The age old question is, “how do I start a business with no budget (and no office)” and we know many people in the course of history that seemed to intuitively know the answer to this (like the founders of almost every Silicon Valley empire, for example). Although the steps might differ depending on the type of product or service you’re trying to sell, the core principles for starting a business with no budget and just your bed for an office are basically the same. Here are a few to get you started…
#1 Solve a problem
Or solve it in a better way. This is the hardest part for any small business. Before you launch, think about who you are trying to serve and why they would want what you have. You should be able to answer this question pretty easily. Do your research, and think through your business plan.
Virgin Startup has a really amazing business plan template that they require entrepreneurs to use before seeking investment. Even if you’re not going to be looking for third party investors, it’s a great resource for structuring your thinking and identifying the areas where your business idea might have some gaps that you need to address before getting started
#2 Don’t quit your day job
Instead, get comfortable with devoting your nights and weekends to your side hustle. When I started freelance writing, I cut out any activity that sucked my time and didn’t add value to my life. It’s amazing the hours you’ll find when you cut out TV, Netflix and Facebook. Having a full-time job is really important, because it provides you the freedom to experiment and learn that’s just not possible if you’re desperate for income.
#3 Emulate the experts
There are literally millions of people who have started businesses on the side, from their bedrooms. Spend a few hours Googling Sophia Amoruso and reading the free advice she’s doled out about how she started her NastyGal empire as an eBay store and you’ll have a nice little roadmap (and some serious inspiration) for your Web business.
There are a few other writers that I follow for practical tips for achieving my goals, and their advice rings true for any small business owner because they focus on the behavior you need to adopt to be successful, and the things you need to stop doing to get out of your own way. Austin Kleon and James Clear are two of my favorites, I guarantee you’ll get smarter if you sign up for and read their newsletters.
#4 Make ‘free’ your middle name
Estimate your annual revenue, and divide it in half. That’s what you can expect to make after five years. Sounds crazy, right? But setting your expectations low on your revenue will force you to be very strict on your costs. There are literally thousands of free resources for small business owners, from website templates to financial management training. I learned (rough, but passable) HTML coding skills by watching YouTube videos and cold-emailing coding experts for advice. I built my website on Google’s free blogger platform and monitor data about my traffic and users via Google’s free analytic tools.
#5 Take one small step every day
Launching a business is daunting, and many people fail. It’s easy to give up when you’re constantly thinking about the sheer amount of work involved, much less the patience, resolve and fortitude to overcome the challenges along the way. Instead, break it up into small steps and think about what you can do in the present moment to get where you want to go. Maybe it is as simple as emailing that editor about writing for her publication, or as complicated as updating the code on your Web site to make it more user friendly. There is always something you can do, and if you push yourself to move forward every day with small steps, you’ll develop confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Do you have any practical tips for starting a business from scratch? Or, have you gone through this process and learned things that you wish you knew when you started? Please share in the comments!
By Colleen Bordeaux