How to Start a Side Business With No Money

Everyone loves the idea of a lucrative side gig. It’s something you can do in your free time, at your own leisure, to make a significant stream of extra revenue. And if you’re lucky, you might even get to do something you genuinely enjoy.

The problem is, many side gigs require an extensive capital investment to get started, whether you’re purchasing initial equipment (like saws and tables for woodworking) or establishing your marketing presence (like advertising your new podcast). This isn’t a big deal if you have spare savings you can funnel into your new hobby, but if you’re trying to start a side gig because you need the extra cash, those funds may not be available to you.

So how can you start a side business if you have no money to spare?

Funding Options

If your side gig is one that requires initial funding, there are several options for you to get the cash you need, including:

  • Personal loans. You could seek a personal loan for your side gig through one of several distinct avenues. If you only need a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, you could ask your friends and family to chip in. If you’re looking for more, or if you’re uncomfortable reaching out to your loved ones, you can seek a loan from a lending institution.
  • A 401(k) rollover. It’s also possible to roll over savings from your 401(k) to fund your business, so long as you read the rules carefully. Most people who roll funds out of their 401(k) pull out between $50,000 and $300,000, but it’s not necessary to stay in this range. It usually takes between 30 and 90 days to get those funds, but be aware that you may be sacrificing part of your financial future if you take this step.
  • Credit cards. You could also run up a few credit cards if you’re interested in starting quickly, and are confident you’ll be able to pay off your debt in a reasonable timeframe. Just be careful not to get consumed with debt payments as you try to start and manage your business.

Before you start spending money indiscriminately, or pursuing any funding options with long-term consequences, make sure you put together a business plan and understand exactly how you’re going to make money (as well as when you’ll be able to pay back whatever you’ve borrowed).

Alternative Side Gigs

If you aren’t comfortable seeking these funding options, or if you’d prefer to start a side gig that doesn’t require any funding, you should know there are several side gig options that require almost no capital to start.

These are just a few of them:

  • Chances are, there’s at least one subject you’d be comfortable teaching. As a native speaker, you may be able to teach English to kids in other countries. You may be able to tutor a handful of college-level classes. You may even be able to teach a specific skill, like bicycle repair.
  • Pet sit (or house sit). Pet sitting businesses are popular because they’re in demand, practically free to start up, and rewarding. You don’t need any equipment or professional licensing to get started—just some baseline expertise on pet care.
  • Write articles. If you have a knack for writing, you can try your hand at creating articles. Content is in constant demand at multiple skill levels, so almost anyone has a chance of turning it into a side gig—all you need is an internet connection and a word processor.
  • Drive for a ridesharing service. Lyft and Uber are the biggest ridesharing apps around, and neither one of them requires a new driver to pay for the privilege of driving. Granted, you’ll need a car to get started, but if you already have one, you won’t need to pay anything extra.
  • Deliver food (or packages). Along similar lines, you could use your existing car (and driving abilities) to deliver food through one of several food delivery apps—or deliver packages on the side.
  • Run errands. Using TaskRabbit or Fiverr, you could volunteer errand and odd job services, from basic home repairs to getting groceries for people. Signing up for either service is free, and depending on which services you offer, you probably won’t need to invest in additional equipment.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious, you could also set up a dropshipping business. Here, you’ll create a website selling products that you’ll buy wholesale from a third party, and have dropshipped to your end customers.

You don’t have to have substantial savings to begin a new side gig. Whether you choose a side gig that doesn’t take much money to start up or you seek alternative funding options, there’s always a path forward to the side hustle you want.


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September 10, 2018 How to Start a Side Business With No Money