Do Free Franchises Exist?

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Free franchises

If youíve always wanted to become a franchisee, the idea of a free franchise is a dream come true. But is this mythical concept a reality? And how can you enter the world of franchising if youíre on a seriously tight budget? Letís find out Ö

Many people looking into the cost of a running a franchise are looking for an investment-free franchise, or a low-cost franchise, that wonít cost them their entire life savings. But is there really such a thing as a free franchise? In reality, itís complicated. Weíre going to break down why the concept of a free franchise is a flawed idea and show you other affordable ways to enter the world of franchising.

Something for nothing

Ever heard the saying Ďthereís no such thing as a free lunchí? Itís important to bear that in mind when hunting for a free or low-cost franchise. Unfortunately, there isnít really such a thing as a free franchise in the UK, or even internationally. But when you break down just what you get in the typical franchisee package, itís completely understandable.

When you buy into a franchise, your fee pays for a number of things, including the time and expertise of the franchise support team, the extensive training process, marketing, bespoke computer software, an operating guide and even uniforms and name badges. Your franchisor has worked incredibly hard to build their business up from the ground and itís only fair that they want to be paid for allowing you a slice of their fantastic business.

Luckily, there are plenty of franchises in the UK and beyond that only ask for a modest franchise fee, or that offer incredibly generous finance solutions to help make your dream a reality. As franchising is considered a safer bet for banks than an independent business, itís easier to secure a bank loan to cover your initial investment costs. This means that franchising is actually much more affordable than many people believe.

But letís imagine you have found a franchise opportunity that claims to be free. Hereís why you should hold back before diving in.

The warning signs

Some franchise opportunities donít require much investment as they are inherently low-cost. Letís say youíre buying into a B2B franchise that can be operated from your laptop. You wonít have to shell out for premises, staff or equipment to get started, so thereís no reason for the franchisor to charge an inaccessible, expensive fee. Itís not always true that you get what you pay for in the franchising world, and donít let a low franchisee fee put you off exploring an appealing opportunity.

However, if youíre interested in a costlier venture, such as a restaurant franchise or fitness franchise, youíll need to approach it with caution if the franchise fee is strangely affordable. Generally, these types of franchises command six-figure franchise fees, due to high overheads and equipment costs. Of course, there are exceptions within these sectors, such as a fitness business that operates in public spaces with little equipment. But if the opportunity youíre looking at is ridiculously cheap compared to others in the same industry for no good reason, proceed with caution.

There may be a benign reason behind its low cost, like the fact that itís a new franchise brand without much of a reputation yet. However, it could also be a sign of something more sinister. The franchisor could be trying to cover up flaws in their business concept by enticing people in with a low price.

A franchise fee loan

Even if a franchise is willing to waive its usual upfront fees, that wonít mean youíll never have to put your hand in your pocket. For example, in 2015, US convenience store franchise 7-Eleven rolled out its ĎZero Franchising Fee Initiativeí. 200 entrepreneurs, who were required to set up their stores in locations where 7-Eleven was underperforming, were able to start a business without the costly burden of franchising fees.

However, every one of the franchisees still had to pay a monthly royalty fee and were subject to all other financial commitments. They also had to have enough capital to pay their bills, purchase stock and pay staff wages until their stores turned a profit. In reality, many of these entrepreneurs likely still made a pretty hefty investment in their franchising journey.

This is why itís so important to find a franchisor that is upfront and transparent about costs right from your initial discussions. If they donít automatically offer it to you, ask your franchisor for a full breakdown of costs, including one-off initial payments and monthly/quarterly costs, so you can judge for yourself how affordable your chosen franchise is. Check out our complete guide to franchise costs in the UK to learn more.

If a franchisor genuinely doesnít ask for any kind of investment to join their business, alarm bells should ring immediately. Itís highly likely the franchise is a scam, a failing opportunity or that youíre being offered employment, rather than the chance to be an autonomous franchisee. Walk away and keep saving hard until youíre in a position to invest in a low-cost franchise instead.

Finding a low-cost franchise

If youíre on a tight budget and want to find a low-investment franchise, be careful about where youíre searching. Itís best to begin your search with a reputable industry body, like the BFA (British Franchise Association). The BFA acts as an unofficial regulator for the UKís franchise sector and only accepts franchises as full accredited members if they can prove they are reputable, ethical and, most importantly, a worthwhile investment.

The AFA (Approved Franchise Association) and the QFA (Quality Franchise Association) also oversee the sector and only accept franchises as members if they can prove theyíre genuine. The acceptance criteria for these organisations is not as strict as the BFAís, so make sure you do plenty of your own research before deciding if an opportunity is right for you. You can also browse sites like Point Franchise, which only showcase genuine, worthwhile opportunities.

The best things in life are(nít) free

While Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross might have had a point with their 90s anthem, they certainly werenít talking about the world of franchising. Never take a franchisor at face value if they claim there are no upfront investment costs Ė always ask for a full cost breakdown of what a franchisee will need to spend during their first year in business before signing anything.

Donít get discouraged if you feel like franchising is out of your budget. There are hundreds of fantastic low-cost opportunities out there, and most franchisors are willing to offer funding or loans to the right candidates. You could also look into a part-time franchise that can slot in around your existing job, which will allow you to transition from employee to franchisee. Youíd be surprised just how affordable franchising can be Ė take a look at our UK franchise directory to find out more.

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