I first started my business when I had very limited funds in my bank account. I had quit my job unexpectedly and between student loans and New York City rent, my savings account looked pitiful. Business books and advisors might recommend having at least six months of runway saved before launching your own company.
1. Move somewhere less expensive to give yourself additional runway
I was living in New York City when I first started my company. Looking at the bleak condition of my bank account, I quickly realized how difficult it would be to pay rent and launch a company simultaneously. I booked a one way ticket to Spain and worked on my business for three months abroad where the cost of living was nearly one-fourth of the Big Apple. Three months later, I moved to Romania, where the cost of living would be even more affordable for what I was trying to accomplish.
Brandon Na, founder of Seattle Organic SEO recommends considering other locales as "lean" opportunities. For example, one of the biggest markets in the world, where he lived for several years, is very affordable. "I would move to China, start using Duolingo and work on building a future disrupter." Take a look at your finances and find a place that works within your budget.
2. Find out what you're good at and make it a service
The first step in starting a business is to sit down and figure out what you're passionate about and how you can use that thing to provide value. If you're a language teacher, consider creating online courses to sell to students around the world. If you're a salesperson, consider
I have a marketing and PR background. When I was looking to jump into the world of entrepreneurship, I decided I could use my skills to create a product offering that would help companies with their own marketing efforts, leading me to build my own marketing agency. Make a list of your skills and then brainstorm a list of services you might be able to provide to businesses and individuals.
"When I started my company, all I had was a laptop and the ability to make animated videos by myself --no extra funding or special equipment was needed." says Video Igniter Founder, Derek Merdinyan.
3. Start with a website providing an out-of-the-box solution
There are a variety of businesses that can be started with just a website and a business card. When I started my marketing agency, I invested the little money I had in a Wordpress website and a designed theme, and then I purchased a stack of business cards. Today there are many out-of-the-box solutions available to build a website like Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace, making it possible to have the site up and running in a matter of hours. From consulting services to online shops, many entrepreneurs run their companies with just their laptops.
A year after I had my agency up and running, I started an ecommerce store using print-on-demand technology that allowed me to make my own products without the big initial investment needed to buy massive product quantities.
"If I had $500 to invest in a business, I would without a doubt start an e-commerce drop shipping company," says Nick Jordan, the principal at LogicInbound.
"With less than $50 I can launch a beautiful, functional Shopify store and set it up to accept credit card payments into my personal bank account in an evening. Drive free traffic to your store by featuring popular content in your niche, re-writing it on your blog, and posting it on a bunch of relevant Facebook groups. Some of this traffic is going to click over from your blog post to your products and convert into a sale."
4. Network, network, network. And network some more.
If entrepreneur Donald DeSantis had only $500 he'd spend a majority of it networking. "I'd spend the first $200 having coffee with people in the industry, asking a million questions and clearly identifying needs and opportunities. I'd spend the second $200 developing a product to meet those needs as specifically and effectively as possible. And I'd save the last $100 for all the unpredictable costs I didn't know I'd have."
When I first started my business, I called up everyone I knew to tell them what I was doing. This was a low-cost way to drive business early on. All of my initial marketing clients came from referrals and were the foundation for my business. Take your initial funds and use them to connect with the people in the industry you're interested in.
No matter how much money you have in your bank account, an entrepreneurial career is possible if you start small and work hard to grow. What are you waiting for? Get started today!