How to Start a Business Without Money
Yes, you read it right!
I’m going to show you how to start a business without money and you better believe it.
Sure, to start a business without money is much harder than if you have sufficient funds in place but hey, if you can eventually have a business of your dreams without putting up a ton of money of your own upfront, why not, right?
This blog post came about as a result of a question ‘how to start a business without money’ which I’m often being asked by aspiring entrepreneurs via How to Start a Business and Succeed (my blog).
The very first time someone asked me this question, I though, seriously?! That’s what you want to know? Clearly you need some money to start a business…I mean, you can’t just set up a business like that without money…who does that?!
But then I thought about it long and hard and eventually realized that yes, YOU CAN START A BUSINESS WITHOUT MONEY and it’s not all that difficult.
Before we get to it however, let’s park money aside and quickly look at what’s essential for any one business to come into being in the first place and exist or thrive thereafter.
While money is certainly very important and necessary, it’s not the only thing needed to start a business. In fact, money is of no use if you don’t have the winning idea, target audience with otherwise unmet needs, wants and desires which you can fulfill better than anyone else and of course the know-how or the adequate skill set.
Peter F. Drucker aka ‘the management guru’ or ‘the father of modern business’ stated that a “business is an organ of society” and that the “purpose of business is outside itself”. These two statements are so very profound and if you’re able to truly understand them, your perception of business will change forever.
The purpose of business must never be and can never be to make money, that’s a mere responsibility of any business. Every responsible business must make profit to stay in business, pay for itself and its growth.
The purpose of business therefore has got to be “outside itself” or in other words, to fulfill otherwise unmet needs of its target audience, who traditionally happen to reside in the same society as the business serving them.
Today however, that’s not necessarily relevant any more due to technological and communication advancements…nonetheless, the principle of detecting otherwise, unmet needs, wants and desires and fulfilling them, remains the same.
So, in essence, for a business to come into being it has got to have clearly defined why, who, what, how, where and when. Let’s briefly look at each one…
The ‘why’ is the very purpose of business existence which as stated previously must never be about the money. Ideally, when starting a business, you’ve got to have a strong and meaningful why, which isn’t about you getting rich and spending in on lavish living.
No, this has to be something you’re truly passionate about, something close to your heart which you believe in very much. I talk about it at length in How to start a successful business
The ‘who’ of your business is clearly your target audience or the prospects which have the unmet needs, wants and desires which you as a business can fulfill. As you can imagine, without the who, there would simply be no you or your business for that matter.
The ‘what’ of your business is your services and or products which you should tailor after the unmet needs, wants and desires of your target audience which you can ideally fulfill better than anyone else.
Businesses which don’t have the customer-centric, market-driven mentality are usually short lived because such mindset is contrary to the purpose of business I talked about earlier.
- How and Where
The ‘how’ and ‘where’ of your business is the way you intend to package, promote and deliver your products or services to your target audience. In other words, it’s your go-to-market (GTM) strategy without which your business would be an isolated island which no one knows about or can get to.
I strongly recommend you read How to Develop the Winning GTM Strategy for Your Business where I articulate at length all the ins and outs of the winning GTM strategy you as a startup founder or an entrepreneur must have when launching your startup. Don’t overlook this.
The ‘when’ of your business is the time. Don’t get me wrong, timing has a lot to do with business success or failure but that doesn’t mean you should wait for the ‘perfect’ time. The perfect time in business and life – I believe – simply doesn’t exist. If you wait for the perfect time to launch your business, guess what? You’ll never launch.
So, as a rule of thumb, once you have all your ducks (why, who, what, how, where and when) in a row, pull the trigger, take the leap of faith. Today is as good of a time as any other. The question is, are you ready?
How to start a business without money
Now that you know what’s truly required to start a business, it’s time I show you how to go about starting your very own business with no money down…
- Know thyself
Before all else, you’ve got to truly know yourself and I don’t mean on the surface but at the deepest, most profound level. As funny as it may seem but in my experience, a very few people I’ve known throughout life have truly known themselves.
To their defense, it’s not easy to know what you’re made of when almost everybody you’ve ever known from your early childhood tries to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing or what your talents are and aren’t.
The system is flawed by design so by the time you reach adulthood, chances are you’re totally confused as to what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Considering that you – like everyone else – can ONLY excel with your strengths and never your weaknesses, it’s imperative that you do a self-inventory of your talents and discover your real strengths. Be sure to take your time to do this before all else and if you need guidance on how to go about it, read this.
- Who can you help?
No matter what your talents and experience may be, there are always those who can benefit from it. Just like you can benefit from those who inspire you and you look up to, similarly there are many people who would gladly follow and look up to you if you’re able to step up to the plate and demonstrate your ability, knowledge, experience and leadership.
People generally need guidance and ‘someone’ to show them the way. Not because they lack intellect or common sense but simply because they’ve been indoctrinated by the system and made believe that’s the way it works.
Minions movie made ‘explicitly for children’ comes to mind…I can’t help but mention it. I don’t remember how and why I ended up watching it because at the time I was newly married and didn’t have any children but I watched it anyway.
As you could imagine the cinema was packed with little children accompanied by their parents who brought them there to ‘make them happy’. By the end of the movie I was completely appalled by the subliminal message and the morale of the story which was exactly what I mentioned earlier…’you always must have someone to follow – you need a leader for otherwise, you’ll be lost’.
Now, that’s the message our children are being indoctrinated with from the early age by the Hollywood, mainstream media, education system etc. Very sad but since that’s a topic for another post let’s get back to the ‘who’.
You should focus on the people who have needs, wants and desires that you with your strengths can address and fulfill, ideally better than others. Those people ‘need’ you but don’t know it yet. It’s your responsibility to show them and let them know you’ve got what they need and are eager to give it to them.
To help you go about identifying your target audience, I’d recommend you read this.
- How to win your first client?
By now, you must have noticed how you did all of this without spending a dime…ok, so you may have spent a few dollars on coffee and cigarettes, if you’re a smoker but that’s it. And guess what, you’ve come a long way already.
Now that you’ve done your due diligence and are perfectly clear on what your strengths are and who your target audience is, the next thing to do is build your brand and get in front of your prospects…introduce yourself to them and let them know you’ve got what they need and can deliver better than others.
Truth be told this is easier said than done for a simple reason…the world we live and work in has become so noisy and cluttered that cutting through all the noise and clutter requires a fair bit of ingenuity and skills.
But if others could do it, so can YOU!
Here’s how to go about it…
#1 Online presence
Before all else you’ve got to setup an online presence and this is imperative.
Because your target audience – unless they’re Amish – are already online. You need their attention which is someplace online e.g. blogs, portals, social media apps etc. I say ‘someplace’ online but you should by now know exactly where that someplace is.
Knowing where your target audience attention is will help you focus all your effort on it and be more efficient in winning them over. One of your top priorities will be efficient utilization of you time and I can tell you right now that your time management will have to be impeccable, if it isn’t, read this and fix it.
Now going back to your online presence.
To build a blog, portal or a website, requires a fair bit of knowledge and I don’t mean the HTML or web development knowledge only but also the SEO and inbound marketing knowledge…after all, what good is your blog or a website if no one knows about it?
While the quickest and least painful way to go about it is to outsource it to professionals e.g. professional freelance web developers, inbound marketers etc. however, since you’re building a business without spending any money, you’ll just have to do it yourself.
But don’t panic…
Luckily for you, in this time and age there are myriad of awesome tools readily available for you to use to build your blog, portal or even a full-fledge website.
Some of the tools you ought to familiarize yourself with include WordPress, Blogger, Wix and Website Builder, among others. Bottom line, you’ll be able to build your blog or a website without spending money.
Depending on the professional services you intend to offer e.g. accounting, blogging, content marketing, graphic design, web development etc. I strongly recommend you setup your social media hubs as well.
Social media hubs are your professional accounts on social media platforms e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. which you’ll use explicitly for self-promotion and value distribution. In other words, the main objective of your social media hubs is to build followers e.g. likeminded people who are passionate about or interested in what you’ve got to offer.
So that you can direct them to your ‘main page’ e.g. blog, portal, website and convert them into clients. Your social media hubs will act as a ‘funnel’ which you must build on a continuous basis…no one else will do it for you.
The choice of your social media platforms will be directly dependent on the nature of your business or services you intend to offer and your target audience, of course.
For example, if you are an architect or a graphic designer, you should focus on building followers and prospects on Instagram and Pinterest social media platforms. Likewise, if you intend to offer inbound marketing or writing services you’ll be better off setting up Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
To help you master the inbound marketing, social media and other traction channels, I recommend you read How to Grow Your Business with Right Traction Channels
#2 Leverage freelancing platforms
Another thing I strongly recommend you do is register on one or more freelancing platforms that suits you best and create a freelancer account.
Yes, I’m proposing you take up freelancing and become the best professional freelancer you can possibly be…regardless of the professional services you decide to offer.
Before you select freelancing platforms which best suits you, be sure to do a thorough research and analysis of freelancing platforms readily available or read Here’s Why the Freelancing Platform is Your Best Friend If You’re a Professional Freelancer.
With dozens of freelancing platforms to choose from, you should be able to easily identify the most adequate one for you. Again, the choice of a freelancing platform will greatly depend on the type of services you intend to offer e.g. blogging, content management, graphic design etc. as well as your preferences and personal objectives.
In essence, there are professional freelancing platforms like Parttimerz which caters to startups and employs explicitly professional freelancers from all walks of life and background…as long as they are quality professionals with extensive years of experience in their fields.
There are also other, more generic freelancing platforms like Upwork, Guru and Freelancer which cater to low wage freelancers and clients of various types but have millions of registered members. These freelancing platforms are mostly driven by the member base and strive to achieve great scale…quality of service tend to be their secondary concern.
To truly understand how best to utilize professional freelancing platform and win clients read this.
As you learn the ropes of professional freelancing and know exactly what it takes to become a superstar freelancer, you will start to build a client base and relevant references…also in the process, you’ll be able to make and save money too.
As you continue to develop yourself and evolve as a professional freelancer, you’ll reach a point wherein you’ll have a substantial client base, awesome references and enough money to register a company or a formal business entity and channel all of your existing clients and pipeline prospect to it.
Wrapping it up
No matter your current situation or circumstances, the only barrier to your evolution and greatness is you. You’re the only thing that’s standing between you and your future successful self.
So, if you’re thinking about starting a business but catch yourself coming up with lame excuses as to why you can’t, STOP the madness at once, because now you know that’s not true. You CAN start a business, provided of course you have the entrepreneurial DNA.
Good old adage ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ still stands true today more than ever. So get off your ass and start planning your dream business. Once you’re ready, take the leap of faith. You’ve got nothing to lose. Others have done it, so can you.
Think, act, be.
Author: Dzenan Skulj, a Co-Founder and CEO at Parttimerz. He’s a serial entrepreneur and student of life. Utterly passionate about and strong proponent of entrepreneurship, startups, freelancing and self-development, which he regularly blogs about on his personal blog dzenanskulj.com. Dzenan also actively mentors entrepreneurs on their entrepreneurial journey.