Updated: Mar 10, 2019
How to start a small business with little to no money - summary version
Taking the steps to start your own online business can be exciting and scary, and if you don't have a lot of money to invest, it can make the decision downright painful.
There are several things to consider when starting an online business:
This is where you'll want to take the time to focus on the type of business you want to start, the customers you're targeting, the trends in the market you plan on being in, and the best ways to reach those customers. Do you have a niche'? Are people interested in buying the products you plan on selling.
How are you going to raise money? Do you have money in savings, or do you plan on requesting a loan or a grant?
If your plan is to request a loan, you'll want to pay close attention to your credit, you'll also need to keep in mind any collateral you may have. You'll need to pay attention to what you can afford monthly and ensure that you don't over-extend yourself.
If your plan is to pursue a grant, SBA (Small Business Association) is a good source of resources. They offer a lot of free information, as well as self assessments and planning tools. They also have tips and steps to take to prepare you for applying for a loan as well.
Another option may be crowd-funding. This is where you create a campaign, and start by getting your friends and family to fund your account until you reach your goal.
SOCIAL MEDIA & MARKETING
Getting customers can be tricky at times, and you can end up spending a lot on marketing if you don't do some thorough research. If you have the money for marketing, more power to you, but if you're like I was you may not have a lot to spend on advertising.
Try free avenues before spending money. Social media can be an effective tool in informing future customers of your products and it's a way for your customers to get to know you and trust you.
One thing you can do is to start selling on Amazon. Customers are more likely to complete purchases with a vendor that they trust based on reputation.
Reputation plays a big part in whether a customer buys from you or not. If the customer doesn't know you, or your site, you can have the best product line, with the best advertising, the best website with the cheapest prices, but no traffic. If your customers don't know you and in turn don't trust your site, they won't buy.
PRODUCTS & VISUAL PRESENTATION
Do you make your own products? Will you be buying wholesale?
If you make your own product line it won't be too difficult of a task to build inventory. You can easily asses how much it costs to make each item and then do some calculations to determine how much to charge. It would also be an easier avenue in regards to posting your products online as you would simply need to take pictures and then post them to your site.
You'll want these pictures to be of high quality - preferably high-definition, as visitors to your site will be more receptive to the high quality content, and they will be more likely to stay engaged.
If you're buying wholesale on the other hand, you'll want to research the reviews of the wholesaler, along with their policies. Some wholesalers will allow you to use their images on your site as long as you plan on buying from them when a customer purchases that product from you. You'll also want to stay away from buying wholesale lists (if possible).
If you don't have the time to complete your own research, I would suggest paying someone a small fee to do the research for you. Some of these wholesale list sites offer these lists for as much as $200-$300. You can compile your own list for free with some Google searches.
BUILD A WEBSITE
In this day and age, it's extremely easy to obtain a free website. If you're plan is to work with a smaller audience, maybe even friends and family - a free site is a great avenue. No monthly fees. The only downside is, the site provider will usually post their name on the footer (Ex: Hosted by ABCD.com"). If you don't want your web host to be known, there are still economical choices that can cost as little as $7 (possibly cheaper) month with a subscription.
Take the time to do your research.
Discover alternative avenues for raising capital (like having a yard sale or participating in crowd sourcing)
Build a social audience
Pay attention to your delivery of products and services