Starting a business in 2020 with no money is 100 percent doable.
Come to think of it, you’ll actually have an easier time today than Amazon, Disney, and McDonald's had decades ago. But, how can that be?
Simply put, there has never been a time when the cost to launch an idea has been so cheap. Instead, your currency will be time, ingenuity, patience and persistence.
Here are zero-cost services to help you start, promote, and earn money from your new business.
Store Files and Documents w/ Dropbox
Businesses just starting out should not over-invest in device memory like thumb drives (e.g. USB) or 4 TB hard drives that can easily cost hundreds of dollars. You simply won’t need all that digital storage space. Not yet.
There are many free cloud storage providers that make saving files easy and accessible anywhere. Dropbox offers a free plan that lets you quickly store, sync, and share files. It starts with 2 GB of space.
Storing data in “the cloud” means keeping your files in a remote location accessible from any device. All you need is your username and password. Additional encryption methods are enacted to guarantee your data is safe.
Pro Tip: Determine whether you need cloud storage for personal or business use before comparing services. Never mix the two in one account.
Cloud storage improves efficiency and productivity when backing up and securing your data. With Dropbox, all updates are done in real-time. The minute you save a file, you can access it on your desktop, mobile phone, tablet, anywhere you have the Dropbox app installed.
Try these Dropbox features:
Write and edit, brainstorm, review designs, manage tasks, or run meetings with Dropbox Paper. It is a collaborative tool for your team, where you can create content, organize projects using timelines, to-dos, and tables.
Download the Dropbox Scanner App to take pictures of physical documents like receipts, sketches, and contracts to upload quality scans directly to your mobile device.
Create Promotional Content w/ Canva
It might seem to create a flyer you need a host of resources: Photoshop to edit an image, InDesign for the layout, Snapseed for filters and Unsplash to find the perfect stock photo. What if you could find those all in one place?
Canva, a graphic design platform, is a great combination of editing and publishing tools. Included with a free sign up is a comprehensive image library, a collection of ready-made templates, collaboration tools, and the ability to share content directly with your social media.
Their collection of templates make content creation easy. You can choose between templates for proposals, video thumbnails, flyers and more.
Plus, each template is optimized in the right size depending on where the design will be placed. Banners, single posts, avatar photos all have specific dimensions depending on the platforms they are used for.
Try these Canva features:
Download the Canva mobile app to create custom graphics from your phone and post directly to social media. You can also edit existing content you made on the desktop version from your phone.
Keep your designs organized with folders. Canva folders are useful for designs used on a regular basis — social media posts, logos, and letterheads. You can also share folders with team members.
Add motion to your graphics with Canva animations. Perfect for posts on Instagram and Facebook. In the Elements panel, find moving stickers and Gifs to liven your designs.
Collecting Payments and Invoicing w/ Wave
If you’re running a business, keeping track of finances is critical for success. There are many accounting services and software that act as digital ledgers to record business transactions. QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Xero are well known. But this software can cost as much as $500.
For a free alternative, try Wave. Track income and expenses, save receipts, accept payments all with the free plan. They also provide a host of other financial tools and resources.
As with most companies, when accepting payments from customers there is a fee of 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction for all credit cards.
Keep in mind, Wave should not be used for enterprises or even companies with 20+ employees. The platform works great for smaller operations and businesses just starting out. The learning curve is small and the platform is pretty intuitive. There are tutorials and a blog with a lot of financial information for those just getting started.
Try these Wave features:
Create an invoice template based on your industry. Wave offers pre-made invoices structured to fit specific types of businesses: Legal firms, freelancers, consultants, marketers, etc.
Stay on top of recurring customer billings with automatic payments. Make sure customers pay on time with the option of automatic credit card payments. When the feature is off, Wave sends an invoice for you. When it’s on, Wave sends your customer an email receipt.
Build a Website w/ Wix
Having a website is a necessary expense for businesses. It acts as your advocate all day, every day. When you’re asleep at 2 am, your website is up and ready should someone be looking to purchase your product or service.
A website acts as the first impression a potential customer has of your business. It showcases your expertise, gives your business credibility, and allows potential customers to gain a full view of your brand.
Every growing business needs to be online. Wix is a free to use website design and hosting platform. You can choose from pre-made templates or build your website from the bottom up.
We can understand why you may be hesitant to build a website: “I’m not tech-savvy”, “they’re too expensive”, “I don’t have the time”. Each of those statements is false, so let’s address them.
“I’m not the best with technology”
The reality is, you do not need to be tech-savvy to build a basic website. You just have to know your business, your brand, and what function you want your site to serve. These elements are more important to your website than pretty graphics and visuals.
“Building a website is too expensive”
Isn’t that why you’re here, reading this?
It costs no money to have a Wix website. Creating a free account is easy. Benefit from ready-made templates to create multi-page sites for welcoming customers and sharing information about your business.
Wix provides free hosting (where your website lives online) and a free domain name (your web address). A free plan comes Wix promotions like “wixsite” in your domain name (e.g. www.username.wixsite.com/siteaddress). But URL short links erase that issue. More on that later.
“I have no time to make one”
As entrepreneurs, our biggest asset is our time. You don’t want to have to spend enormous amounts of it building a site or maintaining it. But luckily for us, we live in an era of DIY (do it yourself).
Wix requires no coding knowledge or HTML experience.
The intuitive drag and drop system makes creating a site simple. Templates cover many industries and special features, including an online store, booking system, and blog manager make operating a business manageable.
Pro Tip: Wix offers a lot of features and fancy functions. If you are not a website designer or developer, keep your site simple and stay away from flashy extras.
Make URLs Shorter w/ Bitly
There are loads of URL shortening websites online. The functionality pretty much operates the same between all of them. Try using Bitly. It’s short and easy to remember.
Short links are useful in a variety of scenarios. When building your business website with free platforms like Wix your domain name will include the company tag (e.g. www.username.wixsite.com/siteaddress).
It sounds simple, but customers cannot be expected to remember this extremely long website address. Customized short links are easier to recognize. Not to mention showing that you are using a free website service can be seen as unprofessional.
As with any website, monitoring its clicks and visitor rates are important. The same is true when using a URL shortener. Most will track the number of clicks, device types, browsers, location, language, etc. The collected data is similar to tools like Google Analytics that track the incoming traffic.
Understanding this data about click rates is helpful when analyzing the effectiveness of your content and posts.
This data about your clicks is extremely helpful when it comes to analyzing the effectiveness of your content.
Pro Tip: To see what’s behind a short URL, you can use tools like getlinkinfo.com to see the original URL, webpage description, and find out where it redirects to.
Craft and Send Email Newsletters w/ MailerLite
Email newsletters offer the best option when collecting contact information to keep potential customers in the fold.
To grow your business, you’ll want a way to connect with your customers. Whether providing a discount code or wishing them happy holidays to keep your products fresh in their minds.
Newsletters are a great way to build loyalty, brand awareness, and speak directly to an audience.
MailerLite is a completely free email marketing software with over 700,000 businesses, startups, and freelancers sending more than 1 billion emails every month. In 2019, SaaS Magazine recognized MailerLite as the 5th fastest growing SaaS (software as a service) business worldwide.
90% of MailerLite’s customers are small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, so the platform is perfect for early-stage companies. Their free account offers 12,000 monthly emails and up to 1000 subscribers.
You don’t need a designer or a marketing expert. MailerLite features a drag & drop editor that allows you to build email campaigns on your own. No HTML skills required!
Set up an automated personalized newsletter in minutes to send to subscribers, monitor clicks, and open rates.
Want to try it out? Click here to sign up for MailerLite and receive a $20 credit.
Try these MailerLite features:
Create a custom landing page as a high-converting signup form. Add testimonials, videos, and countdown timers. You can access the template gallery to quickly build new pages.
Embed signup forms into your business website that match your brand look and generate new leads.
Starting a business with no money might initially seem like a far-fetched idea, but it’s not impossible. The free tools and resources mentioned in this article are made for small business owners.
There are so many free services to create logos, build websites, even accept payments and send invoices. To find these companies takes ingenuity and a keen memory for canceling just before the trial period ends.
Do you know of more free and easy to use tools for new business owners? Let us know in the comments.