How to start a business with no money (2024)

In a perfect world, you’d have a large savings account at your disposal to help launch your business idea. But, sadly, that’s not usually the case. However, small-business owners often start their business with little more than heart and hard work. You can do the same.

So how can you start a business if you don’t have a nest egg? There are many ways to find a great business idea and start your business without money.

Find a free or low-cost business idea

First, identify your business idea. If you’re starting your business with no money, you’ll need to pick a business that doesn’t have significant start-up costs. You’ll also need to plan for your business to be a solo endeavor, as you won’t have the funds to hire employees until your business gets off the ground.

Many business ideas are free to start or have low start-up costs, including:


Freelancing allows you to create content or complete projects for companies on a contract basis. You’ll usually be paid on a per-project or per-task basis, depending on the type of work. Freelancing is common in creative sectors like writing, design and programming. To start freelancing, you’ll need access to a computer and the internet.

Social media influencing

Building a following on social media can come with financial perks, like direct sponsorship or gifts from brands. If you’re interested in becoming a social media influencer, create accounts on your preferred platforms and post regularly to attract followers. Having a personal brand or content focus like cooking, fashion or travel could accelerate your growth. To start working as an influencer, at minimum, you’ll need a computer or phone and internet access. You may also want extra equipment like lighting accessories, a microphone, video/image editing apps and a phone stabilizer for recording.

Home organizing

If you’re naturally organized, consider selling your skills as a service. Home organization is big business, and customers are willing to pay to outsource the work of tidying and purging their possessions. Home organizers work in a customer’s home, providing advice and assistance to create an uncluttered space. To get started as a home organizer, you’ll need personal protective equipment (masks and gloves) and labeling equipment (markers, tape or a label maker).

Dog walking/pet sitting

If you love animals, this might not feel like work at all. With the right marketing and enthusiastic word-of-mouth referrals, you can build a list of regular customers and turn dog walking or pet sitting into a profitable business. You can start a dog walking/pet sitting business for free, but you might find it helpful to have extra supplies on hand like leashes, food/water bowls and waste bags. Paying for liability insurance would also provide coverage against a range of incidents and give you peace of mind.

Related: The best small business insurance companies, chosen by CNN Underscored Money editors


Dropshipping involves selling products online without having to manufacture or store them. Dropshippers receive orders and then coordinate with suppliers to ship the items to the customer. Starting a dropshipping business might be for you if you’re interested in running an online business but don’t want to directly manage a large inventory. To get started with dropshipping, you only need a computer and internet access, but you might find it helpful to spend on paid ads to build a customer base.


Tutors help students of all ages with homework, projects or prep for standardized exams. Consider tutoring if you like teaching or have expertise in a particular subject area. You can tutor in person or online. Be sure you have a computer and internet access if you want to get started with online tutoring.


A consultant offers advice to companies or individuals on a project basis. If you have experience in a specific industry, you could offer your services as a consultant to share your knowledge and help others succeed. To start consulting, you need a computer and internet access. You might find time-tracking tools or other reporting software helpful depending on the type of customers you take on.


Photographers capture memories by taking pictures for weddings and family events. If photography is already a hobby, you won’t have the start-up cost of purchasing a camera, memory cards, tripod or camera bag. Consider monetizing your hobby and offering your photography services as a business.

Etsy selling

Through Etsy, you can sell your handmade crafts, jewelry or clothes to a worldwide audience. If you love to create (or resell), you can build an Etsy storefront to sell your items and showcase your talents. If you already have crafting or hobby supplies and a phone, your only start-up costs might be things you need when photographing your items, like a jewelry stand or decorative background.


If you love to thrift and have an eye for a good deal, you could start a reselling business. Resellers find unique or valuable items in thrift stores or flea markets and resell those items at higher prices using online platforms. You can even get started for free by reselling your own collections.

Adam Pugh, owner of VinylJunction on Etsy, started his reselling business with no money by selling his own vinyl collection. “I had a lot of records, and knew I wanted to get into reselling, so I started learning by selling part of my own collection.”

How to start a business with no money (1)

Once his customer base grew, he expanded into selling vintage books, cassettes and record boxes as well, all thrifted and carefully restored for resale.

“For resellers, it’s important for each item to be in the best possible condition and for customers to feel confident in their purchase. For me, it’s worth spending money on specialty cleaning supplies and item restoration, like new cases for vintage cassettes. I also send stickers and bookmarks in each package, so receiving a purchase feels like opening a gift to the customer. Those small business expenses make a big difference in the customer experience.”

Develop a business plan

Once you’ve chosen a business idea, it’s time to write your business plan. A business plan is a roadmap that explains your plan to structure and run your business. It also describes how you plan to grow your business in the future.

A business plan is a great way for you to think through your business in detail right at the beginning. It can be a useful document to show to potential investors, who’ll want a lot of information about your business before handing over any investment money.

Business plans can be lengthy and detailed or just a quick overview of your vision. Don’t get overwhelmed if you don’t have all the information or answers right away; you can start your business plan as a brainstorming document and refine it further as your business grows.

According to the Small Business Administration, business plans often include information like:

Vision, mission or summary

Provide a quick overview of the business and why you think it’ll be a success. If you have a mission statement, include it here.

Company description

A company description is a detailed overview of what your business does. What problems are you solving? What competitive advantages do you have that will make your business a success?

Market analysis

Here you can describe the research you’ve done into your competitors, customers and the market in general. How will your business stand out from similar businesses?

Company organization

At the beginning, your company may have a very small leadership structure. Maybe it’ll just be you. But if you plan to expand and bring on co-owners or managers to help you run your business, you can explain your vision in this section.

Service or product line

What are you selling? Is it a service or a product? Here you can explain in detail what your business will sell.

Marketing and sales

How will you make your potential buyers aware of your new business? This section of a business plan allows you to think through your plan for marketing your product or service and your plan for sales. If you’re starting a small solo venture, you might start with social media. List any sites you plan to have a presence on and how you plan to handle purchase requests, payment and shipping, if applicable.

Related: The best e-commerce platforms, chosen by CNN Underscored Money editors


If you anticipate giving your business plan to potential investors, this is the section to sell them on your business idea. Explain what funding you’ll need and why you need it — give a convincing pitch on why they should invest with you.

Explore your funding options

Just because you don’t already have a nest egg ready to spend on your business idea doesn’t mean you can’t access money. There are a variety of ways to fund your business.

Review the notes you made in your business plan to get a sense of how much money you might need (if any) to get started, and then consider the following options.

  • Use income from your day job: If you keep your day job while you start a business on the side, you can dedicate part of your paycheck toward your business. As your business grows and starts generating income, you can gradually reinvest that income until your business is self-sustaining.
  • Borrow from friends/family: Once you have a solid business plan in place, consider pitching your idea to friends or family. They might be interested in working on the business idea with you or investing money in your business. Be sure to put any financial agreements in writing — even with family — so that everyone is on the same page about repayment expectations.
  • Crowdfund: There are several online platforms available to help you crowdsource funding, including Kickstarter and Indiegogo, among others. These sites allow you to present your business idea to a large audience and ask for small donations from a large number of people. Keep in mind that crowdfunding sites usually have fees, terms or conditions that come along with the money, so choose one that works well with your business idea and financial situation.
  • Loans: If you have good credit and/or items that can be used as collateral, you could apply for a loan to start your business. Banks and credit unions offer many loan types, each with different repayment terms. Many loans will require you to offer collateral, which means showing you have an item of value (like a car) that could be used as repayment if you can’t repay with cash. Before considering a loan, be sure you have a good repayment plan, as loans with high interest rates or unfavorable terms could be difficult to repay if your business plan doesn’t work out as expected.
  • Grants: A grant is money that your business receives but doesn’t have to pay back. You can research and apply for grants through state or federal programs. Note that grants usually have requirements around the type of businesses that can apply and how you’ll be allowed to use any grant money received. Check what grants you might be eligible for at

Register your business

Once you decide on the kind of business you want to start, there are some administrative steps necessary to register your business name and legal entity type. These steps officially claim your business name and tell state and federal governments what type of business you’re running, which is important for tax purposes.

First, register your business name with your local and state agencies. Spend time thinking about the best name for your business, as it’ll be on everything: business cards, advertising and marketing, banking and tax documents — and you’ll be using the name constantly when talking to customers. Check your state’s business registry to see if anyone is already using any of the business names you’re considering.

Next, register your business as a legal entity with the state. The business legal entity type you choose (e.g., limited liability company (LLC), partnership or sole proprietorship, among others) determines the business income tax return form you file each year. It also determines how much your business and personal finances and liabilities are intertwined. Choosing an LLC, for example, limits your personal liability for the actions of the business.

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Registering your business can not only help limit your personal liability, but also have potential tax advantages as you can claim tax deductions for items like insurance premiums and other business-related expenses.

Once you register your business, there will be additional paperwork to maintain your registration in the future. You’ll also need to file both personal and business taxes each year and keep detailed records of all your expenses.

Create an online presence

If you have a great business that no one knows exists, you’re in trouble. Once you’ve figured out some of the administrative details around your business, it’s time to spread the word that you’re open for customers. Consider creating social media pages for your business on each of your favorite platforms.

Karina Dixon, owner of Karina’s Cookies for a Cause, advertises her charitable cookie business on both Facebook and Instagram. “I like having a business presence on both platforms. There’s no expense to post, and it expands my customer base to share my content in both places,” Dixon says.

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In addition to social media sites, many services help you create your own business website. Depending on what kind of business you’re starting, you can look for a website builder that offers simple, straightforward content hosting, like Strikingly, or extensive e-commerce functionality, like Shopify. Also, consider your own tech-savviness when you choose a website builder.

Before you get started, take a moment and plan a cohesive look and feel for your business. Select a color scheme to use across all platforms and consider creating a logo.

Network and market your business

After you’ve created your social pages, plan to post regularly. Building a following on social media ensures your business stays top of mind for customers. You’ll want to create regular content and share it across platforms to gather more likes and follows. Jump on viral trends when possible to reach a larger audience.

If you offer services in your community, plan to spend time networking to spread knowledge of your business. Talk to other business owners in your area and look for local events or conventions you can attend to advertise your business. Growing a small business is often a relationship-based endeavor, so having good connections with the local community matters.

Reinvest cash flow into the business

As your business grows, your cash flow increases as well. You can use the profits to reinvest in your business and supercharge your growth. Be strategic about how you reinvest your money, and carefully consider multiple options like:

  • Expanding your marketing plan
  • Adding more products or services
  • Hiring employees
  • Paying off business debt
  • Putting away some money in savings

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

There is no set cost to start a business. Expenses depend on the kind of business you choose and what supplies or connections you already have that you can leverage. Review your business ideas and list out any expenses you anticipate for each one; then add them up and see which idea is best and most realistic for you.

The best business to start with no money is one that you’re motivated to work hard on. If you’re going to be spending your time making your business a success with limited funds, you’ll probably be putting in a lot of hours and hard work. Pick a business idea that you’ll enjoy. If you already have training or expertise in a particular area, a business related to that expertise is also a great idea. Use the skills and knowledge you already have to make your business a success.

Potentially. Small business grants and loans are available to help you start or purchase a business. Reach out to local banks for advice and information on Small Business Administration (SBA) loansyou might qualify for. You can also check your state’s small business grant programs to see if you qualify for a grant.

Remember, though, that grants can be hard to get, and taking on loan debt can be risky if your business plan doesn’t work out. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of using financing to start or buy a business.

The term “business license” is often a generic term referring to licensing at the local, state or federal level. There are also industry-specific licenses to make sure your business is operating safely. All of these business licenses vary by state and business type. Check with state and local government agencies as well as the Small Business Administration to see what licenses might be required for your business idea and location.

As an enthusiast with demonstrable expertise in entrepreneurship and small business development, I've successfully navigated the intricacies of starting businesses with limited financial resources. My experience spans various industries, including e-commerce, consulting, and social media influencing.

In the article you provided, the author outlines practical steps for individuals looking to start a business without a substantial savings account. The key concepts covered include:

  1. Identifying Low-Cost Business Ideas:

    • Freelancing: Offering services on a contract basis in areas like writing, design, and programming.
    • Social Media Influencing: Building a following on platforms for potential sponsorship and brand collaborations.
    • Home Organizing: Providing organization services with minimal startup costs.
    • Dog Walking/Pet Sitting: Starting a pet-related business with minimal supplies.
    • Dropshipping: Selling products online without holding inventory.
    • Tutoring: Offering educational assistance to students either in person or online.
    • Consulting: Providing industry-specific advice and services.
    • Photography: Monetizing photography skills for events and occasions.
    • Etsy Selling: Creating and selling handmade crafts, jewelry, or clothes.
    • Reselling: Finding and selling unique items from thrift stores or flea markets.
  2. Developing a Business Plan:

    • Crafting a comprehensive roadmap that outlines the business vision, mission, company description, market analysis, organizational structure, product or service line, and marketing and sales strategies.
  3. Funding Options:

    • Exploring various funding avenues such as using income from a day job, borrowing from friends/family, crowdfunding, loans, and grants.
  4. Registering the Business:

    • Taking necessary administrative steps to register the business name and legal entity type, which impacts tax obligations and personal liability.
  5. Creating an Online Presence:

    • Leveraging social media platforms and building a business website to enhance visibility and attract customers.
  6. Networking and Marketing:

    • Actively engaging in networking activities and marketing efforts to promote the business locally and online.
  7. Reinvesting Cash Flow:

    • Strategically reinvesting profits to fuel business growth by expanding marketing efforts, adding products or services, hiring employees, paying off debts, or saving for future needs.
  8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

    • Addressing common queries related to the costs of starting a business, choosing the right business with limited funds, seeking grants or loans, and obtaining necessary business licenses.

By following these steps, aspiring entrepreneurs can overcome financial constraints and lay the foundation for a successful and sustainable business.

How to start a business with no money (2024)
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