How To Start An Online Business With NO Money
So you want to start an online business, but you don’t have any money. Guess what, I was in that same spot a year ago, and I’m gonna share how to start an online business with no money, no email list, no followers in 5 detailed steps.
My “Broke Entrepreneur” Story
A year ago, I started Chrys Media, my online educational company that runs online conferences and courses for entrepreneurs and marketers, especially for those who have an online business. Right now, we have had more than 8,000 people attending our online conferences and learning all about marketing, business, SEO, and so on.
Before I started Chrys Media, I was actually the co-founder of 2 different startups back in Singapore. Both businesses failed, and I was totally bumped out and broke.
So when I decided to start Chrys Media, I had very little money to advertise or to pay for stuff. I had to figure out how to start and grow my online business with no money, no employees, no following, no fame, whatsoever.
And a lot of people that I’ve spoken to are in this position. Maybe you have a mortgage to pay, college tuition, bank loans, your kid’s education, and so on.
The great thing about starting an online business is that you can opt out of paying for a lot of the traditional business expenses such as office rental, store rental, full-time employees, furniture, equipment, rental insurance, and so on.
Step One: Figure Out What You Want Your Business To Be About
The first thing that you need to do is to figure out what you’re interested in and what you’re good at. Maybe you have experience in sales, or maybe you’re a genius with e-commerce.
In my case, I had 7+ years of experience in advertising and 3+ years of running my own business. I love everything related to marketing and being an entrepreneur and I knew that I wanted to make this my online business.
Want to go one step further and learn how to validate your idea? Take my free 4-day email course on Validating Your Business Idea.
Step Two: Go Niche
Once you’ve figured what you would enjoy doing, it is time to think niche. So for example, maybe you are interested in teaching people how to get more clients. So now you might be thinking that every service provider wants more clients, and so you should be targeting everyone who might be interested in your service, for example a coach, a lawyer, etc right?
The mistake that many entrepreneurs make is targeting too broad. Instead, go niche and figure out which small group of people you can target. In this example, it could be teaching women fitness trainers in Houston, Texas, how to get more clients.
Because you know exactly who to target, you can focus all your efforts on figuring out where your target audience hangs out and what they would need to grow their business. From there you can create content that would resonate well with this small group of audience.
Of course, once your online business gets bigger, you can widen that circle of target audience. But at the beginning, you’ll want to micro-focus on a small group of people.
Step Three: Deciding On The Products
An online business typically falls into 2 categories: digital products a.k.a infoproducts and online services.
Digital products are things like an e-book, an online course, an online membership, audio files, and videos. Some digital products like e-books or audio files are super easy to create, while other digital products like starting an online membership portal is more complicated and might require some money if you don’t know your way around WordPress or coding.
Back to the example of teaching others how to get more clients. Without any money involved, you can write an e-book about getting more fitness clients or teach an online course about that. With an e-book, you can write the entire book in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and design the cover with Canva.
To start an online course, all you need to do is to record videos and have notes prepared, and all you need is a camera (whether its a professional camera or your phone camera) and preferably a mic. There’s an online course platform that I use and recommend and it’s called Teachable, and they have a basic Free plan that allows you to host and sell your online courses.
An online service is basically you providing some sort of service and doing work for a customer. That could be you providing social media marketing services or graphic design services. Or in the getting more clients example, you could provide a service of helping women fitness coaches find more clients or coaching them how to get more clients.
Step Four: Getting People Aware Of Your Business
Once you’ve created your digital product or defined your service, it is time to move on to step four: Marketing your online business.
Just because you have an e-book or an online course or a service doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to start buying from you or paying you for your service. You need to make your target audience aware of your business and you need to develop trust.
The first thing you want to do is to figure out which medium is best to reach your target audience. Is it Instagram? Is it LinkedIn? Is it a YouTube channel?
Regardless of whichever marketing channel you decide to focus on, it has to be where your target audience hangs out. Don’t waste your time on Instagram if your target audience are not on Instagram. I choose to reach my target audience using YouTube because I personally love YouTube and I use it to find answers, to get inspired, to be entertained. YouTube is also the second largest search engine and many entrepreneurs and marketers like myself use YouTube as a search engine. This is why I want to be on it.
Step Five: Give Away Free But Useful Content To Establish Authority And Grow Reach
Once you’ve figured out which medium you want to focus on, you need to create free content for your target audience. Some people don’t like giving away free content because they are afraid no one is going to buy from them or need their service since they’re giving away the good stuff for free.
However, the truth is the exact opposite. People need to know that you know your stuff and what to expect with your digital product or your service.
For example, I give away 1 or 2 free sessions for each online conference that I run. This video – it’s free content that I’m giving away. My articles, the interviews that I give… all are free content to build brand awareness, trust, and connection with my audience.
Now you don’t need to spend any money creating content. The video at the beginning was shot with my iPhone 7 and a mic and edited with the free iMovie software. Similarly, you don’t need to pay anything to shoot pictures for your Instagram account or to write an article on your blog.
Some other types of free content include checklists, free e-books, free guides, free course via email, infographics, worksheets, workbooks, and so on.
What About Creating A Website/Paid Ads? Those Cost Money, Right?
Now, you might be wondering, “Chrys, what about creating a website? That costs money right?” or “Do I need to pay for paid ads like Facebook ads?”
Thankfully, there are so many free options these days. If you don’t have the money to start an online business, don’t let it stop you, you just need to work harder and put in more time.
For example, a website can be created for free using WordPress. If you don’t know how to use WordPress, this is what I mean by putting in more time versus money. Spend time watching YouTube videos and learn how to setup a WordPress website on your own so that you don’t have to pay for a website designer or developer.
Always keep in mind that at the early stage, creating a simple website with very few pages is better than spending too much time or money creating a beautiful or complicated website. Get your first sale or client before you go all fancy. Or even better, instead of a website, you can create a landing page for free using MailChimp’s free landing pages creator.
This page was created using the MailChimp free landing pages creator.
If you want to sell your digital product, there are free platforms out there that don’t charge a monthly fee. For online courses, I recommend hosting and selling your courses on Teachable or Thinkific. If it’s an e-book, you can use FetchApp.
And here’s the thing – don’t think about paid ads right now. There are so many ways to promote your digital product or service for free without going down the paid ads route. Of course, paid ads accelerate everything but at this stage and when you have no money, you’ll want to focus on other types of marketing tactics.
5 Steps Round Up
So that’s the five steps on starting an online business with no money. First you think about what you enjoy doing and you’re good it. Second, figure out a small group of people that you want to target as your customers. Third, decide what you are going to sell – digital products, your service, or both. Fourth, decide which marketing channel you want to focus on. It has to be where your target audience hangs out. Fifth, create and giveaway free content targeted at your target audience.
Now, some of you might be thinking of promoting other people’s stuff a.k.a affiliate marketing. That works as well – in this case, you’ll want to figure what type of products you want to promote as an affiliate.
If you love cars, for example, maybe you can focus on promoting car-related products. There are several websites to find affiliate products, some of them are Clickbank, Amazon, and ShareASale.
What is your greatest barrier to starting an online business, and how do you plan on breaking that barrier? Let me know in the comments below!
Chrys was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at an early age. By age 27, Chrys has started and ran two online businesses. Chrys now runs Chrys Media, a company that runs online conferences for online entrepreneurs.