Some people are only comfortable when earning a salary, but others have had one retrenchment too many or have always had an entrepreneurial itch. Launching into the business ownership arena can be daunting, and some entrepreneurs may believe they need £50,000 to start a solid company.
This substantial finance figure is a misperception ‒ many businesses have started on a shoestring. Therefore, we have put together some inspiring ideas of businesses you can start up for under £5,000. But first, let’s get your questions out of the way.
Pre-startup questions asked by entrepreneurs
Are there fundamental tools needed before you can start up a business?
Nowadays, you do not need to be a jack of all trades because there are enough apps and free software solutions available to solve most challenges. In addition, there are diverse outsourcing options. It is no longer best business practice to keep all functions in-house. Focus on your strengths; outsource your weakness.
Are there ways to reign in costs during startup?
Starting on a shoestring is commendable, but not if you are digging a hole with credit card debt to cover running costs. Here are some best practices:
Draw up a comprehensive, conservative budget and STICK TO IT.
Review your income and expenses frequently and ensure you are STICKING TO THE BUDGET.
Choose the right software, apps and outsourced support before launch day.
Don’t buy costly equipment immediately, in particular, if you have never used it before. Beg, borrow or lease (not steal) until you are sure the equipment is right for you and then talk to an accountant (with your industry’s experience) about purchasing options.
Don’t grow based on emotions but only on solid business forecasting. Get an accountant involved.
How do I promote my business?
Social media has simplified market reach but consult with a digital marketing expert to get a ‘how-to/when-to’ plan. Execute marketing solo until sales demand too much of your attention, and then start outsourcing.
Draw up a marketing strategy at the time of drawing up your business plan. Choose the marketing channels based on your target audience.
Now, onto the business ideas.
E-commerce was scoffed at ten years ago; now it is an integral part of society. Brick-and-mortar still has a role to play, but it has to be enhanced by e-commerce. E-commerce, on the other hand, does not need brick-and-mortar to thrive.
Online sales are profoundly cheaper than brick-and-mortar sales, even when adding in the cost of a website. And a website is not always necessary. With platforms like Etsy, Squareup and Square Online, you can start without an independent e-commerce website.
Are you handy with your hands and have industry experience under your work belt? You can start a building contractor business with that experience and some basic tools. You can build in the cost of specific tools in each project quotation. Having access to a van for carrying materials and tools is essential. Assess whether a rental option of a second-hand vehicle is cheaper than an outright purchase initially.
You could collaborate to broaden your service offering to include:
Research shows that construction industry jobs deliver better earnings on average than jobs for people with university degrees. Example salaries:
Site managers – £50,000 plus
Plumbers, electricians and supervisors – £45,000 plus
Civil operatives – £40,000 plus
Focus your investments on marketing locally or in your target area.
The busier people are becoming, the greater the demand is for cleaning help at home, offices and factories! A cleaning business needs good business skills and knowledge about efficient scalability. Knowledge of eco-friendly cleaning products will be a good brand differentiator. Most homeowners will have their own machinery, but offices may require you to bring your own. Hence, starting in homes could finance your expansion into offices.
Getting repeat gigs and monthly contracts is highly beneficial, thus focus heavily on quality and detail.
Marketing will boom via word of mouth if you impress clients. Positive reviews on social media will also be valuable, so don’t be shy to ask clients to post reviews.
Do you climb the walls when in an office and yearn for the outdoors? Gardening could be the solution: work + outdoors. Beg, borrow and buy gardening equipment for your startup. Domestic projects will probably have their own equipment, making this a good market entry point.
You don’t have to be a botanist to do garden maintenance, but it is advisable to broaden your knowledge of plants. If you can’t buy books or do courses, visit nurseries and pick their brains. It is advisable to get information on gardening chemicals immediately.
Include the purchasing of a second van (and branding) in your business budget as well as short, medium and long term equipment investments.
Expect to earn at least £150 daily and, if your quality is good and repeat business is secured, you could be earning over £45,000 per annum.
Food stalls on the street are hugely popular in the UK, popping up at street markets, cultural festivals, Christmas fairs and trade shows, and have even branched into wedding catering. A quality food stall has loads of earning capacity.
A chef’s degree or culinary institute qualification are not vital components, but an interest in food is important. You might need to work long shifts if you find a lucrative spot at a neighbourhood market. Then it will be time to work out how to scale without losing touch with the quality you produce.
A food stall can be a trailer with fold-up or fold-out sections, a caravan or a converted van starting at £1,500. To make sales easier, it is advisable to have a Wi-Fi card machine on hand or a new QR code-based-smart-phone payment system. The latter is a cheaper option for small business owners and very convenient for consumers.
The negatives of a food stall are that you are dependent on weather, event organisers and many competitors. To counter the competitors, your USP will need to make you shine.
Taking one step further outdoors from the gardening business, not only can you be outdoors, you can be deep in nature, exercising and playing with man’s best friend. Like the cleaning business demand, dog walking and doggy day-care businesses are booming as people’s lives get busier.
The equipment requirements are near zero. You need to love dogs, some degree of dog training knowledge, a good pair of walking shoes, and a love of nature strolls.
It would be advisable to include insurance in your budget, some social media marketing advertising and printed flyers. Get to know the dog regulations in your area and buy poo bags in bulk!
eBay Inc business
Want to work from home and make substantial amounts of money, not just cupcake cash? Establishing an eBay business could be the answer.
Whether you choose to subscribe or not, you can sell on eBay.
It is prudent to start conservatively, especially if you haven’t tested the market with your products. Avoid building up large stock volumes until sales demand it. Researching suppliers and establishing good relationships and contracts will stand you in good stead.
When sales have commenced, don’t forget to ask consumers to post reviews on your Google profile and social media. Above all else, remember that the customer is king. When your business demands start diverting your attention away from customer service, you need to activate your outsource/hire-in decision. This decision should have been pondered and modelled before your launch date.
Remember, things can go awry as there are many layers to a sale. When there is an order delivery delay, increase your communication to the consumer ‒ don’t stick your head in the sand. Poor reviews are seen online by anyone researching via the internet.
Health and wellness have soared in importance over the last 18 months. Today, more than ever, people are focussed on health and fitness ‒ from film-star fit to average-Joe fit. If fitness training makes you smile when you wake up, that could be a sign of your future career. What’s even better is that your trim physique will be free marketing.
Remember to consider adding insurance to your business budget and some equipment purchases. Fitness training can also happen outdoors with methodologies like CrossFit training using everyday items as equipment combined with resistance training. And voila – minimal investment required.
You will need to start with CIMSPA endorsed qualifications, e.g. Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing or Level 3 Diploma in Gym & Personal Training.
If you are a whizz with a specific skill or topic, then private tutoring is something you could offer. You do not need to hold a teaching diploma, but patience is essential for slowly encouraging clients through their learning experience. You will need knowledge of the school curriculum if you teach a school topic.
Freelance tutoring lets you select tutoring venues and times. If you are working with children, you will need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service check done.
Costs could vary subject to venue rentals (or not), travel costs, tutoring equipment and perhaps printouts for the learners.
Foreign Language Transcription Or Translation
Brexit or not, we are part of a multi-language continent and planet. Companies, therefore, need marketing material, business reports, financial reports, packaging, etc., translated from one language to another. If the company exports, they will need their material translated into Asian, South American, African or other languages. Even internal training guides need translation for owned foreign branches. Nowadays, even professionals, like architects, work in foreign countries and they need dictated instructions transcripted into formal documents for disbursement to large construction teams.
Transcription service: This service is the writing (typing) up of a verbal/audio file into a neatened up document.
Translation service: This service is the translation of a written file into another language.
Transcription translation service: This service is the translation and writing (typing) up of a verbal file into a document in another language. Novelists and publishing houses often require this service.
All of the above services can be run remotely from home or as a digital nomad as everything is received and sent digitally.
Note: A translator service is a person-to-person translation onsite.
Even if you are not the source of various languages, you can start outsourcing and grow your business into a multi-lingual hub. Outsourcing is an excellent way to scale your business without increasing overheads as you are not hiring in headcount. The only cost that might increase would be bookkeeping costs or marketing costs, and your profits should cover that and some. You might also consider saving up for developing an online work submissions platform.
A transcription and transcription-translation service demands top prices, so you could be earning a pretty penny if you target the right audience. The startup costs are minimal if you already own a laptop, but you could start with using a public library computer. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Selling bog-standard furniture will have you competing with some goliaths out there. You can start a business with a high ethics value by reducing landfills and carbon footprints through the upcycling of furniture. In addition, you will have unique, one-off pieces that could also be customisable.
That triple threat ‒ eco-friendly, once-off and customisable ‒ will put you way ahead of the goliaths. In addition, being a local business will have an even lower carbon footprint and thus have an additional attraction. Consumers globally want to support local companies with good ethics. Refurbished furniture works very well as an online business, but you might need a brick and mortar store in future as sales grow.
The upcycling of furniture involves:
Sourcing old or used furniture and decor items (like lamps or artworks)
Cleaning them up
Doing minor to major repairs and sometimes reupholstering them
Note: Iconic collector items should not be upholstered or extensively refurbished as collectors like original finishes. You need very little money to start such a business, just a keen eye and an ability to do minor refurbishments like stripping varnish, painting and reupholstering. Online tutorials will become your friend.
Spread the word with family, friends, local businesses and retirement homes. Publish your creations on social media and digital marketplaces.
Starting businesses on a shoestring is a growing trend, so don’t feel alone. Reach out to your network, and you will find lots of good advice and support. We hope these ideas have inspired you to launch into your new business. Remember, you don’t have to be the one doing the work. You can be a strategic seller of services that you are collating and fronting. All you need is your selling ability, a computer and access to the internet. The world is your oyster or marketplace.