How to start a business on a shoestring budget

If you’re looking to start your own business, you’re going to need some starting cash – but how much will depend on how well you plan. Don’t be tempted to jump straight in with a start-up loan or investor money when you can save thousands with just a little extra thought… so here’s our 7 rules to start a business on a shoestring budget.

Rule Number 1 – Only pay for what you really need

Sounds obvious but every penny counts when you’re starting up, so ask yourself – if I buy product xyz, how much value is it going to deliver to my business. Do you really need a separate mobile phone or loads of plush, branded stationary? If it’s not essential at the start, leave it until you’ve got more cash in the bank.

Rule Number 2 – Use free public spaces to work in or cheap shared office space.

This is kind of an add-on to rule number 1. It’s so easy to get excited, hire a small office somewhere and buy some quirky office furniture only to realise that £500 per month could have paid for your marketing to get the product off the ground. Libraries, conference centres and other public buildings are a great free way to get away from working at your kitchen table without forking out on expensive space. If you need an occasional place of work and a place to have client meetings, how about a Regus membership for £49 per month.

Rule Number 3 – Embrace Technology

There are so many free or incredibly cheap technology platforms out there to help your small businesses thrive. Some great (and free) starter tools to check out are MailChimp (mail), Hootsuite (social media) and Canva (graphic design).  Don’t sign up for anything that pushes you into a 12 month contract and test comparable platforms out to see which one suits your style of working.

Rule Number 4 – Barter on everything

You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save if you simply ask. Most companies will throw in some extra freebies or give you a discount for a quick sale. Similarly, if you’ve been loyal to a service provider for a while – ask them for a loyalty discount. There are very few things that can’t be discounted, so get on the phone and speak to a sales person rather than clicking straight through to buy on-line.

Rule Number 5 – Use crowd sourcing for all your design needs

Sounds complicated but it really isn’t. If you’re looking to get a website created, a logo created or even some content written, there are literally hundreds of platforms that you can go to, post your project and receive offers. 99designs is a really great place to start, but if you’re really on a budget you might want to look at fiverr.

Rule Number 6 – Stay away from Google AdWords

Yep, that’s right. If you have a limited budget, Google AdWords will suck every penny of it from you and deliver very little. Explore other ways of getting your message out there like paid Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn campaigns. Perhaps look at banner advertising through someone like Clicksor but leave AdWords until you’ve got £1000+ per month to play with and only then use it if you’re sure you can make it deliver a return on investment.

Rule Number 7 – Make a 3, 6 and 12 month plan for your business and revisit it regularly

Without a plan for your business, you’re like a driver of a car without a route or a destination. Sure you can drive around, but where is it taking you and is that productive? Sit down and fully understand what your business means to you and what you want to achieve from it. Set yourself goals and always measure your progress. That way, you can stop yourself from getting distracted and veering off course.

That’s our 7 top tips for starting a business on a shoestring budget. If you want expert advice and some hands on help with your business, you might want to check out our unique consultancy service offering to really help drive your business forward.

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