5 ways to start an online business with no money

You don’t have to take out expensive loans to enter the world of business. Find out five different ways you can start an online business offering goods or services to costumes across the world in this article.

We’ll discuss the pros and cons of starting an online business using the following examples:

  • Re-selling and upcycling items
  • Writing and blogging
  • Freeland virtual assistant
  • e-commerce and dropshipping
  • Product testers and reviewers

At Countingup, we want to empower new business owners and help budding innovators become successful. Check out our other guides on starting a business: How to come up with a business idea and 6 signs your business idea is viable.

Re-selling and upcycling items

One way to start a business is to start selling items you already own but no longer use. Many products around your home will have retained some of their value and will be sought after by the people around you. 

These days, this type of business is especially popular as people try to reduce their carbon footprint and buy second-hand. Some key items to consider selling might include jewellery and accessories, brand-label clothing, electronic goods (like phones and laptops), or collectables. Similarly, you may be able to add value to items (especially furniture) if you have the means to restore them with paints, varnishes or a modern re-design.

Pros of upcycling and re-selling

  • Set your own pricing for goods you no longer need
  • Potential for high profits, especially on goods you were gifted or that have grown in value over time

Cons of upcycling businesses

  • Limited stock for long term growth
  • You may need to do lots of research in order to price your items at what they’re worth

Writing or blogging

If you have access to a laptop or tablet, you can list yourself as a writer on freelancing hubs like Fiverr or Upwork. These websites help connect people seeking services to those who offer them. 

You can write about topics you’re knowledgeable or passionate about and get paid while doing it. Similarly, there’s always a demand for new content to be published by businesses seeking to upgrade their marketing. If you’re interested in blogging about interesting topics or experiences, you can set up a website for free using platforms like WordPress.

Pros of a writing business

  • Options to do writing or proofreading in any area you’re specialised in
  • Easy business to start if you have a strong grasp of spelling and grammar
  • Option to pivot to translating services if you speak a second language

Cons of a blogging career

  • Blogging can be especially difficult to establish as a business on no money as it needs a long term organic growth strategy
  • The website you list your services on may wish to take a cut of your profits as a servicing fee. Therefore you’ll need to factor this into your pricing

Freelance virtual assistant

As businesses expand, many need help to manage their online accounts. If you have good business etiquette and have experience in customer service, you can help businesses manage inquiries and complaints on their social media accounts or email inboxes.

Like with the writing/blogging example before, you can list your services on freelancing hubs like Fiverr or Upwork. This can also be a job you can do in your spare time as many businesses need an extra set of hands for a few hours a day.

Pros of being a virtual assistant

  • Option to take on several clients on small contracts, giving you flexibility over your workload
  • All you’ll need is a laptop of smartphone
  • Potential for you to become a full-time employee or worker within one of the businesses you help as they grow

Cons of a personal assistant role

  • The websites you list your services on may take a cut of your profits as a servicing fee, so you will have to factor this into your pricing
  • You may need to learn about lots of different products or services in order to perform the job to a high standard

E-commerce and dropshipping

e-commerce and dropshipping businesses involve selling goods to customers online. You can start this type of business with no money using ‘white label’ goods and third-party manufacturers like those listed on SaleHoo, Alibaba, or AliExpress.

This business idea works by finding a product you think will sell well, placing your own branding on it, and marketing it to customers. With a website you create, you process customer orders and route order information (like delivery and product payment) to the original manufacturer, taking the difference in what you charge the customer and pay the manufacturer as your profit.

Pros of a dropshipping business

  • You have access to thousands of potential products near-instantly – all you have to do is pick the ones you think will sell
  • You can market products with online advertising for a low cost
  • You can sell and ship to anyone in the world

Cons of an e-commerce shipping venture

  • Finding potential successful products can be time-consuming
  • You don’t own any of the products you sell, and some of them may be available through competing e-commerce suppliers. Therefore, you have to work very hard at building brand awareness for your version of the product
  • Potential for low-profit margins depending on what you charge end-customers

Product testers and reviewers

Starting a business as a professional product or website reviewer can be an easy way to earn money. The premise is simple – enter your details into testing platforms like Clicks Research or Toluna, enter some demographic details (age, location, interests, etc.), and you’ll receive products or links to websites to test. Afterwards, you’ll answer some questions on what your thoughts were about your experience. 

Pros of product testing

  • All you’ll need is a laptop or smartphone
  • You often get to keep the freebie you’ve been given
  • Contracts can be easily completed in your spare time

Cons of a testing and reviewing business

  • Business may be slower depending on the demographic details you enter
  • Higher paying review contracts usually take longer to complete

Manage your new income with a simple app

When you start a new business, it’s a good idea to keep your personal and business expenses separate. Countingup is the business current account and accounting software in one app. It automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for thousands of self-employed people across the UK. With automatic expense categorisation, receipt capture tools and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances every day and spend more time focussing on the road ahead. Find out more here.