I’m sure you’ve heard the word “Bootstrapping” countless times, especially if you’re in the startup or small business world.
Basically, it’s about being as thrifty as possible when running your business. When you don’t have outside investors investing in your business, you rely on your own savings to initially fund the business and get it running.
If things go well, you get enough customers and sales to get into a position where positive cash flow from the business starts to fund the expenses.
Being a bootstrapper (is that even a word?) myself, here are some tips for those who are looking to start their new venture or grow their business on a shoestring budget.
You must minimize your expenses to keep your business afloat. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out that:
Profit = Revenue – Expenses
In my early ventures ranging from selling web design services to landing page templates to developing WordPress plugins and themes, I relied heavily on free tools to run all my businesses.
I remember using a free collaboration tool called ‘Remember The Milk’ when working and coordinating with designers back in 2008-ish.
For website/blog building tools, we use the open source WordPress. You simply hook it up with a domain and hosting service and you’ll have a live site. Domain costs about $10 a year. Go for a shared hosting plan ($10-ish/month) since you’re just starting out.
You don’t need VPS or dedicated hosting at this time. Remember, you’re just getting started. Be realistic — not that many people are going to visit your site.
(Whoaaa! Isn’t this supposed to be ‘constant growth’ site that talks and encourages growth and positivity? Why the negative put-down!?)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about optimistic and all that jazz (optimistic is even one of our core values in the company). I totally agree that we should aim high. I really like this quote:
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars
Norman Vincent Peale
However… we must also be realistic. There are a lot of steps that you must go through before you can finally land on that coveted top step. Going back to web hosting, you can always upgrade it later on when you have enough traffic and sales. For now, it’s all about minimizing expenses.
Here are some other free useful tools that I’ve used in my businesses over the years:
(Note: I cover more tools here)
These should be enough to get you started. All these tools do have paid premium plans, but you can get started with them for free. Even at the free plan, they’re very generous and should be enough for you.
Case in point: With the exception of Evernote, Slack, and Asana, I’m using the free version of the other tools to run my business, Zaxaa. I upgraded to the paid plan because the team needed to do and track more complex tasks. But we started with them with the free plans and only upgraded after using them for a few months.
The other thing about bootstrapping, especially if you’re the founder… is that you will be wearing a lot of hats.
When I started my website templates and WordPress plugins business, it was just me and my partner.
I was doing marketing, customer service, sales copy, bookkeeping (albeit really simple bookkeeping using a spreadsheet), product research, blogging, reaching out to JV/affiliate partners.
My tech partner did the design and coding aspects of the product, as well as providing technical customer support (bugs and other nerdy tech stuff I don’t understand).
So yeah… another way to bootstrap is to wear a lot of hats since that will definitely keep labor costs down (which accounts to as much as 70% of total business costs).
Everyone wants to make sure the product that they’re going to create will be in demand… that people will actually pay money for. So that they don’t waste precious time (and money) creating a product nobody wants. When we’re bootstrapping, not wasting money this way is crucial.
Here’s a tip you can use that can assure you achieve that, plus you’ll even be able to collect an email list at the same time.
The secret is to get real feedback from your potential customers. You can do market research all you want, but nothing beats getting real feedback from your potential customers. Market research is just that — research.
A better and smarter way is to actually put your product up for sale as though it is already available and ready, even when you have not started working on creating it yet.
First, you create a simple lead magnet (freemium) tightly related to your product. So if your product is a comprehensive video course helping moms lose weight, your lead magnet could be a short report that shows them “3 quick ways to lose weight for moms”.
After they opt-in to get your lead magnet, take them to your product sales page. Make sure the sales copy is written as though the product is already complete and ready for sale. This also means you must show the product price and there must be an order button.
When they click the order button (meaning even after they know the price they still click — which suggests that they’re interested), you explain on the checkout page that you’re currently working on the product and it will be finished soon. As a special thanks, give them a huge ‘launch’ discount (50% and above).
Thank you for requesting the “5 ways to lose weight for moms” report. I’m currently working on a more detailed video course that’ll help moms like you lose weight even faster, and it’ll be finished soon. If you’re interested in getting this video course at 75% discount when it’s ready, enter your email below to be added to the priority discount list.
“But that doesn’t guarantee people will actually pay for it when the product is released later on!”
I hear you. But it’s still better than just ‘researching through reading’. You’re making an experiment here… a calculated experiment that has a higher chance of success.
Want a better, faster, and ‘more guaranteed’ way to make sure your product is in demand before actually putting in your time and effort in creating it?
You simply turn your product into a live webinar that’s going to happen soon on [insert date]. This way, you can collect real payments right then and there.
Thank you for requesting the “5 ways to lose weight naturally for moms” report. I’m going to be holding a live, interactive 4-week coaching program via webinars, starting on Wednesday May 15. The webinars will take place every Wednesday and are going to expand on the concepts and strategies discussed in the report you just requested.
This is going to be a lot more detailed and advanced stuff with regards to helping you moms lose weight even faster. There’s also going to be a Q&A session at the end. If you can’t attend on that date, I’m going to make the replay available for you to download as well.
Oh and currently there is a 75% discount if you take action right now.
[You then go on and explain the benefits of your coaching program further with sales copy, with order buttons available for them to purchase]
Here are a few things that have just happened:
To collect payments and quickly start selling your product, Zaxaa can help you do that. You can sell simple one-off digital products or set up complicated sales funnels. It’s up to you how you want to do it. You’re in control.
So there you go. Those are some ways on how you can bootstrap your way in business.
Another bootstrapping tip before I end this post is that… sometimes I still see the aspiring entrepreneur gets all pumped up and hire a designer to design his name card, and then have it printed out. Unless the nature of your business needs you to go out there physically to find and meet prospects, a name card is unnecessary, at least in the early stages of your business.
What are some of the ways that you bootstrap in your business? I covered 3 ways in this post, but I’m sure there are more ways that I haven’t covered. Would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below…
Welly Mulia helps entrepreneurs increase and precisely track their email marketing revenue. He is also the CEO & co-founder of 2 SaaS (software as a service) platforms, Zaxaa and BirdSend. Learn more about email marketing in his Email Marketing Growth for Entrepreneurs Community.