I wish I could say you can start a business with no money, but the truth is you can’t. You’ll need some money, but it doesn’t have to be a lot if you leverage the assets you have. If you plan and budget properly, you can still start your business now.

Fortunately, there are a lot of free or low-cost resources available to the new entrepreneur. High unemployment and a bleak job outlook have caused many people to look for alternatives to finding a new job. This also means the need to start a business on a small budget is great. The result is an environment that supports and serves this ‘start a business on a shoestring’ mindset. Hence, the reason for writing this book.

I am one of those ‘business on a shoestring’ entrepreneurs. This book contains the tips and shortcuts I used to start my business while on unemployment. I’ve found many online companies and resources that offer low-cost or free services that help you create a business with very little money, if you’re willing to commit to the effort. I won’t tell you it’s going to be easy, it won’t. But, if you’re willing to trade sweat equity and self-education for the convenience of hiring or outsourcing certain tasks, you can do it. And, the experience will be priceless.

1. Evaluate your current skills set and assets
Make a list of the skills you have. Then, decide which of them can be marketed to other businesses or people so you can start earning money as soon as possible.
Research your business options. Online businesses are the best way. Look into freelance consulting. Art, writing and customer services may be for good starters. Sites like elance.com are good for writer’s gigs, and Monster.com and Craigslist offer ads for consultants. EzineArticles.com and SelfGrowth.com are good sites to publish your original articles for exposure and building your mailing list.

If you have or can buy the proper office equipment and software, and you have good office and/or bookkeeping skills, becoming a virtual assistant could work well for you. Contact former bosses and former co-workers for referrals to people they know who may be interested in your services.

Ask yourself these questions:
Can you create your own blog or website?
Can you write your own articles and ebooks?
Is there a market for consultants in your previous field of employment?
Do you have administrative skills that you can provide to others as a virtual assistant?
Do you have expertise in a certain subject that’s in demand today?
What kind of office/computer equipment do you already have to create a home office?
What kind of personal/business network do you have, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn? Are you proficient in using them?

Tip: Don’t say anything about your business plans to your current boss or co-workers unless you’re going to be partners in your new business. If you do, it will come back to bite you…I guarantee it!

2. How much of your income/savings can you comfortably invest in your new business
I say ‘comfortably’ because the last thing you need to do is create more stress in your life by putting too much money in your business and not being able to pay your bills. You’ll need a small amount of money each month for things like webhosting, buying cheap services, buying supplies, etc. Maybe you can trade skills with someone you know to get certain services done for you for free.

If you’re still working, or are newly unemployed, I highly recommend starting your business as soon as possible while you still have cash flow. Don’t wait until your money’s running low, or your unemployment benefits are about to expire to get started. It may take a few months before you’re making enough money to live on. And, you can do a lot more and grow your business much faster when you still have an income other than your new business.

3. Find free and low-cost resources on the internet
One of my favorite sites is: www.fivver.com. It’s a place where you can find every kind of service (called gigs) from the normal to the outrageous…for only $5! There are literally 1000s of people offering to do almost everything you can imagine, as long as it’s not porn or illegal. You can spend hours just browsing the site.

As with anything, some of the providers are better than others. You can click on a gig and read the referrals to get an idea of how they work. If it’s a new vendor, you can email them to ask questions or request samples of their work before you buy. And, if you’re not satisfied with their work, you can cancel your order.

You can also sell your services on the site as long as you’re willing to do it for $5. The site keeps $1 of each gig, so your profit will be $4 per gig. I bought a logo, book cover, video testimonial and some great promotional connections on Fivver. I also have several gigs registered, 3 for business and 1 for fun…doing dream interpretations! Wouldn’t you know the dream interpretation is the one that pulled the first sale! One warning though, be careful…it can be addicting…like chocolate!

You’ll also find other no or low-cost products and resources by searching the internet. I have several recommendations for products and services that I or someone I know has used available on my website: www.thewomanexec.com.

4. Use Facebook, Twitter, and other networking sites to promote your business
If you’re proficient with Facebook and Twitter, use them for promoting your business. If you already have established networks on sites like LinkedIn or Ning, let your connections know what you’re doing. They can be invaluable referral and support systems that can greatly accelerate your success. These are established relationships can be connections to other entrepreneurs and professionals who may do business with you because you have friends in common. Depending on what your business is, you may be able to exchange services to get what you need.

Look into using Facebook ads to promote your business. It’s probably the best bang for your advertising buck. Use Craigslist and other free ad sites to market your business as well. Don’t forget flyers and business cards. They still work to keep your business in the public eye.

5. Use the Google Adwords Tool to find a topic for your ebook and products
If you’re a writer, don’t start writing before you check your topic on Google. It helps you determine what the current hot topics are. Very often we want to write about what we love, and that’s ok. But, if your passion project is basket weaving, and you want to make money, it might be a better idea to choose another subject. I’m not saying don’t write the basket weaving ebook, just plan to write another one for profit.

Use the Google Adwords Tool. It can be found at: Google Adwords Tool. Click on the ‘Get keyword ideas’ link at the bottom of the page. Enter your subject phrases in the search box, and type in the green pass code below it. When you hit enter, you’ll get a list of topics with statistics on how many searches come in for the phrase and variations of the phrase. Find the topic that gets the largest number of searches, then choose a variation of that topic that has a smaller number of searches. Choosing one whose search counts are somewhere in the middle, but still within the topic will give you a better chance at getting on page 1 or 2 of the search results.

For instance, my topic ‘start a business’ has over 800,000 searches, but ‘steps to start a business’ only has 9900. This means instead of competing with over 800,000 other references with ‘start a business’ as my topic, I’ll only have 9900 competitors by using ‘steps to start a business’ as my topic. This gives me a much tighter target audience, and 9900 is large enough market to give me good sales. I’ll still be within the topic of the broader search, and a few others so my returns should be good. With a few SEO tweaks and refinements, I could be on page 1 of the search results instead of page 500!

So, now you know it is possible to start a business on a shoestring. All you need is a little knowledge, and a few good tips and you’re on your way.

Here’s to your success!!!

Author's Bio: 

Lyn Williams, real estate investor and online entrepreneur is also the author of Somebody’s Angel (a self-published autobiography), and various other articles and features. In early 2011, she will once again grace the internet on BlogTalkRadio.com. Lyn is a dynamic speaker and seminar facilitator. She holds a B. Msc. degree from the University of Metaphysics at Sedona, AZ and a ministerial license with the International Metaphysical Ministry. She’s also an EFT and REIKI Practitioner, and a member of American Mensa.