How to start a successful ecommerce business on a shoestring budget
How to start a successful ecommerce business on a shoestring budget

If you've been thinking about starting an ecommerce business but have been holding off because you don't have a lot of money to invest, this article is for you. Starting a successful ecommerce business doesn't have to break the bank. There are many ways to get started without spending a lot of money.

With the proliferation of internet-connected devices and the global reach of the internet, there are more potential customers than ever before. Thanks to advances in technology, it's easier and more affordable than ever to start an online business.

With a little creativity, focused hard work, and these insider tips, you can start your own online business on a shoestring budget. If you're ready to take the plunge, read on for some tips on how to start a realistic ecommerce business.

Why should you start an ecommerce business? Convenience, choice, and flexibility   

As the world moves online, many businesses are left wondering what the future of commerce looks like. Will they be able to adapt to the changing landscape? According to Insider, more than 40% of purchases in the United States occur through ecommerce sales. That should allay any doubts you have in mind about the popularity of ecommerce.

Doing business online is not only more convenient, it reaches a wider, even global, audience. You have more control over your branding and marketing. The convenience and ease of online shopping is hard to beat and, as a result, people are turning to it in much larger numbers.

Make your money work for you: Business ideas for a tight budget   

While there are many ways to make money online, in this blog we’re going to discuss five effective ways to build an online business without needing to invest a large sum of money upfront.

 1. Sell used goods online   

There are a variety of reasons why people buy used goods. For one, used goods are often cheaper than new goods. This is especially true for electronics and other big-ticket items, which people tend to discard and replace often. Similarly, great deals can be found on secondhand designer apparel and accessories, which often sell for a fraction of their original price. 

But perhaps the fastest-growing reason buying used goods has become so popular is because it’s more environmentally friendly. Manufacturing and transporting new items requires large amounts of natural resources, adding to pollution problems all over the world. When those items end up in a landfill after being discarded, they help create greenhouse gases, releasing harmful chemicals into the environment. As people embrace the idea of sustainability, they’re reducing their purchases of new products—especially those bought in big-box stores—by buying and reusing existing products as a way to save the planet and save money at the same time.    

Now, thanks to the proliferation of ecommerce websites, individuals and businesses alike are using online auctions to sell a wide variety of used products, including clothes, books, electronics, home goods, and more.

Sahivalue, a Mumbai-based company selling refurbished gadgets, scaled greater heights by taking their business online. Discover how Zoho's business solutions helped them automate their tasks and create an enjoyable experience for their customers in this detailed tell-all video.

Before you jump into the ecommerce arena, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind when starting such a business.

  • Take good photos. Well-lit photos showing the item in detail will make it more likely to sell.

  • Write accurate descriptions. Be honest about any existing flaws or damage.

  • Price your items fairly. Don't try to rip people off, but don't undersell yourself either.

There’s no denying that the market for used goods is booming. In fact, ecommerce businesses that focus solely on selling used goods are some of the most successful online businesses around. Green Queen forecasts that the secondhand market will hit $80 billion by the end of this decade.

So if you’re thinking about starting an online business, selling used goods is definitely worth considering.

 2. Provide freelancing services   

Whether you're a web developer, graphic designer, consultant, or writer, there has never been a better time to start a freelancing business. Starting an ecommerce freelancing business is relatively easy and it doesn’t cost much to get off the ground. All you need is a strong internet connection and a computer. Plus, there are plenty of resources available on the internet to help you get started. The barriers to entry are low, and with the right ecommerce platform, you can get up and running in no time.

Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when starting an online freelancing business.

  • Create a portfolio of your work so potential clients can see what you're capable of.

  • Market yourself through social media and other online channels.

  • Charge what you're worth and remember, this is your business.

This infographic shares some mind-boggling statistics about the freelancing industry.

There are plenty of ecommerce businesses out there, so it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. Having your own website helps you brand yourself as a unique freelancer, which can attract more clients and lead to more success.

Your website is like your digital business card - it's a great way to showcase your skills and what you can offer to potential clients. When you have a strong personal brand, you become more memorable and trustworthy, which can help you stand out from other freelancers in your field.

Investing time and effort into branding yourself online is worth it in the long run. It will help you attract more clients, land better gigs, and boost your career as a whole. So if you're serious about becoming a successful freelancer, make sure you create a standout website that showcases your talents.

You can set your own hours and work as much or as little as you want. Another benefit of freelancing is that it's relatively low risk. Because you're not investing a lot of money upfront, you won't lose much if your business doesn't take off.

The most recent data by Flexiple finds that with 58 million skilled writers, graphic designers, software developers, salespeople, and other professionals, freelancers are set to become the majority of the U.S. workforce by 2027. With a little hard work and dedication, there's no reason your online freelancing business can't be a success.

 3. Create online courses   

Creating online courses is a great way to share your knowledge and expertise with a wider audience while being a lucrative revenue stream. Gumroad is an online marketplace where users can sell digital products such as books, courses, memberships, or streaming services.

Here's what you need to know about creating an online course that will sell like hotcakes.

  • Decide the topic you'll be teaching. You need to choose a subject that you're passionate about and that people are interested in learning more about.

  • Outline the structure of your course. What will students learn in each lesson? How will they progress from beginner to expert?

  • Create engaging content. Your course should be packed with valuable information that's presented in an engaging way. Think about using videos, infographics, and other visuals to break up the text and keep people engaged.

Creating an online course business does not require a lot of money. You can start small and grow your business over time. With the right planning and execution, you can create a thriving online course business right away.

 4. Launch an affiliate marketing website   

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought in by the affiliate's own marketing efforts. Affiliates are paid a commission for every sale they generate, making it a popular way to earn money online.

If you're looking to start an ecommerce business, affiliate marketing is a great way to get started. With relatively low start-up costs and the ability to scale up quickly, it's a flexible and profitable way to run your business. It's a relatively easy way to get started, and it can be extremely profitable.

Here are a few things you need to know before getting started.

  • Choose a niche. This is the market segment for the products or services that you’ll be promoting.

  • Find potential customers and partners. There are many ways to do this, including social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid advertising.

  • Start promoting your affiliate links. You can do this through email marketing, blogging, and social media. The key is to be creative and consistent with your promotions.

Kinsta says that the global affiliate marketing industry's annual revenue is valued at more than $17 billion. The advantages of starting an affiliate marketing business include:

  • Low startup costs. You can get started with just a few hundred dollars.

  • No need for inventory. You can promote other people's products, and don't have to worry about stocking or shipping inventory yourself.

  • High potential for growth. With the right strategies in place, your affiliate marketing business can quickly grow to generate a full-time income.

  • Be your own boss. You'll have the freedom to work from home and set your own hours.

If you're looking for a way to start your own ecommerce business, then affiliate marketing is definitely worth considering. Tapfiliate is a great affiliate marketing website that allows customers to integrate seamlessly with ecommerce platforms.

 5. Start a print-on-demand (POD) business    

POD businesses offer a great way to make money from your creativity. If you have a passion for design or art, you can turn your hobby into a profitable business by selling your designs on t-shirts, books, mugs, and more. POD businesses are becoming increasingly popular because they offer a convenient and affordable way to sell products online.

There are many success stories for this niche of ecommerce because it gives customers the freedom of creating and gifting custom products either for themselves or for their loved ones.

There are a few things to keep in mind when starting a POD business.

  • Find a reliable supplier who can provide high-quality products at competitive prices.

  • Create compelling product descriptions and photos that will attract customers to your store.

  • Advertise your store on social media accounts and through several online forums.

There are many advantages to starting a POD business:

  • It’s easy to set up and can be run from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

  • There are low overhead costs, and your business can be started with very little capital.

  • There’s no need to stock inventory or deal with storage problems.

  • It’s flexible and can be easily scaled up or down as needed.

POD businesses offer a great way to enter the ecommerce market. They provide a low risk way to test niches, products, and market demand without investing a lot of money upfront. POD businesses are also a good option for those who want to start an online business but don’t have the time or resources to invest in developing their own product line.

Wondering how to make all this happen? Now, we’re going to show you how!

From broke to business owner: Is starting a business on a budget really possible?   

The short answer is a resounding YES! In fact, many successful businesses have started this way.

Bill Hewlett and David Packard started Hewlett Packard in 1939 with just $538. Today, it generates revenue of more than $126 billion.

Here is the sequence of key things you need to do to make sure your business is successful, even on a tight budget:

  1. Brainstorm to create a list of businesses that fit within your budget.

  2. Conduct some market research to find out if your business idea is sustainable.

  3. Create a concrete plan that will align with your business costs and projected revenues.

  4. Learn how to control finances without sacrificing product quality.

  5. Find ways to promote your business at minimal cost.

If you can accomplish these tasks, setting up and running an ecommerce business on a budget can be both practical and profitable.

Research: Learn how to find and define your target market   

Your target market is the group of people you believe are likely to buy what you’re selling. But defining your target market goes beyond just knowing who they are. You need to understand what motivates them, what their pain points are, and what solutions they're looking for. Only then can you create a marketing strategy that resonates with them and gets them to take action.

There are a few steps you can take to define your target market.

First, begin by thinking about who your ideal customer is.

  • What are their demographics?

  • What do they like?

  • What do they need?

After WWII, Momofuku Ando wanted to create a food that could be eaten by anyone, regardless of economic status. So he developed instant ramen noodles. In 1958, he launched his first product, “Chikin Ramen,” Since then, ramen noodles have become a staple food for people all over the world. 

Next, take a look at your current customer base, if you have one.

  • Who is already buying from you?

  • Why do they shop with you? 

  • Do you know what people you want to target?

In order to start and grow an ecommerce business, it’s important to understand your target market. Zoho Survey is an excellent online survey software that helps businesses gather feedback and opinions from customers. It can assist in your target market research efforts and help you get feedback from potential customers about your product or service.

This information is essential to determine what pricing, marketing, and product decisions you’ll to make to be successful. By understanding your target market, you can better focus your efforts on advertising and selling to those who are most likely to purchase from you. Ultimately, taking the time to do this research can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Once you’ve identified your target market, you’ll need to research your competition.

  • Who are they targeting?

  • What makes their brand work? 

  • How can you stand out from them?

A SWOT analysis is a powerful tool for ecommerce businesses. It allows you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This information is essential for making strategic decisions about your business. 

In their study, MToolbox Suite explains in detail how big companies like Coca Cola, Airbus, and Zara use SWOT analysis to develop plans that will take advantage of opportunities and mitigate threats. A good SWOT analysis can help businesses track their progress over time and make necessary adjustments to their strategies.

By taking the time to answer these questions, you can start to build a picture of who your target market is and how to reach them. Keep in mind that your target market may change over time, so it's important to review your metrics regularly and update your approach as needed.

Ways to fund your business without going broke   

You’re finally ready to start your very own ecommerce business. But there’s just one problem: you don’t have any money.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs find themselves in the same boat. Although we’ve been discussing zero-investment business ideas, some of them may require a low capital investment initially.

The good news is that there are several ways to get the money you need to start your business.

Here are a few options to explore.

1. Use your savings. If you have some money saved up, this can be a great way to get started on your ecommerce business without going into debt. Just be sure to budget carefully so you don't deplete your savings too quickly.

Who did it: Sophia Amoruso, founder of fashion company Nasty Gal and Girlboss Media, started her business from her small bedroom without a big financial investment. She was a 22-year-old college dropout when she started selling vintage clothes on eBay in 2006. Today, her company is worth over $100 million.

2. Look into grants and other funding opportunities. There are often grants and crowdfunding websites available for businesses, especially new ones. Do some research to see if you might be eligible for any of these programs.

Who did it: In 2012, John Foley secured $400,000 in funding to start the Peleton brand. The brand quickly grew in popularity, and by 2014 had secured $10 million in venture capital funding. Today, the company is worth over $1 billion.

3. Get a loan. This can be a good option if you have someone who's willing to lend you the money with no strings attached. Many financial institutions have interesting offers for business loans.

Who did it: In 1962, Sam Walton started Walmart with a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law. Since then, Walmart has become one of the world's largest retailers, with over 11,000 stores in 27 countries.

4. Find an investor. There are many individuals who are interested in investing their own money in businesses that they believe have potential. In many countries, there are seed-fund schemes run by the government to promote a local startup culture.

Who did it: In 2014, Facebook made the largest private acquisition of a VC-backed company when it bought WhatsApp for $22 billion. In turn, Sequoia Capital, the venture capital firm that invested in WhatsApp, made a huge return on its investment.

With the world economy opening up and many success stories to refer to, it’s become easier to get the money you need to start your business. Remember to explore all funding options and don't be afraid to ask for help. With careful planning and execution, you can easily secure minimal capital to kickstart your ecommerce journey.

Creative ways to market your business without spending a fortune   

If you're starting an ecommerce business on a tight budget, don't despair—there are plenty of ways to get the word out about your new venture. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Start with social media. It's free to set up accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so use them to your advantage. Use engaging visuals and content to attract attention and draw people in.

2. Get involved in online communities relevant to your niche. You can search for forums or groups dedicated to discussing topics related to what you're selling. Share your expert knowledge and connect with potential customers from all over the world.

3. Make use of email marketing. Collect email addresses from people who visit your website or social media pages, then send out periodic newsletters or promotional offers.

4. Start a blog. This is a great way to share your story, connect with customers, and build trust.

5. Learn the principles of search engine optimization (SEO). This means making sure your website and content are optimized for the search engines through strategic keyword placement so that you can rank higher in organic search results.

6. Don’t forget about word-of-mouth marketing. This is the oldest and one of the most powerful marketing tools available, and it doesn’t cost anything to get started. As they say, a good product speaks for itself, and word-of-mouth is a testimony to the success of any brand.

7. Hold contests or give away freebies on your website or blog. This is a great way to generate interest in your business and get people talking about you online. Many ecommerce websites offer giveaways and discounts to encourage people to order through their website instead of Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp.

8. Offer discounts or coupons on your website. Customers will respond positively to offers for saving money when buying your products.

9. Create interesting and shareable content. This will help drive traffic to your site organically.

10. Collaborate with other businesses in your industry or niche. You will be able to reach out to a wider audience when you collaborate with similar or complementary businesses. This has become common on social media, which has led to the rise of the influencer industry.

With a little creativity and some elbow grease, it’s possible to promote your new business on a tight budget. With these tips, you can get the word out there without breaking the bank.

How to use social media to your advantage as a new business owner   

There’s no denying that social media is the cheapest and most powerful tool that allows businesses to connect with their customers in unprecedented ways. As a new ecommerce business, here’s how you can make the most of social media.

  • Build relationships with potential and current customers. Show them that you’re a real person behind the brand. Think of Apple. It’s nearly impossible to imagine the brand without Steve Jobs. A face or a name lends a personality to the brand.

  • Share your story. Let people know why you started your business and what your mission is. 

  • Drive traffic to your website or online store. Make sure your website is optimized for conversion so that visitors can easily buy from you.

  • Create valuable content. This will help you attract more followers and customers. Share posts, infographics, images, and other types of content that will add value to your audience’s lives.

By creating a strong social media presence, new businesses can build trust and credibility with potential customers. Additionally, social media can be used to create valuable relationships with other businesses in your industry.


Like many other entrepreneurs who started small and grew their businesses into well-known brands, you don't need a lot of money to start selling online. There are many platforms that allow you to sell products and services with little to no upfront costs. You can use social media, your own website, or even marketplaces like Etsy to start reaching out to customers. There are many platforms that allow you to set up a shop for free or for a low monthly fee, like Zoho Commerce.

The most important takeaway is to start small and scale up as you grow. The key is to find a niche market and build a loyal customer base. With focused efforts, anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and resourcefulness can be successful in selling online without spending a lot of money upfront.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting this form, you agree to the processing of personal data according to our Privacy Policy.