When I opened my massage practice in 2014, I was still considered low income and funded my business through a part-time job and a loan from my parents, which seemed gigantic to me, but was peanuts in the world of loans.
When I began my virtual assistant business, I had just lost my part-time job.
I’ve never started a business with tons of money, so I’ve always been a budget entrepreneur.
Because many of the women who read this blog want to start a business on a budget, I wanted to share a few resources that helped me get started without going into too much debt. Almost all of these resources cost $50 or less, and many of them are free.
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I earn a small commission when you purchase products through these links. When you purchase through Amber Uninhibited, it helps support this blog and my ability to work on my own terms. I only promote products that I have used and love!)
A Small Orange – $5/month, $50/year
A Small Orange (link to review) offers small, shared hosting plans so that you only pay for the space you need for your website, and you can upgrade to a larger plan at any time. Their “small” plan, which is what I host this blog and another website on can be paid for monthly at $5 per month or yearly for $50.
Right now, you can get $5 off a hosting plan from A Small Orange with code: AFFILIATE5.
WordPress – free
WordPress software is free to install on your webhost. It is by far the most popular, well-known, and flexible blog platform. I’ve used it for blogs and for static page websites.
Free Themes – free
For Graphic Design
Adobe Color Wheel – free
Adobe Color Wheel is an awesome tool for coming up with stunning color combinations for your blog, business, and brand. You can even upload a photo that contains colors you like and the program will pick out the colors, then supply their hex codes.
Canva – free/$1 per image
I use Canva for all of my blog graphics, social media images, banners, etc. It’s easy for anyone to use, even if (like me) you have no graphic design experience. All the basic functions are free, and there are even some free stock photos. If you’d rather purchase stock photos, they cost $1.00 per image for a 24 hour use license, which is all you need if you design the image and then save it.
I have the Canva for Work version, which costs about $12 a month. The Work version allows me to save fonts, colors, and logos that I use often in my designs. I can also organize photos and designs into folders and create reusable templates.
Google Photos – free
Previously called Picasa, Google Photos allows you to crop photos, do basic editing, add filters, and create collages.
For Invoicing, Scheduling, Email Marketing, and Payments
Invoicely – free
A free invoicing website with upgrade options available, starting at $9.99 a month. If you’re only taking payments through Paypal, you can have unlimited invoices each month on the free plan. I liked invoicely a lot and it was easy to use, but I switched to Dubsado so that I could also have clients sign contracts through the same program.
Calendly – free
Calendly is an online appointment scheduler that integrates with Outlook or Google Calendar. It’s free for one event type (for example, a 30 minute consultation with a client), but if your business needs more appointment types, their upgraded plan costs $10 per month. I use Calendly to set up Skype/telephone calls with clients, free consultations, coffee chats to meet other entrepreneurs, and language exchanges with my Spanish and German practice partners.
I use a different scheduler called Full Slate to set up appointments for my massage clients. It has more functions and I can upload longer descriptions for my services. My clients love it, and it costs me $30 per month + $5 to be able to sell gift certificates and massage packages online.
Dubsado – $12/month
Dubsado is a website that allows you to invoice clients, create contracts for them to sign, and track your client leads, to do list, and calendar. The calendar function can be linked with Outlook, iCloud, or Google Calendar.
Mailchimp – free
You can send emails to your mailing list for free for up to 2,000 subscribers using Mailchimp.
Google Voice – free
Google voice lets you create a phone number to use as a business number, which will link to your existing mobile phone. When people dial your Google Voice number, it rings to your phone and shows that it’s coming from Google Voice. That way, you don’t have to give out your personal number, but you can still receive calls on the phone you have. I use this to keep my VA clients and massage clients separate and provide different voicemails for each. It also transcribes voicemails your receive on that number and emails/texts them to you, although the transcriptions are not always accurate.
Paypal – 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction
I use Paypal to accept credit cards and online payments from my clients at both of my businesses. They charge a small fee for each transaction, but it’s worth it for how easy it is to accept payments. Paypal is widely trusted and many people use it, so it’s convenient for customers or clients.
For Office Supplies
I always stock up on office supplies at back-to-school time. The deals are even better toward the beginning of school, when whatever is leftover goes on clearance. I’ve seen folders at 15 cents apiece and notebooks at 50 cents. You can find almost any kind of office supply at back-to-school sales.
Microsoft 365 – $69.99/year
I use Microsoft 365 for all of my spreadsheets, document design, word processing, etc. I’ve used it since I was a kid, so it’s familiar and easy for me. It’s my favorite office suite. I use their Office 365 Personal version for $69.99 per year. They also have monthly plans ($6.99 per month for that version).
However, I’ve also used Open Office (free) and am getting more familiar with Google Docs (free), so there are options you don’t have to pay for.
Quickbooks Online – $15/month
When I opened my first business, I bought the Quickbooks desktop version for around $300, which made me nauseous, considering I didn’t have a lot of money to start with.
When my laptop stopped working a month ago, I lost 3 months of my books, found out my 2014 version wasn’t compatible with Windows 10, and was faced with the decision to move my bookkeeping to the online version of Quickbooks or pay another $300ish for the latest version for my desktop.
Go with online. It backs everything up for you and it’s waaay cheaper. My businesses are small and I don’t hire employees, so I used their Simple Start plan at $15 per month per company. Other plans are $30-40 per month, which is still a great deal! They often have sales that make them even less expensive.
For Outsourcing Services to Other People
Fiverr – $5+
Fiverr allows you to hire people to do tasks starting at $5. I’ve used Fiverr to have logos designed, get malware removed from my website, and other assorted one-time tasks.
Virtual Assistant – $80/month +
Most people can’t hire a virtual assistant to start. I still don’t have one. But I work as one and my packages start at $90 per month, which is reasonable for a lot of people who need help with social media, behind-the-scenes blog tasks, and other tasks. If you feel like you can’t do it all, you might want to hire a VA.
You can also find reasonably priced assistants on Upwork, but please don’t be one of those people who pays women in foreign countries $4/hour to do VA work. Pay reasonably for the work people are doing for you.
Web Design – Varies
Web design is tricky and can be super expensive, so if you have the ability to do it yourself, at least as you’re starting out, I recommend going the DIY route. WordPress is pretty simple, and there are other options, like Weebly that have drag-and-drop web page builders.
However, if you can’t or don’t want to do it yourself, search around for someone who might be able to set up something simple, but inexpensive. Lise at Simply Lise designs gorgeous WordPress websites starting at $120.
It is absolutely possible to start a business without thousands and thousands of dollars. Choose what you need to start and bring the rest in later. When I started my massage practice, I paid for Quickbooks and Microsoft office and used free versions of everything else until I could afford other options. Don’t feel like you need to buy everything in the beginning!
Did I miss your favorite free or inexpensive resource? Share it with me in the comments!