Is it possible to launch a company when the purse strings are tight?
Looking at the business owners we admire and spoke to, yes. Not only do we think it’s possible, but we’re seeing it happening more often in the scrappiest entrepreneurs.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to start a business with no money or little capital and share some of our favorite success stories along the way.
1. Find your itch
Inspiration comes from many places.
Customer conversations, industry news, or, in Simon Grabowski’s case, a problem he encountered at work.
When Simon was running his travel business, he struggled to send emails to his multiple subscribers, so he created GetResponse (formerly known as Implix back then).
Simon kept his expenses low.
Since he knew how to code, he didn’t need to spend money hiring a developer. In fact, he spent only $200 to register his company and website and hire an employee to promote it.
Is there a problem at work that constantly bothers you? Are the current solutions lacking important features? Consider exploring the idea and expanding it as a business.
Pro tip: If you want to start a business with $0 capital, your best bet is selling services.
That’s how many agency owners and freelancers (such as myself) got their start.
2. Niche down
There are numerous benefits to niching down.
Not only does focusing on a profitable niche market pin down your ideal customers, but it also improves your brand identity by a mile.
Here’s what we mean:
- Brittany Berger, a freelance content marketer, specializes in content repurposing.
- Pete Codes created High Signal, a membership for entrepreneurs. To promote it, he sends a weekly newsletter to highlight indie startups’ achievements.
- Peter Askew built RanchWork, a niche job board for farm work.
Notice how instantly memorable and recognizable these businesses are?
Pro tip: If you’re selling to a mass market, create a unique selling proposition (USP) at the very least. This way, you convey a specific benefit that your customers can’t get elsewhere.
Here are three examples of fantastic USPs:
- Tally is a form builder that lets users create unlimited forms, for free
- Force by Mojio, a GPS fleet tracking startup, offers a generous 30-day trial with GPS tracking devices and return shipping at entirely no cost
- Grow and Convert is a content marketing agency that generates real business outcomes—a rarity considering many agencies don’t measure or own their results
These six companies stand out from the crowd with key differentiators. Do the same, and your business will go places.
3. Build in public
Public accountability is a powerful motivation tool.
When you share your progress in the public eye, you’re pushing yourself to stay committed and work consistently towards your goals.
There’s another bonus to sharing your progress publicly. The unpacked behind-the-scenes of your business adds a human element to your marketing.
4. Ship it
In an ideal world, businesses would attract customers with minimum effort instantly.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the real world works. Even the most talented freelance copywriter or startup founder with an ingenious software tool needs to spread the word about their business actively.
To promote your business, start with your network and work your way up.
Email autoresponders didn’t exist when it first launched.
After launching his tool, Simon reached out to business owners. It was a no-brainer selling to this group of customers, as they, like him, were experiencing similar problems at work.
The founders of Tally also implemented a similar cold outreach strategy. Note how they introduced their product to established makers via Twitter:
Of course, not everyone replied, but those who did became early users and ambassadors.
The Tally team also replied to questions on social Q&A sites (e.g., Reddit, Quora), reached out to people who upvoted similar products on Product Hunt, and scanned conversations on Twitter using Tweetdeck.
As you can see here, Twitter is a valuable sales channel.
Say you want to launch a flash sale campaign to promote a new product on Gumroad. You could use Zlappo to create a thread for each tweet with automatic follow-up tweets to boost urgency, as units are sold.
Maximize sales on auto-pilot and save hours of your time promoting your business.
Pricing for Zlappo starts at $12.49/month when billed annually. Grab the Zlappo lifetime deal on AppSumo today for only $119.99.
Since its launch, GetResponse has been adding new features to improve the user experience. Today, it’s evolved into a complete marketing automation platform.
5. Scale with lifetime software
Software comes in handy.
These tools streamline your process, gaining you back time to do what matters. They’re also perfect if you prefer to work in a company of one (translation: you don’t want to micromanage people)!
Take your pick off over 1,000 software tools on AppSumo. All tools offer annual and lifetime deals, saving you thousands of dollars down the road.
Browse over 3,000 products on AppSumo without overpaying today.
6. Raise funds
Business loans accelerate cash flow, help you hire more people, and improve day-to-day operations.
However, these loans come with frustrating drawbacks. Often, you must have strong credit and go through a lengthy application process.
Fortunately, bank loans are not the only ways to secure funds, as proven by SparkToro.
The audience research software startup skipped the traditional VC and bank route to raise funds. Rand Fishkin, the co-founder, reached out to his network with a quick ask, one-page term sheet, and prospectus.
In the end, SparkToro raised $1,299,500 from 35 individual, accredited investors. The entire process took only 90 days.
There are multiple ways to raise funds to start and grow a business, so don’t lose heart if the bank rejects your request.
Ashley Ambirge, the founder of The Middle Finger Project, pitched an ebook that hasn’t been written yet to her 2,500 blog subscribers and made her first $2,000 in sales.
Similarly, Eman Zabi, founder of The Scribesmith, pre-sold 100 copywriting decks and used the new sales to fund the manufacturing costs.
Simon Grabowski, whom we featured earlier in this guide, raised his $200 initial capital from a coding project with a meat importing company!
Start your business today
Generally, it’s impossible to start a business with zero effort.
As a business owner, you will find yourself spending money to make money at some point. But you can grow your business on a wallet-friendly budget.
Opt for our current lifetime deal, Zlappo, if you want to promote your product on auto-pilot. And while you’re at it, continue exploring AppSumo to scale your business at a fraction of the cost today.