Saturday, 16 November 2013

Your start-up… on a shoe string

Starting your own business doesn't have to be an expensive experience. Given a little up front planning and online research, and outside of the legal requirements, you'll find that you can get the bare essentials in place without it costing you the earth.

Obviously every business is different. You may need office space, a shop front, marketing tools or storage space. You may not. But here are a few ideas on how you can get vital resources in place for no more than the change in your pocket.

Email marketing – Need to get an email out to your business contacts to tell them about a new product, service offer or event? For small scale campaigns Mail Chimp might be the answer. If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month absolutely free, which should be more than enough to get you off the ground.

CRM – If you’re doing email marketing, you may want somewhere a bit more sophisticated to keep your client records than an Excel spreadsheet. But you don't need to jump into a full contact management solution from day one. Providers like FreeCRM, offer scalable Freemium solutions and give you a decent set of tools to get started – like space for 5,000 records and a collection of basic features. You will have to put up with advertising though.

Website – The question to ask yourself here is do you need a full website from day one? Are you planning to go all out online? Is a website critical to your business or do you just need some form of online presence – somewhere to direct people to that provides a little info about you and some contact details?

If it’s the latter then an about.me page will give you a quick and easy one page website that allows you to showcase your business, offer up contact details, and link together any other aspects of your business online. They even do deals on business cards so you can seamlessly link your offline connections to your online presence.

eCommerce – Selling products online? Do you need a full eCommerce platform from the moment you start out? Or do you just need some way of allowing your customers to find your product, read some information and complete a transaction?

Depending on what you're selling, existing online markets like eBay or Etsy can offer you all you need to get going. In fact many businesses operate exclusively on these platforms. Of course, there is a cost implication, paying the provider a percentage of your sale. But in terms of time saved a few photos and a bit of blurb can see you trading online in no time at all.

Shop space – Investing in your own shop is a huge commitment and not one to be taken lightly. It’s great to be able to put your stamp on a high-street and trade from your very own storefront, but you need to be confident it’s going to work.

Give your confidence a little boost then by trying out a ‘PopUp’. These initiatives are a great way to experiment with physical retail, test the market and gain face-to-face customer feedback, all of which can be poured into your business plan. PopUp Britain has some great advice on how to get started.

Office space – You probably won't need an office 24/7 from day one. There’s a lot to be said about having a place of work to focus on the tasks at hand. But when you're starting out, especially if you're going it alone, this can be achieved at zero cost with a home office or similar quiet place to work… dare I say the Wifi connection at the local coffee shop?

Have an important client meeting coming up? Don’t fret. You don't have to get the hoover out just yet. Look for serviced office and meeting spaces in your area that offer a Pay-As-You-Go arrangement. With these offices you only pay for the time that you use them and as a bonus, you can often hire in equipment and services – like Wifi, projectors and catering – to make your client meeting go off with a bang.

This is only a handful of suggestions and there are plenty of other considerations when starting up a new business. You may need printed material. You may want to carry out surveys. Give away free gifts. Merchandise. Hopefully these ideas will get you going but comments are welcome if you have your own ideas and wish to chime in.