Best Business To Start With Little or No Money

Are you filled with an entrepreneurial drive but tight on funds? You’ve got little to no money but time is your biggest asset to offer. What business can you possibly start for less than $100?

If you are looking to sell online and establish yourself on a known and trusted marketplace there are two programs for sellers with Amazon: Merch by Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing. Merch is a print on demand program for t-shirts and apparel. KDP offers print on demand and digital sales of books and notebooks. These programs are free to join and do not require purchasing inventory.

Is this for you?

I was once in your shoes. I was hungry for money. You can call it a hustle, gig, job, or sideline income; the idea is the same, I was open for business and willing to take on any work or start any project that I thought would pay off.

The game has changed in the last 15-20 years and for good: There are more opportunities to make money now than ever before. And with a mobile phone in every pocket and the explosion of social media, it is easier to reach your audience than ever before.

You're reading this because you also have a computer or smartphone and access to the internet. And that's about all you need to get started. It would be helpful to have some coin to invest in some tools, but it is not required to get started, however, I will introduce a couple of tools with a low-price tag that will pay for themselves over and over.

What is required is to put something, any amount, on the line. It could be a bet with a friend or relative. This is not about pass or fail, this is about accountability. "Friend, I'll give you $50 if I don't start a business in the next month. This time next month I will show you my seller's account and there will be products for sale."

Maybe you don't have any friends. Maybe you are a lonely lurker on Reddit. That's ok too, but I'll tell you now, you have to have something to motivate you or you will go nowhere.

All this information without action isn't going to deposit money in your account. You can't pay for your pizza with a great idea. And then you will have wasted both of our time. I don't think that's you, as you have wound up here, but crazier things have happened.

So stop reading now if you aren't willing to take action. Go buy a lotto ticket, stick it under your pillow and have some sweet dreams. That's all the advice I got for you type of people.

How much longer of platitudes and fluff?

Not much. If you've ever heard someone say it takes money to make money, they weren't lying. It's easier to find a job when you are employed, easier to buy a car when you have one, and easier to make a dollar when you start with money.

FEAR NOT! You still can make money. I'm not saying it's going to pay your rent this month and make you a millionaire next year, but there are businesses that can start making money almost right away.

So what's the secret? Taking advantage of existing marketplace demands with ready-to-purchase buyers. Not inventing the wheel. You'll have plenty of opportunities to be creative, but in order to make a fast nickel, we are going to supply what people are already buying.

We want to imitate success. We want to hop on the gravy train and ride it as long as we can. Choo! Choo!

Look, I'm not saying there isn't a place for inventors today. What I am saying is with a lot less time and a whole lot less money, you can start selling and making money now. If you see yourself as an inventor you can focus on those projects once you have some money coming in.

The Meat & The Meat

We are going to get started with 2 platforms: Merch By Amazon (Merch) t-shirts and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) paperback books. You can pick either one or do both at the same time.

These are print on demand programs, so you don't have to buy any inventory: Your designs aren't created until they are bought. In the case for KDP, we are going to focus on low-content and no-content books (lined pages) because neither one of us are prolific writers.

What’s that Hemingway? Do you got a book in you? Write it. But for real, that’s the long road.

Both of these platforms sell product directly on Amazon. The largest marketplace in the world. You may have heard it's super competitive, you missed the boat on this opportunity, and you don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to get started.

Wrong, wrong, and erroneous on both counts. You really got to leave the negative attitude at the door bruh. Stop trying to quit before you even get started.

Anyway, what's a funny word we read on the internet? Niche. You can say it so it rhymes with Neesh or Nitch, I don't care. You will niche down.

Niche Selection

What that means is you will get specific, you will target a very specific audience to find success. You will want to do some research to find and identify multiple profitable niches, but let's keep moving while we got momentum.

If you went out there today and tried to make a t-shirt for "Proud Father", you'd be up against a ton of other sellers and your design might never see the light of day. But if you went out there with a design that was "Proud Father of an NYC Firefighter" you just laser targeted an audience.

And to turn this one design into 10, we are going to create Proud Mother, Sister, Brother, Grandpa, Grandma, Son, Daughter, Grandson, Granddaughter. And that doesn't even take into account regional or ethnic spellings of a family such as Grampa, Papa, Pawpaw, Opa, etc.

Not every single one of these is going to be a runaway success. Actually, some might never sell. Oof. You'll come to appreciate my refreshing honesty. But, you will find success. You will make sales. You are going to have a kickass design that people want to buy.

Design skills and software. Or your lack thereof. We hit another roadblock. Well, we got a workaround for this too.

First, a lot of people, myself included, are finding success with text only designs. Can you write words? Fantastic. I knew you were a winner. Two, it doesn't require you to purchase any software. What?! Nope, there are a handful of free ones to produce top-notch work.

Ok, I get it. You are clearly NOT a designer.

How can someone with no design skills get started?

Enter: Canva. Canva is a freemium web-based software you can use to create designs. You can keep it for free as long as you want or decide to pay for a monthly subscription when it's worth it to you.

Go ahead and open it up in a new tab, if you haven't already. You'll want to sign up and play with it in a moment but remember Canva is your friend.

Now we can use these same designs for our notebook covers in KDP or we can make entirely new ones. Not every t-shirt design will be a winning notebook cover and not every notebook cover will be a winning t-shirt design.

Use your judgment. Use your creative talents to decide. Oh, that's right, I forgot you aren't a designer. (And if, by chance, you are this whole project is going to be more fun and easy for you.)

Ok, non-designer friend, we are going to use another FREE resource for photos and graphics in our designs. Images that are available under a creative commons license are free to use even for commercial purposes.

So open up Pixabay in a new tab. Have a search for a firefighter. Find something cool? Download that at the highest resolution available. This will require sign-up, but it's free and easy, so don't be annoyed and just do it.

A word on design dimensions. Amazon wants files that are 4500x5400 pixels for the shirts. Canva maxes out at 5000x5000. So we will design in 4167x5000px (it is proportionate to the larger size) and resize using another free web-based tool.

Now we can upload this image to Canva. We can drag it into our custom sized canvas. Add text. Pick a cool font. Change the color and size. Add words over the image. There’s a notebook cover and a t-shirt. Don't think it looks good with the image for a t-shirt? Just copy the words over into another design file.

Your notebook covers are going to be sized on the number of pages that are on the inside because the spine width will change. So we will calculate the dimensions based on notebook size (6x9, 8.5x11, etc) plus bleed plus spine. Here’s Info on setting up Paperback Cover from Amazon.

It’s a bit of math the first time, but the calculator will sort it out for you. We are working on some really cool templates for you too. You can make your own lined pages in Google Docs or you can download free or paid templates from designers on platforms like Gumroad.

They've got lines, dot matrix, half-lined half-blank, as well as some attractive interior templates that cross the line from no-content to low-content. It will save you a bucket load of time and a headache to start with pages you download. Lines are usually free or cheap like 2 bucks. Premium interiors command a premium price.

Woah, hold up. I’ve put the cart in front of the horse. I’ve got you designing and you aren’t yet signed up for either program. My intention was to show you how easy it can be to get going and open up shop. Let’s get signed up.

Signup for Merch and KDP

You can apply to sell on Merch here. Now, this is a formality, but you can expect to hear a quick response in about 1-2 weeks. Sometimes Amazon will make you wait longer. While you’re waiting, learn how to use Canva and create some designs. There’s great content on YouTube and Udemy. You can also sell your t-shirt designs on other POD platforms like Red Bubble.

Amazon blew the doors off the Merch program and are letting almost everyone in, but this application invitation process keeps out the Nigerian princes and scammers. Be thankful for that. In the past, these Merch products were only available for sale on Amazon in the US. In 2018, Amazon enabled all Merch accounts to sell in UK and German marketplaces.

Merch: Did you know?

  • It takes about 5-10 minutes to list a product on Merch in any of the 3 marketplaces. And less than 3 minutes to copy/paste your product details to sell it in the UK or Germany.

  • You set your own prices and can realistically earn $1-7 per shirt in royalties (profit) every time your product is sold. You can change the price at any time.

  • It’ not only t-shirts. Long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies are available for sale through the Amazon Merch platform. Even PopSockets became available as an apparel item on the platform.

Let’s get going with KDP here. There will be no wait to gain access here. Enter your personal details and you’ll be away. YouTube will be your friend again with helpful creators walking you through the upload process and pointing you towards free and paid resources.

KDP: Did you know?

  • Publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your products will be on Amazon worldwide in less than 48 hours.

  • You can earn up to 70% royalty (profit) on sales of your products.

  • You keep the the rights of your work and set your own list prices. And you can change the price at any time.

So what are you waiting for? We have recommended free and paid Resources on our page here. Get started today.