Recently, I received an email from an individual who was looking for an online business opportunity. This person had just moved to a rural area and was unable to make the long commute to their prior job. Another obstacle this person faced was the issue of needing money ASAP to pay for bills and daily living expenses. However, they still wanted the flexibility and perks of being their own boss.
While this might sound like a hopeless case, it’s not.
There are actually quite a few options for individuals who want to run their own business with little or no startup fees.
Home Businesses You Can Start With No Money
1. Digital Side Gigs
If the web were around when I was younger, I would have spent so much time trying out digital side gigs. Digital earning revolves around completing short tasks, like testing websites, watching videos, using smartphone apps, completing surveys, and so much more!
While you’re not going to get rich completing micro-tasks, it is an excellent way for you to get some cash flow coming in.
Here are some digital side gigs to check out:
Fancy Hands hires freelance virtual assistants to complete mini-tasks like online research, answering emails, booking travel, making appointments, data entry, and lots more. Tasks pay anywhere from $3.00 – $7.00 for newbies and go up from there. Payments are made every other Tuesday via Dwolla, and you can work any time of the day or night.
Fiverr is an online platform where you can sell mini freelance services like designing a logo, writing an advertisement, editing a photo or video, image creation, voice-overs, and so much more. With Fiverr, most gigs are priced at $5.00, which means you'll earn $4.00 after the platform takes their cut. While you may think this is a waste of time, some Fiverr freelancers have been known to rake in six-figures a year! If you're interested in Fiverr, check out the book, The Fiverr Master Class: The Fiverr Secrets Of Six Power Sellers.
InboxDollars allows you can earn cash for surveys, reading emails, playing games, redeeming coupons, searching the web, and shopping online. Membership is free, and you’ll receive $5.00 for signing up. Payments are made via check. InboxDollars, which is part of CotterWeb Enterprises, Inc. has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Respondent is a research institution that conducts focus group studies, surveys, and website testing for major brands and companies. Most studies take between 30 – 90 minutes, and the average payout is $60 – $140 per study. Respondent accepts users from all over the world and pays out via PayPal.
Swagbucks is an online platform where you can earn points called SB, which can be redeemed for gift cards and coupons. You can easily earn SB points by watching videos, playing games, answering questions, shopping online, and even surfing the web using their toolbar. Refer your friends, and you’ll earn even more SB points. Your SB points can be traded in for gift cards from Amazon, Target, Starbucks, PayPal, and Walmart. Swagbucks also gives you a $5 bonus for signing up! Swagbucks, which is part of Prodege, LLC, has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau.
While digital side gigs may not seem like a lot of money initially, every little bit adds up! One entrepreneur I know, Lori Cheek, has been able to use side gigs to fund her dating app business. You can read about her success with side gigs here.
2. Start a Blog
Obviously, I’m a huge advocate for starting your own monetized blog. However, it does become a bit tricky when you’re trying to do it for free. First, you have two options for getting started – you can either use the free WordPress option or Blogger, which is a commercial-free platform. Both have similar features regarding functionality and design, and both can be monetized, but only through their respective ad networks.
What this means is that you’re able to monetize your blog, but only by using WordAds or Blogger’s Adsense ads. WordPress does allow affiliate marketing on their free platform — as long as you comply with their terms. Using a free platform may limit your earning potential, but it gives you the initial foundation for building an audience. Once you have a little bit of money rolling in, you can easily transfer your blog over to the paid version of WordPress, where you will be able to monetize your blog any way you want.
And when you do, make sure to check out these posts on monetization:
- How to Work with Brands: Learning the Ropes of Influencer Marketing
- How to Get Your First Blog Advertiser
- Making Money With Affiliate Marketing
3. Provide Child Care Services
As a teen, babysitting was my bread and butter. I would babysit my father’s co-worker’s children, the neighborhood kids, my siblings, as well as children from the church we attended. It was an easy way to make some money, and obviously, I didn’t spend any money on advertising my services. While most of my clients were from word of mouth referrals, I was also able to offer my childcare services on the local bulletin board at our church, and I told everyone I wanted to work.
You, too, can make good money by offering your services as a nanny, babysitter, or elderly caretaker. Gather up some positive referrals from friends and family members and then spread the word that you’re open for business. Places like Facebook, Craigslist, and local bulletin boards are great places to promote your business (plus, they're free)!
Always remember to personally connect with neighbors, friends, and family and let them know about your services. You can also check out third-party platforms like Care.com, SitterCity, Bambino, and Task Rabbit, where they connect caretakers with caregivers. If you are connected with a job on one of these platforms, they'll take a small percentage of the total transaction fee.
4. Freelance Writing
You don’t need to be an English major to be a freelance writer, in fact, this is an excellent way to make a living if you enjoy writing – and the more you write, the better you get.
While I’m not an advocate of selling yourself short or devaluing your worth, there is a time and a place for freelance job sites. These sites are job boards for freelancers and businesses; it is a place to connect, shop around, and, most importantly, get some money into your pocket. While many of these sites may offer smaller payouts, they are a great place to gain experience and build up your portfolio.
- People Per Hour
- Profinder by LinkedIn
- The Work at Home Woman
After you’ve been freelancing for a few months, you should have some good samples, testimonials, and experience that will give you the leverage to start going after better-paying clients. Remember to set up your digital footprint from the beginning; the majority of social media sites are free to join, as well as a basic blog from WordPress or Blogger.
For more information on setting up your freelance business, see Gina Horkey's, 30 Days, or Less to Freelance Writing Success.
5. FREE Internet Business Opportunities
While most direct sales and internet business opportunities have a small startup fee, there are a few that do not. Each company allows you to set up shop online for FREE. Then for each item that is sold through your shop, you'll earn a specified commission.
- Country Scents – Candles, melts, and home decor
- fibi & clo – Sandals and accessories
- J. Elizabeth – T-shirts and tanks
- Kaeser & Blair – Promotional products (free trial kit)
- Linen World – Home products
- Mayvenn – Haircare products
- Nu Skin – Health and beauty
- She Anna Bella – Jewelry, handbags, and scarves (Canadian)
- StyleChest – Clothing
- Stylevate – Clothing
- Teespring – Graphic t-shirts, bags, pillows, and mugs
Looking for something different? Many direct sales companies offer a FREE starter kit if you meet certain milestones during your first 30 – 60 days. You can check out this master list for direct sales opportunities.
6. Sell Stuff Online
You can pretty much sell anything online nowadays, from outgrown children’s clothing to old books, CDs, DVDs, games, toys, printables, art, and so much more.
Here are just a few platforms where you can sell stuff for cash!
Gazelle allows you to sell your old electronics and make some easy cash. Simply find your gadget on their website, answer a few questions, and ship it off for free with their pre-paid envelopes. Payments are made via check, Amazon gift card, or PayPal. Gazelle has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Cash 4 Books is an online business where you can sell new and used books. Grab your books and head to the website; here you’ll be able to enter each book’s ISBN, which is a 10 or 13 digit number that can be found on the back cover or inside the front cover of almost all books. Once you have entered each code, you’ll receive a quote for each book. Next, send your books in with a pre-paid shipping label. Once they receive your books, you’ll be paid either via check or PayPal.
thredUP is a way you can sell your old clothing, shoes, and handbags online. Simply sign up for or a clean out pack online. Once you receive your clean-up-pack, fill it full of clothing, and send it back to thredUp with the pre-paid label and packing slip. Upon receiving your package, thredUp will appraise your clothing and issue a credit which can be withdrawn via PayPal or store credit. Any unsold clothing will be donated with a donation receipt will be issued.
Decluttr is an online platform where you can sell CDs, DVDs, and video games. Just enter the item's barcode on the site to get a quote. Decide which items you’d like to sell and send them in using a pre-paid shipping label. A few days after your items are received, payment will be made by either PayPal, direct deposit, or check.
While selling items might not seem like a business, some individuals turn it into one by buying items cheaply and then turn around and sell it for a higher price.
In fact, Tracy Smith earns $1,200 a month by reselling items on Amazon — you can check out her story here. Melissa Stephenson and her husband earn six figures a year flipping flea market finds on eBay — you can read their story here.
Remember, whatever business you decide to start, you must have a passion for what you are doing. Without enthusiasm and excitement, you’ll become bored and unmotivated, and ultimately it will fail. Don’t just follow the money; remember to follow your heart.
Do you know of a free business opportunity? Drop us a note below; we'd love to know about it!
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Originally published September 5, 2013. Content updated December 10, 2019.
Holly Reisem Hanna is the publisher and founder of The Work at Home Woman, which has been helping individuals find remote careers and businesses that feed their souls since 2009. Through her unconventional career path of holding over 30 jobs and obtaining two college degrees, she’s been able to figure out how to find a career path that you’re truly passionate about. Holly’s had the pleasure of sharing her expertise on sites like CNN, MSN Money, Huffington Post, Woman’s Day Magazine, as well as being recognized by Forbes as one of the “Top 100 Websites for Your Career.” Holly resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband and daughter and enjoys reading, traveling, and yoga.
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