How to Start an Online Business – Even When You’re Broke

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Got big business aspirations, but no money?

Fortunately, setting up a successful online business doesn’t have to cost much. 

Most of the time all you need is the drive, confidence, and a great personal website. And since you can build a website for as little as $0 per month, there is nothing holding you back but yourself.

If you need some inspiration, here are 7 of our best ideas for starting an online business when you’re broke.

1. Virtual assistant 

Kickstart your business by helping other businesses, for a fee.

As a virtual assistant, you could offer a huge range of services to fellow entrepreneurs and busy professionals alike. 

People are willing to pay for convenience, so think about what skills you could monetize. 

What you could do

There are so many directions you could go in as a virtual assistant. 

From flexing your creative muscles to being an organizational pro, it all depends on what you’re good at. And what you enjoy, too. 

Businesses are often looking to outsource tasks like:

  • Video editing
  • Copywriting
  • Proofreading
  • Data entry

How you could do it

Once you’ve decided which services you can offer, build an impactful website and make your online presence known. 

Focus on nurturing online relationships – nobody loves an avid self-promoter. 

Be active on LinkedIn and find business forums or communities to join. Networking is free, so get to it.

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2. Business or lifestyle coach

If you want to use your skills of influencing others, look no further for a better business idea.

People are constantly trying to work on themselves – self-improvement is a booming industry. 

If all you have is confidence and experience, you can still set up a profitable business.

What you could do

There are loads of opportunities with online coaching.

If you’re a business pro, consider what’s important to companies. Presenting skills, negotiation know-how, and management tips are always valuable.

Or help improve lives. Could you be an online stylist? Do your friends go to you for dating advice? Capitalize on it.

How you could do it

You’ll need to build a personal brand if you want to be a trusted advisor.

Find a well-lit room, put your phone somewhere steady, and create short, impactful videos. 

Then find where your audience is. You can utilize sites like YouTube and Instagram for free. And don’t forget your personal website, too.

Man Designer Working on Desktop Computer

3. Brand designer

This is a great move for creative types who want commercial success.

Some entrepreneurs are all about the product. They need someone else to come in and help design the visual components of their brand identity.

Building a strong brand is vital to online businesses, and you should capitalize on that.

What you could do

If you have certified design skills, think about all the different parts of a brand you could conceptualize.

Typography, color palettes, logos, even social media accounts: businesses need to be unique to stand-out. Be sure to offer a full-service package.

How you could do it

Make sure you have a strong portfolio of design work.

Having an impact starts with creating a website that truly reflects your skillset. You’ll be building brands, so start by perfecting your own.

Showcase everything you can offer. You could even just be a consultant – remember, people will pay for advice.

Facebook on a browser open on a computer

4. Social media consultant

Are you a social media whizz? Do you know what it takes to gain more followers?

Businesses are often looking for social media consultants. It’s a huge part of online marketing, and an expert can seriously profit from it.

If you’re a real pro, you won’t need money to start this business.

What you could do

Alongside generating content for businesses, there’s a lot you can do to diversify this role.

Offer to create long-term content plans, network with influencers, and use social listening to help with marketing strategies.

Here are some of the hats you could be wearing:

  • Social media manager
  • Social media strategist
  • Micro influencer

How you could do it 

You’ll need to prove you know what you’re talking about, so ensure you have a solid social media presence yourself.

Decide whether you want to have a niche or to be more generalized, then create a personal website that reflects what you specialize in.

Use social networking to get to know brands. This business idea takes time, but very little money and it can be oh-so-worth it.

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5. Dropshipper

If you dream of opening an online store, but you’re broke, here’s the answer.

A dropshipping business model will just cost you time and effort to begin with. You only start spending money when you start making money.

What you could do

You can build an online store selling pretty much anything if you use dropshipping. Just keep it edited.

The more considered your product offer looks, the more trustworthy you will appear to shoppers.

Sell products you like and build a story around them. Storytelling costs nothing, but it’s amazingly effective.

How you could do it 

It all starts with the perfect website. Choose a layout that looks aspirational and suits your product range.

Consider selling on Instagram or Facebook, too. It’s free and will drive traffic to your store.

Find wholesalers who aren’t already shipping to the whole world of online retailers. You want your stuff to stand out, right?

Woman-painting-on-canvas

6. Art seller

Know the difference between expressionism and impressionism? Just appreciate good art?

You can go from broke to booming with an art marketplace. All it takes is a beautiful website, good taste, and some networking skills – like any great business idea.

What you could do

There are millions of talented artists in the world. You could create an online marketplace for some of them. 

They get sales, you get a commission. You could compete with big names in the art world with a broad mix of styles, or keep it niche.

How you could do it

Start out with networking. We know, you’ve heard that before. 

But building a great network won’t cost anything, and it’ll end up making you money in the future.

Find a few artists whose work you love and offer to sell their work. Consider what you can offer them, like competitive commission rates or a great social media presence.

Older man working on handcrafts and paint

7. Artisan

We love encouraging crafters to monetize their side hustles.

Doing your hobby as a job can be super rewarding. And eCommerce sales for homemade and handmade items are surging.

What you could do 

Think about what you’re talented at making, and research market demand for it. Look for a niche that’s profitable.

Always check you’ll get a good return on investment. If something costs you a lot of time or materials to create, it might not be viable in the long-term.

How you could do it

If you’re broke, social media is your friend. 

Utilize Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, and Pinterest to get your business out there.

You can set up an account with an online marketplace, like Etsy or Folksy, but be aware of the listing fees. 

Making a one-time payment for your own online store might be a better move. You’re in charge of your own aesthetic, and nobody else takes a cut of your profits.

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Written by

Author avatar

Olivia

Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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