This article has been contributed by Lidia Staron.
Every successful business started with just a spark, an idea.
It might have come in the middle of the night sending jolts and sweat throughout the body, or a quiet moment of inspiration while on the train home. However it might present itself to you, for whatever reason, it has deemed you worthy.
Congratulations! You feel it in your guts that it’s going to be the next big thing. The problem is, you don’t have money to invest.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out.
7 Ways To Launch a Business With No Money
Here are our tried-and-tested ideas on how to start your first business even with zero budget:
1. Get a Loan
The first thing that you can do is to sign up for a loan. There are a lot of financial institutions that offer personal loans online. The application is quick and can be done at home. The process and money turnover is lightning fast as well, with some promising to deliver your needs within a 24-hour period.
We understand, however, that some of you might not want to apply for personal loans. After all, starting a business with debt is not the best scenario. If so, you can move on to the next tip.
2. Keep Your Day Job
A lot of us think of leaving employment once the idea comes. This is especially true if you’re stuck in a job that you’re not exactly passionate about. However, setting up a business can be a long and expensive process. Why don’t you hustle everything business-related on the side while your boring job pays the bills for now? You can always leave the nest of employment if everything goes well anyway. Or stay employed if it doesn’t.
3. Use Your Existing Resources
Most of a business’s initial investment goes to needed equipment and space. What most beginner entrepreneurs fail to realize, though, is that most of the time, they already have access to these tangible resources. Maybe there’s a guest room that you can turn into an office in your home so you don’t have to rent one out for now? Are there pieces of equipment that you can borrow or access at no cost? In fact, there might be people out there who are giving away the gear you need for free. They’re just waiting for you to find them on Facebook Marketplace and other online forums.
4. Consider What You Can Do For Free… Or Use It To Leverage What You Can’t
Businesses can usually be categorized into two types: service providing or product selling. There are unique ventures that lie in between (or beyond) those two categories. But chances are, your business provides either of the two.
If you plan to be a service provider, like an all-star graphic designer, then you’re in luck. You don’t need a lot of capital. In fact, you can start anytime and slowly build your business from there. Product-based businesses, on the other hand, require considerable investment, more so if you plan on developing your product from the ground up.
Since we’re already talking of hustling, that’s exactly what you need to establish a service-based business. Here’s how:
- Go through your skills and determine what you do best.
- Learn about proper pricing and offer either a fixed or hourly rate.
- Offer your services both online and offline. You can start with your existing network of friends and family. As for offering your services online, there are established freelance job marketplaces out there where you can sign up for and start working whenever you deem convenient for you. If you’re juggling a day job with your business, then we recommend offering your services as a side hustle after work hours or your days off.
- From there, you can simply pool your earnings to use as capital for your business.
5. Build Your Skills
While working with what skills you already have is awesome as it is, you’ll find on your path to being an entrepreneur that sooner or later, it won’t be enough anymore. Since we’re working with a tight budget, hiring employees or freelancers may be out of the question for now. The more practical path, for now, is to learn new skills on your own. You might not become an expert overnight (or ever), but just learning the fundamentals will be of great help to a developing business.
6. Explore Your Network
Your skills are not the only aspects of your business that you can grow, you can expand your network as well. You can explore your existing network and see if there are family members or friends that believe in your idea.
Here are some tips if you’re looking to meet new people to add to your network:
- Join an online community. There are communities that you can sign up for to meet like-minded people, like Meetup groups. Joining groups where your target demographics are may also provide you valuable insight into your potential clients later on.
- Partner with other businesses. You will be surprised at how many businesses out there are looking for tie-ups. All you need to do is reach out. The best thing is, you can work out a deal that coincides with your interests. For instance, you can get a service sponsored if you can help the provider promote their brand, like product photography.
- Attend events and conferences. The internet is not the only venue where you can meet new people. You can also attend events related to your business to meet new people. Who knows? You might even meet potential investors! Be prepared and print out your business cards beforehand.
7. Get Creative In Searching For Funding Options
Speaking of potential investors, there are a lot of them out there aside from the established industry names that you might meet in a business convention. Here they are:
- Family and friends. Take this a perfect opportunity to pitch your idea as well. As an advantage, you already know this network of people so well, so you know which of them fits the target demographic you have in mind. However, remember that you’re not asking the people who are close to you for charity. You’re not requesting them to sit through your weird business ideas either. You are going to make a formal business presentation of a venture that has a detailed plan.
- Local government offices and non-profit organizations. Finding a business grant and applying for one is not a very easy process. They have certain parameters that you need to fulfill and you have a lot of competition for these groups’ funding. The good news is, once you do meet their criteria, you can potentially get enough capital to catapult your business to more ideal circumstances.
- Crowdfunding. Finally, there’s crowdfunding. It is the method of presenting your business idea online and get it funded by multiple people through donations. You can give them a perk in return that’s relative to the amount they granted.
Crowdfunding significantly changed the face of business. We can’t count how many successful startups have risen to be million-dollar worth companies all thanks to the hundreds of people who believed in them first.
Here’s the challenge, though, there are thousands of businesses and other projects (such as films, books, and inventions) that are waiting to be crowdfunded. How can you get your own campaign noticed? That’s what we are going to talk about next.
How to Set up a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to crowdfund, from setting up a campaign and launching it, right through to wrapping it up successfully.
1. Choose a Crowdfunding Platform
There are a lot of them out there, but here are some of the best:
This platform is one of the biggest (and oldest) crowdfunding platforms out there. Since their founding in 2009, they have already helped more than 150,000 projects from tech startups to creative entrepreneurs. The downside of Kickstarter, though, is that you would need to complete your fund goal before a fixed deadline, otherwise, you won’t get anything. It’s all or nothing.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Kickstarter, then we recommend checking Indiegogo out. Their major difference is their “flexible funding” option. This means that you can still get any funding you receive regardless of whether your goal has been met, as long as it meets the minimum amount of $500.
Finally, for more personal and creative pursuits, you can try GoFundMe. It doesn’t have a fixed goal that you need to meet unlike the other two that has made it very popular for those who want to raise money for medical needs and charitable causes. This platform is not as big as the previous two we have mentioned, though, so the capital that you’ll be able to raise here might not be as substantial.
Here’s a question we frequently get: Is it possible to run the same campaign in two (or more) crowdfunding platforms?
Yes, it is possible. However, we advise against it. Running a single crowdfunding campaign is a work-demanding process already. It will require a lot of promotion and digital marketing efforts. Also, giving your funders options may split their efforts and donations in half which can result in both campaigns failing.
2. Build Your Brand
Once you have chosen the crowdfunding platform that best suits your needs and preferences, you can now begin to work on your brand.
Brand strategy is a big undertaking but here are the basics. There are two parts: the face and the story. The face is the look of the brand itself. Present your logo and use a uniform color palette on everything to make it easier for your audience to remember who you are.
The story, on the other hand, answers this question: why should people fund you? Make it compelling. Appeal to their emotions if needed. Don’t forget to focus on the headline and intro paragraphs as well. You only have a few seconds to capture your audience and make them stay to read the rest of the narrative. In fact, you can take this a step further by creating a high-quality video pitch together with your written content.
3. Set a Funding Goal
Once you have established a compelling argument on why people should pledge their support for you, it’s time to figure out the figures. How much do you actually need in order to launch your business? And more importantly, how confident are you that you can meet that goal within the set deadline? This is especially crucial if you have an all-or-nothing campaign.
4. Offer Different Giving Levels
Now that you have a goal in mind, it’s time to set the amounts that people can donate or pledge for. Remember, not everyone can donate a thousand dollars to starting a business owned by a complete stranger. In fact, what really builds engagement in a crowdfunding campaign over time is the number of lower-level backers you get.
5. Offer Rewards
Here’s a great way to motivate more people to give higher-levels of donation: give adequate rewards. If possible, give all your donors a reward. It can be as simple as a sticker or a pin of your brand logo for lower-level backers. Reserve the bigger perks such as a limited free trial of your product before it launches to the public to your high-level donors. Just make sure that you can actually fulfill these rewards.
6. Promote, Promote, Promote!
With your brand, story, goal, and giving levels all set, you can now launch your campaign publish your crowdfunding page. All that’s left to do now is to promote it. Let’s face it, your biggest pledgers are probably those who are already part of your inner circle, but if you want to expand to other people, this makes it a perfect opportunity to get your name out there. Utilize social media marketing. Send out email campaigns. Reach out to bloggers and social media influencers. You can even organize a live event to drive up your campaign engagement!
7. End Your Campaign With a Bang
We have no doubt that you will be able to meet your goal, but your campaign isn’t over yet. It’s only over after you have fulfilled your promised rewards to your backers. If you don’t, you’re also setting up your business to fail since it will shed a bad light on your image and reputation as a budding entrepreneur. Nobody wants to support a business that doesn’t deliver, after all.
Here’s a pro tip: Follow-up with your pledgers and see how they have received their reward. Did they enjoy your product? Did it exceed expectations? Use this to collect positive reviews online and get insightful feedback in order to further improve your business.
By following the tips that we have shared with you above, we’re sure that you will be a successful entrepreneur in no time, even without starting capital!
About the author: Lidia Staron is a part of the Content and Marketing team at OpenLoans.com. She contributes articles about the role of finance in the strategic-planning process.