Starting out

How to start a business with no cash

Have a killer business idea but worried about not having enough cash? Don't stress. Wherever you are on your journey, setting up your business on the cheap is possible. Here we explore five ways you can bootstrap your business.

Take stock of what you already have 

When scoping out a business idea, take stock of what you have at your disposal. Review your: 

  • Skillset – what can you do? Think about some hard skills (technical skills such as software knowledge) and soft skills (people or social skills such as emotional intelligence). 
  • Experience – where have you worked and what roles have you performed in the past?
  • Resources – what do you own and what do you have access to? For example, access to specialised equipment, memberships and subscriptions, or even business mentors.

We recommend finding a quiet place and writing down the responses to the three points above. Think carefully about the answers and if it helps, ask some friends or family on what they believe are your top skills and strengths. 

Get the basics up and running 

There are a few administrative things to consider first when starting a business

  • Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN): this is used for various tax and business purposes. It doesn't replace your tax file number. You can apply for an ABN for free on the Business Registration Service website.
  • Register your website domain: in this digital age, setting up your online presence early on is essential. A catchy domain name or the name of your business is all you need to start. You can search whether your domain name is available on GoDaddy. For the price of a large coffee, domain names start from as little as $4.95.
  • Create a website: you can create a free website on WordPress and Wix. There are plenty of beautiful pre-designs or themes to choose from. You can download royalty-free stock images from Unsplash and Pixabay saving you hundreds.
  • Set up social media accounts for your business: these are all free to create. Invite your family and friends to like and share them.

Free Business Grant Finder

Looking for funding to grow your business? Find out in just 10 minutes what grants you could be eligible for from a range of over 1500 government grants worth almost $40 billion. To start browsing, simply join Business Australia as a free member.

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Have some savings at hand

While tapping into your savings account isn't ideal, it's common for many start-ups to dig into their savings to start the business. When putting together your business plan, be honest with yourself about how much you're going to spend and work out a budget.

Be realistic on how much revenue you're likely going to bring in. Forcast how long it will take before you see some form of profit. 

It takes about six months on average before you may start seeing any cash flow. Make it an intention to save at least six months' worth of living expenses so you can dedicate yourself to your new business.

Keep your day job

You can reduce your financial risk by keeping your day job, even if it's on a casual or part-time basis. When you are just starting out, having some stability can be a lifesaver.

While this does mean you will have less time to dedicate to your business, and that you may have to work harder, it means you can still put food on the table and pay your bills.

Try to allocate some savings aside each week in the lead up to your business launch. The money will help keep things ticking along until it starts to generate revenue. As your business grows, you'll be in a better position to quit your day job and launch into your business full-time.

Apply for small business grants 

There are so many grants out there across different industries, sectors and sizes. It's no wonder many people find it confusing and tricky to navigate. 

Thankfully, there is help available. Business Australia has a free business grant finder tool available when you sign up as a free member. There are over 1,500 government grants worth almost $40 billion.

With the Business Grant Finder, you can search and filter down to the grants that are relevant to your business, plus get tips and advice to help your application be more successful.

Are you ready to start?

Starting a business isn't just for experienced entrepreneurs — anyone can take that leap of faith and start now with little or no cash. Use the key steps above to begin your journey, and you'll have everything you need for long-term success.

Catherine Ngo

Senior Editor and Content Writer, Business Australia

Catherine is passionate about unravelling the latest news and insights to help entrepreneurs, small business owners and employers.

How can we help?

Business Australia has a range of resources for your business. Get support managing your employees, reducing your business costs, accessing business funding, and marketing your business. 

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