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How to Start a Business With No Money in the UAE?

Published by wadialbada
March 21, 2024
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It’s natural for an aspiring entrepreneur to have financial constraints when launching a new business. Just because you have no funds doesn’t mean that your dream of becoming a successful business magnet will vanish into thin air.

You’ll be surprised to know that there are so many prominent brands that started with little or no money, such as HP, Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Shutterstock, Subway… and the list goes on!

There are many aspects to getting your business up and running, but here is a detailed guide on how to start a business with no money in the UAE.

Challenges of Starting a Business With No Money

Starting a business with no money is definitely possible, and people have been successfully doing it in the current market landscape. But in order to succeed in this path, you will be facing some inevitable challenges.

Some of these challenges are –

  • Unable to hire an expert

Unless you have a friend willing to help you out of the goodness of their heart, no funds means you will not be able to hire experts in different fields of your business. You will have to put in work on your own and accommodate every aspect of your business without any outside help. If possible, convince a friend or two to join in on your venture.

  • Marketing without a budget

Your growth will be very slow as you begin operations. Due to lack of funds, you will not have the best marketing or connections and it will take time to establish yourself. Without some funds to give you a jumpstart, you will need to be patient for any type of return.

  • Reduced networking opportunities 

Without capital, you will find yourself missing out on a lot of opportunities, such as great deals or collaboration opportunities. You may also find yourself with a great marketing opportunity or trend but unable to launch a campaign without funding. 

Here is an infographic that lists the reasons startups fail. 

How to Start a Business With No Money

While the ideas and steps we will be providing will help you immensely in getting your business started without much spending, having some funds at your disposal can accelerate your growth and is definitely worth going through the trouble of collecting them.

According to the infographic above about the research conducted by CB Insights, 38% of startups fail due to running out of cash or failing to raise funds. Here are some ways you can collect funding that can help launch you to great success.

Friends and family

We probably don’t need to tell you this, but you can try asking your friends or family if they can provide you with a starting capital, especially if you know if they are well off on their own.

More likely than not, they will be willing to give it to you especially if you have a good relationship with them. Be sure to thank them and offer something in return once your business takes off.

Credit cards

You can apply for business credit cards to acquire some funds for operations. They can also be easier to apply for than loans in a lot of cases. Depending on what company or bank you get your card from, you may find cash-back opportunities or redeemable points so you can take advantage of that.

Investors

Venture capitalists or angel investors are a group who look for upstarting businesses to fund. Venture capitalists usually expect a percentage of your revenue as commission while angel investors look for an ownership of an agreed percentage of the company.

Investors can also sometimes act as mentors and help guide you on your journey. So you may also find an ally alongside funding in this way. Seek them out and appeal to them as to why they should fund your business.

If you have a solid plan at hand, they will be happy to enter a contract with you.

Crowdfunding

There are sites available that you can use to crowdfund your business. Crowdfunding is the process of asking prospective customers to fund your project usually in exchange for the final product or service you will be providing along with some bonuses.

You will need to make a good pitch in order to win over an audience who would be willing to pay you upfront. The likelihood of getting crowdfunded depends on how high demand your product is or how well your product or service will be able to solve a problem of an audience. Sites like Kickstarter and Fundly can help you with your crowdfunding goals.

Loans

If you are okay with borrowing money, you can consider applying for a loan. There are many banks and institutes that give out small loans to starting businesses to kick start their activities. You are more than likely to gain funds this way if you can show them you have everything mapped out.

Grants

Grants are better than loans because you do not have to pay the amount back. It is, however, harder to acquire due to its more lucrative nature.

There are a lot of grants available for women, people in minority groups, and generally struggling people so keep an eye out to see if you are eligible for any of them and apply accordingly.

Bootstrapping

Bootstrapping is the act of acquiring funds by using any resources you have at your hand. Some ways of bootstrapping are:

  • Withdrawing money early out of your retirement fund
  • Mortgaging your house
  • Selling anything you do not need

Think of bootstrapping as a last resort option and try not to rely on it. Only do it if you feel like you are out of all options. You run the risk of altering your retirement plan or hampering your day-to-day standards if the earnings from your new business are not favorable to you.

Types of Business Ideas You Can Run

Some of the most cost-incurring factors of a lot of small businesses are real estate and payrolls. So you will need to pick something that does not require a physical space and the work can be done without the help of skilled employees, at least for the first few months.

Some businesses you can delve into are given below.

Service skills

Service-based skills are one of the best options for starting a business that requires very little capital investment upfront. You can start small by providing your services to your immediate circle and ask them to spread your expertise to their known circle through word-of-mouth.

For example, if you have great woodworking skills, you can ask to work for friends or family members for their needs and ask them to refer you to their circles. You will not need a physical office to do your job and if you are an expert at it, chances are that you will already have all the necessary tools to do your work.

Just open yourself an online page on your relevant social media, (Facebook and Instagram might be your best bet) and ask your customers to leave a review on your page. Once clients start rolling in, you will have a steady source of income.

Do the same for your skill set and start advertising yourself through social media. Before you know it, you will find yourself with a steady source of revenue.

E-commerce

E-commerce, especially dropshipping are some of the most successful business models and they can be surprisingly easy to set up if you look in the right places. You will be in charge of building an attractive website and marketing it so that you can connect suppliers and manufacturers with buyers.

You do not have to put up with keeping inventory or maintenance costs and the majority of your work will be SEO of your website.

Freelancing

There are many sites like Fiverr and Upwork where you can sell your services as a freelancer. If you have desirable skills like copywriting, web development, software development, or anything else, you can advertise yourself to potential clients.

If you are starting, try to do work for your immediate circle to create a portfolio. Having an attractive portfolio will gain the attention of a lot of high-paying clients.

Try using sites like LinkedIn for networking and see if you can work for anyone who is in a high position. Post the work you have done and for whom you have done them. Arrange your profile with all your skills and experience and you will find clients who want you to work for them.

Content creation

Content creation has been one of the more successful jobs in recent years despite being relatively new. Some of the more popular content are short-form videos for TikTok, YouTube shorts, and Instagram reels, and long-form videos for YouTube. Use your creativity to attract an audience and once you amass around even a thousand followers, you will find revenue-earning opportunities through organic ads, sponsorship deals, or affiliate marketing.

Blogging

A common misconception is that blogging is dead and that cannot be further from the truth. If you are a skilled writer in the art of blogging, there are many ways you can bring in revenue.

For example, you can set up a website and post your blogs there to bring in traffic and gain earnings through ad revenue. You can also post blogs on your e-commerce website for SEO purposes and try to sell products through your site.

What’s more, you can sell your skills as a blogger to clients who want to optimize their search rankings by posting blogs. The opportunities of blogging are many for you to take advantage of.

Virtual assistant

With remote work being more popular these days, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual assistants (VA) are becoming a high-demand job. 

You are usually assigned to a professional worker like a manager or a doctor and are tasked with taking care of their administrative duties, like keeping track of appointments, communicating on their behalf, or documenting their work.

With observational, communication, and administrative skills on your behalf, along with a reliable device and internet, this is a great job you can expand into a business by having a team of VAs serving several clients.

Coaching and instructing

If you are particularly skilled at any subject, you can make money by teaching curious audiences and charging them a fee. From educational content, marketing skills, language skills, or even niche topics like gaming skills, there is a platform for everything where you can teach a student and earn a living.

You can sell specialized courses through your own website or even third-party websites where people will pay you to teach them a particular subject. Some popular websites where you can apply as a teacher/instructor/coach of various skills are SkillShare, MyCoolClass, and Metafy.

If you have a specialized or a specific skill you are confident you can teach, chances are that there is a teaching website for that niche. Seek them out and apply yourself to become a teacher.

Sell digital products

If you can create digital products, you can create them and set them up on third-party websites that sell independently created products.

This is a great way to have a source of passive income as you will have to focus on creating your product once and just put it up for sale in the appropriate market. 

You will not have to do or maintain anything and each time someone buys or subscribes to your product, you will earn the proceedings.

Some examples of digital products are e-books, video games, digital posters, etc.

Steps to Follow for Successfully Running Your Business

No matter what type of business you decide to move forward with, you will need to follow the given steps to ensure success in your venture. After all, you do not want to see all your hard work go to waste.

Conduct market research

The most crucial part of your journey, which should be done before your operations begin, is conducting market research. Once you pick a niche you want to serve, try to search what kind of audience you should expect and what are their demands. Identify a segment to target and craft a unique selling point (USP) that appeals to them.

Also, do not forget to research the market environment like who are your competitors and what sort of outside factors like location, technological state, etc can affect your business in a significant manner.

Of course, be aware of your own strengths and vulnerabilities and try to anticipate what kind of challenges you are going to face. Do all the necessary research and analysis to get a clear idea of what you are getting into before you start putting in work.

Budget your operations

Keep track of your funds, and budget your activities based on which ones have more priority. As you know, your actions will be limited in your initial stages, so it will be important that you put more money into more operational parts of the business.

Once you fix a budget, firmly stick to it. We have mentioned that you will have to miss out on a lot of opportunities with a limited budget. If you find yourself contemplating going over budget on one aspect, remember to step back and think about why you planned the budget the way you did.

Unless you have a confirmed deal on anything that is 100% guaranteed to bring back results (which almost never happens), it is best to swallow it up and move on with your projected operations.

Remember that your budget is not static. You will need to regularly update it, preferably at fixed intervals that make sense for your business. This way, you can maximize your profits by keeping your costs minimum at all stages of operations.

Create a thorough business plan

While this is something you ought to be doing for any business, it will be especially important to iron things out when you have very little room for error.

Once you have done your research and fixed a budget, you will need to map out everything, from what products or services you will be offering, to what business model you will be following, to how you are going to market your company.

These are just a few of the main things you should be figuring out. There will be a lot of things in between that you will need to fix, like company type, logistics, finances, etc. This will be different based on your niche and your target audience. Make sure to have a solid plan before you embark on your journey.

Tackle multiple responsibilities

We have already mentioned that you will need to work solo for a while if you do not have a friend to help you out or if you do not have the funds to hire people to work for you. So, naturally, you will need to perform multiple tasks all on your own.

While it can be tiring, stick through the tasks following a rigorous routine to get your business off the ground. This will include general operations, marketing, communications, and many more. Once you can afford it, hire experts to handle aspects of your work.

Network and create connections

In order to thrive in your industry, you will need to create strong connections within. So always 

put yourself out there and network. Build connections with entrepreneurs, potential investors, and industry experts.

Attend any sort of gathering that contains people in your industry. For example, if you are in the catering business, search for tasting events or conventions for people in the industry.

You never know what kinds of opportunities might pop up for you as you start making connections with all sorts of people.

Design a savings plan

It is safe to get into operations with some savings in hand. Before you even budget your business expenses, you should budget your daily costs and try to save a decent amount of cash as a safety cushion if things do not go as planned.

Once you start earning revenue, you should also consider saving a small percentage to prepare for any period with lower income than usual. It is a safe practice to always have some amount of cash saved up so try to have a savings plan before and after you set up your business.

Ideally, you will want to have around six months of savings before starting your venture.

Build an online presence

With over 65% of the human population on the internet, it is a no-brainer for any business, let alone a starting one to build up an online presence. And a greater percentage of internet users are on social media. While running ads can cost you money, making a social media page is free and can help you reach a wider audience than you originally anticipated.

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are some of the best platforms you can create promotional posts for. The following graph by Hubspot shows us how much ROI companies have been getting.

If you want to create a website for blogging, e-commerce, or any other reason, you can also do that with the help of many website-building tools that range from free to very low cost.

With proper SEO and digital marketing skills, you can increase your brand awareness on the internet with very little cost.

Expand your business

Once you start having a steady source of revenue to sustain the business, it is only natural that you start expanding.

You can do that by adding new products or services to your lineup, expanding to new markets, hiring employees to tackle more responsibilities, etc.

Make sure to gradually scale up and maintain a steady growth rate for maximum success.

How to Circumvent Costs of Operation

Being strapped for cash is never a good feeling. And sticking to a fixed budget can seem like an arduous task. It is imperative that you cut costs wherever you can, especially in the early phases when your business has not started seeing profit yet.

Here are a few ways you can keep your costs to a minimum.

Utilize free resources

There are multiple free resources available on the internet, a lot of which were designed to help small businesses thrive in the marketplace. Tools like Google Business Profile help the discoverability of any business while tools like LinkedIn and many others help in networking and socializing with people involved in your business. There are also tons of resources for knowledge on particular topics and independent surveys that can provide valuable data for your niche.

Seek out all the free resources and tools that are available and utilize them to the maximum of their abilities to optimize returns on your business at no extra cost.

Use your local library

Going to the library to read is just generally good advice, applicable for all situations, but it is also relevant in our case here. You may find yourself needing to read up on various aspects of certain strategies or knowledge. Instead of buying or subscribing to certain books or audio logs, utilize your local library and read up on your subject matter. This is a great way to save costs in your research phase.

Take advantage of offers and free trials

While nothing beats the cost of free, you may find some of the free resources to be lacking in features you may want. Investing in paid services may be tempting, but might put a dent in your budget.

Fortunately, there are a lot of premium services that allow free trials for a set period, some even offering free trials for up to months. Seek them out and try to get your work done within the trial period. If you can find success within the trial period, you might even be able to afford the premium version by the time the free trial is over.

Always look out for offers. Whether it be a discount or bonuses, take advantage of every offer you can find. You may be able to start using services you originally did not plan on using due to restraints.

Barter whenever you can

Barter is the concept of trading one type of good or service for another. It is a way you can get what you need from other companies if you can provide them with a service or product they need.

For example, you can convince an influencer to market your product by simply sharing your products with them. Big influencers usually charge a certain amount as a fee but small and upcoming ones would agree to review if they got the product free of charge, especially if they like it.

Keep an eye out for the best prices and suppliers

Always look around and keep track of prices in the marketplace. Be diligent and try to find the best suppliers for your business. Do not just settle for the first supplier that wants to make a deal with you.

Research market prices, delve into areas you did not explore before, and shop around. Do enough of that and you will be able to recognize which is a good price and which is not.

By keeping track of market prices and knowing the environment, you will find yourself saving a lot of money in the long run, and you will better know where to find anything you may need.

Explore partnerships

We have already mentioned that you should start networking in your industry for various benefits. One benefit of some partnerships is that they can help save your costs through collaborative actions, events, and campaigns.

For example, if you host a promotional event in a venue, you may find that you cannot afford the place by yourself. In such a situation, you can seek another company, preferably a company that provides complementary products to yours, to partner up with you to split the cost of the venue fare and run the event together.

This arrangement will be mutually beneficial as it lets both of you run your promotional campaign and allows you to split the cost to save you a lot of money.

Keep your day job

Having your own business and being your own boss is a dream many have but not many can achieve. So you might feel tempted to quit your day job right away and fully focus on your business. We advise you not to do that, at least for the first few months.

No matter how well-researched your business plan is, a low-investment business will take a while before it can take off into success. And no matter how opportune the market environment is, you will always face the smallest risk of your business not making it.

Focus on your business as a side hustle first. Invest your time in it during off hours and weekends. You will not see returns for a while initially so keep working your job as you set up your business. Create a balance and juggle your work till you start seeing returns. Once you start making enough money that your day job becomes pointless, quit and focus full-time.

Until that day comes, try to manage through for financial stability. Keep working hard and you will eventually make it. Not to mention, you can fall back on your earnings from your job as a safety net in case of unforeseen incidents.

Wrapping it up

We believe now you know how to start a business with no money. If you have a solid business idea and the grit to overcome all the challenges that life throws at you, you will surely succeed sooner or later for sure. This is because many global brands that have now become household names had their beginnings with little or no funding as well.

FAQs 

Q. Which businesses are the easiest to own with little to no money?

Ans: Side businesses that provide a passive income are the easiest to maintain, especially if you are working as a full-time employee. This can include content creation and blogging where your source of revenue is affiliate marketing or online ads. 

These jobs do not require you to pay attention to the whole process constantly, and all your work is put into the content creation process and SEO-related activities instead. 

Selling digital products can also give you a passive income, where you produce a digital product once, and put it up for sale in one of the many third-party digital product selling platforms out there. Some digital product examples are video games, ebooks, journals, etc.

Q. Which business with very little capital has the most potential for earning a profit?

Ans: Freelancing services and dropshipping are some of the most profitable businesses you can start due to their high demand potential. They have established business models available that can optimize earnings and can be started with very little capital, making you great ROI.

Q. Can I run a business while being a full-time employee for a company?

Ans: Yes, you can definitely start a business as you are working as an employee. Most big businesses started as a side hustle until they became profitable enough for the owner to quit their job.

Aside from budgeting your finances, budget the time you have and put in effort till you earn enough to sustain yourself and your business.

Once you earn enough, you will find that working for your job is not worth the effort and can focus on your business full-time.

Q. Will I need a license to conduct my business?

Ans: Whether you need a license for your business or not depends on a lot of factors, like the type of business you are conducting, the size of your operations, the local laws of your operating area, etc.

Reach out to small businesses in your area and see if they require a license or not, and check local business guidelines that are set by the authority. There is a good chance you will not need a license till your business grows to a certain point where revenues are enough to sustain yourself.

Just to be safe, be sure to research the requirements and eligibility of licenses before you start your activities.

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