5 Online Businesses You Can Start With No Money


The internet is the great equalizer. In business specifically, it has leveled the playing field. Anyone can start a money-making online business—anyone with a computer, that is. But here’s the thing: virtually no technical experience is needed. Today there are plenty of tools you can use to build an online business that makes the technical work a lot easier than it was in the past.

You can also live anywhere you want, set your own schedule, and work as little or as much as you want, depending on how fast or big you want your business to grow. No business or marketing experience is needed either. It’s a truly democratic medium for entrepreneurship.

Best of all, unlike a brick-and-mortar business, you don’t need a lot of startup capital. In fact, you can get many internet businesses up and running with no money at all because so many free services facilitate the possibility. For example, you can set up a website or blog for free using WordPress. Or you can leverage a third-party site like Amazon or eBay to sell goods with no inventory costs. You use their selling platform in exchange for giving them a cut of your sales.

And this is just the start of the many available no-money e-commerce startup solutions. Let’s consider five of the top ways to start an online business and make money online with little or no cost at all.

Illustration by Ashley DeLeon. © The Balance, 2018

1. Drop Shipping

The basic idea behind an online drop shipping business is that, as a small business owner, you don’t have to maintain a large inventory (or any inventory whatsoever) of products or handle any delivery to your customers. That eliminates the financial cost and risk of having a warehouse full of stuff you might not sell, and the hassle of arranging to send orders all over the country or the world. In fact, you don’t have to manufacture or store any products at all.

The only thing you have to focus on is marketing and advertising to find the customers and make the sales. Once the sale is made the rest is handled by others. Your only cost is the expense of marketing and advertising to acquire a new customer.

Once that is done, you’ll work with a company that specializes in drop shipping. Here’s how it works:

    1. You list products for sale on your website or a platform like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy.
    2. When one of your customers makes a purchase, you purchase the product from a third-party company (the drop shipper, usually a manufacturer or wholesaler) for a lower price. This process is as simple as forwarding the order from your customer, a process that can actually be completely automated. (Remember you don’t have any risk here of buying inventory because the sale has already been made).
    3. Your drop shipper then sends the product to the customer.1

Easy enough, right? With drop shipping, you can offer a wide range of products, so the operating expenses for your business are super low.

As you can see there is no risk on your part because you don’t even purchase the product (at cost) until the actual sale is made!

What are the downsides to the drop shipping business model? You have to find a reputable drop shipper you can count on to deliver to your customers. If an order is late or doesn’t go out—or a product is of poor quality—you get blamed, as your company is the one representing the product and customer experience.

Also, because this market is so competitive, the margins—that is, the difference between the wholesale price and how much you can sell a product for—are lower, so this will be a high-volume type business to generate a serious income. But still, it is a worthwhile low or no-cost startup option.2

One way to stand out from the competition with a drop shipping business is to private label your products. This simply means you put your own label/brand on the products that the manufacturer is creating. That way you’re not selling the same product brand and just competing on price; rather you can use your own brand and face less competition.3 Think about when you’re looking at medicine at the pharmacy; the brand names sell for higher prices and people think they are different from the generic brands even though the ingredients are exactly the same. Consider these important factors when looking for a good drop shipping product.

Anyone considering a drop shipping business should seriously consider leveraging to grow their business and learn more about becoming a profitable Amazon seller, because Amazon is an established marketplace that people already trust and has an existing customer base. Eventually, you should also consider having your own online store as well.


  • Requires very little startup capital
  • No need to maintain inventory
  • You can leverage established marketplaces with existing customer bases

  • You can be blamed for your drop shipper’s mistakes
  • The market is very competitive
  • You must sell a lot to generate a substantial income

2. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is somewhat similar to drop shipping but with some key differences. With this e-commerce model, you again don’t maintain an inventory of your own products, and you don’t have to worry about shipping products to customers.

Basically, you pick a profitable niche for your online business, and then you find an affiliate partner who has products available in that niche. Some of the most popular affiliate sites are,, and CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction). Between them, they offer just about any digital information product (like ebooks, audio files, video files) or physical product you can think of. Many big name companies and brands like Wal-Mart and Home Depot run their own affiliate programs.45

With affiliate marketing, you offer the products for sale, for example, on your blog or e-commerce website. Each product has a unique link that tracks back to your account with your affiliate partner. A prospect who clicks on the link is taken to your partner’s shopping cart for checkout. Once they buy, that purchase is recorded and you receive a commission.6 Commission amounts vary depending on the affiliate partner, but is generally 5 percent to 25 percent, or 50 percent or more with digital information products.7 As you can see, there’s little risk on your part and virtually no investment needed either. Just like with drop shipping your only costs will be marketing and advertising to drive traffic and generate the sale.

The key difference between this and drop shipping is that the business model is even more hands off. All you have to do is provide a link for the customer to click on and the merchant handles everything; billing, order fulfillment, customer service, etc.

All you have to do is handle the marketing to get your prospects to buy (through social media, email marketing, blogging, or whatever method you choose). But after they click the affiliate link, it’s out of your hands. You don’t have to ship products or handle any customer service questions. And you certainly don’t have to maintain an inventory.

All you have to do is focus on paid and free ways to market your online business.

Affiliate marketing really is one of the most “hand-off” types of online businesses you can start.


  • Low risk: No initial investment required
  • Hands-off business model

  • You’re responsible for driving web traffic to the affiliate link (no traffic means no money)
  • May need to spend money on advertising and marketing

3. Blogging

If you have the expertise or a passion or interest for a subject, you’re ready to start making money with a blog. With a service like Blogger (, you can start up your blog totally free. You can also create your own site and secure your own hosting for a low price, which is generally the route I recommend, as many free blogging sites have restrictions on what you can say or do, including making money or advertising.8

You may think blogging is all about writing. And it can be if that’s what you want to do. But written blog posts are just the start. You can post photos, videos, and links to other sites, you can even repost news and other articles… anything is game, really, as long as it relates to your niche.

They key is that you want to post original content that is useful to your target audience and to post on a regular basis. That is the best way to get ranked in the search engines and to also get your audience to take action.

What sort of content should you provide? Anything that is engaging to your prospect. How-to topics, top-10 lists, commentary on trends in your niche, tips and tricks articles—basically, you need to provide useful content. There’s no shortage of ideas for your blog.

You make money in a variety of ways with an online business blog.

Google AdSense.

Have you ever been to a website and seen an ad on it? Chances are it was an ad being run through the Google advertising network.

These pay-per-click ads appear on your blog. Every time somebody clicks on an ad (which is supposed to be about a subject related to your niche), you make a few cents or more. Small amounts each time, but it adds up. This is extremely hands-off. You just need to get a code from Google, place it on your website – and the ads will automatically appear on your blog. Google will only show ads that are relevant to your blog so it’s a good experience for your visitors and maximizes the number of clicks you get, meaning more income.9

Blog ad networks.

You can also work with ad networks other than Google, like Blogads, and run banner ads on your blog. Same as Google Adsense ads, you place the code once on your website and when your visitors click on the ads then you get paid. In addition to banner ads, you can also run video ads on your site.

In many cases you can make more money with blog ad networks, but they tend to only work with blogs that are getting tens of thousands of visitors a month or more; as opposed to Google Ads where you can start right away regardless of the amount of traffic you get.

Affiliate marketing.

You know this one already. You include links to products you are promoting as an affiliate and every time somebody buys the product, you get a commission. With a blog, you can integrate advertising with content to make it even more likely you’ll get the sale. For example, you could do a product review—which is useful content—and then include a link to buy the product under an affiliate link.

Here are a few successful blogging tips to make sure people can find your blog—and will keep coming back. This is key to building a following and making your blog a profitable venture.

You need to provide useful content in an engaging way.
If your blog is boring or the information can be found everywhere else, nobody will read it. Don’t hesitate to put your own personality into the blog.

You have to post content on a regular basis.
People thirst for the new, so make sure you put up articles, videos, or whatever consistently. It could one post per day or three times per week. Whatever it is, maintain the same schedule. A scattershot posting history means losing readers.10

At a minimum try to aim for one new post, video, or other forms of content a week.

Be genuine.
Yes, your blog is supposed to make money. But you can’t make marketing pitches all the time. Focus on useful content so that your readers come to know, like, and trust you. Then they will naturally click on your advertising or buy the products you recommend. In this era of the internet and social media, people are looking for authenticity.

Do all of this, and you’ll attract the notice of search engines like Google, which are always looking to put sites with useful, relevant content on top of the search results.11 This is what content marketing is all about.

You could start a blog in less than an hour. But it takes time to make money as you build readership, and only a small percentage of those folks end up buying your products.


  • Very low start-up costs
  • You may work on your own schedule

  • May take a long time to begin making money
  • Creating and posting content can be time-consuming

4. Online Video

Have you watched a YouTube video lately? Of course you have! This is one of the world’s most popular websites, with more than 2 billion users watching hundreds of millions of hours of video each day.12 And it’s not all cats doing funny things, by any means.

You can leverage YouTube’s reach to make money online. No, you’re not trying to create a viral video, so to speak, although if it does go worldwide and is seen by millions, that’s a good thing.

Instead, you’ll be following a proven strategy for maximizing views of multiple videos on a regular basis. You’ll be creating useful content—something engaging that people want to watch. And it works in many, many different niches. It could be a how-to video or a talking-head video on a topic of interest for people in your niche—the sky is the limit.

You make money with ad revenue. Your first step is to create a YouTube account and start uploading videos. Then you enable monetization on your YouTube settings.13 Basically, this gives Google the go-ahead to include short AdSense ads with your videos, which you’ve seen if you’ve watched a YouTube video. When viewers click on those ads, you get paid.

Another opportunity to make money with a YouTube channel is through paid sponsorships. Build a large enough following and companies will be more than happy to pay you to promote or mention their products and services in your videos.14

Some tips to create professional-looking videos (no expensive pro equipment needed):

  1. You can use your smartphone or a simple video camera. But make sure the lighting is good so that everything in your video is clear and easy to see.
  2. Make sure the audio is clear. You don’t want an air conditioning hum, construction noise, or other distractions.
  3. Use simple editing software like iMovie to put titles at the beginning of the video and to edit out any flubs.

Above all, remember that your videos can be simple and don’t have to be slick. Just provide useful content and be engaging and interesting. Funny helps, too.

And to extend the reach of your videos, be sure to post them on your Facebook business page, Twitter, your blog, and other channels. Let people know you’re in the video business now.

In addition to ad revenue from YouTube videos, you can also use your YouTube channel to drive traffic back to your website, where visitors can read your product reviews, click on the ads on your website, or even get onto your email subscriber list—where you can make multiple sales with your email list.


  • You can use your existing smartphone or computer
  • It works across several different niches

  • Creating and posting videos can be time-consuming
  • It may take a while to begin making revenue

5. Information Products

When you have an internet business, it doesn’t have to be about selling physical products. In fact, digital information products are one of the easiest and quickest ways to make money.

There’s no shortage of ways to create information products, but the most popular formats include:

  • Audio: a recorded teleconference, interview, course, or some other spoken-word product
  • Video: a recorded webinar, a how-to, an interview
  • Text: an ebook, an instruction booklet of some sort, a travel guide

In each of these categories, you can really get creative and make any type and format of content, as long as it’s engaging and useful.

No matter which way you do it, it’s passive income—money you earn while you sleep because you put these products up for sale on your website and a customer can buy and download them any time of day or night, automatically. All you have to do is check the sales periodically to see what topics or types of products are selling best so you can make more of those.


  • Can bring in passive income once you put the product on the market
  • Can be a quick way to make money

  • Creating a product takes some upfront work and time
  • You may need to invest some money initially

Putting It All Together

The trick with any online business is to make sure you’re in a profitable niche market. So be sure to keep an eye on trends, check out bestseller lists on sites like Amazon, and consider what people are discussing on social media.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one of these e-commerce opportunities.

Start out with one and get it going. Then add new revenue streams as you’re able. That will grow your income and ensure that you have something to fall back on should one business start going south.

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21 Reasons to Start a Business Today


We could throw a long list of reasons at you as to why someone decided to start a business. We’ve heard them all, from something as relatable as wanting to earn some extra money on the side to more obscure reasons like wanting to be the first company to make hats for parrots.

All in all, different people want to own their own businesses for different reasons.

There are no right or wrong reasons. Sure, there might be one or two good reasons why you shouldn’t start a business right now. But entrepreneurship has proven itself as being life-changing for so many people that it’s worth considering.

In this post, I’ll detail 21 reasons why you should consider starting your own business. I’ve integrated images, statistics, graphs, quotes, lists, and links to other resources–all in the hope that this post will be useful to you as you think about leaping into the world of business.

Reasons You Should Start Your Business Today

1. You Can Find Freedom

Freedom is the golden promise of entrepreneurship. Over and over again, entrepreneurs that we interview for Foundr Magazine point to autonomy, to independence, as a key driver of their decision to start a business.

This isn’t just a little anecdote I’ve noticed. It’s a huge reason that people become entrepreneurs.

In 2008, the academic International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal released stats from a global survey of early-stage business owners. Independence was the most common reason these people gave for starting their business:

  • Within the 25 countries, the study looked at, an average of 38% of beginning business owners cited independence as a motivation.
  • Independence served as a reason for 35% of entrepreneurs in the US and 39% in the UK.
  • In Australia and Japan, 57% of beginning owners pointed to independence as their motivator.

Why does this fervor for freedom move people to hurl themselves into the crazy world of business? Freedom is having more control over the course of your life, having the power to direct it in the ways that you want, rather than working for the whims of others.

Owning your own business means being your own boss, deciding when you work, how you work, and what you work on.

Of course, business owners still do need to cater to market demand. But when you become the business owner, you choose how to do that. It gives you greater autonomy.

2. You’ll Build a Source of Pride

Accomplishing tough things gives us a sense of achievement.

Pride isn’t just a deadly sin. In healthy doses, it bolsters your self-worth and lets you take credit when you achieve something worthwhile (like creating a successful company).

Starting a small business is no small venture. You’ll pay for it in sweat, working hard to move onward. But that’s okay because entrepreneurs don’t shrink from effort or retreat from a challenge. We aim to do big things.

There are no participation trophies in entrepreneurship. When you succeed, you’ll know it’s worth celebrating.

The Journal of Business Venturing conducted a survey of 405 entrepreneurs and saw that almost 65% went into business at least in part because they wanted to achieve something and be recognized for it.

While some humility is still important, that pride and recognition can boost your self-esteem. Why care? A review of research literature published by Psychological Science in the Public Interest found that self-esteem works some pretty great magic. It gives you:

  • More confidence in group settings
  • More persistence
  • Greater happiness

3. You Can Do Things Better

No existing company does everything right. Waste and inefficiency do saddle the private sector, and beyond the balance sheet sits the simple fact that we haven’t yet invented everything that could improve the world. One reason to start a business, then, is to go after these problems.

Think about your everyday life. Is everything perfect? No. At least now and again, you encounter things that annoy, pester, and drain you. You wish there was some way to beat these issues, but there isn’t, so you sigh, complain, and move on, hoping that someday it gets better. But if that’s you today, it doesn’t have to be, because each little annoyance you stumble into could be a business opportunity. There’s another approach:

  1. When you have a problem in life, ask yourself: Does a good solution already exist?
  2. If not, do other people have this problem?
  3. If they do, consider starting a business based around a new solution to your problem.

For example, traditional Q-tips posed a safety problem to people’s ears, so one California team created the Oto-Tip, which aims to solve that problem (and netted them $77,000 in crowdfunding money to bring their company to life).

A few young men in the 1970s saw a problem with the difficulty and complexity of personal computing, so they tried to solve it by creating a new operating system. Today, we call that company Microsoft.

If you can relieve a pain point for people, then you have a reason to go into business.

4. You Can Make Money

A successful business could earn you lots of money. Arianna Huffington, the founder of HuffingtonPost, has an estimated net worth of $100 million. Richard Branson, the entrepreneur behind Virgin, had a net worth of $4.3 billion. Then there’s Bill Gates, who started Microsoft. He’s sitting at a nice $115 billion.

Money is a big reason that many people start businesses. The International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal study I mentioned earlier points out that, across the 29 countries examined, an average of 23% of entrepreneurs are in it (at least in part) to increase their wealth. While it’s a common motive, the percentage of entrepreneurs who embrace it varies between countries. Here’s a sampling:

  • Australia: 11%
  • United Kingdom: 15%
  • New Zealand: 26%
  • Mexico: 30%
  • United States: 35%
  • Chile and Greece: 42%

While the variations between countries are intriguing, the main takeaway for our purposes is that lots of people start businesses because they want to make money.

Of course, money isn’t everything, so wealth isn’t the only motivation that these entrepreneurs have. It’s just one reason among many. Even if you do care a lot about money, it’s true that most people, even most successful entrepreneurs, will not reach the stratospheric wealth of Huffington, Branson, and Gates. But respectable amounts of money do matter, and might even make you happier.

It’s said that money doesn’t buy happiness, but that old adage doesn’t quite jibe with modern research. Some scholars say that after a certain amount of income, more money doesn’t make you happier. But even they conceded that up until that point, more money does help.

Some sources suggest a cutoff point as $75,000 (earning more money after about $75k per year doesn’t boost emotional well-being).

reasons for starting a business

If this research is true, then a successful business could catapult you over the cutoff line.

But this isn’t the final say on the matter. A different set of researchers contends that there isn’t a cutoff point–that more income always makes you happier (or, at least, that whatever the cutoff is, we don’t have substantial numbers of people who’ve reached it). The Wall Street Journal graphed the study results:

reasons for starting a business

I think that these empirical findings, while interesting, underscore the fact that this issue isn’t like a clear, crisp day. There’s a lot of fog, and you have to figure out what works for you, how you can best balance the drive for money with other parts of the good life.

But no matter how much you care about money, it isn’t the only reason to think about starting a business. Let’s keep going through the reasons.


5. You’ll Learn New Skills

Don’t think that you need an MBA (most of the successful entrepreneurs profiled by Foundr don’t have one). This isn’t the corporate world–starting your own business is a different critter, and in many cases, you can pick up the entrepreneurial skills you need as you go.

In fact, many people start businesses because they want to learn new skills. It’s a dynamic way to grow your know-how.

When learning new skills, the sky is the limit. And if writing is a skill you improve, you might begin avoiding stale cliches like the one I just used.

Just a bit ago, I mentioned the Journal of Business Venturing survey. It also found that education is a big reason that entrepreneurs go at it: 65% of the people interviewed said that they started their business, at least in part, to keep learning.

Why does learning fill so much of the plate here? Starting a business takes more than your idea. You need the skills to make it a reality and bring in customers. Entrepreneurship lets you learn those skills as you go and apply them along the way.

Since you probably can’t be an expert in everything, you can also pay others to do some of these things (hey, us freelancers have to stay in business somehow). But the more you learn, the more you can do yourself.

Okay, so starting a business can help you learn new skills. Why should you care?

First, I’d say that learning is fun. Being able to do new things is just plain cool. But second, it carries psychological benefits, since learning new skills boosts your memory, even as you age.

Besides, in a world that seems ever-quickening, keeping up has it’s perks. Joyce E. A. Russell, vice dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, put it well:

“All around the world, people are going back to school, taking online courses, mastering additional languages, etc. — all in the spirit of growth and continual learning. With today’s more complex business environment, learning is not just a nice thing to do — it is essential for staying on top of things.”


6. You Might Lower Your Taxes

This obviously won’t be your chief reason for starting a business, but it helps. As a small business owner, you may be able to get tax breaks that help your business–and even tax breaks that ultimately help you as an individual.

(Just a quick disclaimer: I’m no tax expert. You should look up the laws in your country and talk to a financial professional before making any decisions or taking any deductions.)

Since I live in the US (and the most readily available online reading focuses on the US), I’ll focus on what the Americans reading could get for their taxes by starting a business. Here’s the first bit, from the widely beloved IRS itself:

“Business expenses are the cost of carrying on a trade or business. These expenses are usually deductible if the business is operated to make a profit.”

What this means, according to the Houston Chronicle, is that you might get to deduct things like magazine subscriptions, phone services, travel mileage, and membership in professional organizations. Heck, if you work in a home office, you might be able to swipe some of your rent off taxes. If you need something to run your business, then it might qualify for a deduction.

The IRS also helps mitigate risk for American entrepreneurs. According to Mashable, you can write off any losses from your business, which means that a side business could help your tax return.

Over on his blog, Steven Chou calculated that the average American could get something like a 10% write-off by having a business.

Tax laws vary from country to country, so you should check out how your country handles business taxes.


7. You Could Create Jobs

If you start a company, you might one day need to hire employees. On that day, you’ll have created an opportunity for someone else.

Sure, when you first start out, your business will be small. But that’s not bad, because it’s often small businesses that create jobs. For example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that small firms create 64% of new jobs in the US.

And let’s not just look at the raw number of new jobs. There’s more to it. As the owner of a company, you could treat your employees well, create a stellar company culture, and make people feel like they’re involved in something that’s worth it. Be the boss you wish you had (or, perhaps, emulate a great manager you’ve worked under).

I wouldn’t be writing this article if Nathan hadn’t created Foundr. I love this gig, and it’s an opportunity that never would’ve existed if Nathan hadn’t started his business. These are the small things that make a difference in people’s lives.


8. You Can Follow Your Passion

Whether to start a business is a decision you must make. There’s another thing you get to decide: what that business does.

One reason to start a business is so that your job can be something that thrills you. Most people would love to have work that centers on something they care deeply about. It’s time to break out your passion.

Well, maybe.

Let’s get real: not everything you enjoy could make a business that makes money. Let’s use a silly example. I love watching The Colbert Report, but nobody will pay me to watch it. Even if the show wasn’t ending, nobody would pay me to watch it.

Superstar entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau points out this reality in his book, The $100 Startup (a short read that I readily recommend).

Chris Guillebeau $100 Startup

But you don’t have to give up on turning your passions into a business–you just need to be pickier. Not everything will work. But something might.

What’s the trick? Convergence. Check out the diagram on the right. Chris explains that you need to think about your passions and what other people are willing to spend money on.

You will find your business idea where those two overlap. That’s how you can raise up a successful business while still engaging your passion.

That’s exciting. But it’s more than that because it’s also useful. Passion doesn’t just make a business fulfilling–it might make it successful. There isn’t much research in this area, I’ll admit, but a 2012 paper in the Human Resources Management Review suggests that the work that has been done shows that passion for the work has a direct, significant effect on company growth.

9. You Can Live With Excitement

Freedom, money, skills, pride, passion–and uncertainty–all blur together to spawn excitement. Starting a business can get you pumped!

Entrepreneurship amounts to an ever-changing challenge. New things pop up, big goals loom ahead, and you’ve got to hustle, hustle, hustle. You only need to spend a bit of time in the blogosphere’s entrepreneurial niche to see that it’s an exciting environment.

Entrepreneurship is a race to overcome obstacles and a grand journey into uncharted territory and a jaunt to a crazy theme park whose rides you built.

These are metaphors that describe starting a business, and we can learn a lot from the metaphors we use. A study in the Journal of Business Venturing found that many of the metaphors we use to talk about starting a business “are dynamic in nature, emphasizing the constant drive forward, the excitement of the process, and its creative nature.”

That’s key: the excitement of the process. What the study points out is a reality that you can see for yourself if you read blogs about entrepreneurship, a reality that in many ways, starting a business isn’t only about the company you’re creating.

It’s about how you get there, and the intersection between dreams of the future and the process right now can exhilarate.

That’s the excitement of entrepreneurship.

10. You Can Leverage the Internet

Foundr is entirely online business–and it works. The Internet is fertile soil for business growth.

Businesses can leverage the Internet to advertise, blog, poll customers, sell products, and reach a wider audience than ever before. Fortune sums up why the web is a mighty reason to start a company:

“There’s likely been no better time to be an entrepreneur. You can reach global markets, use technology to have smaller and smarter back office operations, and all the while, continue to be nimble and create innovative products and services.”

There’s a word for all this buying and selling on the Internet–ecommerce–a word whose importance has been magnified by the growth of online businesses. It’s not here to sprint, pant, and die. It’s here, marathon-like, for the long term.

The Internet also offers a host of tools that make starting a business easier. For instance, the power of the web lets you collect data on visitors to a company website, which you can analyze and use to inform A/B testing.

11. You Can Escape the Rat Race

The beginning of a Huffington Post article really struck me:

Have you had enough of the nine-to-five (or should they call it the seven-to-seven?), the pointless rounds of meetings, and wondering if this is what life’s really about?

That’s dismal. That’s dreary. And for too many people, that’s what their job feels like. Sixty-five percent of American workers, for example, are unsatisfied with their job.

The article quoted above is titled “10 Tell-Tale Signs You Are Ready to Leave the Rat Race,” but I’m not sure we need an article about those signs. So many people feel worn down by their careers that we’ve invented this term–rat race–to describe how futile it sometimes seems. Seriously, it’s in Urban Dictionary:

start an internet business

For many, the solution is to escape the rat race by starting their own business. It’s a reason that differs from most of the previously listed ideas in one key way: in this case, you’re starting a business not to get to something (money, passion, freedom, etc.), but to get away from something (the rat race).

It’s what geographers and sociologists call a “push factor.” Some people are pushed into business by the crushing reality of the rat race. Alongside some of the other reasons I’ve listed, it can be a powerful motivator.

This push factor is real. A whopping 40% of Australians are unhappy with their job. UK workers are more dissatisfied than workers in other European countries. Job satisfaction stands–no, lays wounded–at its lowest level in two decades.

A business of your own isn’t easy or stress-free, to be sure. But it’s yours: the freedom, pride, and passion of entrepreneurship make it a great alternative to the rat race. There’s another part of all this, too.

Not only do many people hate their jobs, but many live in fear that they’ll lose their livelihoods: less than half of American employees, for example, feel that they have job security.

2020 has seen hundreds of millions if not billions of people suddenly out of work or facing “job jeopardy”. Losing your job can be catastrophic, so it’s no wonder that millions upon millions are now turning to side-hustles and startups to keep their finances afloat during these uncertain times.

READ MORE: 5 Low-Cost Startup Business Ideas You Can Implement with Less Than $100

12. You’ll Have Meaning and Purpose

A business can be a fantastic source of meaning in your life.

Meaning, or purpose, matters. It differs from happiness, which I talked a little bit about earlier, in that happiness is made of moment-to-moment pleasures, while meaning stems from an overarching sense of purpose.

Starting a business is a grand project. If you’re serious about it, then it immediately carries purpose.

Commitment strengthens that sense of purpose, and ownership strengthens commitment. In one neat experiment, researchers ran an experiment that divided the test subjects into two groups of people for a lottery. Members of one group were randomly assigned a number for the lottery, while members of the other group got to write down a number of their choice.

When the researchers offered to buy back the lottery tickets, the people who had chosen their own number demanded, on average, five times as much money for their ticket, even though their choice didn’t give them a statistically higher shot at winning the lottery.

That shows the power of ownership. It brings commitment. People who own their own businesses are committed to it, which strengthens their sense of purpose.

Freedom and pride and excitement and commitment collide to make meaning—that sense of purpose, of drive, of overwhelming worth. I think we can agree that a meaningful life is a desirable life. But if you don’t buy that, consider the fact that a life without meaning can actually be unhealthy.

A team of researchers looked at gene expression, which is when the information coded in a gene is used to make a protein or some other cellular product. In a way, gene expression turns on certain genes. When you’re under a lot of stress and adversity, your body turns on more inflammatory genes. What the scientists found built on that understanding—and twisted it in new directions.

When looking at the gene expression profiles of the adults in the study, the researchers saw that high levels of happiness, just like adversity, turned on inflammatory genes. The problem with that is huge because they noted that this kind of undesirable inflammation can lead to heart disease, brain disease, and cancer.

But the findings aren’t all sky-is-falling awful. While self-indulgent happiness alone might spell bad news, the scientists found that high levels of meaning clamped down on inflammatory genes. Striding through life with purpose can boost your health.

13. You Can Innovate

Innovation drives economies forward. It propels the engine of human advancement, bringing us new technology and new solutions. Also, it’s really, super-duper cool.

Starting an innovative business would let you be a part of that. Many entrepreneurs have sprung into action due to a desire to innovate.

Is this whole innovation thing nothing more than one buzzword and a pair of dice? Nope. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2013 Global Report found that lots of entrepreneurs innovate in entirely new ways. Here’s a graph from the report:

start an internet business

14. You Might be Able to Bootstrap

You don’t always need lots of cash on hand to start a business. Look at Foundr!

Some people fear starting a business because they don’t have trainloads of cash to dump into it. While capital helps, however, you don’t always need a huge investment to launch a successful venture. Credit cards, loans, and venture capital aren’t the only answer. There’s bootstrapping.

Investopedia defines bootstrapping:

“A situation in which an entrepreneur starts a company with little capital. An individual is said to be bootstrapping when he or she attempts to found and build a company from personal finances or from the operating revenues of the new company.”

Besides letting you avoid loans and begging, bootstrapping gives you independence. It might be harder to start if you’re funding your own business, but once you get going you won’t be beholden to anyone who gave you money–because you provided all the money needed.

Bootstrapping constitutes a reason to start a business because, along with the Internet, it lowers the barrier of entry. A lack of money doesn’t have to stop you, and because you know about bootstrapping, you can think consciously about how to do it.

Even entrepreneurs who don’t know about bootstrapping often use it. A 2012 CEFAGE working paper reports that even though 83% of the Portuguese small businesses they interviewed hadn’t heard the term bootstrapping before, all of them used at least one bootstrapping technique.

15. You Could Get Money for Causes You Care About

One great reason to start a business is that it could help you get the money that you can use to do good in the world.

We live on a globe rife with problems, and often, a lack of funding causes those problems. A successful business would put you in a place to do something about that.

Many entrepreneurs do this. In 2013, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated over $970 million to charity.

That same year, Nike co-founder Phil Knight donated $500 million to Oregon Health & Science University, a non-profit hospital.

Then there’s the Gates Foundation, created by Bill and Melinda Gates to address problems in the US and worldwide. Each year, the organization pours billions of dollars into fighting HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria; creating clean sanitation in the developing world; working to decrease maternal mortality and boost healthy childbirth worldwide; and supporting public libraries around the globe. Since its founding, the Gates Foundation has granted over $31.6 billion to charitable causes.

Okay, you might think, that’s all awesome, but those are big players: these are people who found wild success and are rolling in the dough. Fair enough. But you don’t need to net billions with a business to use the money for good.

A 2010 Ernst & Young survey of entrepreneurial award winners is a good starting point. It found that 89% of entrepreneurs donate money to charity. What’s more, 61% think that they’re more likely to give to charity because they’re an entrepreneur, and 70% also donate their time to good causes.

start an internet business

16. You Can Consider Social Entrepreneurship

So far I’ve talked about reasons that might prompt you to start a more conventional commercial business. But that’s not the full extent of entrepreneurship. If you embrace the idea of doing good through business but want to focus even more exclusively on that, then social entrepreneurship may be right for you.

Duke University professor J. Gregory Dees explained what social entrepreneurship tries to do:

“Social entrepreneurs aim to disrupt industries and revolutionize processes, just like any business entrepreneur, but they also more directly look away from market value and toward social value.”

The “social” part means that social entrepreneurs primarily aim to improve society, rather than profit (much like a charity).

Social entrepreneurship is a term that means different things to different people, but I like to take a broad view of it. The kinds of businesses and organizations that social entrepreneurs form, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, range from purely social efforts to ventures that mix social and commercial motives to simultaneously running social and commercial organizations that have complementing goals.

Social enterprises–the kind of “businesses” that you might start–are equally open, in my view: some are non-profits, some are not-for-profits, and some are for-profit.

A new wave of businesses has invigorated the social sector with new life, and if that excites you, then you might have reason enough to consider starting this different kind of business.

If you want to launch your own social enterprise, be creative, and think widely.

Then there are differences in who social enterprises are trying to help. The most common beneficiaries of social enterprises are young people, but there’s so much more going on. Here’s a quick graph from the study:

start an internet business

(The percentages add up to more than 100 because many organizations are aiming to benefit people who fit into more than one group. For instance, a nonprofit aiming to help disabled youth and their families would fit into three of the above categories.)


17. You Could Crowdfund

Bootstrapping not going to work for your idea? No problem: another great reason to start a business is that we live in an age of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a relatively recent innovation in how businesses can raise money to get started. It occurs when a large number of people donate to a business project, with each person giving a small amount of money.

It happens on websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and ArtistShare. Business founders create “projects,” which include a webpage explaining the product idea to visitors, who may choose to become “backers” by giving money. Most crowdfunding campaigns give rewards to backers, like a copy of the final product once it’s made.

Instead of relying on a few big investors, you can go straight to the market and ask mass numbers of people to breathe life into your idea. Crowdfunding helps businesses hop over that initial financial hurdle.

For many businesses, it works. Here are a couple of stats for Kickstarter, the world’s biggest crowdfunding platform:

  • More than 74,800 projects have received funding since 2009.
  • Over $1.4 billion has been pledged across Kickstarter projects.

Crowdfunding is also a good reason to start a business because you can choose a crowdfunding platform that fits your needs. While all crowdfunding sites share the same core idea, they do differ in certain areas so make sure to compare notes.

18. You’ll Experience New Things

Every business owner works through a different set of experiences, and those experiences are often chances that never would’ve manifested had the person been too scared to start their business.

I’ve thrown a lot of data at you, going on about what academics have to say and why other people start businesses. But there’s more than that, because starting a business is personal.

Some will grow big, and some will stay small. Some will become a new career, and some will remain a side gig. Some will push the boundaries of entrepreneurial innovation, and some will quietly do conventional things in ways that make a difference.

To start a business is to enter a maze. You don’t know when or how you’ll get out on the other end, but the quest can be exhilarating. And here are the important bits:

  1. You will take different turns, retreats, choices—a different path—than anyone else, even if you’re in the same maze.
  2. That path will cut through a landscape, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Yeah, challenges happen. But many of these new experiences are awesome opportunities you never would have had otherwise.

Just look at Nathan Chan, the founder, and publisher of Foundr Magazine. He started a little web publication that’s grown, giving him the chance to interview big-name people who’ve accomplished a lot—Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Dave Goldberg (and the list goes on).

These are experiences that Nathan never would’ve had without launching a business. That’s why you should think about starting a business of your own. You don’t know what opportunities will soar your way.

19. You Can Face the Challenge

I don’t want to make starting a business sound too easy, because it isn’t.

Many entrepreneurs sacrifice a lot of free time and social time in the early days of their startup. But time isn’t the only issue: in a new business, money is tight, work piles up, and plans go wrong.

When reading the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development study of established entrepreneurs in New York City, I saw an illuminating quote from one of the business owners interviewed:

“Do your homework! Make sure that you research every aspect of your prospective investment. Also, be ready to put in major effort. You need to make sure you have the will it takes to get the job done correctly and effectively, and if that means working a 12 hour day to get something done, there is no way around it.”

In that study, 43% of entrepreneurs cited long hours as a challenge in starting their business.

Starting a business is hard. That’s why the study asked successful business owners what advice they could offer to people thinking about starting a business. The top three things to do are:

  • Fully research the business idea first (21%)
  • Have passion or commitment (19%)
  • Plan properly (19%)

The challenges of starting a business are not insurmountable, and they can in fact be satisfying to beat. That’s why Foundr was created: to help entrepreneurs at every step of the way.


20. You Won’t Know If You Don’t Try

Scared of failing? Everyone is.

You might think that you’ll never be able to execute your plans. You might think that nobody will ever buy from you. You might think that if you try to start a business, it will shatter into a million pieces, getting you nowhere. But if we don’t at least try to start something, we’ll never know if those fears are real or not.

The only way to know is to do. Aside from that, it’s all just guessing.

Starting a business means plunging into uncertainty. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of variables decide whether a new venture will fall flat or climb to the top.

You can’t control all of those variables, but if you do your best where you do have control, everything else is more likely to work out. The only way to guarantee failure is to do nothing.

If you have an idea for a business, you should get started. There’s no better day to launch than yesterday.


21. You Can Make Your Own Reasons—and Your Own Decisions

Drawing from surveys, academic research, and past Foundr interviews, I’ve assembled a list of reasons why you should start a business. Perhaps you have reasons why you shouldn’t, and that’s fine.

Maybe, as you read this post, you drafted your own list, a little screed offering 21 reasons against starting a business. Maybe not. Either way is fine because whether or not you start a business is your own decision. You have to weigh the pros and the cons and move from there, all while remembering that you won’t know what will happen if you don’t dive in.

Ready To Start Your Business?

The beauty of entrepreneurship is that it lets you seize on the freedom to make your own decisions and control your own destiny in a way that conventional jobs do not. And in making your own decisions, you can make your own reasons.

What are your reasons for starting a business? Did any of the ideas I listed click with you? Do you have additions of your own? Please let me know in the comments below!

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