Starting a cheap real business with little to no money has never been easier. The internet has opened up a world of opportunities and made it possible for anyone with some focus and determination to build a profitable online business.
As someone who, 5 years ago was stuck at a corporate job and skeptical about the possibility of an online business, I am now a proud digital entrepreneur and I am happy to share all my experiences and learnings.
Over the last 5 years, I have started not one but 3 online businesses and I can say confidently that affiliate marketing is one of the best methods you can use to grow a significant and reliable income with zero to no money investment.
What is the cheapest business to start with little money?
I might be a bit biased based on my experience but I wholeheartedly believe Affiliate Marketing is not only the cheapest but also the most profitable business you can start if you have little to no money.
With Affiliate Marketing you get to promote other people’s products and receive a commission whenever a sale is made through your referrals. This means that the work and investment of creating (or sourcing) a product has already been made and all you need to do is share it with other people.
You also don’t need to worry about any logistics, fulfillment, refunds, or even customer service expenses since that is all on the company’s end.
Depending on the methods you decide you use to promote affiliate products you can get started for completely free (e.g. using social media and free platforms) or with little money (by using ads and some paid tools) but I’ll get into more detailed about this later.
Why is Affiliate Marketing the cheapest business to start
It has zero product costs
In any business, some of the main costs are the ones related to developing or sourcing a product. There is usually a minimum of pieces you can order if you want to get it customized with your own brands and even more if you are developing a product from scratch which can get really expensive.
With Affiliate Marketing, the company has already put in the time and money to create the product so you don’t need to worry about any of that.
Moreover, they have also spent money in testing it, optimizing it, and making sure it is attractive for the audience so —if you choose your offers correctly — you can make sure you are promoting a winning product.
It has zero fulfilment costs
Another important cost of business is that of shipping and handling the products along with taking care of customer service and refunds.
Not only does this require money but it can also consume a lot of your time once as you start receiving more and more orders so it would mean you would probably need to hire someone to take care of it.
You don’t need to pay for any tools*
Most businesses require one or more resources for their basic functioning like research tools, websites or landing pages, email autoresponders, etc.
If you are going to start a business and want it to look professional you can not skip those steps but in the case of Affiliate Marketing, the companies already have their whole sales funnel set up so you can simply direct people to their pages and let them do the rest.
Now, while you can get started for free, it is best that you use some basic tools like a simple landing page builder and a email autoresponder which are basically all the costs you’d need to invest in.
You can learn for free
This one might be similar for other types of businesses but all the information you need to get started is one Google or Youtube search away. There are millions or articles and videos you can follow to learn everything for the basics to becoming a super affiliate all for free.
One of those free resources is this article I wrote on How To Make Money with Affiliate Marketing. Additionally, if you want someone to hold your hand and tell you exactly what to do, this is the course I recommend for beginners. It is a great foundation and it only costs $7.
How much does it cost to start an Affiliate Marketing business?
While you can get started for free, here are some of the few tools I recommend investing on plus other optional expenses depending on what method you choose to use.
Landing Page builder:
When you promote an affiliate offer, you have the option to send people directly to the company’s website, but it is better that you send the first to a simple opt-in page and collect their emails.
This is going to help you get more sales and commissions as well as building an email list that you can offer other products to in the future.
If you are thinking this sounds complicated, don’t worry. It might be if you were trying to code a page from scratch but that’s landing page builders like Clickfunnels . make it super easy for anyone without any previous knowledge or experience to a page in a few minutes.
At Clickfunnels costs $97 month is one of the very few tools you should consider and a very cheap cost for starting a business. You can get also get a 14 day free trial here
Together with a landing page builder, this is the only other tool you need to start a cheap affiliate business.
It allows you to send automated email campaigns to follow up with people who didn’t buy the first time they saw the offer. It’ll also help you promote other offers to your email list and make commissions on autopilot.
One of the best email autoresponders I have tried is ActiveCampaign. It cost $9/month and is even cheaper if you pay annually. You can also get a free trial here
On average marketer make $1-$5/month per every email subscriber (depending on the niche) so you should be able to cover that cost pretty quickly.
Total start-up cost with recommended tools: $106/month
Since there are many ways to do Affiliate Marketing, there can be other conditional costs depending on which method you decided to use.
Below I will outline some of the possible costs from the cheapest to the one that requieres a bigger budget.
Zero Extra Costs: Social Media
The cheapest way to get started with Affiliate Marketing is by using a social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, or Pinterest.
In this case, all you need to do is create content that attracts potential buyers and direct them to your landing page or the affiliate offer you are promoting.
Content creation is 100% free and it all takes is that you put in some time and be consistent.
Cheap start-up cost
Other cheap ways to get started with Affiliate Marketing is by creating a blog or a Youtube channel.
These alternatives are also really cheap since they focus on content creation, which again, is completely free. You do need to put in some time and work into it but it is one of the best ways to create a business with little to no money.
Here are some of the costs associated with start an affiliate marketing business with a blog or Yotube Channel:
With a blog:
With a Youtube channel:
There are no necessary costs associated with starting an affiliate marketing business on Yotube. You can get starting with just your phone but if you were to invest in some basic equipmente, these would be some of the expenses:
The least cheap option
If you have a bigger budget than a couple of hundred dollars, you can also start your affiliate marketing business using paid advertisement like Google ads, Facebook ads, native ads, etc.
With this alternative, you can get visitors to your offers on-demand without the need to create content so if you have a small budget this is a good way to make profits faster.
Naturally, the goals is for your ads to be profitable and bring back more than the money you spend but there’s always a learning curve and some testing involve before you start seeing profits.
I’d advice for a staring budget of $1,000 so you can be comfortable and don’t need to pause your campaigns by lack of cashflow.
Recommended: How To Use Facebook Ads for Affiliate Marketing
Do you need to pay to learn?
One important investment of every business than not a lot of people talk about is the money and time entrepreneurs spend on learning essentials skills for their business.
While nowadays, you can learn everything you want online for free, it is also true that the information you find is scattered and with some important gaps.
Naturally, people who have the experience and skills to teach it, have also invested in their own education and businesses so not everyone is willing to share their know-how for free.
Additionally, learning from the wide web can be time consuming and leave you more confused than before since the advice can be conflicting and you won’t know who to follow.
This is why I think investing in a training or a coach can actually save you a lot of money (and time) as a beginner. Find someone who is doing and teaching what you want to do, go ahead and consume all the free content they have. If they are giving valuable advice for free, you can be confident about their paid trainings or mentoring.
When it comes to Affiliate Marketing there are many great coaches you can learn from but this $7 challenge by 8-figure affiliate marketer David Sharpe is one of the cheapest and most thorough trainings out there.
Comparison of cheap businesses to start
While I believe Affiliate marketing is the best business you can start with little money, there are alternatives worth mentioning which you can considered based on your own preferences.
In this section I will explain what other cheap business are worth looking into, how they compare to Affiliate Marketing and who they might be best for.
Selling Digital Products
Selling Digital Products is another business with a low start-up cost since you only need to create the product once and can then sell it forever. You also don’t need to invest in inventory for obvious reasons or all the profits go straight to your pockets.
This is a good alternative and be quite profitable depending on the product you create and how you choose to sell it. Some digital products like courses and masterminds can sell for thousands of dollars.
But you don’t need to go that far if you are just starting out. You could begin with a small product like an ebook, printable or pdf guide so you can get familiar with the process.
The cost of starting a business selling digital products can go from zero if you create the product on your own and sell it in a marketplace; up to $1K approx. if you decide to outsource the product creation and sell it on your own website. (Plus the cost of advertisement to bring customers.)
When compared with Affiliate Makreitng, Selling digital products shares the low start-up cost and the big profits percentage but it has some other downsides.
If you decide to sell your digital products in a marketplace like ebay or Udemy, your price will be limited by the competitions and your profts will be cut by the fee they take. Alternatively if you choose to sell it on your own site, you’ll need to take care of customer services. and refunds.
Also, you will be launching a completely new product into the market so you are not sure if it will sell. Of course you need to do some research and adjust to the market demand but there is always a small risk involved.
I actually love this type of business myself but I think the best approach is to promote proven affiliate offers first. This way you can make money while you grow your audience and learn what works. Then you can create and promote your own products along with your affiliate offers to the same audience.
Recommended: Best Digital Products To Sell
If you have been wondering about starting a business for a while, you have probably heard about dropshipping.
This methods implies that you create an online store and advertise a product but without buying or holding any inventory. Only when a custoner makes a purchase, you would then go ahead and order the product from a supplier (usually based in China) for a lower price and ship it straight to the customer address.
Since you only buy and ship the product once a somebody places an order, you don’t need to spend any money in stock which is why this type of business requieres little money.
Some of the expenses involved in this type of business are the creation of an eCommerce store ($30/month in software – $500 to have it done for you), product samples ($20-$100), and the cost of advertisement to get visitors to your store ($1000).
While dropshipping can be considering a cheap business to start, you do need to get a budget for ads since that is the best way to get traffic an sales.
Addiitonally, the profits are quite low since you need to pay for the product, shipping, ads and the transaction fees. The average profit of a dropshipping store is 10%-15% so you would need to get $30k in revenue to make around $3k in profits. Not imporssible but definitely not ideal.
Actually, most ‘dropshipping gurus’ make more money from the affiliate tools they recommend such ads Shopify or Woocomerce than what they make from their dropshipping ventures.
Service based businesses
If you have checked other articles for ideas on cheap businesses to start, lots of them have a 30-items-long post for different types of service business businesses that go from dog-walking and house cleaning to a virtual assistant and social media managing.
While service based business have a low start-up cost, at first you’ll still be in the realm of an hour-based payment or selling your time for money which is not an actual scalable business but more of an indepent job.
Eventually, the goal of this type of ‘business’ is that you get enough clients so you can start subcontracting and take on the role of a business owner while you pay others to do the actual services you offer.
The costs of starting this type of business will vary greatly depending on exactly what you choose to do. Offering carpet-cleaning services, for example, will require more equipment than if you were to offer graphic design services.
Regardless of the business-specific expenses, you’d need to invest in creating a professional website ($100 on your own or $500+ if you have it made) plus advertising to start getting clients ($500)
It can still be considered a cheap business to start but it can take some time before you can move from working per hour to managing your own team and making more money.
Depending on the type of service you want to offer, you’ll also need to have the skills, qualifications or permits in the case of off-line business.
Flipping Digital Real State
Flipping real estate requires some big bucks but in the internet era, there are other more affordable and coveted assets you can make money from.
Far from the eyes of users , visitors and followers, there is a growing market where of people buying and selling millions of social media accounts, youtube channels, blogs and domains.
Once an account or website has an audience, it turns into a valuable platform for brands and entrepreneurs to promote their products so there are people whose business is growing accounts and blog to a certain size and then selling them.
While you could also do that, it might take some time and is not necessary since you can simply buy them and then reselling at a better price. In between, you can rent the space for promoted posts, grow the number of followers and make a bigger profit.
The cheapest type of digital real estate you can buy are Instagram accounts and you can get them at a wide range of prices. I would recommend a budget of $400-$500 for starting this type of business and have some cash flow so you are not starting with just one account.
One of the drawbacks of this ‘business’ is that as a beginner, you need to be very careful and learn to differentiate a valuable assets so you don’t get scammed.
Additionally, I don’t think it can be very scalable since you need to put some time into each deal and negotiation.
If this is something that interests you, it can serve as a good way to increase your starting capital before moving into another business model.
20 years ago, people would laugh or rolled their eyes at you if you would tell them that you wanted to be an influencer but nowadays it is a well know profitable business.
Influencers make money by creating content in a certain niche and growing a following of people interested in what they have to say. Once they have an audience, they can make money by doing sponsorships, getting brand deals, doing events or even launching their own products.
The most important part of this type of business is the content you create and the image you project so you can get started with no money.
On the downside, it can take a while for you to grow your audience to the point where it makes you a full time income and it can be very time consuming at first but on the long run it can really pay off since you have many ways to monetize your following and your income will continue to grow overtime.
Affiliate Marketing is also an important part of influencer’s revenue that can help you make money at the beginning even if you don’t have any sponsorships yet.
Cheapest Business to Start – FAQ
What is the easiest business to start?
After the cheapest business to start, this is another common question so want to start by saying, starting a business is no easy. It is defitnetly worthy to have freedom over your time and your life but the truth is that at the beginning, you are going to be working more hours that you did at your regular job.
I don;t know any succesful entrepreneur who hasn’t put it the work, time and consistency require to bring a business to life from scratch.
That being said, I think all the businesses mentioned in this article are equally simple and beginner-friendly. I would still advise any of my friends to get started with Affiliate Marketing but if you already have a highly paid skill then a service-based business is also a good one to consider.
Recommended: Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners
What business can I start with $500- $1k?
$500 might seem like a small amount to start a new business but it is not if you have another important asset: time.
In the internet era, digital assets are the equivalent to real state and you can build your won from scratch with zero dollars.
What are digital assets? anything that generates an audience like a blog, a Youtube channel, or a social media page. user’s attention is one of the most coveted currencies and if you have it, turn it into money easily.
If I were to start from zero with zero, I’d begin by creating content and promoting affiliate offers. Eventually this content will generate free traffic and sales that’ll turn into passive income.
If I had an extra $500 or $1k to invest, I’d put it towards ads to start getting visitors to my content and affiliate offers and start making commission faster.
If you want to learn more about this strategy, this $7 challenge will give you a step-by-step guide
How come is Affiliate Marketing such a cheap business to start?
A lit of people are skeptical that you can truly start a sucessfgul busoness with little money so they think there must be some hidden costs or it simply is too good to be truth.
The thing is, you can also start with a big budget and grow your business faster by investing in ads and hiring people to help you. But, if you don’t have the budget you can compensate for it by putting in the time and creating content that gets you traffic and sales.
More importantly, this is all possible because someone else has already invested in creating and the product you would promote along with paying for things like market research, customer service, and logistics.
“I want to start a business but I have no money”
While it is technically possible to start a business like affiliate marketing with no money, the truth is, it is not the best way to do it.
If you don’t have a couple hundred dollars to pay the basic tools you need for the first months, you are gonna be more worried about making money fast and surviving than about more important aspects of your business.
My advice would be to consider freelancing or another side gig first so you can save $300-$500 and start your business from a more comfortable place.
It has never been easier to start a cheap business as it is today. Thanks to the internet anyone can source products for cheap, become a public figure or sell digital goods.
If you are serious about starting a business, money is not an issue. All it takes is some time and consistency.
I started my affiliate marketing business after losing $10k in a different venture so I didn’t have much to begin with but I was able to build a 6 figure business in my first year with nothing but time, consistency and focus.
If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, this $7 challenge is the same one I took. It has an actionable plan that’ll help you get results while you learn.