Starting a Business on a Shoestring Budget – Part 1
Guest Post by Devon Dudeman (Part 1 of 2):
Business and risk are unfairly correlated in my opinion. The days where starting one meant selling your house, neglecting your family, and hoping that someone would buy something from you so you could pay the bills are over.
Sure, you could empty your retirement account, sell your house, and feed your kids ramen noodles while you pump every dollar you have into the ice-scraping gadget you thought of one day. It would qualify you as a bold person, but I don’t know that it would necessarily qualify as smart.
There’s an element of risk in any venture – you have to be willing to give up something less important in pursuit of a dream – but truth be told, starting your own business doesn’t have to take much money.
Starting a business can be confusing, but in reality, it doesn’t have to be. When you’re just getting started, there are only a few things you need to figure out
- What you’re going to sell?
- Who’s going to buy it?
- How are you going to sell it?
If you want to really take the money concern out of it, find your audience first, then come up with your offer. That’s a much better way to make sure that there’s someone to buy what you want to sell.
You don’t need an office. You don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t need business cards, fax machines, special software, or a dedicated telephone number. You don’t even need a name. The only thing you need is something to sell and someone to sell it to.
Of course, the easiest and cheapest way to manage your business is to run it entirely online. That means that if everything else in your life falls apart, you can move under a bridge and still run your business from a computer at the library.
This doesn’t mean you have to sell only digital products like most people do; you can sell anything you want, even your own creations. You don’t even need big start-up funds to create a product if you pre-sell it. Find your audience, offer something to them, and don’t make it until they pay for it.
Start as small as you possibly can. Find one person and sell them one thing. Find out if they liked what you sold them. If they did, go find more people like them to buy more things. You can do this slowly but surely over time and never spend more than you bring in.
There’s a free version of nearly every piece of software you might need to run your business with. Use them until you can afford to buy the premium versions, or don’t ever buy them and keep using the free stuff. Some of the tools you might need are:
- WordPress – free website platform.
- Flickr – to manage photos.
- Viddler – to manage videos.
- Open Office or Google Docs – to handle word processing.
- Mint – to keep track of finances.
- Outright – to manage bookkeeping
Every single one of those programs are free and you can run a very big business with them. You don’t need investors, you don’t need partners, and you don’t need start-up cash. Start small, start free, and work your way up.
“But I don’t have time!”
Of course, no matter how little money you start your business with, time is just as scarce a resource when you’re trying to do it on the side.
Luckily, everything you’ve heard about how much extra time it takes and how hard it will be is an exaggeration. Don’t be surprised if you end up working 8 hours every day on your side business because you love it, but don’t think that you have to start out that way. You don’t.
Of course, if you were looking for a reason to ignore your friends and family, there’s your excuse.
If you can clear one hour from your day, every day, to work on your side business, you can be successful. Yes, it’s going to take longer than if you could quit your job and go for it 18 hours a day, but we’re not going for speed here, remember?
This is how you do it if you want to get started while you still have a job and you also want to play with your kids after work. It’s the best way to minimize risk while still being productive.
Part 2 discusses finding that 1 hour a day and time management
image by Opportunities Expo