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Building a brand with no budget: Growing a side hustle on a shoestring

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Starting a side hustle with little to no budget might sound like a daunting task, but it’s entirely possible – especially for us resourceful Kiwi’s!

No funds for ads, no money for commercials, and certainly no resources for sponsoring influencers. If you find yourself in a similar situation, fear not—there’s a path to success, even when your wallet is empty.

Embrace the challenge

When you’re starting out with no money to spend on advertising, you have to get creative.

Think of it as a fun challenge rather than a limitation. The very first step is to ask yourself a crucial question: What sets my online store apart from all the others, and why should my customers care?

This question might seem harsh, but it cuts straight to the heart of entrepreneurship. Understanding what makes your store unique is the foundation of your marketing strategy.

It’s what will attract customers and keep them coming back. If you’re unsure about your unique selling proposition, don’t worry — this is something many entrepreneurs struggle with, and it’s something we talk about often in our Accelerator membership.

Content is King

Once you’ve nailed down what makes your store special, it’s time to dive into content creation. But we’re not talking about glamorous commercials or endless product photos on Instagram.

To build influence, you need to focus on creating content that tells your story and showcases your brand’s personality.

Document Your Journey

Spend at least six months documenting everything about your business. Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your daily operations. Share your successes, your challenges, and everything in between.

This transparency helps humanize your brand and makes it relatable.

Turn your business into a persona and introduce this persona to everyone you want to connect with—whether they are potential customers, influencers, or other businesses. This approach builds trust and authenticity, which are key to attracting a loyal customer base.

Networking and Influencer Marketing

Building your brand on a budget means leveraging the power of networking and influencer marketing. Reach out to influential people in your industry and offer them free products.

Yes, this means giving away a lot of free items, but it’s an investment in your brand’s visibility and credibility.

Start by identifying 20-30 influencers who align with your brand’s values and aesthetics. Direct message them, share your story, and offer them your products for free.

The goal is to get your products in front of people who can amplify your brand’s reach through their own networks.

The Power of Word-of-Mouth

According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know, and they are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend.

This statistic is crucial for brands with no advertising budget. If a friend recommends your product, the likelihood of a purchase increases dramatically.

Imagine a customer who has never heard of your brand. On a good day, they might have a 20% chance of making a purchase. But if their friend raves about your product, that chance can jump to 80%! This is why building trust and fostering word-of-mouth recommendations are so vital.

Create a Community

Another cost-effective way to grow your brand is by creating a community around it. This could be through a Facebook group, an email newsletter, or a forum on your website.

The goal is to engage with your customers regularly and build a loyal following.

Share valuable content, offer exclusive deals, and encourage your community members to share their experiences with your products. This not only helps with customer retention but also generates organic growth as your community members spread the word about your brand.

Authenticity Over Perfection

In the age of social media, consumers crave authenticity. They want to support brands that are real, transparent, and relatable. Don’t worry about having perfect photos or professionally produced videos. Instead, focus on being genuine and showing the human side of your business.

Share your story, your values, and your vision. Let your customers see the person behind the brand.

This approach helps build a deeper connection with your audience, making them more likely to support your business and recommend it to others.

Leveraging Free Tools

There are countless free tools available that can help you manage and grow your online store. From social media scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite to email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and Mailerlite, these resources can help you streamline your marketing efforts without spending a dime.

(We use Mailerlite because it’s free to 1,000 email subscribers)

SEO and Content Marketing

Investing time in search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing can pay off in the long run. Create valuable content that answers your customers’ questions and solves their problems.

This not only drives organic traffic to your website but also positions your brand as an authority in your niche.

Collaboration and Partnerships

Look for opportunities to collaborate with other brands or businesses. This could be through joint promotions, co-hosted events, or content collaborations.

Partnering with others can help you reach new audiences and build credibility.

Be Patient and Persistent

Building a brand with no budget takes time and persistence. It’s a lot of hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Remember, you’re not just selling products; you’re building a brand. And a well-built brand is unstoppable.


Starting an online store with no money is challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to build a strong, authentic brand from the ground up.

By focusing on what makes your store unique, creating valuable content, leveraging free tools, and building genuine connections with your audience, you can grow your brand without spending a fortune.

Embrace the challenge, stay patient, and keep pushing forward. The success you achieve will be all the more rewarding because you earned it through hard work and ingenuity.

Side Hustles NZ

Hey, I’m Rachel! I started Side Hustles NZ in 2021 with the goal of helping Kiwi’s start and grow small businesses in New Zealand. During the week you’ll find me discussing side hustle ideas in our Facebook group, working in my website design business, or riding my horses.

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