By Ali Brown
Of the hundreds of business owners I’ve worked with personally over the years, I see many of them get carried away with the “image” of entrepreneurship. They want the big team, the latest software, new computers, a pretty office and the like right off the bat. And many of them tell me they truly think they NEED them in order to make it.
Well, as someone who started her own business with less than $20 in my bank account, I can tell you, it’s simply not true. In fact, I’d say it’s a sabotaging thought that puts even more hurdles between you and success. Because let’s face it, when you’re first starting out, that’s what those extra expense are.
So, if you’re on a tight budget (and who isn’t when they get started solo) then you need to, what we call, “BOOTSTRAP” your business. To “bootstrap” your business means to start on a small budget and use the revenues to reinvest in your company. In other words, it’s following the philosophy that you don’t spend the money before you make the money. It’s a sensible way to make your dream of entrepreneurship a concrete reality, complete with an assistant, a sunny office, etc. : )
So, let’s take a look at some easy ways you can do this…
1. Save on Rent. You’ll save hundreds of dollars right up front by choosing to work from home. Just make sure you create a delegated workspace so you can be productive. Start with an old kitchen table if you must, like I did. But if you can, get a decent desk and chair.
If you don’t do your best working from home, then set up in a corner at a local coffee shop. (Our Platinum head coach of the Millionaire Protege Club — James Roche — practically lives at Starbucks!). Or try your community library. Both of these options typically offer free or paid WiFi too. (Just make your phone calls outside, so you don’t bother the other patrons. (And get the evil eye from the cranky old librarian. There’s always one).
2. Don’t Start Broke. Many people simply cannot focus without a steady paycheck. They have a vision of entrepreneurship, quit their job and spend so much time worrying about how they will survive, that it dampens their productivity and their business never makes it off the ground. So if you know you’d rather not completely uproot your life, then stay at your current gig and work on your business idea part time until you get a few clients, have saved enough to make a prototype of your product, etc. When I quit my full-time job, I did take a part-time job as a copy editor at an online news company. It was just 10 hours a week, and I didn’t love it, but it covered the rent.
If you already left your gig, then focus on projects that will pay you the fastest and are the easiest to do. This will bring in money quickly and support your longer-term projects. (If you need some ideas, check out my 21 Cash Flow Strategies CD for solving a short-term cash crunch).
3. Think about your “ROI.” This is your “Return on Investment,” and when you’re bootstrapping, you need to think about these three letters every time you make a purchase. Every business expense you make should somehow tie into your bottom line. So, for example, if you want the hot new smart phone and you’re a few steps away from your landline most of the day, it’s probably not worth the expense. But, if you travel a lot or are on the road throughout the day, it could help you be more responsive to clients and will likely bring you a good ROI.
4. Find Affordable Help. These days, it’s easy to find quality workers online, from freelance virtual assistants to graphic designers. Hiring contract workers will save you a ton because you don’t have to get involved with the complexities of hiring a full-time employee, setting up benefits, salary, setting up their workstations, etc. And it lets you hire help on an as-needed basis, which might be all you need when you’re just starting out. Try www.assistu.com or www.craigslist.org to get started.
5. Barter. A really fun way to put your skills to use is to trade your services/products in exchange for others. A copywriter could write web copy for a graphic designer’s online portfolio in exchange for a basic website. I know of massage therapists who barter free massages in exchange for haircuts at trendy salons. The opportunities are endless with this one! Just make sure you are working out an even deal. Most business barters I see end up with someone feeling they got the short end of the stick, and that’s not fun.
6. Work Social Media. With Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can quickly get the word out about your business without spending a dime. It might take hours a week, but it’s an ROI that will pay you back if executed properly. (If you need a step-by-step guide on how to use social media profitably, check out my digital course “Social Media Bootcamp” and learn how to use the top 10 free online tools to gain new clients fast).
7. Get to Know Your Finances. Keep a solid eye on your income and outflows, using a simple accounting program and online business banking. Track your projects with invoices, so you can follow up when necessary to get paid for the work you’ve done.
Another advantage to being truly aware of the money you have is that you can start to find “hidden” money and decide if you want to use it to invest in your business Many people use savings, stock, home equity or retirement accounts to fund a few startup business costs. The more interested you get in your net worth now, the more likely you’ll be able to make it work for you.
Millionaire entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD “Top 10 Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women” at www.AliBrown.com.