4th October, 2017
When you’re new to building a business, it’s an unfortunate reality that you’ll need to get by on the smell of an oily rag – but there’s a smart way to do that and a dumb way to do that.
While there are more sources of business funding than ever before, a lot of those holding the purse strings want some kind of demonstration than you’re willing to hustle – and there’s no better way to do that than doing foundational work on your own dime.
Unfortunately, this means you’re going to have to scrimp and save – and while some say the art of bootstrapping has been fetishised, the ability to build from nothing is a respected skill.
However, you still need to pay the rent – so how do you build a business from your own cash and still survive?
The thing to remember is that this isn’t a blueprint and every company’s journey is going to be completely different – but hopefully these tips get you thinking.
It goes without saying that the easiest way to make sure you can pursue your dreams and still pay the rent is to start out pursuing your main game as a side-hustle.
You’ll be busy, but if you do it right the dividends will follow.
It’s important to draw a clear line between your day job and time for pursuing your business.
Michel Cornilje and Caroline Kaup of Mutating Creatures previously told The Pulse that the key at this stage is to go slow and steady.
“Obviously, you need to be able to support yourself so it’s a scary thing to do. We wanted to build it up slowly, until we can let go of everything else,” said Kaup.
You can try to build a business using a Rolodex and a phone, but you’ll probably need more than that.
Luckily, a lot of the software you’ll need to boost SEO, send out automated emails, or get your brand looking on-point have ‘freemium’ versions.
Of course, if you want to make sure you have your finances just right from day one, MYOB offers a free 30-day trial so you can try before you buy.
The number of applications and programs available to help you build a digital presence are too numerous to count – so let your fingers do the walking.
Once you’ve figured out a way to talk about your big, world-shaking idea – tell people about it!
As it turns out, although it may not seem like it at times, people love to help out where they can.
If you have an idea they can get excited about and they happen to like you, they may even give their time and specialised skills to help you out in return for equity.
READ: What you need to pitch
You may not have the cash to conduct market research, but there’s nothing stopping you from having a chat with your potential customers – the trick is finding them.
This can be done in a number of ways.
For example, if you’re creating a service or product in vet services for example try talking to people walking their dogs or pets.
Or, if you’re aiming to disrupt the way a product or service gets to a customer in a particular sector – talk to the people consuming products or services in that sector.
There’s a right way to do this and a creepy way to do it of course – but talking to potential customers is a great way of figuring out whether you’re on the right track and building word-of-mouth.
Once you’re talking to potential collaborators and customers, it’s time to get them to do something.
One cool way to do this is to build a landing page site so people can discover your idea, get in touch with you and crucially, sign up to hear more.
Once upon a time this may have been an exhaustive and costly exercise, but nowadays there are plenty of website editors available for even the most code-shy entrepreneurs.
If they like what they see, they can leave their email for product updates.
From there, you have your first mailing list and potential advocates.
As we said, this isn’t a definitive guide to bootstrapping, as each business’ journey is unique.
However, unless you’re an established entrepreneur with a great track record there’s more than likely going to be some bootstrapping associated with your business.
Want to read more on bootstrapping?
READ: When to bootstrap, and when to chase investment
READ: 3 guidelines for bootstrapping your new business