Everyone has had wild dreams of becoming rich beyond your wildest dreams without actually doing any real work. Some decide to play the lottery, others try their hand at gambling and another group consider starting an internet business to become instantly rich.
For most people starting an internet business is the only option that seems like a real possibility, except for one thing. You have no money and no experience on how to make a website, so you become overwhelmed before you even begin.
Below I have organized a comprehensive list of tricks and tips to show you how to start a business with no money. I helped my husband start a business a few years ago and instantly became the secretary, web design, marketing team, accountant, legal counsel and all around errand boy.
Because of this I get asked all the time about how to start a business with no money. So I’ve put together a list of services I’ve used and/or heard great things about.
After reading Brian’s Armstrong’s article on “46 Ways To Start A Business With No Money” in 2008, I realized that there were a few services missing, so I did my own spin on the popular post.
(Disclaimer: The majority of the products are free, but a few cost a little money. I have tried to include free alternative when possible.)
Eliminate Expenses By Cutting Corners
1. Keep working at your current job as long as possible. Don’t quit your job until you have successfully been able to replace your current income.
2. Don’t rent and office or warehouse space to start a business before you earn a profit. Work from home or your current office space (if that’s possible). If by chance you need to meet with a client or potential customer, you can always meet at a Starbucks (they have free wifi for laptop presentations), schedule a lunch meeting at a local restaurant, setup a meeting at their office or if you have a little money available schedule time at a virtual office space (you can normally rent these by the hour.)
3. Don’t hire employees or outsource technical work, do EVERYTHING yourself until you have cash coming in. Your business will be virtually non-existent until you do a bit more marketing so paying for designers, lawyers and assistants is basically a waste of money.
Get a Few Good Ideas
4. First you’ll need a few ideas. What are you interested in? Write down several ideas you feel would be the most profitable. This will help you determine your niche. Then create a business plan to help organize these ideas and create goals for future growth.
5. Evaluate your skills to help determine what equipment and assets you currently have that you can use to start a business. Do you have access to a computer with internet? If not, how will you gain access with no money?
6. Research your business options. Are you interested in starting an internet business and selling or promoting products online? Perhaps affiliate marketing would be a good option. Do you have office equipment available, like a fax machine, scanner or a telephone line? How can these be used to further your business goals?
How to Make a Website
7. Register a cheap domain name. The best way to register a domain name is to directly to Hostgator and use the discount code ‘BrandBuild’ to get a $9.95 discount and sign up. Or you can read more about why I love Hostgator.
8. Sign up for hosting at the same time you register a domain name at Hostgator. By using the discount code ‘BrandBuild’ you will get the first three months of hosting for only $1 if you purchase the Hatchling package plan for $4.95.
9. Download a premium quality website templates for free. People spend way too much time trying to find the perfect website template when really, you just need to get one installed. I have a plenty of free website templates available for immediate download.
10. Plan and organize your website with a few common website pages. Do you want an about page? Or a page to highlight your services? Consider what information a potential customer will be searching for once they reach your website.
Logos and Business Cards
11. Create a FREE custom logo with LogoYes. LogoYes is the leading provider of do-it-yourself logos and other premium design products to small businesses around the world. Customers have always been able to design a custom logo for free with LogoYes. Now they can get a version for on line use at no cost. Plus use coupon code ‘AFFILIATE’ for $20 off full logo kit downloads.
12. Order 250 FREE business cards from Vista Print. Vista Print offers a wide variety of high-quality printed marketing materials and promotional products.
Accept Payments and Credit Cards Online
13. Setting up a standard merchant account is a hassle and a waste of time. They are complicated to setup, require legal documents, normally have monthly fees and often require some technical expertise to setup correctly. Google Checkout and Paypal offer simple and easy to configure solutions for beginners.
14. If you are interested in selling digital goods and tangible goods consider using E-Junkie. They offer a professional looking shopping cart for only $5 a month, it easily integrates into your website and also comes with a built in affiliate option.
Creating Products to Sell
15. Download a free e-Book Template to sell or distribute for free.
16. Printed book can also be designed using self-publishing services like LuLu they offer print-on-demand books, ebooks, music, images and custom calendars. They won’t print won’t print a single page until someone orders it, so you won’t have to spend any money upfront!
18. Use screencasting software like Camtasia ($299 for PC and $99 for MAC) and make great professional videos. Screenr creates FREE Instant screencasts for Twitter. with just one click of the record button. Screentoaster is another FREE alternative to record screencasts, tutorials, demos, training, lectures and more.
19. Do you want to teach and share information with a group of people? You can charge customers to join a webinar on all kinds of topics. DimDim lets anyone host and attend live meetings, demos and webinars using just a web browser. Skype also has a free screen sharing feature which allows you to share either your entire screen, or just a select portion, with other Skype users.
20. If you are considering selling digital goods, you may want to invest in 3D e-Book/CD Cover Creator like Box Shots 3D. First impressions are important so your products should look professional whenever possible. This can mean the difference between whether or not you make the sale. Box Shots 3D is a downloadable app for both PC and MAC.
21. EventBrite is an online event registration service. It gives you all the online tools you need to bring people together for an event, webinar or concert and sell tickets.
Build a Online Store
Building an online store can be a big investment of time. energy and money. Before you decide to open a store you should visit your local flea market or fair and rent a booth to see who may be interested in your product and possibly provide some valuable feedback.
22. If you are considering selling clothing or other wearable good try Big Cartel. Big Cartel is a simple shopping cart for clothing and tee designers, bands, record labels, jewelry makers, crafters, and other artists. They have a free option which allows you to sell 5 products, but if your store grows you can always upgrade later.
23. With Ebay you can sell almost anything, from cars to crap! Ebay is most famously known as a online auction place, but they also the option to setup a standard store to sell goods as well.
24. Etsy is similar to Ebay, but only allows you to sell handmade or vintage items. Etsy the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace if the products you are selling are a bit more artsy and one of a kind.
25. Prostores is another option to help create an online store. The monthly fee is $29.95 however, they do offer a free 30 day trial.
26. If you have a large amount of tangible products try opening a Yahoo Store. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions includes ecommerce features like web design tools, secure shopping cart, free domain name, 24-7 support, and free marketing services.
Networking and Learning
27. Join local entrepreneur/business Meetup.com groups in your city to share your thoughts, ideas and resources.
28. Go to your local library and find books and periodicals related to starting a business, entrepreneurship and business.
29. Amazon also has a large collection of used business related book on sale.
30. Attend local workshops and seminars to make friends and share ideas. Your local community college offers one day classes for entrepreneurs and business owners on a variety of topics.
31. Download and read eBooks
Staying in Contact
33. Get a reliable email account. Gmail is at the top of the food chain. Thy have the best spam filters online and their email comes with other goodies, like Google calendar, Google Documents, Google Reader and mobile phone apps. You can create an firstname.lastname@example.org account or sign up for a free domain email account with Google Apps. You would use the same great Gmail service, except your email would be email@example.com.
34. Google Voice is available by invite only is great if you can get your hands on one! Google Voice gives you one number for all your phones, voicemail as easy as email, free US long distance, low rates on international calls, and many other calling features. This is great if you need to take orders by phone, but do not want to pay for an additional phone line. Your new Google Voice number can be forwarded to another number or you can just listen to your voicemail messages online.
35. Skype is a free is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. You need to sign up for a free account to begin. Skype user to Skype user calls are always free but with Pay As You Go and Pay Monthly subscriptions you can call friends and family on any phone. Skype also offer free screen sharing software for internet based conferences.
36. Offer coupons and incentives to help generate leads One of the best kept secrets of making future sales is to begin building an email list from customers that visit your site. Offer them something for free in order to get their email address and possibly up-sell them on other products later.
37. Blogs are a great way keep in touch with customers, highlight events, new products or just everyday happenings. with your business. You can make a free blog along with your first website once you setup a Hostgator account.
Using SEO to Gain Targeted Website Traffic
38. Post informational videos on Youtube, then add links back to your site so viewers can visit your site for more information.
39. Social media marketing is a great way create a buzz for new products and services. Try out a service called KnoEm. KnowEm allows you to check for the use of your brand, product, personal name or username instantly on over 350 popular and emerging social media websites. Grab your name and secure your brand before someone else does. Claim.io also allows you to register your name, claim your Vanity URLs and insert your messaging and logo across 300 of the top social media and social networking sites.
40. Writing articles and posting them on other sites in order to gain targeting website traffic to your site is called article marketing. Write short 400-500 word articles and post them on sites like Squidoo, EzineArticles, Hubpages and Infobarrels to get more exposure.
41. Link Building is the process in which you get other website to link to your website. You can get tons of links by article marketing and guest posting (writing an article for another related website/blog).
42. Research keywords to find out which will bring the most traffic instead of just guessing you can sign up for a $1 at The Keyword Academy for a complete tutorial guide, WordTracker offers a free trial of their full service (just maybe sure you cancel in 7 days!).
43. Use on page search engine optimization tips to make sure your website is correctly configured to be pinged by the major search engines Google, Yahoo and **cough** BING …
Legal Stuff and Incorporating
44. Score.org and the SBA (Small Business Administration) offers free online and face-to-face business counseling, mentoring, legal advice and training. Business help and advice is available for small businesses just starting or for existing businesses.
45. Legal documents can be confused and tough to fill out alone. Try Legal Zoom. The offer online legal document preparation services for estate planning, trademarks, corporations and others.
46. Once you begin turning a profit its best to incorporate you business. An LLC is probably the business structure, but until then a sole proprietorship should be just fine. You can call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to help guide you through the application process.
Sending Invoices, Managing Money and Time
47. Financial statements can be complicated to compile if you have no idea what you’re doing. Download a free financial statement template to help you get started. These can be created in Excel, but you won’t really need this unless you are actually making a profit on want to borrow investment money from a bank.
48. Quickbooks is a great tool to help mange money, process payments, send invoices, issue checks and much more, but it can be a tough learning curve. It has a lot of features, many of which you will never even use. The software costs $99.95 and is available for PC and MAC. They also offer an online version for $9.95 a month (and I heard was much easier to use) than the software and it comes with a 30 day free trial.
In the end, even though starting a business with no money may not be ideal, it will force you to 1) think hard about what will make you a sustainable amount of money right out of the gate, 2) truly put in effort creating a quality products by engaging your customers, listening to their needs and making changes to accommodate their needs, 3) stay in control! You need to be aware of everything going on within your business, not your partners, customers or contractors.