November 14, 2020

How To Start An Online Business With No Money: 23 Free Or Dirt Cheap Ways

by Hanson Cheng

How marvelous would it be to get ideas on how to start an online business with no money?

A carefully chosen list of proven tactics that inspire you to launch a booming business, make tons of money, and live life on your terms.

All this with zero (or very little) financial investment.

Best of all, how useful would it be to get the marrow of each business type, learn its pros and cons—plus also find a resource guide for every idea so you can dig deeper and get started fast?

That’s exactly what you’ll get here today.

Let’s begin.

Why Start An Online Business?

Online gigs have exploded over the last decade, and for good reason. Here are five benefits of starting an online business to inspire you.

  1. 1
    Supplement your income: A profitable side gig can significantly boost your regular income. 
  2. 2
    Create your dream life: Starting a side business helps you live your dream lifestyle.
  3. 3
    Secure your financial future: Running a side hustle shields you from financial ruin in case you lose your job or an unforeseen disaster like Covid-19 turns messes up your finances. 
  4. 4
    Reach a worldwide market: Setting up an enterprise online opens up a global market of 1,8 billion potential customers for you.
  5. 5
    Low barrier to entry: Starting an online business only needs a laptop and stable internet connection—no rent, no utilities, no building repairs.

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of starting an online business, let’s move on to the factors you need to succeed.

Things You Need To Start An Online Business (Hint: Money Isn’t Part Of The Equation)

Anyone can succeed with an online business. All it takes is for you to have these four qualities:

  1. 1
    An unshakeable will to succeed: Online ventures are not for the fainthearted. Up to 21,5% of businesses fail in the first year. By the fifth year, the failure rate shoots to 50%. To succeed, you must have a steely resolve and focus.
  2. 2
    A viable niche idea: Because of the allure of bumper online riches, it's easy to dream up out-of-this-world business ideas. Don’t yield to the temptation of running with the first idea that comes to mind. Research your idea. Get a second opinion. Most importantly, test it before going all in.
  3. 3
    A laptop and an internet connection: To rake in internet riches, you must be on the internet, right? So a laptop and a stable Wifi connection are a must. Next, let me sum up where we are going.
  4. 4
    A valuable product/skill and a market that wants it: Here are the three things you need to win in business. A valuable product or service that fills a need on the market.

    A specific target audience that wants the product/service. A unique set of skills that enables you to deliver the product/service to the target market.

Starting An Online Business: The Cliffs Notes

Before we get granular, let me give you a bird’s-eye view of how online business works. Let’s go through a few questions that may bug you about this online business thing.

Do I need a company to sell online?

Nope, you don’t need a formal company to trade online. You can get started and do the paperwork like company registration, employer’s permits, or professional licenses later when your venture has gained traction.

What is a good business to start with no money?

Freelance writing is hands-down the easiest business you can start online. With the exponential growth of content marketing, companies have an insatiable appetite for content to feed the ferocious content beast. Every industry you can think of desperately needs content.

What business is good for beginners?

If you are a beginner, starting an online business can sound daunting. Here are three low to barrier entry online business ideas for beginners.

  1. Coaching and consulting: allow you to leverage the knowledge and experience you already have.

  2. Courses: like coaching, online courses require little. All you have to do is to package your expertise into a palatable course format, and boom you have a product. 

  3. Affiliate marketing: you don’t have to scratch your head developing a product from scratch. Your only duty is to find a hungry market for a product that’s already there. 

What are the successful online businesses?

While there are many online business ideas, these seven models consistently rank on top.

  1. Affiliate marketing.

  2. Freelancing.

  3. Blogging.

  4. Ecommerce store.

  5. Courses and info products.

  6. Amazon FBA business.

  7. Coaching and consulting

How can I start an online business from home?

Technology has made starting a business from home easy.

  1. Discover your niche—a slice of the market that suits you.

  2. Research your target market’s needs and desires.

  3. Establish a product-market fit.

  4. Spy on your competitors to spot gaps.

  5. Develop or source your product/service.

  6. Price accordingly and perfect your product fulfillment system.

Now that the fundamentals are out of the way, let’s dig deeper. 

23 Ways To Make Money Online With (Or Little) Money Investment

It’s time to reveal specific online money-making ideas, a whopping 23 of them. I will describe each idea and show you its pros and cons. Plus, I will also give you the best resource on the topic for further study and so you get started quickly.

Ready?

Let’s dive in

1.Create and Sell eBooks

$16,647 million.

That’s the net worth of the eBook market, according to Statista. Simply put, books can make you bucks, and big bucks at that. Tap into the deep reservoir of your competencies and accomplishments to come up with a marketable ebook.
Pros
  • Charge what you like.
  • Effortless to create if you run a blog with a lot of content.
  • You keep a bigger portion of the sale.
Cons
  • Selling ebooks is hard work.
  • Low prices because the market is flooded.

2.Create A Paid Online Course

You can strike it rich with online courses. Studies reveal e-learning courses will be a $325 billion industry by 2025. If you have unique skills that can solve a problem worth paying for, you can create a highly profitable business based on your experience and expertise.

Pros
  • Very lucrative, make anything from $50 to $1000+ per student.
  • Easy to test the validity of your idea
  • Superb passive income generators.
Cons
  • Course creation is slow, arduous work.
  • Needs heavy marketing to take off.

3.Become An Affiliate Marketer

Do you know the biggest hustle of starting a business from nothing?

Developing an excellent product that fills a market need. 

Affiliate marketing does the hard part for you because you sell someone else’s product. The product is already there. All you have to do is find a market for it.

Pros
  • Zero or very little financial investment to get started.
  • Potential for huge earnings if you sell high-ticket products or already have a lot of traffic.
  • A wide choice that covers every conceivable industry. 
Cons
  • Driving the right traffic to your affiliate pages can be hard.
  • Earnings aren’t guaranteed—no sales, no income.

4.Dropshipping

To sell physical products, you don’t need a vast warehouse to keep your stock.

How then do you operate?

By adopting the drop-shipping model. Drop-shipping allows you to run an online business by taking orders from customers and letting your third-party supplier ship the product.

Pros
  • Super easy to get started.
  • Suppliers do most of the work.
  • Broad product selection since storage space isn’t an issue.
Cons
  • Poor customer service from suppliers hurts your earnings and reputation.
  • Low-profit margins.

5.Become A Freelance Content Writer

Have you always enjoyed writing since childhood?

Do you have a knack for communicating through the written word? Then start an online business as a content writer. Because content makes the internet marketing world go round, job opportunities are plenty.

Pros
  • You choose your rate.
  • Free writing training readily available online.
  • All industries are desperate for skilled writers.
Cons
  • Inconsistent work—the dreaded feast and famine cycle.
  • Lousy pay in some circles.

6.Copywriting Services

Companies exist for one purpose only—to sell.

Copywriting is words that sell. If you master copywriting, companies will pay you hundreds to thousands of dollars for a single sales letter or other sales copy. Thousands of copywriters earn $50k+ per year comfortably.

Pros
  • You only need a laptop to start.
  • Anyone can learn copywriting.
  • Covers every niche on the planet.
Cons
  • Labor intensive.
  • Landing initial clients is hard.

7.Paid Webinars

These days people will pay decent money to access helpful info. Monetize your expertise by coming up with top-notch webinars to help people or brands grow. As long as you serve premium content that meets a need people will pay for, you are in business.

Pros
  • You charge what you want.
  • Work once and get paid many times.
  • Easy to set up through webinar platforms.
Cons
  • Only works for those who are comfortable speaking.
  • Technical glitches can mar your presentation.

8.Virtual Conference

Like webinars, virtual summits are another cheap online business idea you can explore.

Hosting paid virtual conferences is a great fit if you are well connected to the top dogs in your industry. Invite them to come and speak on your chosen topic. Charge potential customers for access to the meaty talks.

Pros
  • Speakers do the heavy lifting.
  • You can sell the recordings again and again.
  • Easy to kick off if you have a powerful network.
Cons
  • You need an impressive lineup of speakers to pull it off.
  • Some people prefer face-to-face live events.

9.Google AdSense

If you have a blog, Google ads are one of the easiest and zero-input ways to monetize it.You display ads that are related to your site’s topic. Whenever users enter a search query on the search engine, land on your ad, and click on it, Google pays you for it.

You can make up to $100+ a day through Google ads.

Pros
  • Big rewards for big well-optimized sites.
  • You earn money while you sleep.
  • Easy to set up.
Cons
  • You don’t have control over your earnings.
  • No clicks, no cash.

10.Sponsored Content

Do you own a blog that’s getting decent traffic? Then you can make money through sponsored content. Charge companies to publish content on your site so they increase brand awareness. You can earn anything from $50-$1000 per post depending on the niche, traffic, and your site's domain authority.

Pros
  • Decent earnings if you own a high-authority site.
  • Maximum gain through minimal effort.
  • You get quality content for free.
Cons
  • Only works for those with established sites.
  • Erratic earnings if not marketed well.

11.Virtual Assistant

Running a successful business involves doing a ton of administrative tasks. These duties can become overwhelming pretty fast.

Make money as a virtual assistant by doing part of these admin duties for companies as a virtual assistant.

Pros
  • Earn a cool $20 to $80 an hour.
  • Specialize to earn more.
  • Wide range of gigs to choose from.
Cons
  • Distractions at home can affect productivity.
  • You get overwhelmed if you don't set a proper schedule.

12.Online Tutoring

People want to learn all kinds of skills and they will pay someone to help them achieve proficiency. 

That's where online teaching comes in to save the day. 

Whether it's learning how to play the guitar, how to start an organic garden in your backyard, or how to raise confident children, there's a market for it out there. 

Pros
  • Many free online teaching platforms for that pro look.
  • Your knowledge and teaching skills are all you need to launch.
  • A wide choice that covers almost everything you can think of.
Cons
  • You must pay to play on the sophisticated learning management systems.
  • Some jobs pay peanuts.

13.SEO Consultant

SEO. 

Three letters that are buzzwords in internet marketing circles. Since every contemporary business needs an online presence, search engine optimization is a must. 

As an SEO consultant, you can make a killing by helping businesses generate qualified traffic and leads through SEO-optimized websites.

Pros
  • Make a respectable $75-$100 an hour.
  • Result-getting in-demand consultants earn princely sums.
  • Demand is high, so you won't be short of gigs.
Cons
  • No verifiable results to show potential clients when you are new.
  • High learning curve-mastering the intricacies of SEO takes a while.

14.Consultancy

What comes to mind when you hear the word consultant?

An office in a high-rise building, a briefcase, a string of credentials from the finest colleges in the country? That’s a wrong perception because a consultant is someone who gives paid expert advice.

Brands need consultants to get unstuck in business, and they’ll fork out good money for them.

Pros
  • Cheap to open a consultancy because you don’t incur any product development expense.
  • People regard consultants highly, so you get paid well.
  • You are in charge of your schedule.
Cons
  • Some brands insist on certifications before they hire you.
  • Promoting your services can be a struggle at first.

15.Life Coaching Proofread info

Everyone wants to grow and become a better person on two levels:

  1. Personally.

  2. Professionally. 

To achieve growth, they need someone to hold their hand, show them the way, and encourage them. You can earn $27k a year as a beginner coach and up to $125.5k as an elite coach.
Pros
  • Lots of free but solid material to help you get started.
  • The higher your skill level, the higher your income.
Cons
  • Coaching certifications are expensive.
  • Getting results can be tough since some clients don't commit fully to change.

16.Editing and Proofreading

Another easy online business you can start easily is offering editing and proofreading services. Every brand wants to present themselves in the best light so they want a flawless copy.

The sweet part?

They need freelance editors and proofreaders to do it. That’s where you come in.

With 4,7 million blog posts and millions of other types of content published every day, job opportunities are plenty.
Pros
  • You determine your rates.
  • Your laptop is all you need to start.
  • You take as much work as you can manage.
Cons
  • Basement prices because of oversupply on the market.
  • Labor and time-intensive.

17.Data Entry

If you love typing, know your way around the computer, and have an eye for detail, then the data entry job is yours. 

Because modern business is data-based, companies need workers to feed data into their systems.

Pros
  • Zero investment needed to start.
  • Easy to do-it doesn't require any specialized skills.
  • Wide variety of jobs to choose from.
Cons
  • Low pay because it doesn't need any technical skill.
  • Slow typing speed equals low pay.

18.Logo Making

Do you have a passion for design?

Are you titillated by everything related to art? 

If you answered yes to these two questions, you can become a professional logo designer. It's a very lucrative business you can do during your spare time.

Pros
  • High-paying—make at least $100 per logo design.
  • Flexible, so you choose your working hours.
  • Cherry-pick which clients you want to work with.
Cons
  • Dealing with unreasonable client expectations.
  • Admin work like following up clients for overdue invoices.

19.Video and Audio Editing

Video content is all the rage, and its surge continues. 

Becoming a video editor can produce a steady stream of income for you.

Pros
  • Niche down and earn more.
  • Video content is on the rise, so jobs are many.
  • Plenty of free video editing software, so starting is easy.
Cons
  • A specialized skill not everyone can master.
  • Need to invest in software and equipment for top-notch work.

20.Sales Funnel Specialist

Want to know the secret to have a high-income business?

Two words. 

Sales funnel

Brands know the power of an optimized funnel so they pay premium amounts for funnel building or optimization. 

So if you have a long track record in sales and know how online marketing works, sales funnel optimization is a perfect fit.

Pros
  • Highly paying gig.
  • Not for everyone because it demands a specific skill set.
  • Very low competition because it's a niche skill.
Cons
  • High-paying jobs can be scarce.
  • Price resistance because it's a high-value skill that demands high pay.

21.Mastermind Groups

Success comes faster when you are surrounded by like-minded peers, so you challenge and inspire each other along the way. 

That's what mastermind groups are all about.

The best masterminds bring phenomenal growth in a short time. So people don’t mind joining one.

Pros
  • Recurring income.
  • Easy to start if you are an industry veteran.
  • Success generates word-of-mouth marketing for faster growth.
  • High-ticket ones bring in bumper income.
Cons
  • Poor leadership, poor results.
  • Unsuitable for newbies.

22.Virtual Personal Training

If you are a fitness junkie, you can start an online business as a virtual personal trainer. 

Keeping fit best happens when you have a mentor and accountability partner.

The good news?

More and more people now realize staying fit is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Pros
  • Start immediately from the comfort of your home.
  • You can scale by selling workout plans.
  • There is an extensive hungry market.
Cons
  • Mistrust because of a proliferation of fake fitness gurus.
  • Technical glitches can affect the quality of the program.

23.Bookkeeping & Accounting

Are you a savvy bookkeeper or accountant? 

Then take your skills online and create another income stream for yourself. Many small businesses cannot afford powerhouse accounting firms, so they rely on freelance accountants.

Pros
  • Set your preferred rate.
  • Countless free accounting software available.
  • No need for expensive equipment.
Cons
  • Risk of data breaches when sharing sensitive financial info.
  • Some companies expect basement prices from freelancers.

How To Start A Business Online With No Money: Doable And Highly Profitable

In short, how to start an online business with no money sounds like a far-fetched dream, but it isn’t.

It’s all about tapping into your skills, passion, and background. Once you do, match them with a solid business idea and go for it.

With over 2,14 billion people globally expected to buy goods and services online in 2021, the time to start is now.

Don’t keep your customers waiting.

Last Updated on December 20, 2020 by Hanson Cheng


About the author

Hanson Cheng

Living in Bali with my Fiancee and puppy, (Alina and Pickles). Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter. Always happy to hear from you, so find me on Instagram if you want to say hi!

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