How to start a business with no money

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A study by Wells Fargo found that 77% of small businesses rely on personal savings for their initial funds. But, what if you don’t have a nest egg to dip into? Does that mean you aren’t cut out for business ownership?

Not necessarily. While it’s difficult to start a business with little to no upfront investment, it is possible.

Starting a business with no money: Is it right for you?

Maybe, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Even if you manage to keep costs low, starting a business is never free. The general rule is what you save in money you spend in time. That trade-off warrants serious consideration before you jump in. Do you have the time and commitment to make a new business work?

If you do, what’s the best business to start with little money? What are some strategies to keep your costs down—regardless of your specific business or industry?

Here are some suggestions to make your own business a reality, without investing a ton of cash right away.

1. Don’t skip the planning process

Imagine taking a trip abroad on a tight budget. Do you head out and cross your fingers that you can pinch pennies?

Starting a business is similar. Spending time writing a business plan helps you foresee any expensive tasks or problems—and hopefully avoid them altogether or find a way to reduce the cost.

Companies that plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t, but it’s still tempting to skip the planning stages and move on to the more exciting tasks.

Crafting your business plan takes time, but it’s also free. As an activity that will increase your odds for success, you’ll see a significant return on investment for your time.

2. If you have a skill, sell it

Even if you manage to get steep discounts, selling products can require money. You need to get inventory as well as pay for packaging and shipping,

Starting with selling services is a far more cost-effective way to get started—it only requires your time and your skills. It also gives you the opportunity to establish credibility and form relationships with customers before you invest too much.

While websites like Craigslist may be an obvious place to look for work, there are a variety of online platforms where you can find freelance jobs and build up a clientele.

3. Become a Jack of all trades

When your aim is to keep startup costs as low as possible, you’re going to need to do most things yourself—which requires a high degree of resourcefulness.

You won’t be able to avoid tasks and pass them off to someone else. Dig into as many free resources you can find to tackle this uncharted territory.

Whether it’s building your own website or streamlining an accounting system, video tutorials, how-to articles, and in-depth online courses can provide you the knowledge you need to accomplish much on your own.

4. Trade your skills

Know their limits and recognize when something is beyond the scope of what you can master on your own.

If you don’t have the budget to pay for professional photos or draft your promotional copy, trade your skills to get what you need for no or low cost.

For example, a mechanic can exchange free oil changes or tune-ups to that local web developer in exchange for getting their shop’s website established.

Not everybody will be willing to trade work but don’t hesitate to negotiate to trade your skills rather than handing over cash.

5. Find free resources

Check out Freecycle or the “free stuff” section of Craigslist for free supplies or equipment. Seek out business incubators in your area where you’ll get access to a workspace, mentorship, and other assets for free or a very low cost.

Do your research to find website platforms (like Wix) where you can build your website for free.

There are plenty of tools and assets out there that aren’t costly—you just need to do the legwork to find them.

Starting a business doesn’t have to cost a fortune

Getting your business going without a large upfront investment isn’t easy. It’ll require a lot of time and commitment on your part.

But, it can be well worth it. Not only is that sweat equity personally rewarding, but it also gives you freedom. The freedom to venture into business ownership without starting with a major financial deficit.

Use the above strategies, and you’ll get the ball rolling for your business—without emptying your pockets.

This article originally appeared in the QuickBooks Resource Center and was syndicated by

Featured Image Credit: Monkey Business Images/shutterstock.