In April 2013, I had $200 to my name, a pair of Wrangler jeans and a whole lot of ambition due to a personal obstacle I had just conquered. Unfortunately, ambition doesn’t pay the bills, and I had to figure out a plan.
I followed my passion for web design, and found there was a need in the marketplace. I hit Craigslist, found clients and sold my services before I had anything in place. Since that, I have built a strong portfolio, a network of referrers and a great business. I hit six figures within that first year and have been growing ever since.
Ryan Huff, CEO and Cofounder of Cirrus Insight has a similar bootstrapping story. He saw Rapportive get acquired by LinkedIn and had his epiphany.
He developed his skill set using Salesforce, and knew that he could accomplish what Rapportive did with LinkedIn, using Salesforce. He developed a rough MVP, and looked for potential user feedback immediately. Being a Salesforce consultant, he had a large database of Salesforce power influencers that could yield their influence.
After iterating his product idea, he was ready to show the power users and drive word of mouth signups in beta mode. He quickly earned 1,000+ users and continued to refine his product. Since that, they were able to generate $1 million in sales in eight months. He saw the opportunity, started with a rough mockup, and got started right away.
Ask yourself this.
"How much money do I need to raise?" is a question I always hear in the entrepenur circles. The better question is: "What can I do to get started today?" Too many entrepreneurs believe that an outside ivestment is the key to their suceess and spend their entire time trying to find funding rather than building their actual busienss. We can blame the media for this by always glorifying entrepreneurship, big deals and major acquisitions, but 99 percent of entrepreneurship is not glamorous. Don't be fooled.
The sooner you start, the sooner you'll know what it's going to take.
How do you start right now?
Every day, entrepreneurs tell me this: "I will start the business when the time is right." What does that even mean? The time is right if you're thinking about starting.
The Lean Startup movement was beneficial for many reasons. The most important, in my mind, was the developed concept of an MVP. An MVP is all you need to start a business -- it is the most minimum viable product. It can be anything from a landing page, to mockups, to pre-selling a service. Once you're ready to start, bootstrapping is an effective way to get building.
Here are the 10 bootstrapping mantras to quick cash:
1. Sell, sell, sell. Sell before you have a team, product or service. If you're an entrepreneur, you can figure it out.
2. Don't hire. Don't hire anyone until it's an absolute must. Must being, your company is making too much money, and you can't keep up.
3. Use contractors. Even when you're ready to hire, don't bring on employees. Use contractors to allow you to scale up or down.
4. Create systems. Having the right systems in place like workflows, communication and payment will help you stay organized and efficient. Organization and efficiency will allow you to operate at your highest level.
5. Test everything. Before you sink money into anything, test it. Whether it be new tools, marketing campaigns or content. Use trials, spend a couple bucks on Facebook ads (and scale up), and test everything on a small scale.
6. Preserve cash. Cash is your lifeline. Do whatever it takes to preserve every cent. Look for discount codes, use shared office space and buy used equipment.
7. Use free tools. There are thousands and thousands of tools at your disposal. Project management tools like Trello, communication tools like Skype, file-sharing tools like Dropbox, networking tools like Rapportive, research tools like Email Hunter. So many. Use all of these tools to help you build.
8. Network with everyone. From LinkedIn to Facebook to in-person events. Your network becomes your networth.
9. Stand out. This is my new logo. I created it for SXSW to stand out in a crowded area. Mark Cuban complimented me, and told me to run with the branding. You have to figure out how to stand out in this crowded world.
10. Use content to drive growth. Content has saved my life. I write everyday. I use it to build my brand and my businesses. Any type of content is beneficial. Create a blog, or vlog, or whatever. Content is the bootstrapper's key to growth.
Bootstrapping is not the easy way out -- it can take longer than expected -- but it will be worth it. Preserving equity and helping you find product market fit will be indirect benefits. Making money, building a real business and gaining your entrepreneurial clout will be the direct benefits. Enjoy the journey.