You don't need a lot of capital to start a business. Ultra-light startups are a category that lets entrepreneurs use the power of the Internet to get started on the cheap. Ultra-light startups leverage every creative technique and use of the Internet to do everything for free or for very low cost. Everything they do is based on holding down the use of capital, but at same time generating revenue. It's not the easiest thing to do, but it is possible! Here's some advice to get you going.
1. Get a business plan in place
If you need help writing a business plan, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a group of volunteers who provide free advice and counseling to people who want to start a business, grow an existing business or are in trouble with a business they already have.
Depending on the chapter near you, a SCORE mentor will either meet with you or you can attend a class on how to write a business plan. Visit for SCORE.org to get started.
2. Find the talent you need to realize your idea
Thanks to technology, you can hire the best tech, design, marketing, accounting and back office freelance contractors to help you realize your business idea.
Sites like crowdSPRING.com, eLance.com, Guru.com and oDesk.com let you post a job and field bids from qualified vendors around the world. These sites are in a category called "virtual hiring halls" because they're a modern adaptation of the union hall idea where workers would go to await job orders.
3. Get a free website for your small business
If you don't have a website these days, it's like you don't exist to your potential customers. Thankfully, it's easier than you may have heard to establish a web presence if you don't want to hire someone like I suggested above.
Google has an effort called Let's Put Our Cities on the Map that will give you a free business website. By logging on and selecting your state, you can have access to the following:
- Free, easy-to-build website
- Free customized domain name
- Free web hosting for one year
- Free online tools and training
- Learn how to put more information about your business into Google
- Get your company verified for Google searches
- Add information such as location, hours of operation
- Add photos to enhance the listing
- Get a diagnostic tool to see how you can improve your listing and visibility
After the first year, you'll have to pay $16 annually for your domain name and $6 a month for hosting. Additional email support is available after 12 months for a fee.
4. Get financing from somebody who understands you
If you're an ultra-light startup visionary, the last place you probably want to get capital is at a big bank. You need somebody who thinks and works like you do. That's where a site like Kabbage.com -- an online lender exclusively dedicated to online businesses -- comes in.
The Kabbage application process is streamlined and simple. Among other factors, they'll look at your transaction history as an Amazon or eBay merchant, user feedback ratings and even your social media participation to make a decision on your loan application.
Upon approval, the money is issued through PayPal in just minutes. One caveat, though: The interest rate is only marginally good and can be as high as 13 percent.
5. Go mobile for your credit card payments
Let's say you're a vendor at an arts and crafts fair, or you have a hot dog pushcart in a busy downtown area, or you're some other kind of merchant who doesn't do business at a fixed location. You can accept credit card payments from customers using a little mobile credit card processor that plugs into a smartphone. Below are some no-contract services where the plug-in device itself that you use to run the card is completely free; you just pay per transaction with no contract.
SquareUp.com for Apple and Android phones charges a simple flat merchant fee of 2.75 percent on every swiped transaction. Pay Pal Here for Apple and Android phones charges 2.7 percent, though if you do more debit card transactions than credit card transactions, you can lower your transaction cost down to about 1.7 percent. And Intuit's GoPayment.com for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry charges 2.4 percent per swipe on the pay-as-you-go model.
For more money-saving tips, visit ClarkHoward.com. Money in Your Pocket. Advice You Can Trust.