Often people think that you need to raise a lot of money to build a successful online business. In this day and age, that’s not true.
You don’t need venture capital money to get your startup off the ground. You can do it with little to no money.
I’ve created several successful online businesses without any funding. Partly because I was young and had no money!
Let’s take a look at how you can start a business with little to no funding.
Start with a Minimal Viable Product
Your minimal viable product (MVP) is the most basic form of your business. It’s usually fast and relatively inexpensive to get started.
To create your MVP, answer these questions:
- What is the core function of this startup idea?
- How are you adding value?
- Who are you adding value to? In other words, who will pay for it?
Keep it simple. If you can’t describe your MVP in two sentences, then it’s probably too complicated.
As entrepreneurs, we’re perfectionists, which is why coming up with an MVP can be a hard task for those just starting out.
It’s crucial that you follow the mentality of ‘build now, refine later’.
Use What You’ve Got
When you don’t have a lot of money to work with, you have to make the most of everything you’ve got.
Whether that’s your time, family and/or friends.
Look around to see who you already know that has the skills and knowledge to help your business. Then look at how you can help them.
Most busy people don’t have time. That’s your biggest asset when you don’t have a lot of money. Trade it wisely to get other’s help. Look at your own skills, knowledge, and interests. What do you already know? What can you learn quickly?
Seek out local resources for entrepreneurs. Find mentors for advice. If you’ve got a knack for design, create a simple logo for your product and barter your services with others who need it.
If you’re a good writer, then write great content for your site and barter your services with others who need it. Make the most out of every free resource that’s available! Whether that is for learning, or something else to help your business.
Take Advantage of Free
The freemium business model has taken off over the last decade. Which means there are plenty of professional tools that you can use for free (at least when you are starting out).
Here are a few brands that offer a free plan:
- Website builders: WordPress // Wix // Weebly
- Social media tools: Buffer // Hootsuite // Social Mention // Click to Tweet
- Photo editors: PicMonkey // Canva
- Email marketing: MailChimp
- Invoicing: Free Invoice Generator // Invoice To Me // Slimvoice
- Logos: Hipster Logo Generator
- Writing: Hemingway // Grammarly
- Cloud storage: Dropbox // Google Drive
- A/B testing: Optimizely
If the service you’re interested in doesn’t have a free plan, sign up for a free trial. Then hustle to make your first sale before the trial expires.
Alternatively, you can always ask for a review copy in exchange for a testimonial or another service. If you are dealing with a startup, then this works well.
You’ll be surprised by how much you can get for free by just asking!
Get the Word Out
When I launch a new product, I email friends, family, and former colleagues. I reach out to people on social media.
Contact everyone you know. It’s not a hard sell. You’re just keeping them in the loop.
Offer to let your friends use your product for free. Then ask for referrals.
Find Your Customers
Go to where your potential customers hang out. Give free advice. Be helpful and become a resource.
Visit web forums and answer questions. Become an active contributor on Reddit.
Post answers to Q&A style sites like:
Browse social media for users who could use your product. Search for Twitter hashtags related to your business. Join relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
In other words, HUSTLE!
This helps you establish yourself as an authority and get noticed by your target audience. Once you build trust and credibility, buying your product will be a no-brainer.
Incentivize Social Sharing
You need momentum to reach a large audience, and the easiest way to do it is by offering an incentive to users who promote your products.
- Foursquare achieved a million downloads in 13 months.
- Facebook took 10 months to reach a million people.
- Spotify reached its millionth user in 5 months.
- Instagram was downloaded a million times in less than 3 months.
This rapid adoption is only possible with social sharing.
When you email subscribers, ask them to forward your email to a friend.
Hold a t-shirt raffle. Offer a discount. Create a free giveaway (using a tool like Rafflecopter).
Use anything you can for your advantage to get users sharing your product on social media.
Find out which blogs your target customers read. Narrow the list from smaller blogs to popular blogs with large audiences.
Start reaching out to smaller blogs because those are easier to get started with. Suggest 2-3 guest blog ideas relevant to their readers.
Then write the best blog post you can to help their readers. Remember, DON’T SELL!
In your bio, they will include a link to your website. If you added great value in your article, then the readers will surely check out your stuff.
Once you have built a relationship with this blogger, then ask them if you can offer their readers a special deal. When you become a resource for their community instead of just another schmuck trying to sell their product, you will earn the blogger’s trust.
Then, they will go out of their way to mention your products and services to their customers. After having several awesome guest blog posts under your belt, then you can start your outreach to larger blogs.
It still works.
Eric Barstow started a residential painting company. He knocked on 250 doors and offered free estimates. From those leads he closed 5 jobs and profited $4,000. Eric’s advice:
“Don’t spend money before you make money.”
Practice your sales pitch and find opportunities to promote your product in person. Attend industry conferences, events, and local meetup groups to build your network. Always make sure that you follow up with people that you meet.
If they don’t buy now, then they may buy later!
Offer to Work for Free
If you have a service-based company, you should build some social proof.
One of the easiest way to do it is by giving away free work in exchange for testimonials. Social proof is powerful. Testimonials are evidence that you’re as awesome as you say you are. Don’t do free work for just anyone. Look for people who have a large network of contacts, so they can refer business to you.
You don’t need to be a celebrity to harness their power. You can build relationships with influential YouTube personalities and bloggers. Drop a sample of your product in the mail and ask for a review.
One mention by the right person can get you noticed by a large group of potential customers. Every time I start a business, I operate under the assumption that I have $0, mainly because that’s how I got my start. This forces me to hustle and not take any opportunity for granted.
If you’re looking to start a business online, then you don’t need a lot of money. I’m a living proof of that. If you work hard and smart, then you can successfully execute your startup idea with little to no funding.
This post originally appeared on SyedBalkhi.com, and is re-published with permission.