Many small business owners start their business employing the bootstrapping technique, or starting using limited resources. This technique means you use little to no money and spend on only what you absolutely need while not looking for external sources to fund your venture. Here are some suggestions for whichever phase of business you may be in.
For those just starting out you know that you need a plan and some basic office items for your office. Now is the time to take advantage of the programs that are available though non-profits such as the SBA or SCORE or check out your local colleges for business programs they may have. In these organization you will find forms, templates and even qualified mentors to help you start your business and the plan that goes with it.
For you office, find a little used space in your home and turn that into your office or workspace and look at equipment you already have. If you are in need of other equipment look around for sales and discounted models that have been discontinued. With changing technology you can always find a good deal on laptops, desktops and even printers.
You are up and running however settling for mediocre will not do. Finding like minded business owners will allow you to create an advisory board and accountability partners to which you can share ideas and strategic alliances. Also use friends or connections for your beta groups as you develop and hone your products/services.
Act big even though you are small. Create the illusion that you are more than a one person office. Use voicemail or an answering service or better yet a virtual assistant can fill in the gaps of time that you are away prospecting for new clients. Create quality marketing materials in both print and online versions for your potential clients. Invest in live help programs, Skype and instant messaging so that you can provide personalized customer service.
Having processes in place is key to effectively managing your business. Many programs reside now in the cloud and there are many more options for each business style. Finding what works for you used to be a costly process as you experiment with different resources.
Try software before you buy. I am all for free but there are times when you do have to pay for premium programs that have the functions that you need. When it is time to go beyond free or open source software, take advantage of the trials that many offer. Make a list of your top choices and stagger the trial periods so that you have time to give each one a full test drive. Often times when your trial ends you will be given access to discount codes or special offers so it also pays to wait until the end of a trial on those must have programs.
Marketing is another area where you can maximize your bootstrap budget while getting the word out about your business and brand. Here are a few techniques you can use today.
Use social media. If you are not already using social media you are missing out on an easy and cost-effective way to reach your ideal client and target audience. Social media has become a common form of marketing and many customers have come to expect use of it. Most entreprenuers turn to Twitter and Facebook but here are a few other avenues for you to explore:
- Blogging: start a blog or subscribe to other blogs and comment consistently to build your network.
- Videos: record a video and upload them to channels such as YouTube and Vimeo.
- Use location based programs: Google Places is a great place to start and Foursquare is another interactive media.
- Visual sharing: Pinterest is hot right now and allows you to highlight products, services and resources reaching a large audience of sharing.
Whatever phase of business you are in there is a place for bootstrapping. What are your favorite cost conscious tips that you use in your business?