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Entrepreneur Corner: 5 Ways to Generate and Preserve Revenue Streams in Your Startup

Entrepreneur Corner: 5 Ways to Generate and Preserve Revenue Streams in Your Startup

On average, approximately 90% of startups fail to become successful. Most common reasons for failure include insufficient funding, low break-through rate, too many expenses, poor revenue streams. Being in one of the following markets gets you a higher chance to survive: IT, finance, real estate, education, health, services, and wholesale. Over 50% of businesses in these industries seem to still be active after 4 years(Tech.co: Startup Failure Rates Industry 2016). But don’t give up if you’re in a more challenging market. In support of young entrepreneurs, here are five ways to generate and preserve revenue streams in your startup, to meet day’s end.

Freelance Work and Independent Contracts

With freelancing as an emerging trend and more legal backing up, this type of work can prove helpful in the early days of a startup. As a Founder, you have many responsibilities including the financial well-being of your employees. Your Facebook or LinkedIn account may read “CEO”, but it’s more of a “title” with a leadership role than it is a financial bliss. Living off dividends takes about a year, literally, so freelancing and independent work can be a great solution to cover your own expenses and generate extra revenue for other purposes. Many stories among entrepreneurs start with “I did freelancing work while also working on my startup company,” so there is nothing to feel ashamed of. It is a great way to enhance our skills, acquire new ones, get a deeper understanding of the business world and, last, but not least, build a personal brand.

Search for opportunities in the market consisting of consulting contracts that pay a good hourly fee, or even short-term projects with fixed payment terms, locally or remotely. Services and products are a great way to generate extra income and form long-lasting relationships with clients which might prove beneficial for your startup’s future, as well.

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Creative Finance: Selling Items That Have a Story

There has been an increased demand on the market in the past few years for vintage items, from watches to diamonds and unique jewelry. Perhaps a Hollywood or VIP-inspired trend, second-hand expensive items are a great way to generate an additional revenue stream, especially if they have a story to back them up. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Sell your items to a pawnshop or jewelry retail store. When selling locally, shop around various stores to see who can offer more.
  2. Sell your items on eBay, online. Good chance to get a good price if the buyer is knowledgeable and the seller knows how to pitch the right angle, plus present the uniqueness and quality of the item.
  3. Sell on Craig’s List. Similar to eBay, but with the probability of encountering more scammers, since the platform isn’t as reliable as it used to be. Same conditions apply: knowing the exact worth of your item, plus solid negotiation skills.
  4. Sell your items to an “expert buyer”, directly. While you can sell your diamonds, jewelry and watches on platforms such as Craigslist or Ebay, selling to online diamond buyers such as WP Diamonds is a faster and safer option. Transactions are done fast, usually, in less than 48hrs and the agency covers the FedEx fee for shipping your items to their store.

Please note that this is an alternative way to generate additional revenue, and not necessarily a long-term solution. However, in the early stages of startup life, it can be your hidden Superman.

Smart Renting, Even Smarter Subletting

We all heard about the success story of AirBnB. Following the example of the founders, you can make use of renting spaces and apartments or rooms to generate more revenue. As a local, you have access to cheaper prices if the contract allows and not restricts you to sublet a venue or an apartment (in case you don’t own it). Tips:

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  • rent or own an apartment or venue in a centrally-located area; it is more attractive to potential guests and preferred by most travelers and nomads;
  • either rent the whole apartment (see real estate laws in your area) or just one room for 1-to-3 months. This can get you to at least cover the monthly costs for the place, and even generate some profits;
  • rent a venue or an office for your startup that allows 24/7 access. Sublet to nomads or freelancers who prefer to work during the night. I.e. If you’re based in the US, but have clients from Europe, the 7-9hrs time difference can be covered if you work during night-time when it is daytime over there;
  • Allow small groups to organize weekend events in your space;
  • Organize networking events yourself – great way to generate additional income and meet people;
  • Synchronize your holidays and vacations, so that no one is really at the office. Sublet the office space during your travels;
  • Work from home with your entire team 2-3 days per week. Apply the same strategy when no one is around at the office;
  • Share your office space with another startup and split the costs. Ideally, a company that offers different services, which you can both combine.

Warning: Pay attention for the legal part. Some real estate property contracts do not allow you to sublet your venue or your apartment, partially or fully to another party unless you notify the actual landlord.

Safety Measures for Your Business Contracts

This is more about preserving revenue streams. Newsflash: the US government’s tech budget is 8 times that of Apple. Translation: there’s a huge interest in Federal funding for tech startups, with a special cater towards cyber security. Big players in Federal IT contracts in 2016, apart from the Defence Department, include CSRA Inc., Lockheed Martin, HP Enterprise, Booz Allen Hamilton and Accenture(Bloomberg Government: Tech Startups Struggle to Tap 82 Billion in Federal Contracts). Tech&IT is a good industry to be part of and everybody can get a slice from this cake. But don’t worry, other industries are profitable if you know how to tie loose ends.

Independent of the industry, there are always risks: bad clients, dishonest employees, dried funds etc. How can you protect your business from all this? While being aware and cautious can save a few sweats, there’s no service that covers all risks in one go. But specific services cover certain risks. For example, a good lawyer will be a great asset when dealing with risky contracts. A handy accountant will know exactly what to do to prevent huge financial losses. An experienced Business Development Manager can help you in getting good clients and keep a nice clean client portfolio.

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There is also a way to keep your clients and your business safe from employee dishonesty, which is not easily detectable by HR, Talent Acquisition or Occupational Health departments. A coverage called fidelity bond that has your back, so to speak. This infographic by JWSuretyBonds explains the costs involved with each coverage plan. While fidelity bonds imply a flat cost based on the amount of coverage amount needed and the number of employees, other types of bonds have flexible fees, influenced by personal credit history, financial expertise in the company (good accountant, as mentioned before), equity left in your company and more.

Crowdfunding for New Products and Services

Why crowdfunding, when everybody does it, nowadays? Well, there’s a right way to crowdfund your product and it’s called “pre-ordering”. In my brief experience with this strategy, I learned that perks are everything. People want to know what they are donating for. Just giving them “a thanks” for $5 won’t cut it. Give them a signed handwritten letter or custom postcard from you, then that might be worth the $5. The best way is to give your community the chance to pre-order the service or product. Be in a book, course, physical product, online or offline service. Doesn’t matter. What matters is this simple principle of “what you pay is what you get”, taken to a different level. Crowdfunding is a great way to get you covered, and not a way to generate profit or revenue. This strategy purely helps you cover specific costs and preserve the revenue you already have.

There’s a lot to cover about crowdfunding. From experience, the pre-campaign can generate up to 30% of your funding goal in the first 3 days. And to prepare for that, you need about 6 to 8 weeks in advance, campaign booster services, a pool of influencers and thought leaders that are backed by a community.

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Resources you can use to document the process include Crowdfunding PR, Donor Search, CrowdCrux’s list of influencers in Crowdfunding you can connect with via Twitter, IgnitionDeck and more. I found BackerCamp to be the only honest campaign booster service, the Founder responded to my email in a time fashionable manner and told me it was too late to do anything for one of the campaigns my friends and I launched this year on Indiegogo. Other campaign booster companies were thrilled with the idea and went straight for the money.

Final Thoughts…

Keep going forward, no matter how hard it is to generate or preserve the revenue you already have for your startup. Use any of the 5 ways mentioned above, and even a combination of two or more. See what works best and continue implementing the improvement process. Maybe freelancing is a good option for you. Or selling your grandma’s old jewelry. Perhaps renting and subletting can save you more than just a few pennies. Or use surety bonds and crowdfunding to keep the funds you already have and secure a better relationship with your clients and your community. Bottom line: don’t give up!

Entrepreneurship is one challenging ride, but if you’re cut for it, it’s worth every sweat.

 

Featured photo credit: StevePb via pixabay.com

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Roxana Nasoi

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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