I understand what it’s like, I’ve been there myself, you have all of these big ideas that you know would work, make millions, go viral and so on, but you simply don’t have the cash to push them through. It’s frustrating, finding investment is hard, and you feel as though you’re in a vicious circle that you’ll never get out of.
But there’s hope! To make money when you don’t have any, you have to do two things.
1. Scale Down
Number one is scaling down. When you don’t have enough money, you need to have a certain mindset that can take you from location A to location B.
This mindset is made up of acceptance and compromise. Accepting the fact that you can’t go out and spend thousands on advertising, then compromising to find a scaled down version of what you originally wanted to do.
This is where most people struggle because they aren’t willing to put out what they would call a…bad product/service. But for anyone who’s read the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, you’ll know where I’m coming from. For those of you who haven’t, I recommend reading it.
The Lean Startup talks about your MVP – Minimum Viable Product. This is a version of the product or service that requires the least amount of time and money spent but still does the job in a minimalist way. What’s the point in spending thousands on a new idea if you haven’t tested it yet, or worse, spending thousands of hours and wasting time you can never get back?
This is why sometimes, the one with the least money comes out on top. Having too much cash can be a burden, it makes you reckless and somewhat lazy. You begin to believe that flooding money into your idea will automatically make it work, but it doesn’t quite work this way.
Some of the best companies in the world were started from the absolute bare minimums. Take James Dyson for example. James was an inventor, had some ups and downs, but was fairly stable. There came a time in his life when he didn’t have too much cash to play around with. He had a big idea, yet couldn’t implement it.
Instead of giving up, James turned to the MVP system and created a hoover out of a cereal box. (I’d love to tell you how). He hoovered the entire house twice and realized that his cheap product worked. This was step one complete; he worked with what he had where he stood and came up with something that could take him to the next step.
I see so many people complaining about not having enough money, yet they haven’t even tried the basics. A world class website straight out of the gate isn’t realistic, but don’t worry. Just having something in place, a platform to build from is the most important factor. You can improve as you go, learn as you go and enable the business to move in parallel with your growing profits.
This system works very much like video games. You can afford better things and be granted access to more exclusive items/opportunities the longer you play and the further you advance. You don’t put the disk in and complete the game in 5 minutes with everything available to you.
Progression is progression, no matter how slow you go or from where you start, all that matters is that you’re moving.
2. Be Creative
The second component is being creative. Instead of following a single given path, you need to search for ethical shortcuts, tricks, and opportunities that no one else spotted.
You see, if everyone is after the same goal, reading the same material and learning from the same companies, there will come a time where nothing differentiates you from your competitors. Being different, thinking differently and running as far outside of the box as you can definitely work in your favor when you’re broke.
Richard Branson may be the king of this strategy. When he first started out in business, before all of the billions, he too had similar issues in the financial department as I guess many of the people reading this have today. He needed sponsors for his new magazine, but of course, no one wanted to be associated with a new brand that had a small readership, no history, or proven results.
So what did Richard do?
He contacted the biggest company that would get on the phone with him and told them that they could feature in his magazine for free with a double page spread. No catches, just a free advert that would point customers in their direction with no risk or money to be paid. The large company obviously said yes because they had no reason not to, it was free adverting.
So how did this benefit Richard?
Richard then went to smaller companies and showed evidence of this large company featuring in his magazine. To them, it seemed as though the larger company had bought a double page spread. Without hesitation, they all began signing up to Richard’s magazine and paying him for a feature. They must have thought, “If such a big company is doing it, then they must know something we don’t.” He used a form of social business proofing!
This cost Richard nothing but made him the money he needed to reach the next stage of his entrepreneurial journey. A simple creative thought that, for all we know, could have been the catalyst towards his billion-dollar fortune.
Sometimes it’s the smallest, most simple and most overlooked features that can make all the difference. Having money is great, of course, it opens up opportunities, but there’s something about working with a small budget that heightens your senses, makes you hyper-aware to opportunity and more selective in how you spend what you have.
If you’re broke but have a great idea, never forget that you have the start-up advantage, something that larger companies have been trying to get back since they grew.