6 Tips for Starting a Business on a Shoe String

Posted on 16th March 2017 in Business

Written by James Marren

Starting a business is daunting and exciting in equal measure. Don’t let your fears make the mountain in front of you bigger than it actually is. This blog will try to ease your worries by giving you tips from those who’ve already trodden the path so that you grab those hiking boots and actually take that first step up the incline. We are fortunate to speak to business leaders about the challenges they’ve faced, and we’ve summarised some of the best advice we’ve come across.

 1. Work from home

Finding work premises that you can afford and that are suitable for your aims can be a headache, so, ask yourself if you really need them right now? It makes so much sense to work from home in the early stages, particularly if your business is largely desk-based.

Even if you require a little workspace and fear getting the house dirty, we would still encourage you to think if you can use your space at home more creatively to accommodate. There is so much inspiration on Pinterest.

We’ve been there, so we appreciate that blending both your work and personal space can be distracting and make it difficult to switch off to recuperate out of hours. In the US, business.com, claim that 53 million people are facing this challenge and explain how crucial it is to create a shell and work from inside it. Don’t let anyone enter so that you can concentrate and when you finish for the day leave your workspace and, therefore, your work behind.

Another great tip is to start your day with a brisk walk, which has the effect of forcing you to leave the house, which mimics going to the office. This is a great time to mentally go through your to-do list and prepare for the day ahead. You can find more advice from a previous post on how to ‘Boss’ your time management here

However, if working from home just isn’t possible, then you can explore other creative workspace options out there, such as ShareDesk and Workspace which are available in most large cities. If you’re starting up somewhere more remote, use the same concept and approach local offices in your area to see if you could contribute a small amount of ‘rent’ to use one of their spare desks.

2. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise!

Your time is too valuable to waste on anything other than driving your business forward. For example, if you have a particularly difficult client soaking up your time, it’s better to refund them and move on. Bear in mind what Tim Ferris, Author of ‘The 4 Hour Week says, ‘The customer is not always right…“Fire” high-maintenance customers!’

Always remember the 80/20 rule, which states that 20% of your effort creates 80% of your results. You can read more about that here, but, for example, if you’re spending hours inputting data into spreadsheets to keep your finances up to date, stop right there, this is time you should be investing in winning new customers to really drive those numbers.

3. Learn for free

One thing we hear time and again, and agree with at the start, is that the business owner needs to wear every hat in their organisation. They feel, quite rightly, that they have to be able to do everything in the crucial early days. It, therefore, pays to get some training in a range of key areas of business. The good news is there are many free online courses and webinars (we offer these too for forecasting etc) from leading institutions such as Udemy, a business based, online learning platform. You can check out all they have to offer here.

4. Take advantage of low-cost cloud subscription software

Google or Amazon, offer all the computing power and application storage you need, so you shouldn’t even think about IT staff and big up-front costs for computer servers and applications. Their costs are incurred month to month and a big benefit is the ease with which you can scale up as your business grows.

You can use cloud financial services such as Xero, QuickBooks and FUTRLI to get important insights to help you understand where you need to focus your energies. These will save you huge amounts of time in getting and staying on top of your financials.

Why your business needs to forecast in the cloud

5. Don’t outsource what you can easily do yourself

Cashflow is king, so you need to be so careful with whatever cash you have. In the beginning, as you grow your sales and your turnover, you should be doing all the jobs you can, yourself.

If it’s a small e-commerce business that involves sending out product to customers – you need to be doing the packing and posting. Likewise, if you need to create an online shop, there are so many great options including Big Cartel and tradegecko to do it yourself and save cash.

Canva can help you enormously with designing marketing material, meaning you can save money on a graphic designer. Buffer is fantastic for scheduling those designs and your other social media content across platforms, which allows you to realistically take on the role of social media manager as well.

If, despite the online help, you’re still getting stuck, don’t beat yourself up, as it is tough to be a ‘jack of all trades’. When you’re really up against it or just don’t feel confident, you can hire people by the hour or for projects using sites such as Upwork or People Per Hour.

6. DIY prototypes

You can now find free help at local universities or new Makerspaces and save on an expensive trip to China or appointments with a prototyping expert. You can rent time and equipment there to do the job yourself, and there’s usually people who are willing to advise you, which can bring a sense of fun and community to the process.

Small startups such as Love Park Robotics, which produces software used to drive electric wheelchairs, have benefited hugely. When CEO Tom Panzarella wanted to attach video cameras to a wheelchair, he hired a mechanical engineer just four doors away. So, whether you need to use an expensive 3D printer to build a prototype or anything else, and you don’t have what you need to do it on your own, the chances are you can do it in a Makerspace.

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