How to Really Start a Business (or Why You Don't Need Money to Make Money)
You and I know that’s a myth (you do know that’s a myth, right?), but most people take it as a truism.
A lot of people think they need tens of thousands of dollars to get in on a franchise, or put cash down for a rental property, or buy into some silly multilevel marketing scheme.
The fact is, there are plenty of ways to make money without the need for a pile of cash — as Chris Guillebeau’s recent book, The $100 Startup, covers. The first step is to realize that there are always multiple solutions to any problem, whether it’s making more money, building your retirement nest egg/strongbox, or bartering for broccoli.
Must-have tools for creating a business on the cheap are:
- A bootstrapping mindset: How can you get or do something for free or extremely low cost? Again, creative brainstorming and flexible thinking will help you figure out how to accomplish a task on a shoestring. Check out some more specific bootstrapping principles to get you started.
- Small steps and a willingness to experiment: This is the iterative, lean startup approach, where you try something small & fast, learn from it, and improve. What? You haven’t heard of the lean startup approach? Well, start reading up on it. It’ll save you from wasting time and money, and reduce startup frustration and misery–unless you’re into those sorts of things.
- Market validation: Again, from the lean startup/customer development paradigm, make sure that you’re offering something that people want and will pay for. It could be scooping dog doo, but you’re aiming at serving a market need. What what? You haven’t heard of customer development either? Not a problem. There’s great info out there to get you started.
With all that said, you’ll also need to recognize your barriers to actually starting down the road of entrepreneurship. Here’s a list of the top 4 excuses people give for not making more money:
- No time
- No money
- No expertise
- No ideas
When you reflect on why you haven’t started exploring how to earn more money, probably every one of your barriers (excuses!) falls into one of the above categories. You might say to yourself:
- “Starting a business is too complicated.” Nope. That’s the “no expertise” excuse.
- “But I work insane hours, have eleventeen kids, and a 4-hour commute.” Granted, you might have limitations on your time, but you’ll always make time for the things that are most important. And 20-30 minutes a day is something you can carve out–especially if it’ll change your life.
- “But I don’t have $10 grand to fund a business.” OK, go back to the top of the article and re-read it. Done? OK. Repeat after me: “I can start a business for under $100.” Say it again. And again. Know that there are many ways to do any task. Sometimes the first thing that comes to mind is some high-falutin’, expensive way. Dig deeper. Focus on exactly what the outcome is, and brainstorm all the crazy ways you could get to it. I guarantee you’ll find ways to get it done on the cheap.
- “But I don’t have any ideas for a business.” Try this: train yourself to look for problems. That’s right — look for problems throughout the day, every day. Jot them down in a notebook or in Evernote. Remember that every problem is an opportunity. Successful, sustainable businesses solve problems. Don’t want to cook dinner? Go to a restaurant. Problem solved. Hate to iron your clothes? Take them to a dry cleaner. Problem solved. Want to find & stay in touch with friends? Join Facebook. Problem solved. (You get the idea.)
It’ll take hard work, but the payoff is worth it
Starting and building a successful business takes hard work. But since you’re reading this, you and I both know you have an urge for something better. You daydream at work about quitting your job. You curse your commute and wish you could ditch your day job. You feel stuck at a job you hate.
While starting a business may not solve all your problems, it can give you a completely new worldview that’s empowering and full of possibilities. It took me a long time to get past my mental barriers and excuses before I started my own business, but when I began taking action, I started seeing things change. A few years down the road, I earn much more, have more financial security, more flexibility, and have no reason to complain about work. It’s been an amazing turnaround.
And while I’ve learned a thing or two about how to do things on the cheap since I started my business, I was still able to start my business inexpensively–and so can you. Now though, you have the advantage of tons more free and low-cost tools for starting your business. The most important things in your toolbox are a bootstrapping mindset, a focus on experimentation, and providing value.
(Photo credit: Businessman Reaching for Pennies via Shutterstock)
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