How To Start An Online Business For Free

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You’ve got the most amazing idea for an online business but it’s just an idea and you’re not making any money yet. So you want to know how to start an online business for free and you want to do it now. Don’t worry, I’ve got you!

How to Start an Online Business For Free

My 6 Top Tips: How To Start An Online Business For Free

Who doesn’t want to start an online business for free, right? Marketing budgets are for people who are already making money, so we need to find the best way to get your business off the ground without dropping any cash!

1. Define Your Brand

I’m assuming if you’re here then you’ve already decided on what your business will be, so your next step is to define your brand which is not the same thing.

For example, my business is web design, branding and SEO services. My brand is Webhive Digital – Pretty Websites That Convert. See the difference? I’m taking what I do and turning it into a visual of the end result of working with me. And that, my friend, sounds far more appealing than “I’m a web designer”.

It’s so important you get this right because good branding can make all the difference to how your business is perceived and how it can grow in the future. Even though you’re looking to start an online business for free right now, who knows where you will be in 1, 3 or even 5 years!

You don’t want to spend months promoting a business to realise the name you randomly picked one Sunday evening doesn’t work for a new offering idea you’ve had, or that someone else in your industry is using it already, so spend a bit of time getting this right.

I’ve created a 5 page workbook which will help you brainstorm and create your brand so it’s fine tuned to your business goals, click here to get your copy and access my free and exclusive resources library packed full of biz tips and tools!

2. Your Social Media Strategy

Facebook and Instagram are the two most popular platforms for promoting your business because they’re so widely used and you’re likely to already be familiar with them. So we’ll start there because you want to know how to start an online business for free and this is how to PROMOTE your online business for free. They go hand in hand!

Your social media accounts should have the same name as your business for consistency.

Create a business page on Facebook and invite all of your personal Facebook friends to join. Yes, it can feel a little bit cringe but hey, everyone’s got to start somewhere!

Start posting every day to your Facebook page with information on your products or services and useful information related to your business. You should aim to add value to encourage people to follow you.

Let’s say you sell handmade jewellery boxes, so one day you might share a jewellery box special offer, then the next a detailed post on how to keep your jewellery clean. This will attract people that might not be looking to buy right now but are interested in your products, so that when they are ready to buy you’re the business popping up in their feed.

These posts will likely be the ones with the most engagement which will boost your content reach to people who haven’t already liked your page, a win win situation!

For Instagram you need to think much more visually and do things a little different. See my post on How to Use Instagram for Business for the best way to do this which includes relevant hash tagging, reaching out to other accounts in a non-pushy way and being on top of your industry’s key players. You might also like my 5 Best Instagram Reels Ideas for Business! If you’re seriously about how to start an online business for free, you’re going to need Instagram and to get creative with your posts!

3. Promote To Wider Audiences

When you’ve got little to no audience and you’re looking to start an online business for free, one of the best ways to promote your business is with free Facebook groups. Be careful not to go too ‘salesy’ or post too often about your business, otherwise it might result in a ban which is the opposite of what you want.

Business Facebook groups often have link share threads and set days for self promotion so make sure you know when these are and to include your own links in these threads. Play by the rules and they can be a fantastic way to start an online business for free and generate some, if not all, of your business leads.

Doing an Instagram live with another business in your niche is another great way to gain exposure to a wider audience. If you think you’ve got something great you could offer an account’s audience then reach out to them and see if they’re interested. If you don’t ask you don’t get, right?

4. Take Advantage Of Free Resources

So obviously we’re looking to start an online business for free which means we’re ALL ABOUT the free resources. No matter what you’re wanting to learn more about nowadays you’re likely to a free resource to get you started.

My free resources library is a perfect example of this. It’s got on-page SEO checklists, how to start a website guide, weekly lead generation checklists and more to get you started. And that’s just ONE free resource available to you. Think about all the other businesses offering things like this too!

The right free resource can work wonders for the way you tackle your marketing, copy writing, sales technique and, well, EVERYTHING in your business. You’ll usually find free resources from key players within your industry so I recommend checking their websites to see what they’re promoting right now.

You can start by asking in your Facebook groups (hopefully you’re making some great connections there by now!) and reaching out on Instagram for recommendations if you’re looking for something industry specific. Or use the amazing search engine that is Pinterest, a real treasure trove of free resources. I usually pin my favourites to my Small Business Marketing board.

5. Your E-mail Marketing Strategy

E-mail marketing can be a free and highly effective tool for converting sales in your business. As you’re looking to start an online business for free I’m going to assume you don’t have an e-mail list already, so first of all you need to build one.

I use Mailchimp for my e-mail marketing because it’s free up to 2000 subscribers and is simple to use. You can build a subscription form on Mailchimp which you can then link to on your social media channels so you don’t even need a website to start gaining subscribers.

Next up you should create a free opt-in offer related to your business. Let’s say your business is in social media management. You could create a simple checklist of what post style works best on each platform, or an image template for Canva, and send that to your subscribers when they sign up.

Before you know it you’ll have an audience for your e-mail marketing too – and all for free!

6. Believe In Your Business

You need to be 110% committed and passionate to your online business if you want to make it a success – for free or not! That means showing up every day and promoting yourself, bigging up everything you do and mentioning it left, right and centre.

Maybe don’t go hard on the sell with your friends and family as that can be off putting, but when you’re in a business environment you should definitely GO IN on self promotion! This is the number one best way to start an online business for free!

You can have all the money in your world but if you don’t believe in your business then you’re not going to make it very far because the drive and determination isn’t there. So make sure you sprinkle a whole load of that all over your biz too ;).

Once you’ve mastered how to start an online business for free…

You’re going to need a killer website. There’s only so long that you can plod along on social media and e-mails before you’ll need somewhere more stable to send your business leads and customers.

All of these efforts will have a higher likelihood of success when paired with a website. That’s not to say you can’t follow them without a website, you absolutely can, but a website is a great place to send leads you connect with on social media or email and it can automate a lot of your sales process.

Once you’ve got the budget behind you from your initial successes, I recommend getting in touch with a web designer who can create you a beautiful website aligned with your business goals that will take all of your hard work and turn it into something even more amazing than it already is!

Written by Kate Smoothy
Kate Smoothy is an SEO specialist and web designer based in Essex, England. As well as being the director of Webhive Digital, Kate shares SEO tips and guides on TikTok, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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