July 25, 2024

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Six Tips For Launching A Web Startup With No Money

Serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and founder at Paraphrase Tool

If you want to start an internet company and have no money, you must have time. If you have time and experience working in either product development, design or engineering, you can achieve a lot, even positive cash flow, by directing your time and energy to the right opportunities and tactics.

This is something I learned firsthand through founding my own company. I used the following six tips to build my latest startup, which I started with a budget of only $300 and is now profitable through both ads and subscriptions.

Here are my tips for getting your startup off the ground on a limited budget.

1. Find skilled cofounders who will work for equity.

Determine what you need and want in a cofounder. Do you need someone with technical skills, a business background or someone to help with design? The ideal cofounder is one who can do many things within their specialty and can later delegate and manage these tasks effectively as the business grows. So, if you want an engineering cofounder, for example, you will want to make sure this person has enough breadth in their experience to do the initial work themselves and competently evaluate the work of contractors and eventual full-time hires.

To get a large candidate pool, network with other entrepreneurs and attend startup events. Ask your friends if they know anyone who would be a good fit for your startup. Be sure to screen candidates carefully. If you don’t know your candidates personally, talk with many people who have worked with them in the past.

Negotiate a compensation package that is fair, as you want everyone on the founding team to be highly motivated. Draw up an agreement outlining the roles and responsibilities of each cofounder, as well as the company’s ownership structure. This will help to avoid any future disputes. This will also save you money down the road, as you will be certain of what areas of the business and product the founding team can comfortably handle.

2. Use keyword research to derisk your startup idea.

Many startups build a product in search of a market, which is almost invariably costly, time-consuming and destructive of value. To avoid this, research keywords to understand search intent and what solutions currently satisfy that intent. If you see many solutions are either weak or limited or that the domain authority of those sites is low, you might have an opportunity to win a sizable chunk of that search intent quickly (provided that you can build a meaningfully differentiated or otherwise superior offering).

To build a big and interesting business, you will, of course, need to find queries with sufficient monthly search volume to fuel your operations. Assuming all these criteria are met, you may have a winning idea. For this keyword research, you can use tools like Wordtracker and Google Trends to determine the best keywords for your market.

3. Build the product yourself.

If you want to launch a startup on a shoestring budget, you’ll need to be creative and resourceful. One way to do this is to build the product yourself. This will require a lot of time and effort, but it will be worth it. Even if you don’t know how to code, you can use a low- or no-code environment service. You can then launch your app or product on platforms like Reddit and Youtube, get feedback and start iterating toward the functionality that users want most. Once you have landed on a version you think can have product-market fit, then start engaging in custom engineering and design.

4. Keep yourself organized.

Even if you’re not seeking any money to invest in your startup, you should still create a business plan and product roadmap. This will help you to get your ideas down on paper, create a vision and track your progress over time. For templates on this and many other things, there are a number of online resources available to startup entrepreneurs. These resources can help you to learn about things like business planning, marketing and product development.

The more you can learn about what has worked well in the past, the more mistakes you are likely to avoid. It is much harder to learn from the mistakes of others than from our own, but also far less costly and therefore well worth the effort.

5. Write content.

You can now build content around the keywords you discovered in the steps above. The best way to start marketing your startup without money is to write blog posts, articles and even white papers. This will help you get your company’s name out there and start building a following. Update your content regularly, and be sure to target specific queries with each post.

In total, your content should form a halo of associations for your brand. This will help both search engines and customers better identify you.

6. Get backlinks.

You can start getting backlinks by answering journalist queries and by contributing articles to outlets with reasonably high domain authority. Focus on answering questions and writing content that are in your area of expertise, as they have a much greater chance of being published. You can also write guest posts for popular blogs in your industry. When you provide high-quality content, I find that bloggers will be more likely to include a link to your website.

Be sure to share your content on social media so others can become familiar with you and your brand; those who find value might link to your site as well.

Finally, be resourceful. 

These are only six tips, but thinking about them will help you become more aware of your options as an entrepreneur. Only when you have exhausted your low-cost routes and built some revenue should you consider pricier ways to grow. This will keep you lean, hungry and agile — all traits that will benefit you and your investors, should you choose to work with them down the line.

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