Chris Guillebeau in Denver

How to Start Your Own Business with Little Money

This article is sponsored by Deluxe Business Services.

A few years back, I attended a meetup hosted by Chris Guillebeau at a Denver area bookstore. Chris was there to talk about his newest book, The $100 Startup, a book about starting a business on the cheap. It got my mind churning on the different ways we can start a business today leveraging the internet. Here are three popular methods made popular by three different thought leaders in running a business.

How-to-Start-Your-Own-Business-with-Little-Money

Business and Branding

Before you start on your business adventure, create a long-term plan. The plan should include how you want to manage your sales, inventory, online presence, and branding. Next, decide on the philosophy of how your want to run your business. Below you will find three different paradigms made popular by three different business thought leaders. Any can be a great option for a new business, but you should choose carefully as changing later on is very challenging and time-consuming.

Whatever method you pick, make sure you have a quality website and consistent branding across the board. A core part of your branding is your logo and your site design. Having a professional design portrays you in a positive light to visitors. Having a quality logo makes that visit memorable, and can be used to project your brand around the web. If you don’t already have a logo, be sure to check out

Whatever method you pick, make sure you have a quality website and consistent branding across the board. A core part of your branding is your logo and your site design. Having a professional design portrays you in a positive light to visitors. Having a quality logo makes that visit memorable, and can be used to project your brand around the web. If you don’t already have a logo, be sure to check out logo design services by Deluxe. If you go through this link, you get 10% off any logo design package.

Deluxe offers three logo packages and options to meet your needs, and each package comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Your logo design project begins with a simple online form. After submitting, you will have a brief phone consultation, select your package, and the Delxue design team gets to work for you. Each package includes:

  • A dedicated, in-house designer
  • An initial concept with a five-day turnaround
  • At least 10 logo concepts to choose from
  • Multiple revisions
  • Unrestricted rights to use your logo
  • Delivery in 11 different file formats

Chris Guillebeau – The $100 Startup

Chris has a unique look at starting your own business. As his book explains, anyone can start a business with very little risk if they use the right model and try to emulate the success of other “microbusiness” owners around the world.

A $100 startup is a low-cost model where you just pick an idea and go with it. You don’t need a storefront and you don’t need a bank loan. You just need a couple hundred bucks, hard work, and ingenuity.

Chris’s advice is fairly straight forward. Pick a business that you are passionate about, make sure your idea is something that you like and something that other people want, and go sell. If you don’t start selling, you will always be stuck as square one.

The best part, if you don’t put a lot of money in when you start, you are not going to lose a lot if it doesn’t work out. I have a $100 startup idea in mind, and I will share more about it as I work to move forward with it.

Tim Ferris – The 4 Hour Workweek Muse

In order to have a 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris created the “muse” model for running a business. Where Chris talks about providing a service or a product locally, Tim’s model is one where the hard work is done up front so you don’t have to worry about it for more than 4 hours a week once it is up and running.

A muse is a product that you can sell online through your own website, or possibly other retailers. His book outlines a very detailed model on how to source your product, most likely from China, have it shipped to a “drop-ship” company whenever the inventory runs low, and have that drop-shipper fulfill your orders that are placed through the website.

Once you set it up, you can take credit card orders and fulfill the order without any personal involvement. You can take care of restocking without any personal involvement. You can outsource customer service to India at a low cost and have a clear script and set of rules for those customer interactions.

You don’t handle anything yourself. You build the model and let it run itself. If your product sells well, you can live off the earnings anywhere in the world as long as you can get online for a half hour or so every day.

I also have a muse product idea, but have been stuck on sourcing it. I need to get on that and see how it goes.

Pat Flynn – (Sort of) Passive Online Income

Like Tim, Pay Flynn’s method is a passive one. However, it also takes a lot of hard work to start and takes some personal involvement to keep it going. If you want more on Pat, check out my recent podcast episode where I interviewed him, Harlan “Luke” Landes from Consumerism Commentary, and my buddy Jeff Fruhwirth from Sustainable Life Blog.

Pat has a handful of websites that promote niche products or topics. From those sites, Pat sells either his own products, someone else’s products through affiliate advertising, or earn money through advertising from a network like Google AdSense.

There are some great strengths and some big drawbacks to this model. It is a great way to make a lot of money with little maintenance, but it requires that your site ranks high in Google for certain, relevant keywords. If you do well, the big G will send you thousands of visitors, many of whom are likely to buy your products or click through earning you ad revenue. However, if you fall in Google’s bad graces, you may lose it all overnight.

Scaling Up

If your dream is freedom, any of these could be a great way to go. If you want freedom from a cubicle or large corporate employer, any of these models could work, but I find that Chris’s is more realistic for most people. If you want location mobility, Tim’s model and Pat’s model are the best ways to go.

A key to long term success is your definition of success. If you love your business and want to run it day to day, the $100 Startup is for you. These business owners interact with their customers and get the warm, fuzzy feeling of making a difference in their community.

If you want the ability to scale up, you should not be in a service or consulting business. You would be best off going with the muse model where you can grow exponentially without changing anything more than the stockpile your drop shipper keeps on hand. However, there are bigger startup costs to selling a tangible product.

If you want an online-only model that earns money while you are at home, on vacation, or elsewhere, Pat’s method is great. It can grow without any incremental investment, outside of a better hosting account if you outgrow yours. However, your success is partially out of your hands.

Pick a Model that Works For You

I am trying a niche site and have my own low-cost startup business, but it is always a good idea to diversify and grow. I can’t live off of any of my businesses today, but it would be nice to have the ability to do so if I chose.

I like my job and my company, and I have no plans to leave. However, it would be nice to have the extra income to build my savings and investments and know that I could live comfortably if anything ever happened at work.

What Are You Doing?

Are you trying anything to earn your financial freedom? Are you looking to become your own boss? Are you taking any steps to do so? If yes, what have you done and what has worked. If not, what is holding you back? Please share your thoughts, successes, and learning experiences in the comments.

First posted on May 23, 2012. Updated December 2015.

8 thoughts on “How to Start Your Own Business with Little Money”

  1. Jenna from Adaptu

    I’d like to get to this place in the future, right now I’m focused on enjoying my full time job.  Getting my house ready for summer (I think a Sell Your Crap garage sale is in order) and hopefully finding more time to blog about beer (and summer brewing).

    1. Blogging about and making beer is already a step in the right direction. Who says you are not an entrepreneur?

    2. Blogging about and making beer is already a step in the right direction. Who says you are not an entrepreneur?

          1. Jenna from Adaptu

            I know!  I just need to come up with some good beer things…  (And time…)

          2. You can always come up with time, that is just making it a priority. And I bet you already have good beer things. You are pretty cool like that.

  2. Their is a lot to be said about starting a business. Their are many risks involved in any new business Venture but heres the thing one of the vital qualities of a small business owner is his or her ability in dealing with unpredictability and uncerntainty on a daily basis. Theirs lots of talented people that could very well run a business but not all of tham have the mental or emotional make that is necessary in order to deal with all the problems that may arise when they run their own business on a day to day basis

Comments are closed.