3 Startup Fundamentals You Can Bootstrap When You Have No Money
Have you wanted to start a business for the longest time, but keep coming to the same basic realization -- you need money and have none to spare? You give up on starting and growing a business, and instead keep doing the things you've been doing, staying in the same ruts you've been stuck in forever.
If this describes you, I need you to hear something. Starting and growing a business -- in the early phases -- doesn't have to be complicated, and it doesn't have to cost you much money at all. It will take time and determination, but those are two things you should have plenty of.
Here are three very simple steps you can take right now to get your business off the ground.
1. Create your own logo, or buy one for cheap.
Branding is typically the first thing entrepreneurs gravitate to when starting a business. I get it, it's exciting to pick colors, fonts and logos. And a professional, cohesive brand is key to attracting and converting customers. But you don't need all that when you're starting out.
No one is going to care if your fonts and colors match perfectly, or whether you paid a design agency to make your logo or if you made it yourself in Canva. Right now you need to be thinking "minimum viable product." In other words, make something that looks good, and move on. Don't waste days perfecting your branding when you'll probably just change it all the minute you start making money.
Having said that, make your logo in Canva or Photoshop if you're a bit more savvy. Either way, pick a decent font and just make something that looks good that will work for now.
If you have a little bit of money, try getting a logo designed by someone on Fiverr. It may not be the most professional place to have work done, but logo design is one service I've actually used Fiverr for, and I was very impressed by the result.
2. Create your own website.
Web designers and marketing agencies are going to hate this advice. Web design can, and should, be a huge investment -- when your business is financially stable. Web design companies will sell you the moon, and they're right, there is immense value in hiring a company to create a phenomenal website, but only when the time is right. You don't need to take out a loan or try to save money by hiring someone online to build you a site for a couple hundred bucks. You'll get a crap product, and you'll have no idea how to manage it.
When you're just trying to get your business off the ground, all you need is a basic, clean website so you can showcase your product or service and receive form submissions from leads. You can do all of that using WordPress, and you can do it for cheap. You can find beautiful WordPress themes for around $50, buy a domain name for around $15 a year, and get hosting for as little as a few bucks a month.
Building and running your own website may not be ideal for the life of your business, but learning how to create a simple WordPress website in the short term will have your business up-and-running online in no time.
Spend your limited budget on the items listed above -- theme, domain and hosting -- and you'll be able to refine and manage your own website to make it look and act the way you want. That's something you would normally pay thousands of dollars to get from someone else.
3. Build an email list.
If you have little-to-no money to invest, and you've created a WordPress website, you now need to focus on one thing -- building an email list. How exactly do you build an email list from scratch with no money? There are blogs, books and courses devoted to that topic, but the the basic premise is simple. Create something extremely valuable -- I mean over-the-top valuable -- then give it away, and make people give you their email addresses so you can email it to them.
Create an ebook, mini-course, spreadsheet, database or even a physical product. Whatever it is, it needs to tie directly into the thing you plan to charge people for, and it needs to offer an unbelievable amount of value. That's the only way you'll really grab people's attention.
It hurts to work that hard on something just to give it away, I know. But if what you're giving away isn't valuable enough to hurt when you give it away for free, then it probably isn't valuable enough to build an email list.
Not sure where to start promoting your freebie lead magnet? Start by giving to friends and family first. People skip this part, but this is the best way to get your email list started.
Go to LinkedIn and start messaging anyone you think might be interested. You may have to make connections or join groups first, then you can start messaging your connections and fellow group members for free.
Go to Reddit, pick the most appropriate subreddit, then start a conversation that will lead into you giving your lead magnet away to everyone in the thread. This actually works extremely well if you pick the right subreddit and topic. With Reddit, you don't want to spam them by posting a link to your landing page and moving on. You have to start an actual conversation with your post, then put the link to your lead magnet in the description or in one of your response comments. The more controversial, the better. (Note: I've started threads on Reddit that led to more than 1,000 visitors to my landing page and hundreds of email subscribers, just from a single Reddit post.)
Once you've built your email list, ask subscribers questions about what their pain points are and what they need help with. Send them useful information, even if it's just a link you found on the internet. Treat your email list like a group of friends, and when you're ready to sell something to them, you'll have earned their attention and your first bit of revenue from email marketing.
Just start doing.
As the saying goes -- an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. You can sit around hypothesizing and planning forever, but until you get out and get the ball rolling, your dream's going nowhere. Remember, your goal is to create a minimum viable product when it comes to your branding and website, then focus all your time and attention on building your email list.
It's going to take a tremendous amount of time, but that's the trade-off of not spending money. Invest your time now so you can get your business off the ground, and invest your money later, when you have more of it.