You Can Start with NO Money.


Truth be told, getting fired from a previous job was the ultimate push to finally start my new business. In my heart, it felt like the time to break away from Cubicle World and do something I cared about. My pockets, however, needed some convincing that I wasn’t totally insane. Oh, and my wife.

We didn’t have any savings because the last job paid so little. Which made all the effort I put into it, added with the hours I gave without provocation feel like an even greater loss. But mainly, the lack of savings was the biggest disappointment.

So, I came home after filing unemployment and said, “I think it’s time to start my business, honey.”

This wasn’t the first time my wife had heard about this business idea. I had been playing with it for several months even while working in the other job. So, it wasn’t a complete shock to her. The hard part was knowing that most (all) people take a loss or at best come out even for a few years after starting a business. So the voice in my head was asking me, “Doug, do you really think you can start a business with literally NO money?”

Before jumping in, I’d talked with others in my industry. One friend said he paid in at least 50K in his first year. Yeah, I didn’t have that. Another friend, after discovering I was trying to start a business, spoke to me with obvious concern. He knew what I had at stake. A family of five (a wife and three toddlers). I sort of fell out of communication with some “friends” because they probably thought I’d gone off the deep end. Which, I’m now glad to save I have.

I’m tempted to say I wouldn’t advise doing it my way, because reason tells us to save before starting a business. What I can say is that if you find yourself in my position YOU CAN do it. Here’s some things to consider:

You have people who are there to help.

Do you have someone who believes in you no matter what? God puts these people in our lives who are more than happy to contribute in our wellness and success. I can readily think of a string of people from my past who believed in me as I was growing up. In many ways, I was admittedly less than good when it came to sociability. I was pretty shy as a kid and a teenager. But even still, at church, at work, in my community, among my parents’ friends, there was always someone who believed in me no matter what. I didn’t have to “leverage” my position with these people. When something came up and they were made aware of it, they helped. Sometimes financially. If you have a new business and no money, there may be someone in your life who believes you can do this. In fact, they are so convinced that they will help. With encouragement. With contacts. With resources. With financial support. All you have to do is make them aware of it.

If married, your spouse can be the “bread-winner” for a while.

A good feeling comes from being the primary “bread-winner” in the home, or at least contributing in a meaningful way. But, starting from the ground up with a business requires that we modify what it means to “contribute” at home. Of course, this works only if your spouse is helped to understand your vision, as well as your passion. Sometimes helping them understand comes from seeing this is something you are honestly passionate about. I find my spouse wants to be on an adventure with me. At least, if we have no money, then we have something to talk about at the end of a day. A penniless adventurer is more stimulating than a wealthy bore. If you can convince your spouse that you need to do this, or even feeling a calling to this, they can be the one who goes to work. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve spoken with who have done this very thing. They worked from home while their spouse went to work away from home. A helpful tip here is to learn to juggle your work and basic home maintenance. Do what you can to keep your spouse convinced that they are not trapped in a job they didn’t think they would have to take on while you’re slummin’ it at home.

Accept anything from your clients.

There are parameters, morally, ethically and lawfully, to what we should accept of course. But, the idea here is don’t be too proud to go out of your way or bend over backwards to get some pennies from your clients upfront. Cut them deals if necessary. Give them a first time for free deal. Let them see you’re hungry for their business and that you will do a great job. Let them know that you really want to earn their respect. I have a friend in the New York City area who has become quite successful in my industry by accepting just about anything. I talked to him once about this client who wanted me to provide an engineering bid for this huge project. I was nervous about it and thought I shouldn’t accept the job. He said do it. Reason being, even if I couldn’t professionally provide a bid for a project as substantial as this, I could administer a bid with the help of someone who did know about it. The lesson here is you should accept anything. If your reservation is that you can’t do it, you can find someone who knows how and can help you. This skill may generate some funds in your business account.

Be a miser.

You’ll find that you can generate your own funds during a startup. This realization can be enormously satisfying. But, even with this there is a temptation to blow expenses you have earned on wasteful things. I opened a business checking account, a business saving account and a business payroll account. Anything that goes in these accounts is used only for business. I don’t treat my family to Arby’s with it. I don’t buy birthday presents with it. I don’t treat myself to a massage with it. What I do is hover over it like a bouncer until a legitimate business expense comes along and then use it. A major tactic in generating business money is being a miser. Keep track of every expense and write it off at tax time. Your accountant may laugh and ask, “Are you sure this is a business or is it just a hobby?” because your expenses may far outweigh your profit. In the end, you’ll be laughing because you’re generating your own money.

There are many other points of advice I can give where generating money is concerned, but this is a good start. The main point is passion goes a long way in starting up a business.

This is the greatest country in the world, my friends. We can move here from another place and start something if we want. Or, we can be born here and leave a lasting legacy. One of our greatest fears is that we don’t have what it takes. We do! We can do anything with passion, vision and follow-through. The money often takes care of itself.

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