How to Create a Business for $100 or Less

How to Create a Business for $100 or Less

Creating a business that doesn’t have a huge operating cost or need tons of capital has been at the heart of my friend Chris Guillebeau’s blog The Art of Non Conformity since its inception. And finally, someone wrote a book about how to do it.

If you’ve been wanting to start a very small business to support your freedom, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Chris’s book. The best part about is that it’s not just some guy telling you how to do it that hasn’t actually done it himself. This book is based on dozens of solid case studies and information about how other people have done it in a wide variety or markets with skills they already have.

Chris was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the book that I thought would be helpful to our community. Enjoy and then leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book. :)

What’s the big message behind $100 Startup, and what called you to write it?

The big message is freedom, specifically the freedom found through creative self-employment, and how readers can achieve it. The model is based on a multi-year, data-driven study with 1,500 people who had all created successful microbusinesses without spending a lot of money and by using the skills they already had. I wanted to extract their lessons and share specific case studies that could be replicated elsewhere.

I like the word calling. In this case, I traveled the world and kept meeting unexpected entrepreneurs, the people who had started these kinds of businesses. I was challenged and personally inspired by their stories, so my goal was to craft their stories into a blueprint that readers could follow on the road to their own freedom.

Do you think money and resources are the biggest barriers for most people to start their own businesses, or do you think there’s something else that holds people back?

Definitely not, and I’m guessing you don’t either. I think the biggest barriers are uncertainty (in various forms) and the lack of knowledge. Plenty of people are already motivated to create change in their lives, but they don’t know which next steps to take. The $100 Startup is an attempt at providing 300 pages of next steps, with lots of checklists, examples, and action plans.

As for uncertainty, that’s a bit tougher. As you allude to in the next question, people have all kinds of fears and insecurities, especially the fear of failure. One thing that may help is to consider the role of risk in your life. For most of us, self-employment was often considered the risky choice, whereas the traditional job market was considered the safe choice.

But these days, a lot of people are taking a hard look at those definitions. If you can start a business quickly, without spending a lot of money, where is the risk? Meanwhile, the traditional job market continues to shrink, with no shortage of people unable to find work in the field in which they trained. That’s why many of us find that it’s actually a much less risky decision to go it alone, taking matters into our own hands and creating our own security.

I think often people don’t get started because they’re afraid their idea will fail or it won’t actually be something they can invest in long-term. What advice do you have to people that want some extra reassurance?

I’d tell them to read your blog! You deal with this question very well.

And I’d guess I’d also ask them, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if it doesn’t work out?”

As for long-term, I’m not sure that anyone’s first project needs to be something they’ll stick with forever. For at least ten years I did all kinds of things that I wasn’t willing to invest in long-term. I eventually grew to the point where I wanted to create convergence in my work and think more about legacy, but in the beginning my main motivation was “How can I pay the bills so I can worry about other things?”

Do you think that solopreneurship and microbusinesses are the next evolution in the world of work?

Perhaps, and I think we’re just beginning. As you know, solopreneurship isn’t necessarily new. I used to visit villages in Sierra Leone where everyone was essentially a solopreneur, simply because there was little to no formal economy or traditional jobs to be had. However, what’s changed in the depth and breadth of connections we can make, with all kinds of people all over the world.

At the same time, other factors are encouraging the spread of solopreneurship. More people are aware of options and opportunities than ever before. Online shopping used to be a fringe activity, but now it’s completely mainstream to buy shoes online or even “shop” for a prospective partner. Then with the negative economic news that comes out every day, more and more people are seeking alternatives to traditional work. Those who are already embracing these forms of self-employment are early adopters, but soon we’ll see a whole revolution. (Or at least I hope so.)

What did you learn launching this book?

I learned a few things. First, I was surprised that almost everyone in the study was very open in discussing the internal workings of their business, including the financial details. I asked people to disclose how much money they made and how much it cost to start the business because I wanted to create a highly-specific resource—but I expected a little resistance to that request, since most people aren’t comfortable talking in public about their income.

Instead, what I found was that almost everyone was willing to share. Several of them said things like, “I don’t usually talk about money, but if it helps someone else, I will.”

On a practical standpoint, we had a strong launch and debuted on all the major bestseller lists. On Amazon and BN.com, we even outsold The Hunger Games for three days straight. (Spoiler: 100% less children die in The $100 Startup.)

However, I did have one commercial disappointment. We were #1 on USA Today and BN.com, but on Amazon I was only able to get to #4. The thrilling 50 Shades of Grey series, which has sold 10 million copies (!) in the past six weeks, was impossible to topple from the top 3 spots. Therefore, to compete with that series, I’ve decided to add more sex scenes to future editions of the book. Stay tuned…

What’s next for you? Is there another book in the works?

I love writing books and am beginning the long process of planning the next one, which will be more about the love of adventure and my quest to visit every country in the world. But I also have a few other things going on: 8 countries I still need to visit in the next 8 months, the upcoming World Domination Summit with 1,000 people coming to town, and various other projects.

Truly, I feel very fortunate and grateful to be able to do what I do every day. If I wasn’t keeping busy with work that I enjoy, I’m sure I’d be depressed. So instead of letting that happen, I just keep going.

How to win a copy of the $100 Startup

I thought it would be fun to give away a copy of the book. For one lucky commenter, we’re going to mail a copy of The $100 Startup to you for free.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of the book, just leave a comment below and tell us why you think this would be a good book for you.

 

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Comment & Add Your Voice

JimBobv2 June 15, 2012 at 7:03 am

I work in a situation where the writing is on the wall that my group might be outsourced sooner rather than later.
 
This might be what I need to get moving on my next career.

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tayloramurphy1 June 15, 2012 at 9:05 am

I’ve been eyeing purchasing this book for a while now. I’ve read about 20 blogs that Chris has guest posted on (or been interviewed for) and it’s like a soft knocking on my brain. “Get this book. It’ll be good for you!”
 
I’m currently in the Trailblazer program trying to create a path for myself other than what I’m supposed to do after grad school. A book like this, while not giving me specific ideas I imagine, can be a great inspiration and motivator to keep up the steady work I’ve been putting in. Thanks for knocking on my brain once again Chris and Jonathan!

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jamesebecker June 15, 2012 at 10:07 am

This sounds like a great book. Thanks for the interview and the info on the book!
 

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nataliemk200 June 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for the great interview. I’d definitely be interested in winning a copy of this book. I just graduated from university and I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a translation company and I’d love to read it.

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Natsuki June 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I’m starting my last year of university this autumn and I can feel “real life” getting closer and closer. And I’m not sure I want the traditional job at a design agency. So I feel this book would be a great inspiration in finding an untraditional way to live off design and hopefully art.
 
I’ve been eyeing this book ever since I heard about it, and I think it would give me a lot of inspiration and courage to try!

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ca88andra June 16, 2012 at 12:09 am

Apparently you are never too old to reinvent yourself, so I believe its my time now! I want to do what I love and create a new future for myself and I think this would be an excellet book for me!

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billdback1 June 16, 2012 at 3:55 am

I like my current job, but both my wife and I are thinking of a few side projects that could grow into something.  This book looks like an excellent resource.  

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ericawollman June 16, 2012 at 9:35 am

I believe that people get stuck in their job and they are scared to go out and start something on their own. I am currently in a situation where I am not wanting to use my bachelor’s degree and am working as a banquet server. Of course I do not want to do this the rest of my life. I want to do something that is meaningful and that I believe in. I have always had problems working for companies because of immoral practices. This book sounds like an amazing resourse to start your own business. I don’t have a lot of money to put in a business so this sounds like the perfect book for me. I have ideas on what kind of businesses I would like to start up but I need to know where to start and the steps involved. I think this book would help me with that. I admire that this book is based on studies and information about how other people have been able to create successful businesses. I would love to start something that I am passionate about.
 

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Babymelaw June 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

Lol at the 50 Shades of Grey shade.
 
This book seems positively great. As a novice entrepreneur, I’m currently reading a lot of what is available out there and this one seems pretty helpful. I’ll definitely check on it !

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SalVasquez June 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm

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robertk328 June 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I saw this on amazon the other day and would love to own a copy – especially after reading this review :-)

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Erica Holthausen June 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm

In high school, I remember declaring to everyone I knew that I was going to be an attorney. I had read “A Man for All Seasons” and that had decided it for me. True to form, I went through college and then law school and landed a job with a law firm in Boston. A year later, I was burned out, unhappy and questioning every decision I had ever made. I left the firm and spent a semester living in a tent in Colorado. When I came back home, I had no idea what I was going to do next. But I did know this: leaving the law firm was the right decision. Ten years later, I finally took the plunge and started my own business. I love it, but I could certainly use a bit more structure and I’d love a copy of Chris’s book!

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Fouad June 19, 2012 at 12:26 am

why do I think this would be a good book for you?!Simply, the answer was in between the lines,,,, a lot  of people would like to change and they have started but they don’t have a plan and they don’t know what NEXT… and this a very BIG question , i really would like to receive copy of this book to discover what NEXT from Chris point of View.  

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MicroSourcing June 19, 2012 at 10:15 pm

$100 would be fairly easy to raise for a start-up, though entrepreneurs will need to have reasonable expectations. It’s a small fee so the financial risks are lower.

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justinharmons June 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm

This is a great book full of valuable content. I would have to say that between Chris and Jonathan, I have found some great people to look up to and look at how they are changing the game. Both of these guy’s messages are encouraging and inspirational.

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911help June 22, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Five years ago, I worked fulltime for a nonprofit and  had a small side private practice.  A couple years later I read a post Jonathan wrote saying “not yet” were the two most dangerous words a person could tell themselves.  Six months after that, I  quit my career working for others and began working for myself full-time.  One of the things I regularly counsel folks on in my practice is job dissatisfaction, and helping them sort through the pros and cons of taking a leap of faith and figuring out new ways to live and work.  I’d love to have Chris’ book as a practical reference guide to assist in those conversations. 

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tlcdecorators June 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm

For several years I have wanted to start a business.  At first the biggest stumbling block was scaling my ideas down to the size of my budget.  Didn’t want to get a loan and whoa am I glad I didn’t in this economy!  This book interests me because I am now ready to start small and reach my more realistic goals.  It is always good to tap into the insights of those who have a similar experience.  Who knows?  I might save myself a few mistakes along the way too!

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jerrykolber June 28, 2012 at 3:48 am

started reading this last week – what a great book.  totally synthesis of how to get off your ass and start a business, now.  thanks for highlighting it here on the blog.

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jerrykolber June 28, 2012 at 3:48 am

started reading this last week – what a great book.  totally synthesis of how to get off your ass and start a business, now.  thanks for highlighting it here on the blog.

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lazri June 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Great job on the book Chris.
 
‘Entrepreneurship’ seems to be the new ‘sustainable’. It seems to be a mutable term that can be molded to fit various ends. Chris’ work has always championed the ability of individuals to control their own lives. Is this what entrepreneurship means?  I’ve just recently engaged the entrepreneurship paradigm in my work in international development and I’m eager to learn more. 
 
One concern that I have is the representation of entrepreneurs as functioning exclusively in the private sphere. This recent fetishism of entrepreneurship necessarily focuses on individuals. Books on the topic, including Chris’, acknowledge the group effort necessary for any entrepreneur to find success; yet, the entrepreneur’s impact on the group and wider community explored beyond a few cursory statistics on widgets sold or jobs created. The process of development becomes de-politicized through entrepreneurship as community members and citizens influence the direction of local change through consumption rather than public deliberation.
 
Perhaps this is a phenomenon exclusive to a few areas I’ve worked outside of the US. Perhaps this is an issue that’s at the forefront of current social entrepreneurial practice and I’m just not familiar enough with the field. It’d be great to hear from others about how these issues are discussed and what materials I should be reading to learn more about this.
 
This approach to development fundamentally challenges the current failed paradigms in a refreshingly human way and its exciting to see how our generation embraces it. 

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KatPolkaDot1 July 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Is the cost of the book included in that $100?

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AnyaRonaldo July 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm

what if I want to write a book about how to write a book and make money?

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Nandor July 9, 2012 at 4:05 am

This books just made the top of my “books to get” list.

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nicoleb24 July 9, 2012 at 9:18 am

As a single mother, Ive been struggling to find the best avenue of starting my biz on a budget. Ive digressed in my career life due to some major setbacks. And sometimes it seems that nothing works in my favor but Im determined to keep pushing regardless! I would love to have this book to help launch me into the next phase of my career. This website has been such a blessing and Im just ready to take this knowledge and move up!! :)
 

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James July 17, 2012 at 6:55 am

I need a change of pace. Badly.

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Georgi Hadzhigeorgiev July 17, 2012 at 6:56 am

Unless the book guides me step by step how to do this, any book on the subject of making money out of nothing or almost nothing, sounds to me like the author is fishing for people to buy his book.
Can you prove me wrong? Send me a copy and let’s see can I make some money because of it. I promise to give you back some percentage of the profit.

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Tom July 17, 2012 at 8:58 am

I recently left my job. I’ve been reading entrepreneur blogs and startup blogs for the last 3 or 4 years with a little voice in the back of my head that I should start my own business. Now I have that opportunity, and I’m taking advantage of it. This book would be helpful to me as I am going through the process of starting my own business right now.

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MrHankey July 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

I don’t read much books , but this is a great read , seriously !

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AJ July 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I want to start a business for $100 or less. It’s about time. Thanks

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Susan Snook October 5, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Having been, essentially, forced to move to an even MORE backwoods place than where I was, I am DESPERATELY looking for a rope, a lifeline, and ladder, a path, ANYTHING to get OUT of here, and back to having choices in my life. Like having the CHOICE of going out with friends, or seeing a movie, or dinner, or even staying home- IF that is my choice, rather than the force of being broke and stranded in the middle of nowhere…. PLEASE, a copy of this book could BE that lifeline!

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Angela November 2, 2012 at 2:33 am

Both Chris’ books changed my life and my outlook on life in a huge way. I read these two books in the one sitting. I went and saw Chris when he came to Sydney and he’s a lovely guy. No ego, no bullshit, just doing his thing and trying to help others who want to live their life their way. These books aren’t aren’t fluffy with alot of philosophy, these are how to with stories and exercises, questions to get you started in your own business. Having other people share their stories was incredibly useful, when you start to doubt yourself you have proof that many other people have been able to achieve financial independence doing their thing. If they can do it, so can I. A great companion to Trailblazer. You guys rock.

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Hamlet November 20, 2012 at 9:39 am

This would be good book for me cause i am searching something like that.

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Keith December 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

A maybe this would help me take the leap and jump into a new start. I hope everyone get a chance to read this book!

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Mike Wyatt II (@entelleckt) February 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

The idea of having a guide with checklists and action plans to help me be a more effective and successful solopreneur is comforting and enthralling.

Thanks for telling us about Chris’s book and blog!

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Daniel Soliz C. February 21, 2013 at 5:55 am

100$ startup capital to start a business without a loan from the bank! … SOunds like good stuff. I am up for it. Will have to break and open up the piggy bank and see how much it has inside :p

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Karen March 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I feel that nothing happens by accident. I just saw a mention of this book the other day as well. It’s time to get moving to building that empire.

I’d love to win the book!

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Lucy April 8, 2013 at 2:17 am

I love the term ‘solopreneur’! And would also love a copy of this book :)

I was freelance for several years and loved it, but when the recession hit my biggest client said they were putting an embargo on outsourcing work, and offered me a full-time job instead… I thought I would just take it for six months until the recession ‘blew over’. Four and half years later I’m still here, staring up at the tiny pocket of sky I can see out the window from my desk, feeling like the life is being sucked out of me…

Now I’m making a bid for freedom again, with plans to marry my skills (graphic design) with my passion (health and wellbeing), and being inspired and excited by PTE and all those who are living life on their own terms.

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Diane Fawcett May 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Fascinating, would live to win a copy

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Brad June 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Although I’m a little late to the party, I’m gonna comment anyway.

This book would be great for me because I have an entrepreneurial spirit that is currently being extinguished by my growling 9 – 5’er. As each year passes, I find that I am more and more unhappy at my current job. It is time for me to break the monotony of getting up each morning, dreading the day to come and dragging myself into the office.

This book would help teach me how to realize my dream of becoming self-employed. It would allow me to start my trek to freedom. Freedom from the minutia created by my current robotic, could this really be groundhog day job.

I have come to the realization that life is too short to not take risks. It’s too short to stand on the sidelines while others play the game. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play!!!! I also would love to have the book:)

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marie walsh July 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm

It is so great to hear about a book that uses actual research to prove a point (The model is based on a multi-year, data-driven study with 1,500 people who had all created successful microbusinesses without spending a lot of money and by using the skills they already had.).
Many writers go on personal experience only and don’t reach out to others.
I am in the process of starting a business in the hopes of quitting my day job! This would be a great book to help me get started.
~Marie

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Al July 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

This book would be great for me because I am at this point right now. I quit my full-time corporate job and I need to get something started ASAP. I took your advice and wrote down a quitting date, and actually ended up quitting a few days prior. I am just going to buy the book now because I don’t have time to waste. If you send me a free copy, I’ll give it to a friend in need.

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Dimitra Doupi July 22, 2013 at 10:37 am

I just finished reading for the 5th time Dragon Rouge’s “Business is Beautiful” and since I do not believe in coincidences but conscious or subconscious creation of reality, I am inclined to think that the evidence is mounting in the direction of owning my time and skills and set them free to create value for others, while supporting myself. The plan is there, the resources are there to and what remains is the daily pursuit of setting things in action mindfully and realistically. I would be delighted to read this book, whether I get for free or not, and gain insight from the people who took the plunge and made work a work of art.

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lynnette August 10, 2013 at 10:48 am

i recently finished this book which i borrowed from the library, but i’m definitely going to purchase it for my permanent “library”. it’s VERY straightforward and inspirational. it gives you the feeling that it IS possible to start something with very little capital. So many businesses talk about huge startup costs or needing to go for loans, but many people just don’t have that option and reading about so many entrepreneurs that have started with little to nothing is a great inspiration.

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Nichole Senator September 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I don’t have an income at the moment. I might borrow the money to buy the book. :) I am a single mother of three. I have a B.S. in Communications (photography, filmmaking and theatre) and a special education teaching certification… I attempted working in the communications field, but I couldn’t make ends meet with three children.. I then went back to school for teaching. Did that for 6 years. After two nervous breakdowns and hospitalizations last school year, I resigned. After I almost lost my mind, and lived homeless in my car for over a month, my mother offered for me and my 8 year old son to live with her so I could ‘get my life back together’… (my son spent several months with his grandmother while I wasn’t doing so well) I took her up on the offer. I am currently my son’s learning coach, for online public school. I am not able work outside the home and I desperately do not want to be living with my parents for a long period of time. :) I am 39 years old. My two oldest daughters are now on their own. I’m desperate for ideas and this book sound like something I need to read.

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Hansen September 15, 2013 at 5:15 am

I have been thinking about becoming an entrepreneur for 20 + years now but I haven’t made the final step yet because of the way my life have formed. If this book could kick me into gear without risking a fortune I would be happy and you would have a great story to promote your book. Hope I win !

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Javier October 19, 2013 at 10:43 am

Great post :)

I would love a copy of Chris’ book! I personally know a lot of people (including myself, of course) that would greatly benefit from reading it. It’s potentially life-changing information!

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