If you’ve ever worked in a job that you didn’t enjoy, you’ve likely thought about entrepreneurship. I know when I worked as a nurse, I often dreamed of being my own boss and working from home, but back then, I had the mindset that you needed a lot of money to start a business.
Luckily, with advances in technology, it is easier and more affordable than ever to launch a business from home!
In today’s post, I’m covering six ways you can start a business with no money!
1. Digital Side Gigs
If the web were around when I was younger, I would have spent so much time testing out different digital side gigs.
With digital side gigs, you can complete various tasks like taking surveys, testing websites, offering advice, answering questions, completing administrative tasks — the possibilities are endless!
While you’re not going to get rich completing micro-tasks, it’s an excellent way for you to start making some money on your own terms. It also gives you experience, and it doesn’t take any money to get started!
Here are some of my favorite digital side gigs to check out:
Hires freelance virtual assistants to complete one-off tasks like research, appointment setting, and answering emails. Each mini assignment pays between $3-$7, and payments are distributed every other Tuesday.
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 they take their 20% cut. While this may not seem like a lot of money, 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.
JustAnswer hires independent contractors in various niches (lawyers, nurses, doctors, mechanics, tech experts, etc.) to share their expertise and answer questions online. They currently have an urgent need for experts in the areas of appliances, computers, electronics, finance, and veterinarians. Must be from the US or Canada, and payments are distributed via PayPal monthly.
Respondent recruits individuals from around the world to participate in focus group studies, one-on-one interviews, website testing gigs, and unmoderated surveys. According to their website, the average study takes 30-90 minutes and the payout is around $60-$140 per study. At the time of writing this post, there was one remote diary study that paid $450 for 150 minutes. Payments are issued via PayPal.
Survey Junkie recruits individuals for attitudinal research studies such as paid surveys and focus groups, as well as behavioral research studies which include opting in to sharing your online browsing activity and behaviors. Points that you earn can be redeemed for gift cards from major retailers and cash via PayPal. Survey Junkie accepts users from the US, Canada, and Australia.
Swagbucks is an online platform where you can earn points called SB, which can be redeemed for gift cards from Amazon, Target, Starbucks, PayPal, and Walmart. 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. Swagbucks also gives you a $5 bonus for signing up!
User interviews recruits individuals from around the globe to participate in surveys, focus groups, and website testing gigs. Most studies take between 30-120 minutes and pay between $40-$200 per study.
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 for Free
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.
You will need some tools to get started, but here is a list of my favorite free blogging tools for beginners:
- Canva – Free online graphic design tool
- Elementor – Free design plugin
- Sendinblue – Free email marketing service
- The Work at Home Woman – Free 28-page blogging e-book
Related Content: How to Make Money Blogging Fast
3. Provide Child Care Services
As a teen, babysitting was my bread and butter. I’d babysit my dad’s co-worker’s kids, neighborhood kids, my siblings, as well as children from the church we attended. It was an easy way to make extra money, and obviously, I didn’t spend a dime on advertising my services. While most of my clients were from word of mouth referrals, I was also able to offer my services on the local bulletin board at our church.
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 and, they’re free!
You can also check out on-demand platforms that connect caretakers with caregivers. If you choose to use these platforms, they’ll take a small percentage of the total transaction fee.
Of course, you can use this same business model to start almost any service-based business for free.
Here are a few service-based businesses you can start with zero money, or you can use an on-demand app to connect you with potential customers:
4. Provide Freelance Writing Services
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.
Freelance Job Boards:
- Constant Content
- 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; social media sites are free to join and are great for building your customer base.
Not a writer? No problem! Most of these freelance sites have gigs for proofreaders, bookkeepers, graphic designers, virtual assistants, editors, transcribers, and so much more! If you have a professional skill that you can offer to the public, use this free business model to start your own freelance business.
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
- Mayvenn – Haircare Products
- She Anna Bella – Jewelry, Handbags, and Scarves (Canadian)
- Spreadshirt – Graphic tees, Hoodies, Mugs, and More
- StyleChest – Clothing
- Stylevate – Clothing
- Teespring – Graphic Tee Shirts, Bags, Pillows, and Mugs
- Wink Kitten – Sells fake lashes.
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 For Money
You can pretty much sell anything online nowadays, from old clothing and books to CDs, DVDs, games, toys, printables, art, crafts, cars, and so much more. To get started, look around your house to see what you’re no longer using, use the platforms below to sell your unwanted belongings, and cash in!
Sell Stuff Online:
- Amazon – Anything
- eBay – Anything
- Gazelle – Electronics
- SellBackBooks.com – Text Books
- thredUP – Clothing
Meet In-Person to Sell Stuff:
Design and Sell Things Online:
- Absolute Arts – Art
- Creative Market – Stock Photos, Printables, Templates, and Fonts
- Saatchi Art – Art
- Society 6 – Everything
- SpreadShop – Tee Shirts and Merchandise
- Teespring – Apparel, Home Decor, and Accessories
While selling items might not seem like a business, some individuals turn it into one by reselling. Often called retail arbitrage, this is where individuals buy something for cheap and then sell at a higher price for a profit.
I’ve interviewed two ladies who do this full-time:
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.
One Last Word About No-Cost Business Opportunities
As you can see, there are a lot of businesses you can start with no money! But no matter which business you plan on launching, you should create a business plan to help guide your way.
Not sure where to get started?
Grab our FREE simplified business plan template to help you craft a simple business plan, that will cover all your bases and set you up for entrepreneurial success!
Do you know of a free business opportunity? Drop us a note below; we’d love to know about it!
Originally published September 5, 2013. Content updated October 28, 2020.