For many driven employees, the dream of being your own boss is just too much to resist. Starting up on a shoestring budget is a tricky business however, especially when over 85% of them fail (which is fine, by the way). These are the tips I have learned for keeping your startup afloat:
Save, save, save
Every penny makes the difference when starting a business. You should try to hoard as much away as possible before making the leap to self-employed status. Believe me, you won’t regret it. If that means holding out and staying employed for another couple of years, then so be it. Honestly, until the jump has been made you cannot appreciate the importance of this. The best thing you can do right now is soak up all the advice you possibly can from those who have already taken the risk, whether they succeeded or failed.
Forget unnecessary overheads
Lavish office space may look great and entice new business – but while you’re just setting out on your venture, you’ll want to keep outgoings as minimal as possible. There will be plenty of time to impress clients or customers further down the line. Let’s make sure you get there first! Working from home is the ideal scenario. Purchase a reliable desktop, phone and laptop so you have a static and mobile workstation.
Purchase used equipment
Following on from the above, don’t get precious about owning brand new gear. As long as you’ve taken the time to fully inspect second-hand apparatus or the sellers of such, invest in it. This could mean scouring Ebay for the most highly-rated sellers, your local pawn shop or even a car boot sale. (I’ve done it in the past when I started out). If you are a physical rather than digitally-focused company, also consider investing in used machinery to produce your goods. The savings here are often vast.
Utilise existing relationships
On many occasions, we often make things much more difficult than needed. A fresh beginning in business doesn’t mean you have to start afresh with growing your contacts list…
Think back to everyone who has been a part of your life over the last few years. Can any of these people help you in any way? What about industry specialists to partner with? Have you got friends or family that could help with finance? The plan to market your business should always involve relationships – it’s going to be so much more difficult on your own. Even someone just to talk to pays off massively. Don’t take the burden on your shoulders alone. Speaking of marketing, design is a critical element of modern marketing (which always involved digital aspects) – if you know any freelance web designers and illustrators, now is the time to begin researching their past work and skill set. If these connections can help create quality infographics or other collateral, take this opportunity to fully explore what they can offer. It’ll save you heaps of time searching and starting afresh with someone you don’t really know (and cuts the time it takes to build trust too).
Make sure your price is right
Your pricing models make your business. Are you going to be selling goods or services? Are these products low-value (so you need to sell many) or premium (sell a few to make high revenue)? Where are your profit margins going to settle? Is it going to be worth your time? These are questions that should all be answered extensively in your business plan. This help if you do decide to take out a loan, and a thorough business plan will help you to be fully confident in your strategy going forward, leading to profitable business decisions.
Take advantage of Google
In a world where business owners are expected to become specialists in many fields (marketing, accounting, HR, technology) it pays to use Google as your go-to learning platform. Think about it. Google is a multi-billion dollar warehouse of information at your disposal!
A vast amount of business-essential knowledge can be found using a few simple searches on the world’s largest search engine. For example, are you looking to learn about startup funding? You can use this search: “business startup funding ideas” (quotation marks included) which returns in-depth guides through the funding process, including: 1. http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/starting-a-business/start-up-funding/ 2. http://www.answer-4u.com/business-startup-grants-funding-loans 3. http://www.startupdonut.co.uk/startup/financing-a-business/start-up-funding/grants There are plenty of helpful guides on every aspect of starting up to get you well on your way to becoming a master of all trades.
Stay on your own for as long as possible
Employees are great, don’t get me wrong. They allow scalability, brand strength and workflow. However, this comes at a significant cost to any business; not only in the form of salaries but holidays, illness and other unforeseen circumstances, making employees a genuine risk. It is for this reason you should try to remain individually focused for as long as possible. Hire freelancers to take the extra workload of menial tasks such as tax and bookkeeping during this time until you are ready to make your first long-term hire.
About the author
Ed Leake is the managing director of UK based digital marketing agency Midas Media. He has years of experience, not only growing his own agency but encouraging rapid growth of his clients’ business models too.