Ready to start your business but stay within budget?
While it’s difficult to start a business without money, it’s possible. If you are offering a service, then planning, launching, and marketing your company is something you can do for free. If you are selling a product, you’ll obviously need supplies/inventory, but there are so many other places to save.
Below, I’ll give you the best free tools and resources I used to start and operate my company.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Create a Business Plan
While it’s tempting to jump in without a plan, having a plan is super helpful. It’ll take so much of the stress out of everything, and if you ever do want to approach a bank for funding, you can use your business plan.
When creating my business, I used the SCORE business plan. It’s free and has step-by-step instructions on how to fill out each section.
It may be a bit overwhelming at first, but remember that not every subsection will apply to your business. And it’s also okay to not have all the answers. What is important is that you think through each aspect of your business.
You will need to describe your company. What service or product are you offering? What are the details of your service/product? Do some research on pricing and costs. Look at what your competition is doing. Think about marketing options, plan your operations, list your goals for the company, and so forth.
Creating projected financial statements for your first several years of business is also insightful (the SCORE business plan template includes links to financial statements to fill out). How much do you reasonably expect to sell? When creating these, aim to be conservative in your estimates.
Another helpful resource is the SBA (Small Business Administration). From loan options to advice, they have lots of resources for starting and growing your business.
Step 2: Get a Business Bank Account
Even though you don’t have any money at the moment, you eventually should be earning money, and you’ll need somewhere to put that money.
Keeping your personal money separate from the money you earn via your business protects you. If you get sued and you have used your personal bank account as a business account, you could lose your personal assets (this is called piercing the corporate veil).
If you find the right bank, you shouldn’t have to pay any fees for the account, and you shouldn’t need a minimum balance.
In order to get a business bank account, you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Despite the name, you don’t have to employ anybody for one of these. All you have to do is fill out an online IRS form.
Not only will having a business account protect your assets, it also makes tracking your business cash flows way easier.
Step 3: Market Your Company
Now that you’ve got an account, it’s time to actually start building the business. One key area to save money is on marketing.
Here’s the secret in modern marketing: You can do it for cheap or free if you’re willing to put in the work. Seriously.
There are so many free resources.
Create a Website
While the free plans have limitations (WordPress has ads, and neither give you your own domain), a couple of bucks a month for a hosting service gets rid of most of the limitations.
Personally, I use WordPress with a third-party host, and would recommend either a free WordPress site, WordPress with a third-party host, or a paid WordPress plan. There are advantages to each, and I do recommend spending the money if you can on some sort of paid hosting, but if you can’t, you can still have a website.
Get on Social Media
Social media marketing is free. Just don’t spend on ads.
Figure out where your crowd is hanging out. Business people? Probably LinkedIn. Artsy folks? Try Instagram. Right now, you’ll find me hanging out on LinkedIn.
On your website, create a blog page. Think about what your audience wants to know. Are you selling clothes? Give fashion advice, and talk about trends. You can also blog about what makes your business unique. Why should people buy from your company? Think back to your business plan and what you said about your business.
This is one of the most effective ways to market. Tell everybody you know about your business. Family, friends, friends-of-friends, your old high school teachers. Go through your contact list, and text, call, write, email, or talk to each one of them.
If the thought of that seems stressful, you’re in good company here. I really don’t like pestering people out of the blue, but if I did it, so can you. After doing it a couple of times, it gets easier—trust me.
It may help to have a script that you can use and modify for each situation so you don’t have to think on your feet. This removes a lot of the stress. You can recite something from memory, or read a script, right? It’s that easy.
When you talk to people, it’s also important to have a business card to hand out. Carry business cards in your wallet everywhere you go. You never know who you’ll run into.
Finally, bring up your business with every new person you meet. When they ask about your job, hobbies, life, or how you’re doing, mention your business and give them the thirty-second pitch.
Free Design Tools
A lot of making marketing materials is design work. And in today’s age, you can do just as much with free software as paid software.
Simple Free Design Software
Another option is Adobe Spark. This one is a bit more complicated to use than Canva, but if you are doing design work that Canva just isn’t heavy-duty enough for, then Adobe Spark is your friend.
Free Photoshop Tools
If you’re looking for a Photoshop-like tool, then I recommend Krita. There’s definitely a learning curve, but if you’ve used Photoshop before, then I suspect you’ll be able to adapt more quickly. Krita is best for creating designs completely from scratch. It’s what I used for a lot of design work on my website.
However, if you are more interested in editing photos, then GIMP may be a better option. I prefer Krita for editing photos simply because I’m more familiar with it, but GIMP is more targeted at photo editing.
Free Stock Photos
One last design-related toolkit I’ll mention is free photos. My favorite source for royalty-free photos is Pixabay. It has the widest range of photos I’ve seen on a free image site, and their license allows commercial use, modifying images, and doesn’t require attribution. Another source of free photos I’ve used is Pexels, though I’ve found their selection smaller, but it just depends on what type of photo you are looking for. It’s often worth checking both.
In today’s era, there are so many free resources for starting your business. From business plans to marketing tools, a little research on what’s out there can save you a lot of money.