Two and a half years ago I wrote about the economic difficulties facing the modern small-business owner, and, well, it looks like nothing has changed since then. Times are still tough, money is tight, and starting your own new business takes an iron gut.

What has changed is the technological landscape - with social networking and mobility now critical themes in the startup world. Everything from raising money to finding staff to getting the word out about your business has evolved with the times, even if your wallet hasn't.

How do you start a business today with practically nothing besides a good idea and a lot of free time? By following this advice.

Raise money from your neighbours

Writing a business plan is for suckers. Today the hottest way to raise money for your startup - provided that you don't need a whole lot of it - is with Kickstarter, a crowdsourced fundraising (aka 'crowdfunding') system that can help you collect any sum from a few hundred pounds to almost a million. All of the seed money comes from ordinary users... if you can prove yourself worthy of their investment. Funds must go to 'projects', not ongoing businesses, so if you're trying to launch a comic book or design a prototype iPad sleeve, Kickstarter is a good bet.

People whose aspirations have more of a business focus may consider Profounder, which employs much the same idea as Kickstarter for entrepreneurs with ongoing operational designs.

Get your product produced on the cheap

Going into the world of invention and manufacturing? Have a genius idea for a new class of product - but no idea how to get it built on the scale required for selling to the Tescos of the world? Offshore manufacturing is now a viable option for even small shops, though sky-high transportation costs and political struggles worldwide have put some pressure on this tactic by eating into the cost savings of sending piecework to China, India, or other distant destinations. (Hint: Try Mexico instead.)

Offshore manufacturing lacks the turnkey web services that other sectors of the business world now boast, and online directories of offshore service providers seem awfully spammy; your best bet may be a simple web search for offshore manufacturing providers using the country of your choice as a keyword.

Googling 'offshore manufacturing countryname' reveals credible providers like ChinaSavvy, MagicPrecision Taiwan and the Philippines Business Processing Association. Getting services up and running can be time consuming, but using them can make the difference between crafting a high-quality product on a large scale and whittling widgets by hand out of driftwood.

NEXT PAGE: Office squatting

  1. Make sure your wallet doesn't take a bashing
  2. Office squatting
  3. Market your business for nothing