Why you don’t actually need money to start a business

why-you-don't-need-money-to-start-a-business

I work with a lot of budding entrepreneurs. I coach some, I interact with thousands here at the blog, and I connect with many of you on our GDB insiders Facebook page (join us, it’s a great community).

And I hear lots of reasons why you have decided now is not the right time to start a business.

So, over the course of the next six weeks, I will publish a series of posts featuring popular reasons you haven’t started your business yet. If you resonate with these kinds of series, please let me know by commenting as we go and sharing your experience in overcoming these hurdles.

At the end of the series, I’ll also be packaging it as an ebook with tons of added bonuses and other info. Readers who are engaged and contribute during the series will get a free copy, of course!

Let’s jump in!

Reason #1 for not starting a business: money.

Perhaps the most common reason for not starting a business is that you don’t have any money.

Call it capital, call it funding, call it a safety net, but at the end of the day, it’s all the same excuse: you don’t have any money.

Why you don’t actually need money to start a business

Here’s the deal: starting a business isn’t at all what it used to be.

I’ve spoken with friends and family older than me who I know are entrepreneurs deep down inside themselves but have chosen to follow a corporate path. (Remember, don’t hate freelancers with full-time jobs.)

When I asked them why they never started their business, do you know what they said?

Most of them said something like, “I was never able to figure out how to get funding.”

And maybe thirty years ago that’s how business worked. You came up with an idea, you pitched it to a venture capitalist, you got rejected, and then you pitch it to fifty more people before someone (a bank, a VC, your grandma) would loan you the money to make your dream come true.

But that’s not how it works today.

You can start a business today for less than $100. Don’t believe me? Read one of my favorite books on the subject, The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.

In his book, Chris shares real-life stories from real-life entrepreneurs who began with very little startup capital and have turned their business into high-five-and-six figure businesses.

These people are real.

And you’re just as real and as smart as they are.

You, too, can start a business without any huge funding.

The real reason you’re not starting a business isn’t about money

See, if you start a business with less than $100 as The $100 Startup suggests you can, with a little ingenuity, innovation, and whole lot of butt-kicking hard work, you can eventually fund yourself.

The real reason you haven’t started yet is maybe that you’re starting too big. You’ve set your sites on a fully staffed, top-of-the-line technology-stuffed, penthouse-style web design agency that only works with fortune 500 companies.

Lofty.

I’m not saying you won’t make it there one day, but take a step back and figure out what the rungs are on your ladder to success.

What’s the smallest, easiest rung you can step on to move you toward your dream, but that isn’t made impossible by startup costs?

Take that step now.

Chances are, it costs less than $100. At most, it’s $1,000.

That’s all the startup funding you need.

And you can do that today.

Becoming your own VC

Once you’ve turned your $100 into $1,000 and your $1,000 into $10,000, you can ultimately fund any dream you want.

Start that top-of-the-line agency.

Live on the beach.

Do all the other cliché business-owner things you read about on “unrealistic” blogs (like this one).

But stop waiting around for someone to hand you $100,000 to start your dream. Work for it, plan for it, and make it happen.

I know you can do it.

What did I leave out?

What did I leave out of this conversation? Add your thoughts in the comments on this post.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Great article Preston, looking forward for your next e-book!
    I left my full time job and jumped to freelancing 3 years ago. Now I’m like 120% over my capacity of handling projects and want to take the next step, partner up and create my own UI/UX agency. However I’m really stocked trying to find a good business partner…any ideas?!

    • Who says you need a business partner? Do it on your own! :)

    • I tend to agree with Will. You don’t necessarily need a full-out partner. You could hire someone you trust to help you but maintain ownership and control of your business.

      Alternatively, if you’re set on finding a partner, try a temporary set up with someone you think might work well with you. If, after 6 months, you still want to partner with them, make the leap. But don’t jump in blindly.

      Does that help?

  2. Great post Preston.

    Totally true that you don’t need much money to start a business – especially a web design business.

    I did it back in 2009 with the fees of setting up a Limited Company (about £100 at the time, but you can do it much cheaper now), Basecamp ($20/per month) and I think that was about it. I frighten myself when I calculate my expenses now days with 3 employees!

    Granted at the time I was living with my parents (I was 21 then), so I didn’t have to worry about being out on the street if I failed, which I think is probably the biggest fear people have.

    Having said that, if you know you’re good at your job/profession, if things do go nasty and you can’t make ends meet long term, you know you’ll get another job relatively quickly and at least you tried!

    • Will, I agree.

      In fact, in Chris’ other book, The Art of NonConformity, he talks about just that.

      Essentially he poses this question (paraphrasing): “If you quit your job, pursue your dream, and fail big time, what’s the big deal? You’ve still got all that resume fodder you used to get the job you left plus all the experience at the job you quit. If it doesn’t work out or you simply don’t like it, just get another job again. You did it once, you can do it again.”

  3. Preston,

    Great points here in your #series. I hear it all the time too and probably the #2 excuse made by those that want to be an entrepreneur. I won’t spoil by saying what I believe is the top excuse.

    You are right that many people I have done it. I have seen it and I have done it more than once.

    Looking forward to the follow up posts.

    Gene Hammett
    Digital Agency Business Coach

    • Gene, thanks for the comment. You can’t leave me hangin’. :) What do you think the #1 reason is? I’m not really ordering these according to severity or popularity, so I’m interested to know.

  4. Another great post. I was in this same boat. I know this is going to sound funny, but it took watching an episode of Shark Tank to get my butt in gear. Mark Cuban said something that really hit home. “You are not a business man, you are a wantrepaneur” . He followed it with “You don’t need us. You have what it takes. Go out there and knock on some doors!”. Now I do not know the product, and really it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is this. In design, no matter the scope we have the potential to work in a really low overhead business. That computer sitting on your desktop is an amazing tool. Hackers use it to bring down global economies. Anyone else can use it to get that “First Client”. That is all it takes. All you need is one. Remember that.

    I started with a computer and a copy of Front Page 98.  Granted that was 10 years ago. I learned the skill. 2 years ago I said “I do not want to be a wantrepaneur! I just need one!” I got it… and I love having a full time day job, and helping other small businesses get on the map with an outstanding website!

  5. Interesting post! I think especially for a freelance business, you don’t really need any start-up money. You may perhaps need to invest like $30 for business cards, and to register your business, but the cost is pretty low. I’ve also found when talking to entrepreneurs, when you really want it, and when you are really passionate about your work, the money will just come naturally, and everything will work itself out without you obsessing about it!

    Megan

    • Megan, thanks for the comment! I would mostly agree. Although it’s not just the wanting or the passion that brings you business. It’s the hustling that your passion drives you to have. When you hustle, business “finds you.”

      It’s been said that the reason people think someone is an “overnight success” is because they were sleeping while the other guy was up all night working. :)

  6. I totally agree with you Preston.

    I have started my own freelance business, just over an year ago and I didn’t spend a single dollar! Seriously. I continued working on my second hand PC (luckily the soft-wares were installed in there!) Of course it was a bit inconvenient, but once I got 2-3 websites done I bought a brand new computer with top most configurations (love my comp)

    I work from home (after my full time job) and can’t complain! Ya get tired sometimes but I know this is a period of transition (from having a full time job to cutting down the days to 2-3)

    But it’s all worth it!

  7. It’s just not that easy. I was the VP of marketing at a major design company and then my world caved in, I was told that I had an incureable form of cancer. After that I was put on the injured reserved list, given my pension and a seat on the Board.

    That’s just not enough for me. I’ve been trying to start my own business and I’ve been hitting road blocks the entire way. I must work from home given my condition. I talk to potential clients using Skype.

    I made it in the real world and now I’m trying to make it in the cyber world but I need help.

  8. I am scared to start without money. I pretty much have next to nothing for savings, and my family depends on my income. I think my idea(s) are EXCELLENT, other people may not feel the same way. I fully understand it take hard work and perseverance, I’m just worried that one wrong turn will create chaos for my family. What are your thoughts on that? Are my concerns not really a money thing but rather a motivation thing? I don’t think so, but I would be so happy to hear some thoughts on that!

  9. I agree. I started my business with just the cost of a new laptop.

  10. I started my biz in the bedroom of my super small apartment 5 years ago. My old laptop and old student edition of Adobe creative suite. No startup cost at all!

  11. Ian G. Lang says:

    …are those undisclosed affiliate links?

    • Ian, nope. But thanks for checking. We’ve adopted a site-wide affiliate disclosure policy so that we don’t have to bother GDB readers in each post with an explanation at the end. You can read the full disclaimer here. Thanks!

  12. great posts, I am starting :)

  13. Can you talk in future posts about fears and realities of handling money/budgets/credit?
    I’m working back into my own design business and know too well how not to do it; any tips about creative people learning the finances/books side of a business?

    Thanks for a great series!

  14. Great post but not true if it comes to other countries where you have to pay something like an insurance each month even if you don’t get jobs. In my current place it costs 300usd/month. You also keep forgetting about the software to buy to be legit.

  15. I find your posts very helpfull . I read all your newletter as soon as i get them !! i tottaly commited with this one\

  16. I totally agree with this post… Exactly what i was trying to explain to my would-be partner. Thanks a bunch!

  17. Nice article, and right on the money – a lack of funds shouldn’t be the thing that stops you going for it. Find a way to start with what you have or save up the smallest amount you will need.

    I jumped ship 2 years ago. If a noob like me can survive out there, anyone can.

  18. I was caught completely off guard with this post! I have this dream ages ago of setting up an online business but the “planning” stage has become more like “no plan to start at all”. This made me realize that money, time or skills are not really my problem. I am just too scared to fail. Thanks for this eye-opener. Time to put all plans into action!

  19. Alan G Legarreta says:

    And another great article! As someone who is about to graduate, I am very interested in reading more articles regarding this. I already to some extent do some freelance (Not my main source of income, yet) but with every new article you guys come up with I find my self picking up little things that I am sure will come in handy. haha specially because this article hit it right on the nail, since a couple of buddies and I were talking about starting a business but were worried about the costs an such.
    Thank you for the great articles!

  20. Wow, this post hits home! I am one of those people who think we can’t start without money. Should re-think again and start doing something. Thank you for this post!

    Looking forward to your ebook!

  21. I love this post and I’m adding that book to my reading list!

    I don’t think there is a better time than now to start your own business. 10 years ago I started in my parent’s loungeroom with $4,000 to buy my computer and software and I’m gutted when I think of the amount of money I’ve had to spend since. It’s just so much easier for designers these days!

    To give you an idea, I had to take a loan out just to buy three licenses for the Adobe suite when I needed to expand, we now just pay by the month and it’s awesome on the cash flow. The real killer for me was when I spent about $9k upfront for my CRM software about 3-4 years ago. A year later they switched to the SaaS model but offered no subsidy for those of us who had already forked out the big upfront investment. I don’t use them anymore. :(

    I love that we pretty much have any tool, app, training course, coaching/mentoring, books, software, whatever at your fingertips, 24/7! The world is so connected now and everything is so accessible. And all for a few bucks a month.

    The only thing I will add is that in Australia we do have certain business and name registrations that cost a little bit upfront but it’s not huge.

  22. Great… I always wait in anticipation to read from you guys.

    This post has taken me back to when I was starting out. In my final campus year I knew I wanted to start my own design company. I didn’t have any money to start out.
    .
    I took up an offer to sit and learn from my lecturer at the time who also runs his own design agency. I did tons of free jobs and an imac that I had to tilt the screen at a 45degree angle because it blacks-out when fully open. :-/ After all the struggles and hard FREE work… it finally paid off. I landed a contract I had never dreamed of and I bought my first laptop, registered my company and now I work from the comfort of my house.

    I was worried about so many things like money to buy a laptop, get an office, get clients and all. I borrowed some money to print business cards and from there things just started moving and I never had to look for employment.

    At times things just don’t work out but thank heavens we have a site like GDB where we can share and get that oomph and push from just reading what people have to say. Truly grateful.

    Word of advice: When you do something, do it to the best of your ability even if no one notices now, someone somewhere will when you least expect and that could be your break through.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The truth is, you don’t need near as much money as you used to in order to get started building a business (see the first post in this series). […]

  2. […] Money: “Why you don’t actually need money to start a business” No Time: “How to build your dream business even when you’re short on time” No Business […]

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