Starting a business can be tough, especially wen you don’t have cash. It seems impossible. But it's not impossible. With some creativity, hard work, resourcefulness and thinking outside of the box - it's entirely possible to start your business without breaking the bank. In fact you can start a profitable business with almost nothing. So if you’re just starting out in your entrepreneurial journey, take heart—you can do this!
Learn to do things yourself
An important lesson I have learned in small business is to do things myself at first. I have been doing this from day one, out of necessity and now to gain knowledge about every aspect of my business.
In the last few years I have been able to afford to hire people, but not at first. When you are just starting out, you don't know what you don't know. You might be good at making jewelry out of rocks, but if you want to sell it, you will need to learn how to make a website and write descriptions and do marketing. If you don’t know the basics of these things, how can you train an employee or be sure you’re hiring a good contractor?
In the beginning stages of your business, you need to learn as much as you can by doing those things yourself. Yes, you might have to do them poorly at first. But how else are you going to learn the ropes and conserve cash?
Get free advertising
If you are starting up a business, one of your biggest challenges will be to get free advertising. You need to find a way to let people know about your product in a way that costs you nothing. There are a few ways to go about this.
You can send out press releases with information about your new product or service to news organizations and bloggers.
You can offer free samples of your product or service that will encourage people to try it and then ask for their feedback, and you can also try the free sample tactic with influencers in exchange for a post.
In addition, you can provide coupons with the product in hopes that customers will continue shopping with you when they realize how affordable it is.
Social media, of course, is free and so is posting blogs to your website and videos to YouTube. They just take sweat equity.
In order for any of these methods to work, however, you have to make sure that what you are offering is worth people's time and attention. If your service or product is not something they will want or need, then they won't care about the fact that they don't have to pay for it. Make sure you focus on providing something of value and then getting it into the hands of customers in a low-cost way so that they have a chance to try it out for themselves.
Do you really need an office?
If you're just starting your business, you probably don't have the money to lease a fancy office space. And if you're not willing to rent a dumpy one, that leaves even less money for anything else like equipment or advertising. So how can you get started?
The answer is that you don't need an office. You need a desk, a computer, and a phone. And you might also need a couch if it's going to be more than a one-person operation. You should be able to get those things for practically nothing if you don’t already have them. Check out Craigslist or FB marketplace. I started my business for less than $1,000, and most of that was buying a better laptop on a credit card.
If you ever do want to rent office space, the first thing you should do is rent a co-working space. You can meet other entrepreneurs there who are looking for business partners, service providers, or just people to commiserate with. They can give you all kinds of advice, like where to find clients and how much you should charge them. You might get referrals too. The space will have lots of desks available for working during the day, and many are also open at night or on weekends if you’re hustling hard.
Be scrappy with your startup funds
Be as frugal as you can as you start your business.
One of the biggest mistakes first-time entrepreneurs make is to assume they'll need a lot more money than they actually do.
Scrappy startups are more likely to succeed. When you're scrappy, you do things like:
Use free tools like Craigslist and Google to get the job done for less than $5.
Make your own marketing materials instead of spending $500 on business cards.
Don't pay to set up a business bank account or credit card processing.
Get free advice from your local small-business association or SCORE.
Get free advice from your friends who have started businesses in the past.
You can't just throw money at every problem that arises, even when you’re bigger. Learning frugality will keep your business strong and profitable even in tough times.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
You're in business, and you don't know what to do. It's normal. If you're an entrepreneur who works alone, you probably feel like you've suddenly been given the keys to a racing car and told to drive it--without having taken a single lesson.
You can't really know much about business until you've done it for a while, and in the meantime there's so much advice in the air: in books and magazines and on TV and in your friends' conversations. You start to think that maybe there is no such thing as good advice; that all of it is just opinion; that none of it applies to your situation; that none of it can really help you.
Most people have a hard time admitting they need help. They feel like a failure if they have to ask for it. But sometimes you have to ask for help.
Most of the time, the best way to get help is not just to ask for it, but also to offer something in exchange. People are more likely to give you what you want if they think it will make them better off.
There are plenty of resources available to help you learn about starting a small business. Local colleges and universities will often have classes and seminars on how to start a small business. Local city-based Small Business Development Centers can also provide assistance. When I started my business, I got a lot of help from the City of Austin and a local non-profit.
Starting a business doesn't have to break the bank. You can start your business with almost nothing. Just be creative, work with what you've got, be resourceful and think outside of the box.