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A Startup Guide: How To Become Your Own Boss On A Zero Budget

You are an expert at something. You have special skills. Skills that might even be scarce. Years of acquired knowledge.

06/04/2017 03:56 SAST | Updated 06/04/2017 03:56 SAST
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Starting a business with no savings or capital from investors to get going... This scary reality is what deters a lot of people from making the brave leap from working a 9 to 5 for a measly salary, to standing on their own feet and building their own empires.

What people don't realise is that it is possible to do your own thing and become a successful entrepreneur, starting with zero funds. Rather than being blinded by what you don't have, you just have to focus on those resources, other than money, that you do have that can help you start your business.

Don't quit your day job (yet...)

If your salary is your only income stream at the moment, don't quit before your business generates enough income to replace it. Starting a business can be rather stressful. You don't want to add to that the stress of not making ends meet or incurring unnecessary debt just to sustain yourself.

It does mean, however, you're going to have to work very long hours initially, until you're able to quit your job and make your business your full-time focus. If you're really serious about starting your own business, you're going to have to sacrifice your evenings and weekends to get it off the ground. The rewards of having your own business will, however, be well worth it...

What's at your disposal?

Without money, your hands are not tied. You might not have considered it yet, but you're already sitting on a goldmine of resources to get your business off the ground.

Think about it... You are an expert at something. You have special skills. Skills that might even be scarce. Years of acquired knowledge. You are digitally savvy. You have a mobile phone. A laptop. A good internet connection. You also have an office space (okay, so it might just be your study or a desk in your bedroom, but that'll do for now...). You might even already have basic equipment to manufacture a product or provide a service.

Take stock of all the things you do have to work with currently and begin to formulate your business idea and marketing strategy around these.

Who do you know?

There is power in relationships. Explore the connections you currently have. Who you know, along with what you know and have, could help you to launch your business.

They could be friends, family, colleagues or business associates who have valuable skills or even other connections to assist you in setting up your new venture. There should be people willing to form a mutually beneficial partnership with you, or help you promote your business on great platforms that you otherwise don't have access to.

What type of business to pursue?

Ask yourself this: What skills do I have or what can I offer that's unique that someone else wants and will gladly pay for? There's your answer. That's your business opportunity.

There are endless business opportunities that require little to no financial commitment initially. You could start your own consultancy or become a service-provider, an adviser, broker, performer, or training provider.

For example, a financial accountant with years of experience, could offer their expertise as an advisor or tax practitioner to small businesses or individuals. A digital marketer or social media professional, could consult for and help launch startups. Skilled musicians or sportspeople could provide after-hours classes to children or adults. The stay-at-home-mom, brilliant cook and homemaker with lots of DIY tricks up her sleeve, could start her own blog, online tutorials and store to sell her products. The list goes on...

Before you run with an idea, take into account all the requirements and challenges associated with it. Make sure you're prepared to see it through to completion. Also take into account your competitors' market and make sure you will be able to compete.

How to grow your business

There is no reason to spend thousands on advertising your business on expensive platforms like print, TV or radio. We live in the digital age where marketing something is easier than ever, and if done right, can cost little to nothing and still be very effective. There are loads of free online marketing tools you can use to your advantage.

Use social media like Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, Instagram and LinkedIn. Setup your own free website and blog. Use SEO tactics to make your business stand out on the internet. Register your business as a trader on your free local classifieds.

There is really so much you can do to spread the word. The internet is your friend. Do your research, run some tests, and craft a marketing strategy around the tools suited to your business venture.

Test the waters

If you're not sure that your business idea is a winning one, don't be afraid to experiment first. Run a trial and see the response.

Are people showing interest? Are you getting enquiries or orders right off the bat? Any small business will take some time to get off the ground, so don't get put off by a slow response at first. It will grow as you intensify your marketing efforts.

However, if the initial response is negative, or non-existent, you might want to adjust your business plan or take a completely different approach. Just don't get discouraged. With trial and error, you will find something that works.

There are many incredible business opportunities ready to be grabbed. Whatever skills or expertise you have that's exclusive, scarce or valuable, someone has a need for it and are willing to pay for it.

In deciding which business route to take, consider the market you are entering and what your competitors are doing. Set yourself and your services apart with a unique offering, competitive pricing and out-of-the-box marketing.