Can You Really Start a Business for Less Than $100?

Financial freedom might be less than $100 away. Are you bold enough to take the leap and start your own small business?

Many of us dream of starting a business. Whether it’s a side hustle to earn extra cash or the fulfillment of a lifelong goal, becoming an entrepreneur comes with a lot of perks. You get to decide when you work, how much you work, and what kind of work you do. But with that freedom comes risk.

What if your business fails and you lose all your savings? What if you can’t find investors to back your idea? Luckily, you don’t need thousands of dollars to start a small business. In fact, there are quite a few potentially lucrative micro-businesses that cost less than a hundred dollars to launch.

Business Basics

Regardless of what kind of business you want to start, you’ll need a few basics first:

  • Business Plan – Free
  • Name – Free
  • Website Domain & Hosting – $50 for one year
  • Email Address – Free
  • Social Media Account – Free
  • Optional: Logo – $20
  • Optional: Business Cards – $20 for 100

A business plan is an essential first step—but it’s not all that exciting. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that complicated, either. A good business plan will help clarify and solidify your ideas, but beyond that, it will help ensure that you don’t make costly mistakes. We’ll talk more about those mistakes in a moment, but first, let’s dig a little deeper into your business plan.

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The U.S. Small Business Administration offers advice on how to write a business plan for a lean startup. This plan isn’t as detailed as a traditional one, but it’ll get the job done. The questions asked by the SBA will jumpstart your planning process and prompt you to think about things that you might have otherwise overlooked.

You’ll also need a name for your new business! Your business name should be unique—so no, you can’t start up a company called Amazon or Berkshire Hathaway. It should give the customer an idea of what the business offers. Think “Concrete Cleaning Solutions” and not “CCS Inc.” Ideally, you should also be able to secure a .com domain that matches your business name.

While a website isn’t strictly necessary for every business, it’s not a bad idea, either. HostGator offers a free domain and web hosting that costs as little as $2.75 a month. If you secure a custom domain, then make sure to set up a custom email address, too. “JohnSmith@barkshirebiscuits.com” is more professional than “barkshirebiscuits@gmail.com,” but if you don’t want to spend money on a basic website right now, then it isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker. Regardless, you should not use your personal email account to do business.

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Another consideration is your social media presence. Don’t try to create an account for every platform; instead, research the best way to reach your ideal customers. For some businesses, that might be Facebook or Twitter. Others might find that Instagram or even TikTok works better. Again, make sure that you can secure a username that matches your business name. This creates a strong foundation on which you can build your brand.

Speaking of branding, there are a few optional add-ons to consider. You might consider hiring a graphic designer on a website such as Fiverr to design a simple logo for your new business. You can also order 100 business cards from VistaPrint for about $20. However, if you plan to do most of your business and promotion online, business cards might be an unnecessary expense. If you find that you need cards, you can always order them later.

Mistakes Shoestring Entrepreneurs Make

One of the biggest mistakes brand-new entrepreneurs make is overextending themselves. Remember, you can always scale up. If you invest a lot of money and work into an unproven idea, you might sink your business before it starts. As with gambling, don’t bet more than you can comfortably afford to lose.

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Do you really need a professionally designed website with all the bells and whistles right now? Probably not! You can also cut costs and reduce overhead by using digital marketing collateral instead of printing. If your business requires expensive equipment, see if you can rent or borrow it or make do with a less costly alternative at first. If you’re making products to sell, it’s better at this stage to order supplies in smaller quantities, even if it means paying a little more for each unit, than placing a massive order.

Another mistake that could derail your business is trying to do everything yourself. While you can save money by building your own website, designing your own logo, and doing your own taxes, you have to remember that your time has value. Yes, you have to wear many hats when you’re a small business owner—but if the hat fundamentally does not fit, you’re better off outsourcing that job. You may even be able to barter with other entrepreneurs and freelancers!

It’s a good practice to invest in your business. Pay yourself first, but don’t pocket 100% of your revenue. Instead, put as much as possible back into your business. That’s how you’ll grow over time. Consider investing in better equipment, more marketing materials, a bigger space, or additional supplies, but continue to proceed with caution. Just because you made one sale doesn’t mean a hundred more are guaranteed.

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One more big problem for small businesses: taxes. You’ll need to keep meticulous records and receipts for all of your expenditures. This will permit you to know whether you’re making a profit or not, but good bookkeeping habits will also make filing your taxes a lot easier. Depending on the amount of revenue you earn, you may need to file quarterly estimated payments with the IRS. If you’re selling physical goods, you’ll also need to collect sales tax. Understand your tax responsibility before you start your business. If you’re not sure make an appointment with an accountant who specializes in helping entrepreneurs.

Read More: 1099 Forms: What Self-Employed, Private Contractors Should Know About Their Taxes

$100 Business Ideas to Inspire You

Now that you have a better idea of the costs, benefits, and potential pitfalls involved in starting a small business, let’s start brainstorming. While some people might have a crystal-clear idea of the kind of business they want to start, you might be a little hazier. That’s okay!

Small business expert Steve Nicastro recommends that new entrepreneurs pursue an idea that they’re already familiar with. “Go with what you already know or don’t mind learning fast,” he writes. You don’t need to be an expert right away, but leveraging skills and experience you’ve gained can increase your chances of success.”

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Follow your passion—because there’s no way to succeed as a small business owner if your heart isn’t in it. The hours are often long, and the rewards may be slow to manifest. However, with the right combination of skills and determination, it is possible to succeed. Try making an inventory of your experience and interests to narrow down possible business ideas or think about a problem you encountered that needs a solution. You can also browse this list of potential $100 startup ideas for inspiration.

Consultant – Unless you’re an absolute beginner, then you know more than someone. Turn your hobby, experience, or wisdom into a business by offering your services as a consultant. For example, there’s a growing demand for social media consultants for other small businesses. There are even professional online dating consultants who help people find love!

eBay Seller – Most people own things they don’t really need or want anymore. And other people will buy those things! Although there are many specialty retail sites online, eBay is still one of the most popular marketplaces. Best of all, you don’t need to pay upfront fees to start selling.  

Day Trader – You don’t need to be rich to start trading stocks. Thanks to modern technology, you can buy and sell stocks from your phone. Invest $20, $50, or $100 in the stock market, then reinvest your profits and watch your net worth grow.

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Event Planner – Are you a very organized person who also has great taste? You might thrive as an event planner. This business is all about forming relationships—with clients and with vendors—and ensuring that the magic happens on schedule and on budget.

Graphic Designer – The best way to get clients as a graphic designer is to specialize. Don’t be a generalist! Lean into your personal style or find a niche market that needs your skills. Hang up your virtual shingle on a site like Fiverr or network with local print shops that work with contractors.

Virtual Assistant – Many people are looking for help with their own small businesses, and that’s a business opportunity for you!

Online Instructor – If you have a passion for teaching and an internet connection, then why not set yourself up as an online instructor? You can teach pretty much anything online, from writing to yoga to painting. There are opportunities to work one-on-one with students as well as offer group classes through sites like Udemy or Skillshare.

Pet Sitter or Dog Walker – Pet lovers can monetize their passion by working as a pet sitter or dog walker without investing a dime. Advertise in your neighborhood to find clients and work on establishing positive word of mouth. If pets aren’t your thing, you could also be a plant sitter or even a farm sitter!

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Cleaner – It’s a dirty job… but maybe you’re the one to do it. There are a lot of potential ways to work as a cleaner without signing on with a big business. For example, cleaning foreclosed homes is a niche market with a lot of opportunities. Keep in mind that you may need to be bonded and carry insurance as a cleaner.

Calligrapher – There’s writing and then there’s writing. If you have beautiful handwriting, then you might find that working as a professional calligrapher is right up your alley. Meghan Markle herself worked as a calligrapher early in her career to earn extra money!

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