Aspiring entrepreneurs constantly ask the question: How do I become an entrepreneur with no money? The truth is, every self-made entrepreneur has started their journey by successfully answering this very question. Most aspiring entrepreneurs are either following a dream, trying to break out of the 9-5 job world, or want the opportunity to earn what they feel they are truly worth.
Most new entrepreneurs do not have cash in the bank, equity to borrow against, or a portfolio to cash out of. Transitioning from the working world to the self-employed world usually means you have been stuck in a career that hasn’t compensated or fulfilled you. There are plenty of lawyers and other well-paid professionals who leave their firms or companies in search of something more fulfilling, and more lucrative.
Many budding entrepreneurs have little to no resources. They rely on their skills, creativity, and passion to start following their dreams.
Everyone loves a success story. We love them, even more, when the underdog succeeds. We see people immigrate from other countries with advanced degrees only to end up driving Uber or cleaning houses. These people are ALREADY self-employed even though they are underemployed. They take the risk to move their family from one country to another and many times have to start from the bottom. This should be inspiring to those who have been blessed enough to be born in a wealthy country.
Working while you start your business is a tried a proven way to succeed without catastrophic failure. Without an income, and with bills and family obligations its incredibly difficult to start a business, but that doesn’t mean its impossible. With a few proven techniques, the business idea you have been dreaming of is within your grasp.
Shouldering is a technique that isn’t discussed nearly enough. If you picture the human body, we have two shoulders with a head that is elevated above these shoulders by our neck. This metaphor may already make sense to you, but it important to unpack and examine it.
Let’s say you have a dream to create the world’s first mobile dog spa that runs on solar power and rainwater. If you are not an engineer, you will likely require some engineering drawings as well as an initial prototype before you start selling units or dispatching mobile groomers.
It’s expensive to hire an engineer, navigate patent law, and get a prototype built. This type of business could easily require a six-figure investment just to bring it to market.
Shouldering is a technique that builds a foundation for the head of the business.
Using the example of the mobile grooming business, if we assume you want to run the grooming business rather than sell the actual units, we can find quite a few ideas to shoulder. Without investing a dime, you could immediately begin dog walking, pet sitting, or even “in-home” bathing and nail cutting service for cats and dogs.
If you select one of these shoulders, such as dog walking, every dog you walk, and every owner you come into contact with becomes a potential client for your brilliant idea. Walking dogs can provide a steady income that leads to more opportunities like boarding and house sitting. You can begin your journey working with animals (and actually get paid) and before you’ve invested a dime into your futuristic mobile grooming idea. You would have a functioning business with revenue and a client base of animal owners who already trust you. If you consider adding additional services around your shoulder business, you will have a steady income and will be ready to start deploying some of your capital to the idea that’s the head, the business you really want to invest in, and run.
Some aspiring entrepreneurs come up with an idea, create media packs, and web properties, then go out and try to raise capital or crowdsource funds. This is where many entrepreneurs fail. Image may be extremely important to your niche, but in most niches like roofing, as long as your offering looks professional, customers will choose you based on their own determining factors, on-point graphic design is nice to have, but its usually not one of these factors.
This doesn’t mean you should go in the opposite direction and have no logo, no corporate presentation, and no accessible media. The entrepreneurs who have the hardest time reaching profitability or keeping “all the balls in the air at once” are the ones who think they need to hire a consultant to do work that they could have had done on Fiverr. There is nothing wrong with the graphic artists on Fiverr, especially when you are getting started. Just like there is no need to rent a large space or lease a Mercedes when all you really need is a Ford.
Starting small involves creating your first business plan. Some advocate a long detailed plan, but in the early stages, you are still investigating where you want your business to go. If you think about the mobile pet groomer idea, and think about the shoulder businesses of dog walking and pet sitting, you might realize through the course of business that you are making a lot off your shoulder ideas. Maybe you discover that your idea has already been done. It’s possible that all you need to do to get into the business is to buy a unit off of someone who has already done the legwork.
There is no sense in reinventing the wheel. Buying a solution that already exists when your core business is not invention, usually makes the most sense.
Staying as small as you can, for as long as you can, in the early stages of starting a business allows you to pivot. Some will say pivoting is changing your mind, some may see this as a weakness. Let people say what they want, they likely don’t have the guts to take a risk and possibly fail. A pivot is not a jump, a pivot is when you have one foot firmly planted on the floor while you move the other foot. If dog walking turns out to be a business that you can grow and prosper with, pivoting away from your initial mobile dog grooming idea doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you a success.
Some say it’s impossible to start a business. We’ve all heard the saying “How do you make a small fortune? Start with a large one.” This saying incorrectly makes the assumption that starting a cash positive business requires a large budget. This couldn’t be further from the truth in today’s society.
We used to live in a world where advertising anywhere cost an absurd amount of money. Every business was competing for limited space in newspapers, radio, and television. We now live in a world where the people have become the media and a single tweet, post on Instagram or a Youtube video could expose your business to millions of people “overnight”.
How do you start a business with no money? Partner up, or start studying social media and search engine optimization. If your business is local, you will quickly find other businesses willing to help you out and give exposure. Business associations and local papers will promote you as an entrepreneur. Call a reporter, tell them what you are doing and how you are doing it differently. They may write a story on your business and you’ll benefit from the press exposure and from the links.
If you are starting a business that sells internationally, it’s probably best to “choke up on the bat” a little bit first and take advantage of your local market. Search engine placements are usually very competitive and getting links to your site in the beginning stages of your enterprise is difficult unless you are a marketing professional. The contacts you make locally can quickly turn into customer reviews and links from businesses, colleges, and local media in your area.
Starting with no budget is much different than starting with a small one. If you are focusing on local traffic a small budget may allow you to build valuable links, help your community, and get recognition by the media. There are plenty of sports teams, colleges, and charities who are interested in what you do – especially if you are willing to sponsor a team, provide an academic reward, or make yourself an expert in your space in order to be interviewed.
Starting a business with no money may be difficult, but its almost always possible. By looking for an idea within your idea, you will find an easier business that requires less investment than the larger idea. Instead of starting a paint company, first, become a painter. If you eventually want to be a housing developer, start as a realtor, or find a crew and start subcontracting to developers. Many businesses can be started with no money as long as you find a way to support them by building an income stream in a supporting shoulder business. Start small, use technology to your advantage, and before you know it you will be self-employed and earning money.