4 Tips From Ramit Sethi for Starting a Business With No Money

by Lyle Daly | Published on Nov. 23, 2022

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You don't need money to start your own business.


Key points

  • Even if you're starting a business with no money, you need income and emergency savings for a financial cushion.
  • Focus on the key elements that will make your business successful, including your product, customers, and marketing.
  • Network using your existing connections or social media to reach potential customers.

Starting your own business can be a great way to increase your earning potential and enjoy your work more. Although it's not easy, when you have a small business, you're largely in control of how it works and how much you earn.

One of the first challenges many entrepreneurs face is starting a business with no money. While this makes it more difficult, you don't need a fortune to get your business off the ground. Entrepreneur Ramit Sethi has built multiple successful businesses, and he has some great tips on how to get started with little to no money.

1. Build a financial cushion

To set your business up for success, you need a financial cushion. This will help you get through any obstacles you encounter when starting your business. If you have no income, no savings to pay bills, and you're relying on your business to start making money right away, you're putting yourself in a really tough position. So, what should you have to be safe?

First and foremost, stable income is a must. This could be a job, driving for a rideshare company, or any other way you can earn money to pay your bills. Even though you probably want to spend all your time on your business, the reality is that most small business owners need to work other jobs at first.

Make sure you also have an emergency fund. At a minimum, have enough in a savings account to cover three months of living expenses. This gives you security in case of any financial emergencies.

2. Focus on the essentials

When you're starting a business from scratch, it's important to focus on what's important and forget the rest. Sethi's website says there are three things you need for a business:

  • Something to sell
  • Customers to sell to
  • Marketing to communicate with customers

To make the best use of your time, everything you do for your business should focus on one of those three things. Brainstorming and designing a product is absolutely essential, because without something to sell, you don't have a business. Customer research is also necessary to better know your business's audience.

On the other hand, there's a lot of fluff that isn't worth your time in the early stages. Take making a logo as an example. Logos are important. But when you're starting a business with no money, you won't be able to hire a designer anyway. Even if you can, it's much better to focus on more immediate concerns, like what you're selling.

3. Decide what to sell

Every business involves selling something, even if it's not a physical product. For example, if you go into business as a freelancer, then you're selling the services you offer. Selling is how your business makes money, so a key part of launching your business is deciding what to sell.

Here are a few examples of what a business can sell:

  • Handmade products
  • Services, such as photography or web design
  • Educational materials, such as courses on your subject of expertise

This is often the hardest part of starting a business. Many would-be entrepreneurs have felt stuck in neutral because they don't know what their business should be. One great suggestion Sethi has for finding business ideas is to connect your skills and passion with a business. Make a list of the things you do well, and then think about how you can sell them.

Let's say you're into fitness. Personal training is an obvious way to sell that, but that's not all you could do. Lots of personal trainers branch out and start an online business. They may create and sell specialized routines designed for customers with specific goals. Some also offer a monthly subscription for in-depth workout classes. There are even those who design and market their workout equipment.

4. Network and promote

Once you have a product or service, it's time to get out there and start selling it. And in this case, "get out there" doesn't need to mean actually getting out anywhere, although you can if you want. The internet has made it much easier to reach potential customers.

Look for groups of people who would be a fit for what you're selling. Social media is great for this. Facebook has a wide variety of groups, LinkedIn allows people to connect with others in their industry, and Reddit has subreddits for just about everything. These are all good ways to talk to customers, get feedback, and promote what you're offering.

Now, a word of caution: Don't get too aggressive with how you market your business. People often aren't receptive if you join a group and immediately start trying to sell them stuff.

Remember that all you need to do here is get those first few clients. You might not see results overnight, but if you network with your target audience, it will happen. To give a firsthand example, when I was starting out as a freelance writer, I got clients simply by talking to small business owners on LinkedIn. Once you have some money coming into your business bank account from those first clients, you can build from there.

Don't feel like you need thousands of dollars to start your own small business. There are plenty of ways to build a business with little or no money, as long as you're willing to put in the work.

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