talk about you, what businesses can you start with little to no money?
If you’ve read this far, I’ve mentioned a couple of businesses along the way but if you didn’t catch them, I’ll list some doable and realistic business ideas that you can start with no money or little money.
Become a Freelancer
There are a lot of services that you can offer as a freelancer, such services depend entirely on your own background, education, skills, and experience. I can tell you to go and fix cars or start a mobile oil change business but if you know nothing about cars, it’s going to be a disaster. I’ve received so many unsolicited emails from self-proclaimed SEO experts in India lately (no offense if you’re from India) and I haven’t responded to any of them. One because I know SEO, and second, I also know that these SEO experts sending spam emails actually know nothing about SEO because if they do, they wouldn’t send unsolicited emails to business owners to offer their SEO services, business owners should find their websites on search results.
So, offer services that you know. In my case, for example, I can offer blog or article writing services. I’ve found too many writers who call themselves “writers” who can’t come up with an originally written 2,000-word article, and think that 2,000 words are too long of an article. You can’t call yourself a writer if you can’t write 2,000 words in a day.
As a freelance service provider, focus on offering services that you’re skilled at. You can offer photography, and video production services, graphic design, article writing, events management, web design, media buying, social media marketing, auto repair, dog walking, home or office cleaning services, garden design, interior design, handyman, and/or renovations services, babysitting, speaking engagement, hosting, wedding planning, mobile oil change, mobile carwash services, etc.
Make a list of the many different skill(s) you have and see if people are actually willing to pay for that skill to solve their needs or problems.
As a freelancer, you can market and/or advertise your services on freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer (virtually deliverable services). If you’re offering an in-person service, you can promote your services locally on local classifieds like Craigslist, the Facebook marketplace, or you can create your own lead generation or marketing website.
Creating your own website even if you’re operating as a freelancer without a registered business builds trust and credibility among your prospects.
Not only does a website build your credibility, but you can also establish yourself as an expert in your niche by writing and publishing articles that are related to your industry or practice. Aside from that, you can also use your website as a lead generation platform through search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid advertising. When collecting leads, you need to have a landing page either as your homepage or as specific landers for paid campaigns. A landing page helps you convert website visitors into leads that you can convert into actual paying customers for your services.
Build a Niche Blog or Website
You might ask why a blog is often recommended on work from home or home-based business ideas articles such as this. Well, that’s because a blog is one of the lowest cost businesses that you can build since oftentimes your investment consists only of a domain name and a Webhosting account. The average annual cost of a domain name is around $10 to $15, and if you happen to find a long tail domain that’s on sale, you can get it for as low as $1. Shared hosting can cost you an average of $5 a month ($60 a year).
That’s a total of $65 startup costs for a blog. Have you tried inquiring recently as to how much a small retail space costs in your area?
Your website or blog is like a corner location on the information superhighway. Writing that made me feel dated but indeed, the internet is like a superhighway, well a virtual superhighway where you can build an asset and turn it into an empire over time.
As opposed to what you may have seen on YouTube, blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick, and it will take time before you see your first $1 earned from your blog but it works if you work it. Too many people don’t hang around long enough to earn money from a blog.
The problem with starting a blog is that you don’t get paid right away, and while the monetary startup costs are low, the level of hard work required to turn a blog into a profitable business is very, very high.
Blogging is one of the slowest types of business that you can build, it may take years before you can replace your full-time income from work but what attracts so many entrepreneurs to blogging or content creation in general, is the opportunity to create a long term and sustainable passive income source. In reality, not everyone will have the gut nor the patience to keep working on a business that doesn’t show any potential of replacing their full-time income from work. Most people would quit blogging in less than 3-months, most never really get to blog after setting up their domain and hosting. The reason behind these massive blogging failure statistics is the fact that blogging is mostly promoted as a get-rich-quick scheme opportunity business opportunity, as a result, most of us start a blog with all the wrong reasons and motivation. We’ve all seen it, YouTube videos like, “How I made $20,000 blogging in 30-days”, and the like, you have to grow past naivete to get past through these get rich quick BS.
Blogging or organic content marketing can give you the highest marketing ROI but it takes time to see this ROI. Blogging success is a result of compounded effort. You don’t need to put in a lot of money, not unless if you’re paying for traffic, but you’ll need to put in lots and lots of content. Well, Ideally, keyword-targeted content that your target audience is most likely searching for on Google or any other search engine of their choice.
What I’ve realized so far, is that it is more of a test of perseverance than anything. It’s so easy to procrastinate writing when you don’t get paid for your efforts.
FIRE GIVE ME HEAT, THEN I’LL GIVE YOU WOOD
The above is one of my favorite quotes, we’re all programmed this way. That’s why most of us cling to the “safe haven” of traditional employment that going on our own. We’re not motivated to take action if we don’t get paid right away for our time. What I realized is that business rewards those who are willing to work for free, for an endeavor that they know will financially reward them in the future.
Blogging or online publishing is the perfect example of the entrepreneurial journey, which in essence is a game of persistence, and consistency amidst dark waters.
Become a Consultant
They say that everyone is an expert in something. As a consultant, you can get paid for giving advice. One perfect example of a consulting business is the business of marriage counselors. People who are experiencing problems with their marriage seek the consulting services of marriage counselors to help them sort out their relationships with their spouse in order for them to save their marriage.
A marriage counselor’s services deliver a high value to those who need them, if you’re married and you have kids, you know that a failed marriage will not only affect you and your spouse but will would your kids for the rest of their lives.
I myself am a product of a broken marriage, and I wouldn’t want my kids to experience the same. As a consultant, your focus is to bring value to your clients. Most people are more than willing to pay a consultant to help them solved their problems. As a consultant, you don’t necessarily work with individuals or families, you can work with small to medium businesses to help them solve problems in your areas of expertise.
There are many ways on how you can bill your clients for consulting services, some consultants offer advice-only services while others charge to do the work for their clients on a per hour basis.
My accountant, for example, gives her clients the option of whether or not they want to do their own bookkeeping, hire a bookkeeper, or have her maintain our books. Of course, her hourly rate is higher than bookkeepers who aren’t licensed CPAs but such service is available should you prefer a CPA to do your books. She makes money mostly on tax preparation services and coaching, especially if you choose to maintain your own books and just submit your financial statements for tax filing.
The marriage counselor and accountant are of course given as examples of what type of services you can offer as a consultant but you don’t have to offer marriage counseling services if you don’t know anything about the subject matter. To offer consulting services, you have to have a solid knowledge of the specific field you’re going to coach clients in.
Most consultants are coaches, who get paid per hour for their time and wisdom. You might think that a consulting business and a freelance business somewhat intertwine but the major difference with a consulting business is that your clients come to you to seek help from a subject matter expert such as yourself. As a freelancer, on the other hand, your clients, already know the exact work that they need, and they come to you to have the work done.
As of this writing, I’m in the middle of an interior renovation for our rental property, which we’ve decided to sell. Since I’m too busy to complete the job myself in a timely fashion, I’ve hired the services of a plasterer who offers his services as a self-employed freelancer. Note that he doesn’t have a company, he just works for himself, as a freelancer. I needed someone to fix the walls, and ceilings so they can be ready for repainting. That’s what he delivered! No advice, no coaching sessions, he just did the work I needed.
If I were to hire a consultant, on the other hand, I may have hired an interior designer, from whom I will get advice on the property’s look and feel such as paint color, flooring, etc.
Become a Self-Employed Sales Professional
Most people fear sales, I feared it too, when I was younger but I managed to throw myself out into the fire in the hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur with no money to start a business, a commission-only sales career is a great start. In most instances, you don’t need any financial capital. You just need to sell or at least learn to sell. I was an accountant, and have always worked in accounting roles ever since I finished university but I found myself reading entrepreneurial books, and realized that I have to learn how to sell if I were going to become a successful entrepreneur. As an accounting major, I’ve always been an introvert, the shy type, who wouldn’t speak if not spoken to. I still am, I still consider myself an introvert but I believe in the value that I’m able to deliver clients as a financial security advisor.
I was pushed into the pay-per-performance field when I got laid off from work in 2012. If you’ve ever experience same-day lay-off, you wouldn’t want to work a regular job again. That was my turning point, I wanted a job with no lay-off. It turned out that you have to work for yourself. If you’re reading this, and you’re in Canada, we’re hiring life-licensed financial advisors in the provinces of Ontario, and Manitoba, to join our company as self-employed independent advisors. Just visit our website here, and click on contact us.
I focus on giving high value to my financial advisory business. Since we’re in the financial services industry, it isn’t only about sales, I make it a point that our clients get the best advice they can get when it comes to securing their financial security, and building their wealth. Even if you’re not in the financial services industry, as a sales professional, the key to true, long-term success is by delivering value to your clients.
A lot of people who get into sales are motivated by how much money that they’re going to make. While it’s true that you can make a lot of money with sales, I urge my trainees to focus on delivering value instead of trying to squeeze every bit of commission you can from your clients. You know, word gets around, and if you’re thinking long term, might as well have your clients talk about their positive experience with you. This will return a thousandfold, most sales professionals try to twist their prospect’s arms at the first meeting in the fear that they may never have the chance of closing the prospect. If you’re going to do this as a business, you have to accept the fact that the key to success in this business is having a consistent flow of prospects. If you deliver a great experience to your prospects and clients, you will be rewarded with referrals, and while referrals are a good source of new leads, you also have to learn ways how you can constantly fill your sales funnel, this way, you need not force people into buying your offer. Sales is a numbers game, the more people you talk to, the more you close.
Just like any other business venture, a self-employed sales career isn’t a get-rich quick, though most people think it is. You have to differentiate yourself from the crowd, surprise your prospects by not being pushy. Most salespeople are nothing but snake-oil salesmen who don’t focus on helping their clients solve a need but focus more on selling their offers to whoever they get in contact with.
Starting a business with little to no money or experience is quite possible, and there are actually a lot of people who make their living as self-employed professionals or business owners.
Any business you start, you have to look into whatever skills you have from a job, a course, or trade. If you don’t have any skills, you can learn them, you just have to have an open mind.
Business, in general, isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. This mentality is the main reason why most budding entrepreneurs fail because they give up too soon.
I’ve mentioned four types of businesses that you can start with little or no money in this article:
- Self-employed Sales
All these businesses require no or little amount of capital. As a freelancer, you need not register a business, you can just go ahead and promote your services. If you know how to change vehicle engine oil, you can start a mobile oil change business. If you know how to repair cars, offer car repair services. Heck, you can even offer mobile car wash services but then again, you might not know anything about cars but you might have graphic design skills, public speaking, events management, etc. To start a freelancing business, you just have to put the word out, or if you’re going to offer services that a digitally deliverable such as web design, writing, etc, you can join freelance marketplaces such as Fiverr, Upwork, People Per Hour, and the like, I have a long list of these websites on a post I’ve written way back, which you can find here.
Blogging requires a little bit of capital, usually not anything beyond $100 because all you need is a domain name, a hosting provider, and a blogging platform such as WordPress. While blogging doesn’t require a lot of capital, it does require a lot of work because technically, you’re in the publishing business, and you have to grow your blog into a stage where you attract hundreds of thousands of visits per day in order to monetize your traffic. Most blogging gurus will not tell you this. It does take a lot of work to build a successful blog, which means you need to love writing or have the budget to pay someone else to write.
Consulting is another business that you can start with no money and probably a little bit of experience. It does require you to be a subject matter expert because that’s what your clients are going to pay you for, especially if you’re offering “advise only” services. The beauty of a consulting business is that you get paid right away every time someone books a consulting session with you but then again, you have to know what you’re talking about, so pick an industry that you consider yourself an expert on and offer your services as a consultant, instead of as an employee. This way, even if you’re working with companies, you get to work with more than just one employer, and if they no longer need your services, you just add your client base.
A self-employed sales career is where I found initial success, in the last eight years, I have been a full-time self-employed financial security advisor in Canada. Like any other business, sales isn’t a get rich quick, and shouldn’t be viewed that way. I’ve learned that it pays to focus on delivering true value to your clients instead of just focusing on the amount of commission that you’re going to make for each of your clients. If you come to think of it, sales isn’t actually just about selling people, if you make it your career or business, it’s really about helping people find the solution that fits their needs, budget, and goal.
There are a lot of industries that you can get into as a self-employed professional, my offer still stands, if you’re reading this and you’re from Ontario or Manitoba in Canada, we’re looking for independent financial advisors in these provinces to join our team of self-employed independent financial advisors. We don’t pay you salary since, obviously, you run your own business, we pay per deal, which in most cases is more than if you ever get paid per hour anywhere.