Start a Business for Next to Nothing

By Jason Kay on 27 May 2010 (Updated 23 May 2011) 8 comments

Starting a business is an intimidating prospect. It involves a level of commitment that few other goals require. Typically, one of the major commitments in business startups is a hefty financial commitment. However, there are ways to start a business for next to nothing. Knowing how to do so can make an intimidating project much more doable.

1. Location, Location, Location

For many brick and mortar businesses, location is essential to success. However, if your goal is to get your business off the ground as inexpensively as possible, you should strive to start your business from home to eliminate the cost of renting a location. If you need to have a professional address, you can use a virtual office for a very affordable price. If you need an office for meetings, you can do so inexpensively by renting an executive suite on occasion.

2. Professional Guidance for Free

It is important to have plenty of help from professionals as you embark on the adventure of starting your own business. You could go out and hire lawyers, accountants and business consultants to help you, or you could get their help for free. Through organizations in your area, such as a small business development center, you should be able to get help from professionals who can answer all your questions quickly and easily.

3. The Importance of a Virtual Assistant

By hiring a virtual assistant to answer phones and take care of some of the time-consuming yet necessary tasks in your business, you can also give the appearance of being a larger enterprise while using a very cost-effective form of assistance. Because virtual assistants work on contract, you have none of the typical expenses that you would come to expect with employees. You can also adjust the hours you delegate to your assistant depending on your workload.

4. Website Builders Slash the Cost of Creating a Website

Your website is critical to the success of practically any business these days. By using a website builder you can create your own website using one of the templates provided. The choices available to you allow you to customize it so that users will never know the difference. This type of website creation is a fraction of the cost of hiring professionals to create a customized website. You can even find free website builders online. In today's business world a website is one of your most important business tools, no matter what type of business you are looking to start.

5. Web Stores Require No Inventory

If sales are a part of your business, a web store is the most cost effective way to go. By creating a web store you can avoid high inventory costs associated with traditional stores. By becoming an affiliate for the products and services you wish to sell on your site, you do the selling and the company you are affiliated with takes care of delivery.

6. Putting Technology to Work for You: Free Online Tools

There are numerous different resources at your disposal when starting an online business or simply even the online portion of your traditional business. Many of these resources are completely free of charge, such as email accounts, social networking site memberships, auto-responders, payment processors, HTML editors, converters for Word to PDF and server hosting for shared files. While many of these resources do not have the speed and full capabilities of the more expensive versions, they are sufficient for many startup businesses.

7. 800 Numbers

An 800 number for your business allows you to give a more professional impression to potential clients. You can easily look like a much bigger business by offering the convenience of a toll-free number. Luckily, such numbers can be gotten online for practically nothing. Many of the online providers offer a free trial period of up to six months. Monthly fees thereafter start at less than $15.

8. Marketing

Marketing is a very important aspect of any business. In fact, it is crucial to the very success of your company. Marketing ranges from the very basic things, such as just talking about your business, to more strategic marketing aimed at the unknown consumer. It has never been easier than it is now to find low-cost and even free ways to advertise a business. Starting a business for next to nothing means you will need to avail of all these techniques.

Take advantage of the Internet and local marketing through Google and other free listing sites. Make sure your online information is correct, as many people start their search for providers there. Utilize every social networking site that you can. They are free and are an excellent way to spread the news that you have a new business and something valuable to offer. Make sure you use other online marketing tools that just require your expertise, such as blogging or article marketing.

Word of mouth, networking, flyers placed strategically and joint venture marketing, where you work with another firm that offers something complimentary to yours, are also excellent low-cost or free ways to promote your new business. Also, don't neglect the value of direct sales.

9. Don't Compromise on Professionalism

If you want to come across as a serious business looking to grow in the marketplace, a lack of professionalism is a detriment. In every contact you have with potential clients, make sure you give the best possible impression. While you are trying to start your business on a shoestring, you don't want to appear cheap. For this reason, it is essential to have professional-looking business cards. If you are just starting out or expect to change contact information rather quickly, free business cards that you order from online suppliers are acceptable. Homemade business cards that have perforation ridges along the edges are not acceptable. You do not want to look like a fly-by-night operation.

10. Money Pitfalls to Avoid When Starting a Business

It is crucial to create a tight budget when starting a business and stick to it. Even if you have a sole proprietorship, it is important to have a trusted individual in your life who can help you weigh your decisions about where to spend money and where to save. Some of the most costly aspects of business startup can definitely be avoided with some common sense advice.

  • Avoid lawyers, accountants and other professionals. Reliable free advice is easily found.
     
  • Do not subcontract jobs that you can do for yourself, unless they take too much time away from other more lucrative tasks that must also be done.
     
  • Do not hire full-time employees until you are sure you can afford to keep them.
     
  • Stay away from long-term contracts that lock you into payments that continue over years. Many B2B providers will try to get you to sign leases for locations, machines, services and more in order to give you the best price. Find alternatives that are willing to provide what you need on a month-to-month basis.

Starting a business for many is a lifelong dream. For others, it is a solution to unemployment. Whatever your reasons for starting your own business, it is incredibly easy to do on a shoestring. By choosing the right kind of business, starting small and following a budget, you can build a strong business that will be bound for success.

This is a guest post by Jason Kay. Jason is a professional resume writer and owner of a home based business. He's learned many tips over the years for saving money, improving professional image, and increasing website traffic. Here are more resources to help you start a business on a shoestring:

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Guest's picture
Guest

I just cannot disagree with you more concerning this:
"Avoid lawyers, accountants and other professionals. Reliable free advice is easily found."

As a small business lawyer (so you can dismiss this as self-interested if you wish), I find that nearly 90% of all clients who DIY their businesses come to me with a heaping helping of crappy organizational docs; miserable planning; missing, if not totally ignored, agreements for partnerships, profit sharing, vendors, etc.; and numerous serious errors which have inevitably landed them in my office with a larger (and subsequently more expensive) problem than if they had simply sought my advice and guidance in the first place. We have an expression in our office "you can pay me now, or pay me later. Now's cheaper." Don't take this advice, anyone who is starting a business. At least speak with a lawyer and an accountant. You WILL be sorry if you don't.

Guest's picture
Guest

As a non-attorney and small business owner I could not agree with you more. One MUST seek out the advice of a lawyer, accountant or CPA and other professionals. This could save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Sure, free advice is easily found but it's a stretch to call it reliable. If your not willing or do not have the resources to hire these professionals up front then I suggest that you simply wait and when you come to your senses or have the money then go ahead with your business plan. Speaking of a business plan. That is your first step. Do not open attempt to open a business without a clear well written business plan. It willl keep you and your business on track.

Guest's picture
Petteri

"Start a business for next to nothing" equals "start an online business". The opportunities are unlimited today and the whole world can be your audience in no time. It is a great time for all the entrepreneur-minded people, it has never been easier to make money in the history. Thanks for the article.

Guest's picture
Guest

It's SO SIMPLE... why didn't I THINK OF IT!?!?!?

Guest's picture
Guest

Nice post, I'm currently working on a website so this website is definitely going to be saved! GOOD JOB!!!

Guest's picture
Matt

Starting a business is kind of daunting...and there are a lot of up-front costs to do that...but, I think it's important to start something with the "best" foot forward. In order to do this, you gotta have the right tools. There is a product that I use everyday in order to save me lots of time working...it's call the Xambox and I suggest that anyone who has a small business or medium business...or who is starting a new business to purchase one. The Xambox is basically my very own personal assistant except I never have to give it a paycheck! Basically, the xambox is an automatic filer that allows you to never sort ANY of your paperwork ever again...just put everything into the Xambox, it scans and indexes every word so that you can retrieve your document later and email it or print it. And did I mention that the papers fall into a tray that organizes them by sheet and divider? That way, should you need it, you can retrieve the original hard-copy in a moments notice! Never leave you clients hanging on the other line and have to call them back! In case you wanna check it out, here is the website: http://www.xamance.com...you can also check out a video of how the Xambox works on the site as well.

Hope this helps,

Matt

Guest's picture

This is great advice, I think people looking to start a business and businesses in general aren't offered enough support at the moment and that is an important aspect for any growing business. But with the right plan and guidance (and business) people can be successful and although sometimes intimidating guides like this can really show people the directions they need to focus in to get ahead.

Guest's picture
JC

This is awesome stuff, but I have a request. One thing I tend to get hung up on is the actual process of starting the business, i.e. registering a name, setting up the tax information, insurance, etc. I'm not sure I know where to start, and that tends to stop my progress towards starting a business, though it's surely the easiest part of the whole ordeal. A simple checklist or to-do list with a basic walkthrough on the points for getting an idea off the ground would be invaluable.

-JC