How to Really Start a Business (or Why You Don’t Need Money to Make Money)

Everyone has excuses about why they can’t (actually won’t) earn more money. A common excuse is, “I need money to make money”.

You and I know that’s a myth (you do know that’s a myth, right?), but most people take it as a truism.

A lot of people think they need tens of thousands of dollars to get in on a franchise, or put cash down for a rental property, or buy into some silly multilevel marketing scheme.

The fact is, there are plenty of ways to make money without the need for a pile of cash — as Chris Guillebeau’s recent book, The $100 Startup, covers. The first step is to realize that there are always multiple solutions to any problem, whether it’s making more money, building your retirement nest egg/strongbox, or bartering for broccoli.

Must-have tools for creating a business on the cheap are:

• A bootstrapping mindset: How can you get or do something for free or extremely low cost? Again, creative brainstorming and flexible thinking will help you figure out how to accomplish a task on a shoestring. Check out some more specific bootstrapping principles to get you started.
• 步步为营:怎样才能白手起家呢?创造性思维、灵活应变的能力都可以让你以极少的钱完成任务。再多找些具体的步步为营法则看看,让自己顺利起步吧。(注:Bootstrapping来自于20世纪初期美国流传的一句“提着鞋带把自己举起来”的谚语,其本质就是一种步步为营、循序渐进的思想,指的是创业者在资源有限的条件下,发掘机会,创建新事业并实现价值。)

• Small steps and a willingness to experiment: This is the iterative, lean startup approach, where you try something small & fast, learn from it, and improve. What? You haven’t heard of the lean startup approach? Well, start reading up on it. It’ll save you from wasting time and money, and reduce startup frustration and misery.
• 脚踏实地,勇于尝试:这一环节,创业者所要做的就是重复的精益创业。在此期间,创业者可以做各种小而快的尝试,从中获取经验和教训,提升自己的实力。什么?你竟然没听说过“精益创业”?好吧,那么先好好钻研一番吧。你的时间和金钱将不再被浪费,起步的挫折与痛苦将会减轻。(注:lean startup以一个远景假设为出发点,通过快速、低成本的验证方式,验证产品与市场的契合度,不断迭代并及时调整方向。)

• Market validation: Again, from the lean startup/customer development paradigm, make sure that you’re offering something that people want and will pay for. What what? You haven’t heard of customer development either? Not a problem. There’s great info out there to get you started.
• 市场调研:同样地,从精益创业/发展客户范式入手,确保你所提供的产品是有需求的,客户是愿意付钱买的。什么什么?你也没听说过发展客户?关于这方面的信息可是有很多呢,你可以了解后再开始创业。

With all that said, you’ll also need to recognize your barriers to actually starting down the road of entrepreneurship. Here’s a list of the top 4 excuses people give for not making more money:

No time

No money

No expertise

No ideas

When you reflect on why you haven’t started exploring how to earn more money, probably every one of your barriers (excuses!) falls into one of the above categories. You might say to yourself:

• “Starting a business is too complicated.” Nope. That’s the “no expertise” excuse.
• “创业太复杂了。” 其实不然。说实话,这个理由真是太不专业了。

• “But I work insane hours, have eleventeen kids, and a 4-hour commute.” Granted, you might have limitations on your time, but you’ll always make time for the things that are most important. And 20-30 minutes a day is something you can carve out–especially if it’ll change your life.
• “我每天要疯狂地工作,上下班就要花四个小时,还有群十几岁的孩子要看管。” 的确,时间或许很有限,但你总能为最重要的那些事留出时间。我想,一天20-30分钟你还是可以抽出来的,尤其是当它可能改变你的生活之时。

• “But I don’t have $10 grand to fund a business.” OK, go back to the top of the article and re-read it. Done? OK. Repeat after me: “I can start a business for under $100.” Say it again. And again. Know that there are many ways to do any task. Sometimes the first thing that comes to mind is some high-falutin’, expensive way. Dig deeper. Focus on exactly what the outcome is, and brainstorm all the crazy ways you could get to it. I guarantee you’ll find ways to get it done on the cheap.
• “可我连10美元都没有,如何创业?”好吧,如果是这个问题,那么请你回到文章的开头,重新阅读一遍吧。看完了?好的,跟我念,“100美元之内,我照样可以创业”,多说几遍。要知道,条条大路通罗马,虽然有时候脑子里总是会先想到一些不切实际又昂贵的方法。继续钻研下去,将焦点集中于产出,头脑风暴一下你所能想到的各种疯狂办法。我向你保证,你一定会找到白手起家的妙招的。

• “But I don’t have any ideas for a business.” Try this: train yourself to look for problems. That’s right — look for problems throughout the day, every day. Jot them down in a notebook. Remember that every problem is an opportunity. Successful, sustainable businesses solve problems. Don’t want to cook dinner? Go to a restaurant. Problem solved. Hate to iron your clothes? Take them to a dry cleaner. Problem solved. Want to find & stay in touch with friends? Join Facebook. Problem solved. (You get the idea.)
• “但是我还缺少创业的想法”。不妨多练习练习发现问题——每天的每时每刻,试着去发现问题,然后记录下来。你一定要认识到,任何一个问题都有可能变成机会。那些成功且持久的事业都是为人解决问题的。不想做饭?那去餐馆,问题解决了;不想熨衣服?送去干洗店,问题解决了;想和朋友保持联系?注册脸谱网,问题解决了。(你明白了吧?)

It’ll take hard work, but the payoff is worth it

Starting and building a successful business takes hard work. But since you’re reading this, you and I both know you have an urge for something better. You daydream at work about quitting your job. You curse your commute and wish you could ditch your day job. You feel stuck at a job you hate.

While starting a business may not solve all your problems, it can give you a completely new worldview that’s empowering and full of possibilities. It took me a long time to get past my mental barriers and excuses before I started my own business, but when I began taking action, I started seeing things change. A few years down the road, I earn much more, have more financial security, more flexibility, and have no reason to complain about work. It’s been an amazing turnaround.

And while I’ve learned a thing or two about how to do things on the cheap since I started my business, I was still able to start my business inexpensively–and so can you. Now though, you have the advantage of tons more free and low-cost tools for starting your business. The most important things in your toolbox are a bootstrapping mindset, a focus on experimentation, and providing value.