How do I start a business with no money?

Launching a business with no money may seem like mission impossible, but with clever planning, you can turn your dream into reality, even on a tight budget. 

You’re in good company, too. Thousands of people have successfully launched a business with virtually no capital. Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson, started his first venture – a mail-order company – with just £300 in his pocket. Foxtons estate agents founder, John Hunt, did it with a measly £100. There are around 4.37 million self-employed people in the UK and you could soon join their ranks. As long as you’re prepared to put in the hard work and get a little creative, you can be as successful in business as those who have money behind them.

What’s in this article?

  • Getting into the right mindset 
  • Tips for new business ideas
  • Social media marketing 
  • Business structures and admin 
  • Business grants

Shift your mindset

While it’s nice to have funding, a lack of cash is no excuse for not following your dream. So what if you can’t get a bank loan? Look at the resources you do have and skills you can leverage. 

There are opportunities that might be right on your doorstep or easy to find, for instance, friends who could help you out, swap services with or recommend you to others. 

There are also free resources such as business directories, listings and guest slots at networking groups. 

More than anything, starting your own business with no money takes resourcefulness and a can-do attitude. In some ways, it can help you be more efficient. You can’t afford to be wasteful or splash out on non-essential stuff. Instead, you have to seriously knuckle down and work out the minimum you need to get going.

Choosing the right idea

You’ll need a great idea for your business. You could start with something service-based rather than product-based so that you’re using your existing skill-set rather than shelling out for raw materials or expensive training.

Niching is another strategic way to launch a business on a budget. Focussing on something really specific can help you quickly build a reputation as the go-to person for that particular service and start attracting customers faster. Think cake makers who specialise in luxury truffles, or a builder who specialises in garden rooms, for example. 

Build up savings

If you’re working full-time when you launch your business, it’s a good idea to put some of your hard-earned salary aside to create a financial buffer, even if it means sacrificing some luxuries. Do you really need a Starbucks every morning or a takeaway on a Saturday night? Perhaps that money would be better tucked away in a savings account for when your business needs it.

Your business might start out as a side hustle but at some point, you may decide to go full-time. Any money you’ve managed to save will come in handy to help cover your living expenses as you’re building your own income. 

Get a website

Most businesses have a website to act as a virtual shop front. While you can spend thousands of pounds building one with all bells and whistles, there are plenty of platforms you can use to create it yourself that cost a fraction of the price, for example Wix or Squarespace.

If that’s still a financial step too far right now, you can start with a Facebook page. Many small business owners have built a serious brand with a well made Facebook and solid interactions with potential customers.

Attract new business on social media

You can use social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or TikTok to build your business with no cost other than your time. Choose the platform that best fits your target audience and post relevant, engaging content to attract interest. Build a following, engage directly with your followers, and you’ll soon turn them into clients who actually want to buy from you. Remember Joe Wicks, the personal trainer who led the nation’s schoolkids in daily fitness classes during lockdown? His rise to fame was mainly through his Instagram videos.

Choose the most suitable business structure for you

It costs nothing to set up your business as a sole trader. You just need to make sure you register with HMRC as self-employed and file an annual tax return each year. If you start a limited company, it’ll cost you £12 to register online with Companies House. But you’ll need an accountant to file your annual accounts, which can amount to several hundred pounds each year.

How you keep on top of your financial admin is also something to consider. Saving all your invoices and receipts in a box under the bed will result in a time-consuming admin headache when it comes to filing your return. It’s free to get started with Countingup, the business current account and accounting software in one app, ideal for anyone starting a small business. 

Research small business grants

At some point you may need a bit more money. It could be worthwhile researching the various business grants available. You may have to jump through a few hoops and eligibility can vary. However, grants can be a great springboard to growing your business.

Remember, from small acorns big oak trees grow. Your new business might not have much money now but with smart planning and perseverance, you’ll be on the way to creating a profitable business. 

When you’re starting a new business with no money, every penny counts and spending your time wisely is key. Countingup is the business current account with free built-in accounting software that automates your financial admin. It means that you can you can gain time back to focus on making your venture a success. Learn more here.