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If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they couldn’t afford to start up a business….. I wouldn’t have had to bootstrap the growth of my own business!
But seriously, does building a successful business online have to cost buckets of money?
Is it possible to bootstrap it? If so, what is essential, and what can you live without?
It does NOT require tons of money to get your business started, it IS possible to bootstrap, and as for what you do/don’t need to get your business running?
I’m gonna spell it alllllll out for you.
I began my business in Fall of 2015 – and while my husband and I had decent jobs, we didn’t have a ton of money to invest into this “side hustle” I was putting together as a social media manager.
Our student loans, car payments, credit cards, and medical bills consumed nearly all of our resources… So the option to invest $100s or $1000s was out.
What Does One Do When Bootstrapping?
For starters, you need to get tunnel vision. What is your goal? Then ignore all the advertisements you see that advertise the “simple 7 step system – free webinar” and the latest “can’t live without social media tools”. They’re all trying to sell you something you don’t need yet.
Focus on the absolute essentials…
You need to generate revenue for your business – this is the lifeblood of everything.
So if something does not immediately support you in generating revenue, and you’re not bringing revenue in – stop, drop, and run.
**Important note: the advice found in this blog mostly applies to startups, businesses who are in the bootstrap phase, and new ventures.
Here’s the bare minimum you need to get your business started and generating revenue, and the next tier for professionalism:
A Skill That Brings Value To Someone
This could be social media management, graphic design, email marketing, sales, get creative!
A Phone Or Skype
Skype is free and great for keeping your phone number private.
A Stable Wi-Fi Connection
If you don’t have wi-fi – check out your local coffee shop or restaurant. Sometimes hotel lobbies even have wi-fi you can use.
A Hunger To Make It Happen
I can’t tell you where to get this if you don’t have it. If your hunger for success is fading, I recommend reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks or Be Obsessed Or Be Average by Grant Cardone.
An Email Address That Is Professional
It can be Gmail – which is free. I used my Gmail email for years with no issues.
Okay – that’s the very very basic list of what you need – and it’s mostly free (or you’re already paying for it – so no additional investment).
But I get that sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough – clients ask you for your website, or for proposals and invoices, etc. How do you convey a sense of professionalism that matches the value you bring to a business (and the amount you want to charge)?
I’ll give you the breakdown of the free and low cost options available to you – so you can remain a resourceful bootstrapper!
How To Bootstrap Your First Business
If you want a free option for your website, it’s not amazing for SEO – but Squarespace is an option that you can use to just “get something up there”.
I highly recommend buying a domain name through a cheap host like HostGator (others don’t like it – but I’ve had a great experience) for less than $15. You can get decently affordable hosting packages through HostGator – and use WordPress.org since it’s self-hosted.
Use the free templates for your website as long as possible, and remember that “done” is better than “perfect”. Just get something up there – consider it a “work in progress” forever!
Another option is available below, it’s a little unconventional!
Keep it simple, keep it cheap. When I first started I used two different cheap plugins at different times for WordPress to build my list-building funnel.
I used SumoMe (which used to be free, but is now a fairly low cost option) and ThriveLeads – I struggled with the latter, so I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly.
However, if you’re looking for an “all in one” solution that allows you to create funnels, opt-ins, AND potentially an entire website (my website has been nearly entirely made up of a funnel for a while now!) – I highly recommend using the StartUp version of ClickFunnels.
Keep it simple. All you need is something with automation abilities – so you’re not running around like crazy – manually emailing every person who opts in to your list.
MailChimp recently announced that they have added automation to their free services. MailChimp is a great place to start if you’re brand new to email marketing – but if you want to up the ante a bit, I recommend checking out ActiveCampaign.
ActiveCampaign is fairly low cost with the monthly option – BUT the real magic is that ActiveCampaign hosts the capabilities of many of its expensive competitors with action-based automations, and user based tags instead of list-based records.
I know this is gonna go against the advice we often get… Your logo doesn’t make or break you.
Even major companies’ logos have been through a metamorphosis (this walkthrough of famous logos over the decades makes me feel SO much better about my life – haha!)
Keep it simple, cheap, and streamlined – I recommend creating one with Canva or having one done on Fiverr. It’s SO important to recognize though, that this will NOT be the gorgeous logo of your dreams.
This is something to fill the place as you build your business and get your revenue flowing!
Instead of creating a “contact me” form, you might consider using a scheduler to secure leads and potential clients from your website or conversations.
Calendly is an amazing and FREE scheduler – and it saves you TONS of time. Rather than going back and forth and trying to find a time that works over email… You can just kindly send your form to schedule.
ScheduleOnce is my current crush – and I’m finding that the customizable questions are super helpful. It’s got a monthly fee, but I have found that it makes sense as my business grows.
Not everyone has an eye for design. I’ll be the first to admit – I cannot create an attractive graphic design to save my life!
However, Canva has saved my life time and time again.
Use the preloaded templates in Canva (the free ones) when you’re still in bootstrapping mode, and you can supercharge your graphic design with images from Pixabay – which is also free.
If you have an eye for design and prefer to not outsource it, I highly recommend Photoshop’s monthly subscription – OR – even Canva’s premium membership.
Even to this day, I love and rely on a service that is free to set up (no monthly minimum) with low fees…. Introducing PayPal!
Honestly, PayPal makes my life so simple, I cannot resist….
As your business continues to grow and you do a higher monthly volume, you can use a program like Stripe plus Moonclerk or even ACH banking for direct deposits.
Honestly, bootstrapping a business isn’t easy – but it’s WAY better than the alternative… No venture capital for you!
If you want to learn more about how to bootstrap your business and how to create massive revenue generation, check out Marketing in Your Car – in fact, Russell Brunson’s mantra is anti-VC.
Starting a Business
Starting your first business can both scary and exciting. Hopefully, this helps give you some great ideas on how you can start a business without breaking the bank.
I would love to know in the comments- what are some of tools you needed when you first started your business?