If you’re an entrepreneur embarking on a new startup journey, there are several stock pieces of advice you’re likely to hear. Most people will tell you that getting a startup off the ground is one of the toughest challenges you will ever face. And all will warn you that unless you’re willing to put everything on the line and are fully committed, your venture will never succeed.
Think of this advice as your rite of passage — and then forget it because you’ll soon discover that the things no one bothers to tell you are the most useful in the long run.
Launching without adequate funding is one of the greatest drawbacks for most startup founders. The harsh reality is that few early-stage startups have investors or startup capital from the get-go. When your savings and the generosity of friends and family runs dry, how will you keep your venture afloat? The good news is that with enough planning and forethought, bootstrapping your startup is possible. You just need to know where to start.
Whether your startup has just launched or has been up and running for some time already, here’s some tactical advice to inspire your success:
- Go virtual. When you’re bootstrapping, you’re looking to save at every possible opportunity. Unnecessary overhead costs are the last thing you want to deal with. Nonessentials should be cut from your budget. Opt out of renting an office. Until you’re established, you can run your startup from your apartment and coffee shops, or you can have a virtual office, which is cost effective and great for startups with team members all over the world. With limited resources at your disposal, you should put careful thought into how you spend your money. Cut costs wherever you can and invest in things that will grow your team and eventually your company.
- Become an expert. Offering a niche service or product is a great way to establish your startup. This will differentiate you from others and will help set you up as a go-to source. While it may take time to develop expertise, specialized skills are often highly sought after and your unique offering will quickly gain you a favorable reputation.
- Do it by the book. Starting a new business involves bureaucracy. It’s important to comply with all regulations and file the necessary paperwork to avoid feeling overwhelmed months down the line. Keeping track of expenses and profit is equally important. You should think about it as early as day one. Find a good accountant and invest in accounting software. This will ensure that your business runs smoothly and will free up some of your time to tend to other matters.
- Get social. Getting the word out about what you’re doing is a common challenge for new entrepreneurs. While hiring a PR and marketing company can be effective, few early-stage startups can afford such services. Social media, however, gives startups a powerful channel to reach potential clients and create buzz around their idea. Used effectively, social media can make an idea go viral and provide a new startup with enough exposure to get a head start.
- Let your product do the talking. The proof really is in the pudding. If you’re offering a quality product or service, you’re halfway there. Don’t lose sight of what matters most. Build a great product and let word-of-mouth marketing do the rest.
Bootstrapping, while challenging, will teach you invaluable lessons about what matters most in business. You’ll learn to be frugal and invest only in the things that will benefit your business. With prudence and a well-planned strategy, you’ll soon see that it is possible to not only succeed, but to thrive as a bootstrapped startup.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image Credit: CC by U.S. Department of Agriculture