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Starting a business

How to start a business with no money

Last updated: 10 May 2022

There are 3 ways to start a business when you don’t have the funds:

  • Start a business that doesn’t require huge investment
    Start a business whilst still employed
    Source investment

We’ve broken this guide into those 3 sections so you can skip to the part that applies to you.


Start a business that doesn’t require a huge investment

Time really is money. So one way to keep your costs down is to invest time in your business, instead of spending money on it.

For example, you can invest money in Google Ads to promote your business or you can invest your time creating quality content and attracting views to your website or social media channels for free.

You’ll need to commit a lot of time to learn new skills and do all the jobs until you are making enough money to outsource, or even take on your first employee.

It’s a challenge, but you’ll have an advantage when you’re in a position to outsource or hire because you will have a really good understanding of what you need – because you’ll have done the job yourself.

You can also start a business without investing much time OR money by basing it on skills or services that you’ve already got. Then you only need a computer and an internet connection to get started:

  • Offering consultancy services based on your knowledge or experience
  • Creating digital products of your knowledge and skills
  • Creating online courses, ebooks or instructional videos
  • Establishing a large following on any social media platform creates lots of opportunities for making money through advertising or promotional content
  • Offering services such as writing, social media, design or marketing which can be promoted through platforms like Fiverr or Upwork.

Sites like eBay, Etsy and Amazon make it possible to sell things without any upfront costs and you can even use dropshipping so you don’t have to buy or ship the products yourself. It’s certainly not easy but it is possible to make them profitable and scalable.

There are also lots of opportunities for offering services offline that do not require an initial huge investment such as tutoring, fitness instruction, caring, gardening and dog walking.


Start a business whilst still employed

Many of our customers start businesses whilst still working their day jobs.

This, obviously, requires meticulous management of your time. If you’d like help with time management, respond to this email and I’ll send you a guide.

Check that your current employment contract allows you to set up a sideline business. This is particularly important if it’s in the same industry that you currently work in.

If you go down the side hustle route, it helps if you can create a business that doesn’t need your constant presence, like a digital business. Try to limit communication to digital methods such as emails or social media messaging, which can be automated and then answered directly out of hours.

Aim to outsource as many of your business processes as possible such as call answering or order fulfilment.


Source investment

If you already have a business idea and can’t finance it through bank loans, there are other ways to secure the funds through things like:

  • Grants
  • Loans
  • Investors
  • Crowdfunding
  • Taking a business partner



Grants provide finance to allow a business to undertake a specific project. Projects may involve the initial launch of a business, developing a new product, investigating a market or buying capital equipment. Each grant will offer funding for a specific purpose.

Usually, a grant is a one-off payment and covers a percentage of the costs and the business will need to provide the rest. However, the business is not expected to repay the grant.

Start by contacting your local authorities, enterprise agencies and Growth Hubs to find out what may be available for your business.

Top tip: We recommend signing up to this newsletter from The Innovation Factory to keep up to date on the latest grants, loans and programs.



You might qualify for a government-backed start-up loan of £500 to £25,000 to start or grow your business.

Unlike a business loan, this is an unsecured personal loan and will be assessed on the applicant’s creditworthiness.

You’ll get free support and guidance to help write your business plan, and successful applicants get up to 12 months of free mentoring.


Useful links

  • Government application
  • Business finance support resources
    • A list of finance support resources across the UK
  • Purple Shoots Loans
    • If you are from Wales, South West or Yorkshire and you have failed to secure funding from traditional sources such as your bank or the government start-up loan, you can approach our Charity Partner, Purple Shoots. If your idea is good and you show promise, you have a great chance at securing funding, even if you have a low credit score and a business plan that needs work.
  • Finding Finance
    • Responsible Finance represents providers of fair, affordable loans in the UK.
  • Kaleidoscope Investments
    • Kaleidoscope Investments provides finance for disabled people who have a strong business idea or are already running a business with high growth potential.
  • Fredericks Foundation
    • Fredericks Foundation is a responsible finance provider that offers loans to startups and small firms in the social or charitable sectors that are unable to secure finance.



Many start-ups and small business owners turn to business angel investors.

Note: Business angels invest their own money into a private company in return for a share of its ownership (instead of loan repayment) and therefore is not an option for sole traders.

There are many ways to go about finding an angel:

  • The UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA) has a directory of business angel organisations that can help match a small business with an angel.
  • There are events where business owners can meet potential angel investors.
  • Business advisers may have contacts who might be interested in investing in a small business.
  • Look for investors on social media e.g. LinkedIn

Before deciding whether to use a particular business angel, it is essential to check that they have self-certified.

An alternative to an individual business angel is to raise funds through a venture capital company however, these companies will usually not invest in your business until it is established in the market and can demonstrate high growth potential. The British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA) provides help on all aspects of private equity and venture capital funding.



Crowdfunding is a way to finance a business by collecting money from a number of people via online platforms. The platforms take a fee for this service. It can be a fast way to raise your funds and provide valuable marketing and research opportunities.

Top tip: If you have a unique business idea, it’s a very good idea to protect it before announcing it on these platforms.

There are a few different models for crowdfunding

  • Peer-to-peer lending means the funded money will be paid back with interest to the crowd
  • Equity crowdfunding is offering a stake in the business to the group of lenders
  • Rewards-based crowdfunding provides goods or services in exchange for the investment
  • Profit-sharing models mean the crowd will receive a share of the profits.


UK business crowdfunding sites and their models


Find a business partner

Working with a business partner can have a huge number of benefits. It helps make running a business easier and more enjoyable as workloads can be shared.

Good business partners bring additional skills that you may lack. Having a business partner to bounce around ideas with and who shares your passion and vision for the business will help your startup succeed.

However, while finding the right business partner can fuel your business’s growth, the wrong person can be a car crash for your business.

Things to consider

  • Is there a personality clash?
  • Are they willing to put in maximum effort?
  • Are they willing to be in every part of the business or just some?
  • Why do they want to be involved?
  • How much experience do they have?
  • What would you do if one of you leaves the business or the partnership doesn’t work out?


You don’t need cash to get your business started

We hope there has been something of use in this overview guide. As part of our service, we provide our clients with more detailed information on how to apply for grants, finding investors and how to contact your publicly funding business support agencies.

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