How To Start A Business With No Money

How To Start A Business With No Money: 11 Steps to Success

  1. How To Start A Business With No Money
  2. How Much Does It Cost to Start A Business
  3. Your Start Up Goals
  4. Starting Up With No Money
  5. Start Up With What You Know
  6. My First Zero Cost Start Up
  7. Business Basics: For A Zero Cost Start Up
  8. Business Plan: The Route To Success
  9. Business Funding
  10. Meet Up, Networks & Events
  11. Business Start Up Ideas: List
  12. Frequently Asked Questions

How To Start A Business With No Money

Is it possible to start a business with no money? YES absolutely. I did it, and can show you how I make a six figure income with my online business.

Let me guess…you have a great business idea. You just don’t have the cash to fund it. Or maybe you have a burning desire to create a business but just need that bit of insight, inspiration or guidance to get going.

Perfect. You’ve come to the right place. I’m going to help you get those questions answered. Hopefully through this journey I will inspire you and you will get to trust me. Lets solve this and uncover “How To Start A Business With No Money”

How Much Does It Cost to Start A Business

The answer to this question varies wildly depending industry, ambitions and timescale. We can reel off a hundred variations of short cutting growth by scaling fast with high risk, high growth strategies. But they all require big lumps of cash.

The average UK Start Up spends £22,000 in their first year. Telegraph Newspaper Study commissioned by Geniac

The Average US Start up Spend just under $25,000 in their first year. US Small Business Administration of Advocacy

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat… let’s dive into the possibilities and get you ready for success. Starting a business with no money can be achieved, by starting from the ground up.

Start Up Goals

The first thing I would suggest is that you are clear on your goal?

When we talk about start ups, often we think about a business in an embryonic stage. In readiness to mature and grow into a fledgling company, looking to scale. That’s perfectly okay and we can come on to discuss that later.

For some though, the objective is to get out of the grind of an office job and work for ourselves. Simple as that, be your own boss. That’s a great goal too.

But you do need to distinguish between them. As the paths to each of these goals may be slightly different. 

What Is Your Work-Life Goal?

Being your own boss is a great feeling. But many company owners look back on the early days as some of the finest. When life was simple…

  • Low financial risk
  • Less corporate responsibility
  • Greater flexibility to work ….or not to work today, thank you very much

Are you are entering into this to be your own boss and live a more balance lifestyle. Or, is growth and ambition driving you. They have very different outcomes.

So it’s important your are honest with yourself. Otherwise you may find yourself knee-deep in a place you don’t want to be.

Starting Up With No Money?

If you have grand ambitions of scaling or if you ware looking for a modest self employed approach, your starting point is the same. If you haven’t got any money, or at least very little. That’s just how it is and that’s why you’re here.

You need to decide where you are in your journey. Then you can take a view on how you move towards your goal from here. I will share some of my experiences with you, to demonstrate it is possible to succeed.

This as a journey of stages. No one with wealth woke up one morning and found gold under their bed. We all started somewhere and there is no shame in that. In fact quite the opposite. Take pride in your progression.

Not Got Two Dimes

To state the obvious, if you currently have a job, keep it. At least for now until you can afford to do something different. Put a little money aside each week to support any expenses you will incur through your start up.

If you drink or smoke, stop! Own this. I know you can do it. I did it and thousands of other successful people have done it too.

If you literally have zero money then you’re working from the ground up. This means ‘today’ your options are limited. I mean, you cannot invest in marketing, advertising and assets. So you really will have to hustle if you have zero cash or assets.

In these circumstances you just have to do whatever it takes. So what do you do when you have nothing?

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

Colin Powell

You always have your wit, will and determination. So opportunities to progress are available to you. I’m here too and I will help you.

If you have literally zero cash roll your sleeves up. Dog Walking, Grass Cutting, Dish washing, you get the idea. It’s not pretty but it’s your reality …today at least.

To get past this ‘zero cash’ stage you need to accrue a small amount of capital to feed your start up’s growth.

If you can do this for a short period, you’re in a good place to push through any small expenses that you find through set up.  

A Little Bit Of Money

Excellent. You’re now out of the darkest stage and pulled in a few dollars. We can really get into thinking about a business model you can scale. With just a small amount of money you can make this work.

Exactly how much money do you need to get past first base? Let me share my experience with you…

In my first start up experience, I was still working full time. So I made a side hustle. I had financial security but I didn’t want to risk my mortgage or saving so I really did it on a shoe string. I know i was financially secure, but the point is I did it without spending. So can you.

So what’s the moral of the this part of my story….

Start Up With What You Know

For a customer to split with their hard earned cash and hand it over to you, they expect to see value, right! You can only offer this where you have some level of expertise or knowledge.

Whatever it is we all have talent or experience. That’s what you have to offer at this stage.

Let’s be clear, you don’t have money so you can’t start a physical product business. Not unless you can invest in inventory…we will talk about that option later. So, consider selling your skills.

Sometimes it’s so obvious you don’t see it yourself. But write down a list of all of the activities, skills and passions you have and pose the question; where can I add value?

In my case i had the following qualities and experience:

  • Experience: Product Development, Procurement, Marketing, Commercial Analysis, Pricing, Leadership
  • Qualities: Analytical, Determination, Numerical, Vision

Armed with this information on paper it was blindingly obvious I had some high level experience and it was crazy not to use it . I really liked the idea of photography, or developing a SaaS business. But how the hell would I compete with industry experts. It would be asking too much too soon.

Try asking yourself:

  • What skills have help you thrive in the past?
  • What makes you feel strong?
  • What made you stand out as a child?
  • What compliments do people tend to give you? Especially the ones you ignore.

If this process doesn’t work, ask your family or friends what you’re good at. Keep it simple. Don’t over complicate things. You just need to get the ball rolling and it will evolve naturally from there.

More often than not your finishing point will be totally different to where you started. On your journey expect to pivot, diversify or switch your business model.

My First Zero Cost Start Up

I have a confession. This was actually my second Start Up. However it was the first I did with no money invested.

For the record, my first start up was an eCommerce store in 2007 which I later sold. The second, well when I reviewed my skills from 20 years in Product Development there was an easy win waiting for me. Selling on Amazon, before it became too competitive.

So, full disclosure out of the way …“How To Start A Business With No Money”? …like this…

I worked for a Blue Chip company as Commercial Director with a Chartered Director qualification behind me. My role had a great salary and all the benefits we aim for. But it was just not delivering on the satisfaction side. Crazy I know, but I was not fulfilled.

So this is what I did on the side, in the evening and at weekends. I started my first business with no investment.

Finding My Niche

With a little bit of eCommerce experience under my belt I knew online business models offered great potential. I read a few stories about people who had made a lot of money through Niche websites. Errrm no, I don’t mean that sort of Niche website. Wash your mouth out.

A Niche website is a specialist site on any topic. For example Kayaking, Gardening or Cooking. They are visited by enthusiasts or people looking for inspiration or answers. Just like you are on this website right now looking for answers.

I knew I could do this without spending money on physical inventory or property. Just simply working out of my home on my computer, in my spare time.

If you’re interested in learning more about finding your Niche read 500 Blog Niche Ideas

Low Cost Start Up

After a few months researching and learning about search engine optimization, online marketing and writing authority content. I decided to launch my first Niche site. I knew it was ultra-low risk and this is what I spent:

  • Purchased a Domain Name $14.95
  • Bluehost Web Hosting $3.95 p/month ($47.95 per year)
  • WordPress Website $0
  • Logo Design $25 on Fiverr

Yep. You are reading that right, $87.90 in my first year. That’s $24,912 less than the average US Start Up. Okay no exactly no money, but I had big ambitions [wink].

Year One: The Learning Phase

During the first year, I focused on:

  • Researching my Niche so I could become an expert
  • Mastering techniques in controlling web traffic
  • Building my own Niche Website using WordPress. Which is actually pretty easy with the guidance

I intended to make money from the visitors to my website, through advertising and other means. And so my journey began.

Business Basics: For A Zero Cost Start Up

Starting a business with no money requires a model with very low or no costs. There are a few ‘absolutes’ with this in mind.

Fly Solo, Do It All Yourself

You absolutely cannot employ staff. You’re going to have to fly solo on this one. At least in the early days. In my case that was easy and I suggest you do the same. Hiring staff will be near impossible with no money unless you can call in favours.

Clarify You End Goal

Be clear on your end goal and create a road map. You need to avoid deviations or U-Turns. These are costly and will lead to indirect on-costs or delays. This can potentially kill your motivation and prevent you pushing through the challenging times ahead.

Business Premises

When you’re starting out, working from your own home is the obvious choice. Avoiding unnecessary cost is essential during these early stages. Don’t forget Jeff Bezos started out of his garage. We’ve all got to start somewhere. If it’s zero cost then it’s the right option for you at this stage.

Will your great business idea succeed? That’s the million dollar question. If it doesn’t, then the last thing you need are long term financial commitments, that includes business property expenses.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years.

  • 20% of Businesses Fail <2 Years
  • 45% of Businesses Fail <5 Years
  • 65% of Businesses Fail <10 Years
  • 25% of Businesses Last 15+ Years

With this in mind it really should have significant bearing on your choice of business model. If you’re trying to start a business with no money, your place or work may be self fulfilling. You cant afford to buy, rent or lease property.

Working From Home

Arguably the best option is to work from your own home. I say arguably, as some people thrive in their home environment. While others struggle to get out of bed. No matter what type of work you do make sure you always follow a routine. Discipline is the bedrock to success.

Set Working Hours: Don’t roll out of bed when you fancy, keep the working day fixed. Start and end at appropriate times to avoid slippage

Loose the Pyjamas: I’m serious. If you really want to start a successful business then act like it

Create A Productive Work Space: Sitting in front of your TV with a laptop will get you nowhere. Create a formal space that says ‘I’m now focused on my goal’

Working From Your Customer’s Premises

You can work from your customer’s premises if you’re contracting for B2B clients. It may even be necessary to work from their offices.

Many services require you to work from your client’s homes. Home renovation, therapeutic services, beauty care for example. In these circumstances where, you will need to include travel costs as part of your financial planning. We can talk more on this later.

Working Off Site

Personal Trainer, Wedding Photographer or Dog Walker. You get the idea.

Even in these scenario’s you need to have some form of home office to go back to. Marketing yourself, bookkeeping, booking clients all needs to happen to keep even the smallest business alive. But these are great small businesses with no additional property expenses required.

Business Plan: The Route to Success

Lets take a moment to catch up with ourselves. I said earlier there are a few ‘absolutes’ when starting a business with no money.

  • You are going to be doing it by yourself. You have no money for employees
  • Keep in mind why you started this, so you can achieve your end goal
  • Where will your place of work be and what type business model will fit in with that

With these real-life limitations in mind you can begin to create a simple business plan. If you think you can ‘wing it’ and not plan. I’m sorry …but you are only planning to fail.

According to the CBN Insight Survey on the Reasons Small Businesses Fail. The top 5 causes could have all been avoided with market or product research and basic financial planning.

If you are not prepared to put in the effort to plan for success, you will not put in the effort required to succeed.

Top 5 Reasons Businesses Fail

Look at your business plan as a fluid working document at this stage. It not as if you’re presenting it to investors. Its for your own use and will change as you learn from market research.

Business Plan Framework

  1. Services and Product Portfolio
  2. Market Research
  3. Marketing Strategy
  4. Financial Planning
  5. Risk Management

Starting a Service Business

Service based businesses are relatively low risk compared to a product led business. Largely due to the low levels of investment in stock and warehousing. That’s not to say your wonderful serviced based start up will never have a physical product offer.

If you can satisfy customers based on your ‘Service Offer’, then why can’t you add a physical product to your portfolio. It just needs to be a good business fit. Maybe a complimentary products to the services that you offer.

Once you begin to make a profit you can accrue to re-invest in your growth. This is a great time to add services or products to your portfolio. Selling more products to existing customers is more often cheaper than acquiring new customer.

Once you have identified a basic vision of the business you want to engage it. You will need to refine your service offer and test product market fit. We will look into the research process shortly so that you can validate your business idea.

At the end of this post you will find a list of Business Ideas to help inspire you.

Physical Product Business

Physical products present a whole new set of challenges and rewards.

  • Product Development
  • Product Market Fit
  • Supplier Agreements
  • Product Production
  • Tooling Costs
  • Patent Issues
  • Product Management
  • Importing and Shipping
  • Cash Flow
  • Inventory Planning
  • Storage & Logistics 
  • Packaging Design
  • Quality Management
  • Obsolescence & Warranty
  • Cataloging

My corporate career was largely based on Product Category Management & Distribution and it can be a complicated and costly exercise. I ran team of 65 Product Managers, Marketing Specialists and Technical Staff. Developing over $300 million of product each year.

Based on this level of experience I always advise to start with a Service based business model. Life is so much easier, trust me.

If you have a lot of cash to invest then by all means product development is a great way to drive growth. But that’s not why you’re here …let’s keep our focus on how you get past the starting line. Keep it simple and keep it low risk.

5 Step Market Research Process

Whether you still looking for ideas or have made some genuine progress on your business idea, I strongly recommend aligning to this process.  As a minimum you should map your body of research to date, against this process, to expose pitfalls. If you haven’t start research yet, don’t worry that’s why you’re here.

#1 Define the Problem

Defining a problem to solve is fundamental. Without it you will not have a business, as you won’t have a customer. If you’re not solving someone’s problems then why would they give you money?

Take my niche website example. It’s whole foundation is based on solving problems. In effect I have made this the core of my business and removed this risk from at the very beginning of my business planning.

People use Google to search for stuff. That’s why its called a search engine …right. In the main, users are looking for ideas, inspiration, answers to questions, services or products to buy. You can split into two broad types of searches:

Information Intent

If users search Google looking for answers, I can understand their problem by researching their questions.

“How do I get my website to rank on the first page of Google” is a clear information intent question

“What is the best way to make money online” is also clear, the users are looking for answers to questions

Buying Intent

“Cheap iPhone Earbuds” is a buying intent search term

“Dell Laptop Deals” is another buying intent search. We can clearly see someone is looking to execute a purchase at some point in the near future.

Once you establish the problem you can attempt to address it.

Problem: “What is the best way to make money online”

Solution: “Read my blog on How to Make Money Online Working From Home”

During this stage of research, it pays to gather as much relevant information as possible. I usually look into permutations and variations. This allows me to compare them later and shortlist the hottest prospects.

Look out for areas of high volume and potential longevity. I want my business to be a long term venture. Avoid trends that are declining. Use Google Trend Trends to help you with this.

Google Trends: 50% decline in the popularity of Zumba over a 5 Year Period

#2 Develop a Plan

Any Start Up needs a good plan. Whether you have a war chest of cash to spend or not. Important planning factors include:

  • Document or List all of the stages of set up through to launch and beyond. Put a time frame around them to keep you on track. I like to use a excel gantt chart for this.
  • Prioritize the ‘must haves’. For example, I could not set up my Niche business without a Website and Hosting. However, I managed just fine without a flashy and expensive website from a design agency.
  • This is a great time to identify any potential costs. Make sure you can see this whole process through to the end, without running out of cash. If not, plan how and when you will raise the cash you need.

#3 Collect Market Data

Customer Research
  1. Perform online research to understand their behavior and needs. Google is your friend.
  2. Interview Potential Customers
  3. Run A Survey. Face to Face, Door to Door or an online Free Survey, or use social media polls
Competitor Research
  1. Who are they and what are there strengths and weaknesses? Find their value proposition.
  2. Can you compete. It’s no good going head to head with giants. Find your ‘Niche’ and build from there. If you can’t match them or at least come close, you won’t win market share.
  3. Design your offer to be different and disrupt an existing market. If the competition are selling premium Wedding Cakes, can you create a beautiful range of affordable wedding cakes with lower production costs. Serve an under-served part of the market, where competition is low.
Market Research
  1. What level of demand or sales exists within your chosen market. Is that enough for you to thrive.
  2. Look out for legislation that may adversely effect you. You do not wan to be 12 month in and find a costly requirement for licencing that you cannot fund.
  3. Trends, seasonality, alternatives are need to be understood to maximise your chances of success.

In my Niche website project, I did the following :

  • Google Keyword Research including the number of monthly searches
  • Google Trends to see if search terms were increasing in volume of decreasing
  • Comparing other Information Websites in my Niche or surrounding Niches. Could I compete in the Google results by offering value

#4 Analyse Your Findings

There are hundreds of variables to research and plan for. Pick out what matters in your market and really drill down into the detail.

Data analysis is everything. How can you understand something unless you have researched, compared and consolidated the outcome. If you do this you will find the most likely areas of success.

  • Cost of Entry into Market: High cost of entry and its not for you. You need to find a model with zero or very low cost of entry.
  • Sales Potential: Does the demand exist? Is it a growing trend or declining. Will sales demand still be there after you have build your empire. Or will the the peak have past.
  • Profit Potential: How will you make profit. To make profit you need to be in control of your costs. No matter how small they are. You also need to know the cost of your time. Plan to pay yourself, unless you are running this project as a side hustle.
  • Cost to Compete: How will you be found? You need to be able to market and promote yourself. Does the space you are planning to enter allow you to do this at no or very low cost?

#5 Take Action

Once the groundwork is done and you’re happy with your path. TAKE ACTION. Hesitation has killed a thousand great ideas.

It can be a daunting prospect. But you need to put your first foot forwards to start. Just start anything.

At each stage of the process perform split tests, comparisons. Use small samples of the market, or a very basic form of your big idea. Follow “Minimum Viability Tests” regularly to see if they work. If it fails, not a lot is lost at this stage. Pick yourself up and go again.

DO NOT build a empire then test it. It will crush you if that fails. Small steps, then test. Rinse and repeat.

Growth & Marketing

Setting up a business with no money is possible. Growing it without expenses is also possible, if you cut your cloth accordingly.

“How To Start A Business With No Money” is about running lean. Lets explore some of the zero cost methods I’ve used with great success. If they are not listed it’s probably because I failed with them [head in hands].

Leverage The Internet

There is no hiding from the explosive growth of the internet over the past 20 years. It has been a revolution in commercial opportunities. Opening up a global market to anyone who has the will and the skill to embrace it.

Long gone are the days of pounding the streets to make sales. The high streets are dying as people choose to browse and shop online.

Opening an eCommerce store is a great way to establish an online presence if you have a something to sell. Or build an authority site such as a Blog.

The internet provides many opportunities for Start Ups to win traffic at a very low cost.

  1. Start an eCommerce Store
  2. Use Affiliate Marketing to add products to your Niche Website
  3. Make Money Blogging
  4. Raise your Profile on Social Media or You Tube and become an Influencer
  5. Sell ebooks on Amazon
  6. Create Training Courses to Sell Online
  7. Promote Your Business through the many free directories or submission boards

Master SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a technique used to get your website to the top of Googles Search Results.

On Page SEO and Off Page SEO are the fundamentals to understanding and taking control of your place on the internet. If you don’t understand it, your chances of being found on Google are low.

You can hire an SEO agency if you have established a strong profitable income. Or you can learn how to build you online presence and like I did. Ask yourself, how did you find this article among the 4 billion articles on Google? SEO.

Nurture Your Audience

Your audience is everything. In internet terms your audience are prospect customers. So they needs suitable care and attention.

If you have a website be sure to capture emails. You will have invested either time or money to get someone onto your web page or your social media page. Capture their email and you have them over a lifetime with no further costs.

Build relationships through regular value added emails. Don’t spam followers to death, they will unsubscribe. You must be adding value and building trust. Expect to make contact up to seven time before the prospects make their first engagement or purchase.

Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat have huge audiences who are already highly engaged. Use it.

Create a Social Media Page and post content that helps prospect customers, and they will buy. The process is similar to any other form of internet marketing. You must offer value and build trust before people are ready to engage with your business.

Hey, no one said it would be easy, but it’s free!

The world of Social Media can be a minefield, so don’t waste too much time. Stay focused on one platform where your potential customers hang out. Become a Social Media Ninja.

Find Your Audience on Social Media

Facebook – Facebook sends out a lot of traffic. More than any other network. Since it’s geared towards news and entertainment you want to keep your content light and entertaining. Video content performs the best here.

Twitter – Twitter is more a news platform. Curation and retweeting is thus encouraged here. You definitely want to focus trending hashtags and topics.

LinkedIn – The Professional network where industry articles, interesting data and short, to-the-point sentences go a long way

Instagram – A platform well suited for visual brands. Pictures, call-out quotes and short videos are doing well here.

Pinterest – Also great for visual brands as it’s completely geared towards imagery. Most users look for inspiration here.

Consider taking one of the many great online courses to Master Social Media. I have taken Online Marketing courses on every topic I can find. Buying training courses has been the best investment I have made in my whole career.  

PR Is Free So Use It

  1. Register your business with free Online Directories
  2. Register your business on Google Local
  3. Look for low cost Advertising in paid Directories
  4. Write Guest Blog posts and go through an Outreach Process to gain traffic through back links
  5. Start a Blog for free on WordPress and get ranked on Google
  6. Visit forums and answer peoples questions. Don’t forget to leave your website address or social media link so they can follow you
  7. Make Social Media Posts weekly, persuade friends to share them and broaden your prospect audience. Include your web address in posts
  8. As soon as possible build an Email List so you can deploy a re-marketing strategy
  9. Get on LinkedIn and network. Build connections and you will see referrals. Post valued added content regularly.
  10. Add Pins to Pinterest that link back to your website
  11. Brand everything. Your car, your clothes, your packaging, literally everything!
  12. Host an Event. Online or in Person
  13. Start a Podcast or You Tube Channel. Or look for a guest appearance on a more established channel with an established audience.
  14. Write an eBook and sell it on Amazon or offer it as a Lead Magnet to build you email list
  15. Find partners who share your customers. Make sure they are none conflicting. For example, if you offer financial advice, maybe they sell Insurance
  16. Attend Events and network. Handout some of that branded merchandise
  17. Offer ‘free first consultation’ or free on-site quotations to build up a contact of prospect customers  

Financial Planning

Financial planning is important whether you have millions to spend or nothing. Why? Profit.

You need to know your numbers. If you invest hours, days, months even years in building a business, you need to know the effort will deliver a profitable outcome.  

A full financial plan should include:

  • Start Up Costs
  • Profit & Loss (Income Statement)
  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash Flow Statement

Keep it simple as possible and accurate.

Identify all of your potential expenses. When I say identify them, I mean list them and put a true value to them. Don’t make this stuff up, otherwise it will sink you when your guesswork proves to be wrong.

Don’t forget Sales Tax implications on your purchases and sales.

It can be a daunting task working through a full financial plan. If you can keep your business model very lean it makes financial planning so much easier.

Even with significant experience in corporate and start up financial planning, I still keep it as simple as possible. Take look at the tiny P&L template I like to use for each of my Niche Blog Projects. It’s about as simple as you can get.

Simple niche website project P&L

No cashflow problems. No Balance Sheet of any sort. Just an income statement combined with a expenses run rate. It works really well allowing me to forecast my project costs and income on one tiny spreadsheet.

For anything more technical you may choose to seek financial advice locally, if you don’t have experience in this area. This is always money well spent in the long run.

Risk Mitigation

Risk Mitigation should form part of your planning. I recommend using a simple risk management matrix.

Here’s one I like to work through to identify potential risks my business may face. I can then put in place mitigation actions to…well de-risk.

Risk Matrix. Identify Risk and put a defensive response in place

Business Funding

All businesses need money. They need to be fed to grow. This topic has discussed “How To Start A Business With No Money”. The principle is genuine and very possible.

But to scale, you do need to generate funding. So lets dig into your options of how to do this…

Get Paid Upfront

Perfection. Get paid up front. There is probably no better way to fund a business. Cash up front is the ideal scenario, so long as you can deliver on your promise.

If you are lucky to get paid up front DO NOT spend that money. At least until the service or product has been handed over to a happy customer. Imagine spending the cash and the customer asks for a refund!

If you can get paid up front the only limitation to growth is your capability to deliver. This means consistent quality and the hours you are prepared to work.

In this scenario you should look to scale by outsourcing to reliable freelancers who can work on a job to job basis. Negotiate to pay after delivery. Don’t get tied in with salaried employees until you have a strong balance sheet and cash flow.

Start As A Side Hustle

Keep your day job and work on the side. You’re going to have to trade hours for dollars here. The aim is to build a business on the side that allows you to eventually move onto it full time. Becoming your own boss, Yay!

Not all business models will allow this. You can’t be in two places at one. I mean you cannot have an office day job and run your fantastic new Café at the same time.

This is why I started my online businesses. This model is super convenient. I could do my day job in the day and be entrepreneur in the evenings and weekends.

Beg, Steal or Borrow

Every year 35% of Start Ups receive funding from friends, family and fools. Pitching your business idea to the people you know and love is a great way to get their buy-in.

The rewards and risks can be high with this approach. If you win you all win together and you’re a hero. But if you fail…relations can get pretty awkward.

You know your relationship better than me. Only you can decide if this method of raising capital is the best way to scale your business.

Personally, I have politely refused family funding on more than one occasion. It’s just too close to home for me.


Bootstrapping is a term used to describe a self funded start up. You may say I bootstrapped my first few projects. I did not borrow money as I took a path that didn’t need any.

Any investment you make to grow your business are funded out of the profits the company has already made. Or maybe you throw your life savings at it. This usually makes Bootstrapping a slower path to growth than accepting external finance.

Pros of bootstrapping
  • You retain 100% ownership of your business. If you sell it or make profit, it is all yours
  • Retain full strategic control. You decide what direction the business goes and when
  • No external pressures to report progress or lack of it to investors
Cons of bootstrapping
  • This risk is all yours. If it fails your on your own Jack
  • In an ultra-competitive fast growing market you may be left behind, without sufficient cash to grow
  • In some cases having no external interest can mean a missed opportunity of support. Investment can bring experts onto your team, in the form of employees or shareholders.

Grant & Local Funding

Government funding can be a very useful way to help small and new business grow. Limited resources can mean winning grants is a competitive process. Not to mention the red tape and paperwork.

However, a successful application can raise a reasonable amount of capital with no requirement to pay it back. Loans you need to pay back. Grants you don’t.

Find a Wealthy Partner

If you know of people of high net worth, you could approach them to fund or part fund your project. In this situation you have to appreciate the bargaining power sits with the person who has the money.

Alternatively you may meet a great partner at a ‘meet up’ event or during a networking session. The ideal partnership will be an equal equity share in the business. With both partners bringing complementary skills and experience.

Bank Loans

Bank Loans are a good place to find capital for growth. Yes this does mean debt, but that is normal and most businesses use it to their advantage. Don’t take business loans for nice to have toys. Use it specifically to fund growth opportunities with a high chance of payback.  

A major downside or obstacle of getting bank loans, is the approval process. Many banks will not offer a loan to a business without trading history.

Banks want to know you can pay it back and often need to see trading statements from the past two years.

Venture Capital

Venture Capitalists (VC) are usually formed as a Limited Partnership where members contribute to a Venture Capital fund. This fund is used by the partnership to invest across a portfolio of companies.

Venture Capitalists don’t usually fund Start Ups. They prefer to see a little bit of history and will be more active in companies that are moving into a growth phase.

Significant funding can be on the table through VC’s, but not with some downside. Once they are on board you need to have a mind set of working for the VC. They wont be putting money on the table to sit back and have coffee once a year. They will expect to see results.

Qualify for VC funding is a highly demanding process. Not only will you have to have a business that demonstrates high growth potential. Satisfying your VC’s can become a job in itself.

Angel Investor

Angel Investors are similar in principle to Venture Capitalists. The main differences being:

  • They only invest in Start Ups or fledgling companies and often sell on their share to Venture Capitalist
  • They invest their personal finances. Therefore it may be limiting compared to corporate backed finance
  • Motivation for investing will be commercial but may also be through a sense of giving back to others. After all they probably received help on their journey to wealth
  • The due diligence approach will be much less formal. Large amounts of money can exchange hands based on how the Angel Investor feels about you, more so than your business plan.

Remember these people have been there an done it. You will not be able to pull the wool over their eyes.


During the past decade there has been an explosion in crowdfunding platforms. The basic principle is a Start Up pitches their project, seeking investment from members of the public.

The difference between crowdfunding and other forms of private investment is in the scale. Generally crowdfunding is a large number of individuals who invest relatively small amounts of money. That’s why it’s called Crowdfunding.

As a rough example, you may find 100 investors each contributing $100 each. In return they either get a share of the business, or some form of pre-defined product package. Its not unusual to see the investors not getting a return on investment.

Raising Crowdfunding can be a highly involved process. Pitching is done via a Crowdfunding website. This means the Start Up needs to produce promotional videos, reports, strategic insight to win the support of this mass audience.

Meet Up, Networks & Events

Your Start Up journey can feel like a long and lonely road. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Organisations, Networks and Groups exist with people just like you. Trying to achieve their Start Up goals big and small. is also a great place to meet like-minded people. Check out there website where you will find thousands of local meet up groups and events.

Look out for your local business groups if you like face to face contact, or there are plenty of good Social Media groups to pick up tips and tricks or moral support.

Working with people with similar ideas, challenges and ideally more experience than you can really accelerate your growth.

Business Start Up Ideas: List

This list is intended to offer a broad range of ideas for your start up when you have no money. Don’t forget from acorns grow mighty oak trees. Many of these suggestion can develop into agency type businesses or high paying sole trader opportunities and beyond.

Airbnb: If you travel or have more than one property, then rent it out when your not there

Affiliate Marketing: Learn how to promote and sell other peoples products online and earn commission

Aerial Photography: Can you fly that drone sitting in the garage. Offer your services as a surveyor or creative aerial photographer.

Artist: People are happy to pay for creative talent. If you have high level artistic skills, drawing, painting, sculpting, don’t let them go to waste. Use social media to post your portfolio and win new commissions. Set up a simple low cost WordPress blog

Audio Technician: Sound tracks, video sound, sound effects, podcast editor there are lots of opportunities for freelance audio experts on Fiverr

Bookkeeping: Help local businesses keep their receipts and accounts in good shape. Look through the local business directory and ring around

Cake Decoration: If you have ever purchased a Wedding Cake you know there is money to be made in cake decoration. Something you can start from home and scale

Catering: Start with small events and take part payment upfront to buy the materials. Off-site catering for conferences and parties is a great way to work from home

CAD: Produce Computer Aided Designs or 3D Models for customers. Find B2B clients or offer your skills through a freelance website like Fiverr

Cleaning Services: Domestic or Commercial contracts. Cleaning services can be scaled quickly by focusing on managing contracts and bringing in cleaners to do the hard work

Courier: Got a vehicle? Some of the largest distribution networks started as one person driving their own car. Offer a reliable service and the next big franchise could be in the making

Database Manager: PHP, SQL you name it someone out there needs it. Virtually no upfront cost. You just need to get yourself known. Do demonstrations on You Tube, join a Social Media help group and get known as an expert.

Dog Walking: If you already walk your own dog, then why aren’t you making money letting your neighbours dogs join in the fun!

Drop Shipping: You market and sell other companies products. No need for inventory and you get paid up front. Just open an ecommerce store and find a dropship supplier.

eBay: Buy cheap and sell high. Look at bargain stores, clearance or even find items people are going to throw away. There are many eBay stores that make well over $100,000 a year.

eBook: If you can write or have a story to tell you can produce and sell eBooks on platforms like Amazon

Events Management: Wedding Planning, Party Organizing, Business Conventions to name a few. If you can organize and plan what’s stopping you. Start small and scale up, take part-payment upfront

Expired Domains: Learn how to find expired web domains, buy them cheap and sell them for a profit on sites like GoDaddy Auctions

Farmers Markets: Home Made products, preserves, eggs, baked bread. Farmers markets may be a good place for you to hang out. You can charge premium prices for artisan food goods.

Graphic Designer: Can you use Photoshop or another creative software product. If so offer your services as a freelancer producing logo’s or other forms of graphic design on Fiverr. Build a WordPress website and start an agency.

Landscape Designer: A sketch pad and practical skills can get you a long way in life. Either design and undertake the landscaping. Or outsource the hard work to contractors. Offer to do a few free design jobs to build up a portfolio to showcase to paying clients

Life Coach: If you have experience of a specific life event or trauma. Or if you have done what I did and totally changed your life from corporate glue to financial freedom. Then you can offer a service people will pay for

Make-Up Artist: You cannot put a price on beauty. Whether its for the bride, on a film set or painting funny faces on kids. This offers high levels of lifestyle flexibility

Market Research: From customer surveys to competitor analysis, there are dozens of ways to make money performing market research for clients

Music Lessons: Maybe start a You Tube Channel and promote yourself as a music teacher, leading to either local lessons or virtual classes. You can even make money off the You Tube advertising

Online Courses: With more high quality website selling training this is now big business. If you can write a training course there is an audience waiting to learn. Read more about selling Online Training

Pet Grooming: If your not a qualified vet, this is the next best thing. Pampering pets. Have fun whilst earning a nice living.

Personal Trainer: One for all the fitness enthusiasts. Have someone join your workout and charge them . Maybe offer a workout plan service in your local areas of via a website or blog. You Tube is a good place to promote yourself and offer workout and nutrition plans.

Portrait Photographer: You can charged hundreds of dollars for a single photograph. Weddings, Babies, Family Portraits. Do you have a camera? If so offer on-site services so you don’t need a studio. Promote your services through social media and create a gallery with a free WordPress Template

Print to Order: Start an eCommerce website selling Print on Demand T Shirts and other gifts. Requires very little upfront investment

Product Photography: Magazines, brochures, websites all need high quality images. With a very small investment you can purchase professional lighting and offer your services to small businesses

Web Designer: If I can learn to build websites and blogs, then so can you. Do your research, develop your skills, then list your services on a freelance website like Fiverr or Upwork

Writing: Do you have strong copy writing skills. Then why not be a freelance writer. Sell your services to as a content creator on Fiverr

Recruitment: Offer local recruitment services to SME’s. Use LinkedIn to find potential clients and candidates. Your job is to match them and pitch them. Build a client base and during economic high points you can scale this business model fast

Start a Blog: Write about an area you have expertise. You can then sell advertisements and make money through affiliate marketing. Read How to Make Money Blogging

Stock Photography: If you have a back catalog of photographs then load them onto one of the many stock photography websites. You will earn commission each time some buys a licence to use them. True passive income.

Social Media Marketing: Master one of the Social Media platforms and sell your expertise on a freelance website like Fiverr

Therapeutic Services: Massage, Aroma Therapy both with very low cost entry. Learn these skills and perform ‘At Home’ services

Translator: If you are multi-lingual you can offer translation services or lessons in the languages you speak

Weight Management: Nutrition and exercise are very profitable markets. If you understand them why not help others achieve their goals and make a business out of it. Food planners, exercise schedules with motivation and support

Virtual Assistant: Get listed on a freelance site like Fiverr and offer your services as a Virtual Assistant. Grow this into an agency

Yoga: Home visits, group classes, or virtual classes.Set up a Yoga Channel on You Tube to attract customers to paid classes

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the easiest business to start?

No doubt about it. The easiest business to start is the one where you have previous knowledge and experience.

  1. If you have expertise you will be able to compete in that market
  2. If you have experience you will know the right contacts and who the customer is. You will also have a very good idea of what works and what does not

Sometimes we often overlook the areas we know, and seek a new professional fields. That’s just fine, but you have to expect it to come with a steep learning curve and more risk.

What are the most successful small businesses?

Generally a business that is considered successful has scaled up and therefore is no longer small. But any business can be successful if the market is there to support it. Success is in the eyes of the business owner.

If you want to know which small businesses have grown the fastest to become the most profitable. There are countless examples of internet based companies in this category.

Web based business have a global market to pitch to. With my online businesses anyone speaking the English language is a potential customer. My local coffee shop can’t say the same.

How do you get money to start a business?
  1. Get Paid Upfront: The perfect cash flow model
  2. Beg, Steal or Borrow: family, friends and fools
  3. Government Grant or Funding Awards
  4. Find A Wealthy Partner
  5. Bank Loans
  6. Outside Investment: Venture Capital or Angel Investor
  7. Crowdfunding
What would be a good business to start in 2020?

This depends on what you enjoy doing. Making money is great but you can’t let it dominate your decision making. You need to enjoy your job too.

I am heavily in favour of online business and in particular Niche Blogging. It’s an amazing business model with virtually zero start up costs and it allows huge diversification opportunities

Check out this list of 500 Blog Niche Ideas to help you figure out where you can add true reader value