A Guide to Starting an Online Business on a Shoestring Budget

Question How to start an online business on notebook

Do you have this misconception brewing in your head that if only you had a spare $100,000, you would be able to build the business of your dreams? Is this false idea holding you back from starting an online business?

Well, it’s time for you to wake up and smell the coffee. Online businesses can get started nowadays with a $0 business budget or close to it, without any issues.

Unsure of how to go about doing this? Keep reading the extensive guide we’ve shared below to start an online business today.

Work From Home (Budget $0)

If you are building an online business, the best thing about it is that you don’t need a physical store or location to serve your customers! And that means you don’t have to worry about renting a place and having all your goods stored there.

You will save on your commute time, and you won’t have to worry about dressing up or going out to meet clients. If you need to meet with clients, you can do video calls on Zoom, which has a cheap monthly plan for businesses.

Even if you are building an online store that sells physical goods, you can do it from the comfort of your home. Store the items in your garage or spare bedroom.

Make sure to let your home insurance rep know that you are starting a business from home. This way they won’t balk at paying up in case your house has a flood or gets hit by some natural disaster.

Start by Doing the Necessary Research (Budget $0)

If you haven’t decided what online business to start with, don’t worry. This should be an easy and free task to undertake.

With hundreds of blog articles, YouTube videos, and more online, you have access to a free MBA university on the web. You can research different online business ideas to see which one fits your persona and inclinations best.

And you can easily learn how to start an online business, including marketing and accounting skills. And anything else you might want to learn. There’s no limit to the amount of time you can spend doing this, so don’t rush through the process.

Don’t feel like you have to start your online business this very minute. The longer you take to prepare, the easier it will be for you. This way you won’t get hit by random roadblocks that you didn’t account for, because you rushed through the process of beginning.

With an online business, you don’t have to worry about building and writing down a business plan either, because you aren’t applying for a business loan or funding of any kind. But you will want to have some kind of idea of what your business is all about, so you don’t dash about in confusion.

It’s okay to divert from this written plan, but it’s always nice to have something noted down for your peace of mind.

And when your business grows enough that it needs funding or a loan, then you have something already transcribed to present to investors or a financial institution.

Build Your Online Store on Etsy or Gumroad (Budget $0)

A lot of people think that they have to build their website and start selling their items there. But if you are working with a smaller budget (think $0), then you can start selling by using other people’s websites.

That is, you can build your store on Etsy, eBay, Gumroad, or myriad other sites that allow you to do so for free. All you need to do is give them a percentage of your sales. This is cheap at first when you won’t be selling that much in any case.

Once your business ramps up and your sales grow, you can always move your business over to a domain owned by you.

Platforms like Etsy and eBay are built for online business owners like you. They provide you with tools to help you grow and they do some marketing and advertising for you. And it’s easy to start from zero and scale up on them without difficulty.

If you are adamant that you want your own website, that doesn’t need to be expensive either. There are many websites where you can buy domains for cheap like Namecheap, as low as $7.99 depending on the ongoing deal.

And you can use WordPress or Squarespace to build a simple website even if you aren’t technically inclined. You don’t have to hire someone for that.

Once your business grows enough, then you can use your profits to hire a professional web design company to build an awesome website that showcases your brand perfectly.

Starting an etsy shop is a great way to launch an online business on a shoestring budget, and Gelato’s customizable printing solutions can help you create unique, high-quality products that will set your shop apart.

Use Canva To Build Graphics and Icons (Budget $0)

This is another great tool that you will absolutely adore when you start your online business. If you are worried about how you are going to design your logo and your business cards, fear not!

Canva is an easy and intuitive tool that can help you create designs worthy of a queen (or king). The templates can be customized to make what you want, be it a Facebook banner image, a YouTube thumbnail, or anything else.

This means you don’t have to pay a graphic designer hundreds of dollars to create these designs for you. You have full creative license to design what you want.

If you don’t like it, you can change it as many times as you like, until you do. It’s as easy as that.

It’s also good for you to learn these tools from the outset because it will mean that you won’t be too reliant on someone else’s time and talents. You can be more self-reliant when it comes to these little things and that will boost your confidence as a newbie business owner.

You can also use Fiverr to hire folks for $5 (it starts at $5) for a wide variety of tasks. For example, if you need a podcast intro, then a person on Fiverr can create it for you. Or if you need your book cover designed, Fiverr can help with that as well.

This way you don’t have to do it all yourself if you don’t want to. You can use Fiverr for all those design tasks that you aren’t up to.

Start Your Social Media Channels (Budget $0)

This is another positive thing about living in the 21st century. There are many social media channels available for business owners to use as they, please.

A lot of these social media channels want businesses to build profiles there and will give you access to tools that can help you understand how your followership is growing and what you can do better.

Don’t feel overwhelmed though. Start by picking 2-3 social media channels that you believe your audience is on. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter are the most popular ones.

But you don’t have to stick to these. If you feel some other social media channel would do your business better, then go with that.

Once you have chosen your social media channels, you will want to spend some time creating your business profile there. It’s not as easy as when you created your personal profile.

You will have to spend some time thinking about your brand’s color scheme and what your message to your audience should be. Write all this down, so you aren’t scrambling at the end to build social media posts.

Once you know what your purpose in creating social media posts is, you will be able to create more tailored posts that will engage your audience better.

Start consistently posting on all the social media channels you’ve picked out. Post 2-3 times a week when you first begin and then taper off to once a week, when your business is more established.

You can ‘hire’ your son or daughter to do this for you, and pay them by allowing them to use the family car or something else like that. It will get them involved in the business and allow them to learn something new as well.

Marketing and Advertising on Social Media (Budget $0)

The brilliant thing about social media is that a lot of the advertising and marketing you do on there is FREE. Yes, that’s right.

Of course, you can do paid advertising on Instagram or Facebook. But first, you will want to begin by using free marketing channels. This way you can gauge if there’s demand for your product or not.

Marketing on social media is all about consistency and relevance. You will want to post images, videos, or other items that speak to your audience. Also, don’t forget to use humor intermittently to get your audience to laugh and connect with you further.

Build a connection with your audience by speaking from the heart and sharing authentic stories. Don’t pretend to be a big brand. Appeal to their heartstrings by showing them you are a new business starting out and trying to make it in this big bad world.

A lot of online business owners began by only using social media channels and were able to build up their businesses to magnificent heights. All without spending a dime on advertising.

You can do the same! Once you have some profits rolling in, you can start putting money into Google Ads, or Facebook Ads. Don’t do this yourself though. Get an expert to help you, since these advertising algorithms are quite complicated and require expert knowledge to work right.

Ask Friends and Family for Help at First (Budget $0)

Don’t feel shy, embarrassed, or worried about asking your friends or family to help you at the beginning of your online business journey. They will be more than happy to help you out in exchange for some food, snacks, or drinks.

And you can get free, cheap labor at first, which can aid your business in getting off the ground without getting into debt. This can be crucial since cash flow is going to be the most important thing holding your online business growth back.

You can use your friends or family members to pack boxes if you are shipping items, or to create packages. There are many stories on the blogosphere of online business owners who started their businesses in their teens from their parent’s homes and used their parents and siblings as workhorses. Why not do the same??

You can also ask your friends and family to spread the word about your business, by giving you referrals or “selling” your products to their friends. People love supporting small businesses, especially those run by friends of friends. If you have a worthy product, once they get hooked on it, you will have a customer for life.

Also, you can get feedback from these friendly customers about how to improve your product, so you can be prepared once you launch in the real world to strangers.

Think about it this way. Wouldn’t you buy from a friend’s business, if they were just starting out? Then why shouldn’t your friends do the same for you?

Starting an Online Business on Zero Budget Is Possible

Don’t hold yourself back from starting an online business of your dreams, even if you don’t have that much in savings. You can start an online business from your garage or your home, and do it with zero budget. There’s no doubt about it, as many others have successfully done so in the past.

If you are still interested in more information on online business marketing or related topics, please browse through our website. And don’t forget to bookmark our site, so you can come back and check on updated blog posts. We are constantly adding new content.