Don’t let your lack of funds stop you from starting the business of your dreams. There are still ways to get it off the ground, provided you’ve got a clear business plan to help you meet your goals.
Take some notes from other small business owners who started out on a shoestring budget:
Pursue Small Revenue Streams
Set your sights on smaller jobs that will provide consistent revenue while you build your business. Over time you’ll develop a portfolio that you can reference on your website and use to market your company.
Initially, you may have to take on a side job to pay the bills. Jeff Milano, CEO of The People’s Chemist in Santa Fe, N.M., says he survived the recession by working as a local business courier while he rebuilt his consulting practice. “It doesn't have to last forever,” Milano says.
If possible, find a second job that advances your dream business while increasing your cash flow. Milano’s temporary gig put him in contact with other business owners —and potential customers.
Solicit free advice through the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE and the Startup America Partnership, which connects entrepreneurs with training and mentors in some states and regions.
“Many universities offer free guidance through their entrepreneur centers,” adds Camilo Ferro, founder of Green Planet Media LLC in Chicago. He says that advice he got through the University of Illinois in Chicago helped him land a grant and an angel investor to help fund his startup.
Use Free and Cheap Services
These days you can run almost your entire infrastructure with inexpensive online tools. Start by building your own Web platform. “Many of today's leading companies use WordPress,” says Los-Angeles-based publicist Lila Brown. The open-source blogging site is free and provides user-friendly templates for building basic websites.
Be sure to “tag” any images or videos on your site to drive more visitors to your site. “A lot of my site traffic comes from Google Images because I tag photos of my clients,” Brown says.
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Gaining brand exposure is crucial to building clientele. Set aside time each week to promote yourself, whether you do this by cold calling potential customers or reaching out to journalists through free websites like Helpareporter.com and PRnewswire.com.
Don’t be shy. Giancarlo Massaro, founder of AnyLuckyDay in Woodbridge, Conn., searched Google for articles on deal websites and contest marketing—his area of expertise.
Massaro targeted specific reporters, and he has since been quoted in a variety of media outlets.
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