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Start a Small Business for Free? 4 Ideas, Tools, and Resources to Help You Run Your Business 05 October, 2021   

Can you start a small business for free? The answer is yes! Here are four ideas, tools, and resources to help you run a business for free or virtually nothing.

1. Types of Businesses That You Can Start for Virtually Nothing


The most accessible businesses you can start for virtually nothing are those that operate online. However, that does not mean there are no more traditional businesses you can set up.

While you still need to have an online presence for an offline business, and thankfully you can set up a website for free or for little money, you have the option of setting up various types of “real-world” businesses depending on your skills and experience.

For instance, if you already own a van and gardening equipment, you could set yourself up as a freelance gardener. If you wanted, you could use your early profits to grow the business to provide larger projects like landscaping.

Other ideas include operating a dog walking service, a home childcare facility, a sewing and alterations business, a consultancy business, or a cleaning business. 


Think about the equipment and skills you already have to find the right path for you. Alternatively, you can start an online business for virtually nothing.


2. Online Business Opportunities That Cost Next to Nothing


The two best types of online business models you can use without needing any start-up capital are affiliate networking and drop shipping. Let us take a look at each.


An Affiliate Networking Business


An affiliate networking business involves joining an affiliate network like CJ Affiliate on ShareASale. It works like this: an established advertiser commissions you to advertise its products or services.

You have a broad range of choices in how you advertise those products and services, but you can begin advertising for free by listing them on a website that you build for free, sending email ads to your friends and contacts, and promoting the products and services on your social media platforms.

Every time someone clicks the affiliate link you have provided and goes on to buy the product or service, you receive a commission. Simple! 


A Drop Shipping Business


The premise behind the drop shipping model is you do not need to store any inventory or handle any shipping. Neither do you need to outlay any money to buy products. Instead, you simply set up an online store that lists all the products you sell.

The items will be provided by a third party such as a supplier or manufacturer. When a customer places an order, the third party automatically handles the order fulfillment and shipment. You and the third party then take a share of the profits. 


On the surface, drop shipping sounds like it requires zero effort and money. While it is true that most people use drop shipping to create a passive income, many entrepreneurs do make a living out of using the drop shipping model.

The key is to spend time and money on marketing. Use the same marketing methods as for affiliate marketing, but also generate online ads that are targeted to your niche audience. If you want to grow a drop shipping business, it will take effort and some money, but you can begin the business for free. 


3. Free and Inexpensive Tools to Help You Operate Your Business 


Whether you choose to operate a dog walking business or a drop shipping business, there are many free and inexpensive tools available that can help you run your business. Here are some great tips.


What if You Need to Prove Your Income? Generating Paystubs Cheaply Online


If you need to prove your income for things like taking out a loan, it can be more challenging to do so as a self-employed person because you will not have a W-2 form. Thankfully, you can use an inexpensive online pay stub maker. That will also come in handy if you grow your business to the point where you start hiring employees. 


How Do You Set Up an Online Store for Free? You Need a Website


While you can set up online stores on established platforms for web-based businesses, and those platforms typically do not cost much, you also need to set up an online store on your website.

Speaking of which, whether you run a dropshipping business or a childcare business, having a website is vital if you want to promote your products or services and enable potential customers to find your business easily. 


There are various providers, like Weebly and Wix, that enable you to build a website using existing templates for free. However, for a domain name that does not include a name like “weebly,” it is worth paying to upgrade to a more professional-sounding domain name.

Annual fees for domain names can be as little as $10, so it is worth doing. Once you start building your website, simply follow the platform’s instructions for incorporating an online store on the site. 


How Do You Market for Free? Easily!


We mentioned some free ways of marketing above, such as promoting products and services on social media platforms and sending emails that contain affiliate links to friends and contacts. But there are many other free ways you can promote your business to a wider audience. 


Firstly, make use of sites where you can upload videos for free, such as YouTube. Once you have a video on YouTube or a similar site, you can easily share it on social media, your website, and other platforms.

Creating video content is one of the best ways of engaging potential customers. Make sure you provide informative and professional videos to gain a loyal audience. 


Furthermore, if you make informative videos like webinars, you also have the option of making money directly from the videos by offering them for sale on your website. You could provide other how-to resources for your chosen field, too, such as written guides and instructional e-books.

You might be surprised at just how much the money from selling informational products on your website can mount up, especially if you are an expert on a subject. You could show off clothing brands that you are selling if you run a fashion business or you could demonstrate lawn care if you run a gardening business. While the videos should be informative, they should also be entertaining. The friendlier and more engaging you are on camera, the more the audience will respond.


Other free marketing options include writing a regular blog that is SEO-friendly, hosting a weekly podcast, and finding new ways of sharing your content.


4. Free Online Resources


Whatever business you intend to run, you can access a plethora of free online resources. If you want to run a childcare service, spend lots of time researching how to go about it online.

The same goes for a dog walking service, an affiliate marketing business, and a drop shipping business. The more time you spend using free online resources, the more knowledgeable and ready you will be to start your business.

You may be able to begin a business for virtually nothing, but if you want it to be a success, putting in the time and effort is pivotal. 


In addition to using online resources for your specific business, make sure you have a good understanding of business basics, too. There are lots of free resources online for start-ups and entrepreneurs, so find the ones that suit you best and spend time learning business essentials. You can then put together a solid business plan. 


As your business grows, you should invest your profits back into the business. It does not take money to make money, contrary to popular belief. But it does take reinvestment of funds to grow your business and take it to the next level. 

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