One of the biggest misconceptions about launching a business or side hustle is that you need to have a lot of cash on hand to get started. But I've found that is not the case.
Six years ago, after I was asked to be a bridesmaid twice in one night, I decided to start a company called Bridesmaid for Hire, a service that would act as a support system for people planning weddings. Today my side hustle is my full-time job and it brings in six figures a year. But I spent less than $250 to get the business up and running.
After downloading some free business plan templates and looking at some plans my friends had drawn up, I figured that once I had a functioning website, a way to process payment and book clients, some branding assets for social media, that I would mostly make for free and on my own, then I could have the minimal viable product I needed to launch my company.
My domain name cost $12 and hosting services for the website I built were $60/year. I purchased access to Acuity Scheduling, a calendar booking and payment program for $80/year. And I picked up a couple of other marketing tools, like a social media scheduling system and design software, all of which came to $90.
As I started getting new customers and the business started making money, I was able to reinvest the cash back into the business for things like improvements to my website and branding, legal fees, and promotional items for giveaways.
If you want to launch a side hustle right now, here is my best advice for how to get started for under $250.
If you're trying to figure out what kind of side hustle you want to start, you can begin by mining your skills and asking yourself two questions: What do I enjoy doing? And why do people usually come to me for help?
If you can start a business where you are the one providing the service, your start-up costs can be relatively low.
Video by David Fang
You can design a website for free on Wix or Squarespace and then just pay for the domain name and to host it, which can be done directly through Wix and Squarespace. You can also use a free design platform, like Canva, to create your own logo and graphics, plus branding assets.
Payment and booking platforms like Calendly are free but there are paid ones like the one I used, Acuity Scheduling, with more features that are as low as $10 a month. Google or Social Ads generally cost $50 a month, which could be a good way to acquire new customers.
In my experience, taking a skill you've mastered and creating a course on it is a great way to make passive income. Think of it as taking the concept of "you as a service" one step further.
A couple of months ago, to pivot during the pandemic since many of my clients were postponing their weddings, I decided to create an additional source of income for myself. I spent a few weeks developing a course on personal branding.
I recorded videos for the course using my phone, and hosting the course on a platform called Thinkific, which costs around $47 a month. The whole process, from coming up with the idea to getting the course live, took about three weeks.
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I priced it at $99 to stay competitive with similar courses that were around the $100 to $150 price point. I had more than 20 people sign up for the first round. I took the lessons I learned from Bridesmaid for Hire's launch, and used the money I earned to improve the course, up my marketing plan, and advertise to reach a new audience. I ran social media ads and hired an assistant to help make course updates.
Even if you don't have a big following, there are several ways you can reach potential students. Be sure to make the course stand out with clear and unique value and market the course where your audience spends time, like a Facebook group or a podcast in the space.
If you have a skill that you think an audience would benefit from learning about while they are at home, now could be a great time to invest in this kind of idea.
If your business is focused on developing a product, a big way you can save early on is to be mindful of where your materials are coming from, and how you will get orders to customers.
A few months back, while I was thinking about possible pivots, I also considered starting a jewelry side hustle. I was able to find colorful beads and strings I wanted on a wholesale website. It would have cost me $2 to make each bracelet and I could have sold each one for $12 to $15. While I didn't pursue the idea, I found the exercise to be a helpful one.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
If you are unsure about how to price your product, work backwards. First, ask yourself a couple of questions. Who is your ideal customer? How much would they be able to spend, or want to spend on this particular product? What do similar products in your space cost? Then, factor in what you would need to charge to both cover your initial costs and make a profit.
If you want to start a product-based business and don't want to pour money into making the product and storing it, requiring you to hold the inventory somewhere and be responsible for shipping, you can go with an approach called drop-shipping.
Drop-shipping is a retail fulfillment method where the online store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock, but purchases the item from a third-party site that ships it directly to the customer, but only after it's been bought. A number of e-commerce platforms, like Wix, AliExpress, and Shopify have drop-shipping options. Wix's service, for example, can run anywhere from $17 to $35 per month.
If you're not at the stage where you feel like you're ready to run a company, but are interested in gaining some business experience, I would consider using your resources to invest in someone else's idea.
While $250 might not seem like a lot of money to invest in a business, a friend of mine did just that in April. She connected with a local coffee shop she loved that wanted to start doing delivery during the pandemic but didn't have the resources or the cash to do it on their own.
The owners decided to take on 20 mini-investors, each giving anywhere between $250 and $10,000 in capital to help them pivot and get their delivery business off the ground. In exchange for the investment, each person got equity in the business and a percent of profits.
There are many ways to start a business, or work with an existing one, without emptying your savings account. I've found that success comes when you use your skills and resources to help solve a problem that matters to you. As you connect with customers and start to earn money, you can use those funds to continue to grow your business to new heights.
Jen Glantz is the founder and CEO of the business Bridesmaid for Hire, the voice of the podcast "You're Not Getting Any Younger,″ and the author of the Amazon-bestselling books, "All My Friends Are Engaged″ and "Always a Bridesmaid for Hire."
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