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How To Launch a Business For Less Than $500

By Kim Lavine

You want to start a business but you can’t get past your fear of taking the risk and striking out. Reduce the risk, and you may find taking that first step easier than you ever imagined. If you’re willing to invest $500 and some of your time, following these steps may get you to where you want to go faster than you ever thought possible.

Business Model: No business is easier to start and requires less capital to operate than a service business. This is a business that utilizes your time and expertise to generate revenue. If you have professional skills, like bookkeeping, graphic design, or just an idea like home-organizing, you can start as soon as tomorrow selling your time for a premium. People are busier than ever and willing to pay for services today that just yesterday they would have done themselves, so be creative.

Business plan: Once you’ve selected the service you want to sell, visit SCORE ( or your local Small Business Development Center  and get the free help you need to write your business plan. They’ll also help you comply with all the government registrations on the local, state and national level, which for the most part cost nothing. Here’s where you’ll come up with the name of your company and it’s logo; remember, you sell to a consumer’s heart—not always their head—so be original. Search your company’s name at the United States Patent & Trademark Office ( and see if it’s available to register as a trademark for $328. If your business takes off, you could franchise the concept and make millions—think Geek Squad—provided you have strong Intellectual Property.

Website: You don’t need a brick-and-mortar storefront anymore to start a successful business—all you need is a website. You can find many easy to use services on the web that can get you up and running like Go Daddy ( Website Tonight for as little as $4 a month. You can register your domain name there too for as little as $7. Most website building tools don’t even require that you know HTML anymore—it’s all point and click.

Marketing: You can easily get your name out into the marketplace for free by writing a clever press release and sending it out to local media. You can learn how to write a good press release and even post it on the web to be distributed to media across the country for as little as $40 at PRWeb ( Having a good story is what’s going to get you media attention, and as long as you focus on a human interest angle that will captivate and inspire the reading public, you’ll get noticed. Network by joining your local service clubs, or maybe start a blog at Typepad for as little as $5 a month (, to get your unique point-of-view and own helpful tips out there.

Making the money: You will no doubt start bringing in revenues and you need to accurately track and account for those revenues for tax purposes. The gold-standard accounting program is QuickBooks. Setting QuickBooks up for a service business is easy. You can buy QuickBooks Simple Start online at Amazon ( for anywhere from $40 to $90, depending on whether you’re willing to buy it used. Not only will you be able to capably handle the financial functions of running a successful company, but QuickBooks will make you look like a pro doing it, producing sharp invoices and even job quotes to present to your customers.

Lavine is the bestselling author of Mommy Millionaire: How I Turned My Kitchen Table Idea Into a Million Dollars and How You Can Too , and President and Founder of Green Daisy.