Wayyyyy back* when my first business was little more than a dream, I was thinking about how I could somehow get it all started.
*Okay so that makes me sound old… it was about four years ago at the time of writing!
I did not have oodles of cash lying around to invest in a business that I wasn’t even sure would succeed (I mean, don’t most small businesses fail?), and even if I did have the cash, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable sinking into something that wasn’t yet proven.
I also did not want to go into debt from investors or with a loan from the bank.
So, I got a few things planned out, started ticking boxes, and before I knew it, I had a business. Amazingly, I hadn’t spent much, but what I had spent was enough to get the ball rolling, my first clients in the door (figuratively speaking… since I was based from home), and some resemblance of a brand.
Surely I can’t be the only cash-strapped new business out there… so I thought it might be useful to let you know what I spent my time and money on initially and some of the ways I managed to bootstrap my start up and marketing efforts.
Overseas Outsourcing Design
Some people will say that this is a big no-no… but for me, I just needed a few basic design elements done in a hurry so that I could have something to show potential clients. So, I used good ole’ Fiverr (which was a pretty new concept back then) to get a few logos mocked up. We soon outgrew the initial logo and upgraded, but for me, getting something basic and cheap felt like a good solution at the time.
Fortunately, with a background in marketing, this one just came naturally. Pretty much all of our marketing was done in-house, and what I didn’t know how to do, I quickly learned. It definitely kept the costs down and helped me to expand my knowledge lightning-fast, using my own business as a guinea pig to try new marketing ideas before I put them to my clients.
Professional Accounting Help
As much as I am all for DIY, accounting was wayyyyy too far out of my zone of genius to even look at on my own. So, as soon as possible, I enlisted the help of a local accountant who was also working from home in the local area. She helped us figure out what we could manage in-house (Xero and book-keeping) and what was best left up to the pros.
Back in the early days, I went to heaps of local networking events and seminars, both to expand my knowledge and grow my network. I did end up picking up clients here and there, and didn’t have to invest a lot of money along the way. Now, I don’t tend to do networking events, as I’ve embraced the introvert that I am, but I do network online nearly everyday through Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
By simply letting a few key contacts know that I was open for business, the referrals started rolling in, and honestly, they made up more than 50% of my billable hours, especially in the beginning. I found that conversion rates on referrals were much higher than cold leads because the person coming to us already have some level of trust and knew that we would be a good fit for them.
Okay, it’s your turn now. When you first started your business, what amazing decisions did you make that really saved you money with start up costs?
Or, if you are about to start a business, what ways are you planning to get the job done without spending big?