Building the Business of Your Dreams on a Shoestring Budget

Building the Business of Your Dreams on a Shoestring Budget

Do you dream of starting your own business but are worried you have not got enough cash to get started?

You might want to think again because you do not need a wealthy family member to help you or take out a loan you really cannot afford. If you are bootstrapped for cash and do not have a lot of resources, it is still possible to launch a business and take it far.

Whether you want to start an internet company, become a freelance writer, or launch a consulting firm, the following tips will help you stretch what budget you have and get your business off the ground.

Why you need a business plan

It is very tempting to try to wing it and skip the planning stage.

A business plan, however, is fundamental to how you start, grow, and develop your business. There are some very valid reasons why you need a business plan.

  1. It will help steer your business in the right direction. A good business plan guides you through each stage and you can use it to think through and detail all the key elements.
  2. It is easier than you think. It is not a one-time document but should be something you work on.
  3. It can help you reach business milestones. Think out your business plan and you will be able to step back and think objectively about key elements of the business.
  4. It can help you get funding. Not only that. With a good business plan in place, you are more likely to bring new business partners on board.
  5. There is no wrong way to write one. Pick a format that works for you. There are plenty to choose from online.

Start small

When you are just starting out, do not invest too much upfront if you do not have to. Look for ways to keep your overheads, inventory, and labor expenses low. Make every dollar you spend count.

Always ask yourself this particularly important question before you part with any cash, “Will this purchase help me acquire new customers and contribute to my bottom line?” If the answer is no you should seriously consider skipping it.

Before you start out, test your idea to make sure there is a market for it. See if you can create a focus group of your target audience and ask them what their needs and pain points are. There are also online survey tools you can take advantage of. SurveyMonkey is a good example.

Work out of your house

One of the biggest expenses for a new business owner is leasing workspace. You are going to save a lot of money upfront if you find a way to bypass such a large expense. The answer is staring right at you. Launch your business from your home and work out of your house.

It is the perfect answer if your business is mostly online. If you work from home it is easier, you can conduct your business online, have virtual meetings, and check-in with customers and other employees. The money you save on renting a workspace helps you reach your break-even point much quicker.

There are even benefits if your business is not an internet start-up. However, you should consider having a separate entrance for your office. It is more professional and will keep your home and work life separate.

Leverage Your Personal and Professional Networks

When you are just starting out, your marketing budget is going to be limited. Time for you to leverage your personal and professional networks and get the word out that you have started a new business.

Try to be creative. Make use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Reach out to any of your contacts and see if they might be interested in pre-ordering your products. Reaching out in this way also provides some valuable feedback relating to pricing and allows you to assess demand.

There are some highly effective ways you can score media coverage. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is one great example. Sign up and you will be able to connect with journalists, reporters, and bloggers.

Another option is to become a blogger yourself. Blogging can be a powerful tool and will help generate valuable exposure for your company. A study by HubSpot found that businesses that had a blog were able to generate 126% more leads than businesses that did not have one.

Email marketing can also be an effective way to promote a particular service or product. Collect prospect’s email addresses and you will be able to nurture them by sharing valuable content.

Use your own equipment

You may already own some of the items you need to start your new business. Convert them from personal to business assets and they may be tax-deductible. This applies to your smartphone, computer, tablet, and anything else you are going to use regularly for your business.

Purchase products through a wholesaler

When you need to buy items for your business, look for a vendor that helps new businesses get started. A bonus would be if they draft a budget plan with you. To find the right kind of vendor, visit trade shows, or approach a wholesaler or distributor that meets your needs.

The smart thing is to do some research before you commit yourself to any orders. Ask for names and phone numbers of recent customers and give them a call to check out their experiences.

If you must buy equipment, do not be tempted to always buy new ones. Businesses go under all the time and you can get almost anything you need, from office furniture to manufacturing equipment, second hand.

Take Advantage of Free Websites and Social Media for Advertising

There are lots of freebies to take advantage of when it comes to advertising your business. It has become common practice for new business owners to build and maintain their own websites. Free web-building tools are ten-a-penny, but the most popular is WordPress.

Extend the reach of your website by writing a blog, using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels. Social media has many advantages if you choose it to market your business. One of the most significant is that it allows you to reach a much larger audience. Millions of people use social media platforms, which makes it a great opportunity to reach a large pool of people who might be interested in your services or products.

Social media is one of the few marketing strategies that allow you to connect directly with your target audience. It is easy to see who is interested in what your business has to offer because they are the ones following your social media account.

You can post organic content for free, which opens countless opportunities for you to connect with leads at no cost to you. Post as much content as you want, whether it's photos, videos, infomercials, or how-to articles, and put your brand out there in front of people.

Use Low-Cost Subscription Services

You do not need to worry about building a team of IT experts to help your business as Google and Amazon offer all the application storage and computing power you will ever need. Hiring a team of IT gurus can be an expensive undertaking.

There is also the cost of computer servers and complex applications you would have to add to the equation. Low-cost subscription software and cloud computing are expenses you must pay every month, and they can be scaled to match your needs and the size of your business.

Hire a virtual assistant to lighten the load

There is a way you can skip many new business expenses. Use remote contract services and you will save on payroll, employee benefits, and office equipment. There are also thousands of low-cost freelancers only happy to work for you.

A virtual assistant, for example, can provide the targeted expertise you are looking for. You also benefit from a certain amount of flexibility because you can increase and decrease resources and you learn what your business needs in the way of human resources.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a few useful tips to help you get started, there is no time like the present. Do something you love at a cost you can afford. Do not let anything stand in your way.


Author Bio:

This article was written by Ian Carroll of Digital Funnel. Ian recently set up a Marketing Agency and is a firm believer in people following their dreams to set-up a business.


 

The 5 Minute Blog: A Fitness Plan for the Rest of Us

The 5 Minute Blog: A Fitness Plan for the Rest of Us

blog blog blog and then blogI’m going to teach you how to become a power blogger in the next five minutes.

Depending on how on fast you read. Succeeding as a blogger is pretty much like succeeding at anything else.

The Secret? Plan, work, leverage whatever natural skill and talent you have, and, yeah, work.

The first step to getting in shape is getting started.

You need to say, “Okay, I want to do this.” It’s not a commitment to going to the gym today, it’s a commitment to going to the gym regularly.

Starting a blog follows the same general mindset; you don’t become a power blogger until you commit to spending the effort and exercising the discipline. A blog is not a one-off project, it’s hard work to start, and then, at the very least, the result of careful maintenance afterwards.

We (the people at First Site Guide) could (and have) written entire books about how to start a blog/site, but given the venue, we’ll be focusing on the habits that make a good blogger.

Today, though, we’re going to focus on the commitment.

3 Quick Tips for Getting a Blog Started

  1. Do your research, don’t rush the planning stage!
  2. Clearly define your short and long-term goals.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many great resources out there.

Choosing a Blogging Schedule

To keep a schedule, you need a routine. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. One of the most common beginner mistakes when it comes to getting in shape is jumping in with so much gusto that they either hurt themselves, waste energy by not allowing time to recover, or making the workout so miserable they eventually just give up.

Bloggers do the same thing. They assume it will be easy to churn out loads of quality content, and that the gains will be instant. They won’t. Writing articles, running podcasts, and all the things bloggers do are skills, so they get easier with practice.

Pick a schedule you can meet, and stick to it to maximize your gains.

3 Quick Tips for Building a Blog Posting Schedule

  1. Consistency is more important than frequency; posting once a week is better than posting four times a week, one week a month.
  2. Put together a post bank before you start. Prepare for the unexpected.
  3. Be realistic, know you’re going to feel burnt out now and then, and plan rest days for recovery.

Focus on Gains, not Strengths

Any time you’re learning something new, you’re going to find stuff that works for you, and stuff that doesn’t. There a million ways to waste your time, and you need to avoid them. Automate everything you can, create a plan,  and stick to it long enough to figure out if it’s working.

More than anything else, though, identify weaknesses.

blog seo mobile monetize

Blog? SEO? Responsive design? Monetization? Oh my!

Look, we all like doing the things we’re good at. Me, I hate running, and I like lifting things. I’ve never been in better shape (and vice versa) than when I was training with a friend who loved to run for hours, and could barely press the bar. She pushed me to run, I pushed her to lift, and we both got stronger and faster.

There’s a place for specialization, of course, but our competence is, in many respects, measured by the level of our weakest important skills. So, in the beginning, it’s important to name weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

3 Quick Tips for Focusing Your Blogging Efforts

  1. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses, do whatever it takes to make up the deficit.
  2. Have clear goals. It’s much easier to get somewhere when you know where you want to go.
  3. Remember that every expert started as an amateur. Believe in yourself.

Sticking To It

“Stick to it!” is the sort advice that’s easy to give, easy remember, and often painfully difficult to follow. Measured against the amount of hours in a week, maintaining a blog is a trivial time commitment. Life tends to expand to devour all available free time, though, so it’s often easy to let things slide.

Secret to blogging

Like most things in life, this is going to come down to discipline. Write enough to get ahead, so you can still post on a day when you don’t feel like writing. Or, if you don’t have spare posts ready to go, write one anyway.

One of the most reliable predictors of a blog’s success is whether or not the owner maintains a schedule.

3 Quick Tips for Sticking to Your Blog

  1. You don’t have to be the best right out of the gate, you just have to keep getting better over time.
  2. Never stop pushing yourself to get better. Complacency kills you slowly.
  3. At the end of the day, whether you succeed or fail is going to come down to how talented you are, how smart your plan is, and how hard you push. The first two criteria have innate limits, so guess where you need to make up the deficit?

Now Get to Work

And that’s it. Well, obviously there’s a lot more than I give you in five minutes. Hopefully this gets you going on the right path, but there’s no substitute for hard work. Knowing where to apply that hard work will take you a lot farther with the same effort.

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Anja SkrbaAuthor Bio:

Anja Skrba has been blogging for over five years. You can find her at FirstSiteGuide.com where she shares tips on blogging basics and trends.

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The Ultimate Social Media Blueprint for Fitness Professionals

The Ultimate Social Media Blueprint for Fitness Professionals

The Ultimate Social Media Blueprint for Fitness Professionals

I think you would agree with me and when I say: Social Media is incredibly important for Health, Fitness and Wellness Professionals.

With the masses of information out there on the web, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

It’s hard to know where to look and what information to consume and where to focus your time and energy with your time spent online.

My goal is to simplify things with this post.

I promise that, by the end of this article, you’ll have a blueprint that will allow you to create massive success with your social media game.

What is Social Media

What is Social Media – and how does it work?

Wikipedia defines social media as the following:

Social media are computer-mediated tools that allow people to create, share or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks.

Social media is simply a new way of sharing information virtually.

It has affected our society dramatically and changed the way we do business.

If all social media got banned today a lot of businesses would struggle… not to mention the millions of distraught teens.

There are now close to 2 billion social media users worldwide.

Its reach and impact will only become bigger and bigger in the future.

Social Media Reach Globally - trends

Here's the projected growth trend for Social Media users (in billions!)

Why is Social Media so Important?

Thumbs up for social mediaFor a lot of Fit Pros, having a social media presence is not only essential, but it’s the main driving factor of their success.

Facts like this are amazing to hear, but unfortunately, a lot of Fit Pros that I’ve come across don’t even have their own Facebook page.

There’s no excuse.

Even if you don’t use social media yourself, most if not all of your potential clients definitely do.

In any business, you have to go where your potential customers are.

For me, I go where fit pros hang out and that’s Facebook, Twitter, and fitness conferences.

When social media first appeared, its users rarely made buying decisions.

If you want to drive sales and revenue to your fitness business, having a solid, effective and easy to carry out a social media plan will completely change the outcome of your fitness business.

Social Media: Coming up with a Plan and Strategy

Ok, now that you understand the importance of social media, you have to develop a solid plan that will allow you to help carry out your goals.

Most Fit Pros do not even recognize the importance of social media and have never spent the time developing a plan. Or, if they have, it's not always a plan that works.

Click here to download your free 7-step social media strategy guide

Moose's 7 Step Strategy to Social Media Awesomeness!! Click here.

Moose's 7 Step Strategy to Social Media Awesomeness!! Click here.

They just waste time and complain about why Facebook changed its algorithm again.

What are your goals?

  • More likes?
  • Mentions?
  • Followers
  • Leads and sales?
  • Business Relationships?

Before you develop a plan you must define what your goals are with social media.

So, ask yourself…

Are you trying to get more followers?

Are you trying to drive more leads and sales?

Do you want to develop relationships with the influencers in your field?

Once you know what your goals are, you can then work on developing a plan of action that will help you to carry out these goals.

Write Down Your Social Media Goals

3 Things You MUST Do for each of YOUR Social Media Networks (if you want to accomplish your goals!)

#1 – Batching

Batching is a productivity hack that allows you to dedicate a set time to do similar things.

When working with social media, it can be very easy to waste time.

Social media is arguably the most distracting place to be online. With the range of adverts, posts from people you know, messages and questions, you can often feel overwhelmed by the all the different distraction at once.

Facebook is a time suck. It’s designed to be addictive.

We live in a world full of endless distractions, and every time we get distracted, it takes an average of 15 minutes to regain our focus.

With discipline, a lot more is possible.

We can use the idea of batching to carry out our social media goals and to avoid distractions.

Here’s how batching works:

Step 1: Block off a set time of the day to focus solely on social media. For example let’s say Monday at 7:00am.

Step 2: Use that hour to come up with all your social media ideas, images, and posts.

Step 3: Once you’ve come up with all the ideas, simply record them in a simple spreadsheet like one shown here

Hootsuite Batch Update Template

This is sample of a batch template which you could use to manage your social updates and scheduling.

Step 4: Now that you’ve come up with a set of ideas, it’s time to start posting.

#2 – Automate your Social Media efforts

Fortunately for us, there are tools that we can use to automate everything for us.

These tools are designed to save us potential hours of time, day in, day out.

2 Social Media Automation Tools that will ROCK your world

Buffer

Buffer:

Buffer is simple software that allows you to schedule posts to all of your social media accounts. I use it for Facebook and Twitter.

If you want to connect more accounts, you have to upgrade to a paid account which costs 10$/month.

buffer screen capture

This is screen capture from Buffer – a very robust social media scheduler

You can easily and automatically connect your social media accounts by signing in.

Once you sign in, you can start posting a set schedule.

Coschedule

Coschedule

I’ve just recently started using CoSchedule and I am very impressed with its functionality and ease of use.

It’s an editorial calendar that allows you to schedule blog posts and all of your social media accounts within WordPress.

There’s also a WordPress plugin available that you can download or you can use the app itself to schedule all your posts.

Coschedule in action

Screen Capture: Coschedule in action

 

A very common billion dollar question that's asked across the world of social media for business is:

How many times should you post per social account?

In response, Coschedule has a useful chart that I recommend you follow… 

Sample scheduling chart care of coschedule

Sample chart of when to post on social media (this is an example and shouldn't be taken as gospel)

#3 – Consistency

Once you’ve learned how to use one of the two tools that I’ve mentioned, it's now up to you to make sure that you post to all of your social media platforms.

Too many businesses lose steam with social media by not being consistent.

It’s the most important factor in your social media success.

Any fans that you have spent time and energy building are going to slowly lose interest in your business and, in time, will end up completely forgetting your page.

Being consistent means to consistently share value on your social media and by engaging with your fans.

Where can I get ideas on what to post for each network?

Social Media Examiner came out with a great post on different social media ideas.

As you can see from that very popular blog post, there are probably more techniques that you can use and more types of content that you can post that you may have first thought of.

Now that you have some ideas on posts, we can talk about the different strategies used for each social network.

3 tips to get you into entrepreneurial shape [Interview]

3 tips to get you into entrepreneurial shape [Interview]

quotes-03Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely place at times. Your decisions as it relates to your day-to-day operations of your business can greatly impact the proverbial “bottom-line”.

Recently in an interview with Entrepreneurs TV, I shared 3 tips that have done me well while traveling the entrepreneurial path.

3 Tips to get you into Entrepreneurial shape

  1. Be open
  2. Work hard
  3. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Interview with Entrepreneurs TV (1 of 7)

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3 Lessons for Launching a Fitness Product (and Living Your Life)

3 Lessons for Launching a Fitness Product (and Living Your Life)

Moose Note: I first connected with Artem (aka William) via Facebook about a year ago.  Since connecting I've watched as he's put sweat, energy and time into creating a new and innovative fitness product.  When Artem asked if I could help spread the word about his campaign on Kickstarter, I invited him to write a guest post detailing some of the lessons he's learned through his past year's experiences. So many parallels exist between entrepreneurial mindset and life, which I think you'll see for yourself in the following post.

3 Lessons for Launching a Fitness Product (and Living Your Life)

Almost on this exact day one year ago I was at home, taking one of my breaks from work, laying on my sofa with a pen and notebook at my side – a simple practice responsible for most of my creative ideas. I was thinking about the workout plan I had made for my morning trip to the gym – a piece of paper with stick figure drawings of exercises I transcribed from a workout video on YouTube – and an idea for a website to simplify this very task came to me. Fast forward two months and I launched WorkoutLabs – a website that has since been used by nearly half a million people to build and print custom illustrated workouts. Concluding this very brief back-story, this post is about three simple principles I learned and followed while creating the Exercise Cards (an extension to the WorkoutLabs project I am launching this month) and that I try to apply in all areas of my life.

Ideas: Keep an Open Mind & Follow your Gut

screen shotEach of us has a certain vision of what we want our lives to be and overarching goals that we strive towards. However, we cannot know and should not try to foresee the road that will take us there – it only limits the possibilities and delays our arrival. The way we reach the destination, I believe, is by listening to and following your inner voice, your intuition. A big part of this is being open to and acting on ideas that come to you, those urges to do something, even if they don’t make sense to you or others at that moment.

Past experiences have taught me to keep an open mind and to trust my instincts, so when the idea for Exercise Cards came to me, I didn't have to deal with internal doubts about my ability to follow through (“I don’t know anything about producing and marketing a physical product”) or second guessing the idea itself (“Everyone uses fitness apps, who needs cards?”). However, I did and still do face others challenging and discrediting the concept. Let them. You have to believe that the idea came to you for a reason and that it is right for you in this moment in time. Ignore all that, follow your gut and act – it’s a road sign guiding you towards your goals.

Execution: Give It Your All

I am amazed at how many things are done at a level so far below their potential – from all kinds of products on the market, to apps, to films – everywhere! One thing all poorly executed ideas share is that they quickly sink to the bottom of ranked lists or off of them altogether. I truly think that most cases it wasn't that the people creating something couldn't do it any better, it’s that they didn't care to. But if doing something in a mediocre way virtually kills your chances of a success, why do it at all?

cards

If I undertake something, I will do it to the limit of my abilities and often extend them by learning something new if I know it can be done better. With the Exercise Cards, every aspect of the project was thought through to create the best product possible – perfecting the cards’ design by testing various layouts, fine tuning shades of color, font sizes and line spacing; choosing durable plastic cards over paper that would get worn quickly and negotiating an extra layer of lamination on the tuck cases to make sure they last too. In the end, I am holding a beautiful set of cards that I really enjoyed creating and I know people will love too. To me, putting everything into whatever you are doing is just common sense.

Expectations: Let Go of Them

This one I am still learning. Being a goal oriented person and one that likes to feel in control of my life, I am inclined to set clear expectations when it comes to the outcome of whatever I am engaged in – this many visitors or subscribers at WorkoutLabs, this much revenue from my timer app, etc. I have set these type of performance goals in different areas of my life for a long time. However, my recent experiences have shown me that unless I think really big and am absolutely confident about the outcome (not there yet), it’s usually best not to have these predefined expectations at all.

kickstarter pic

If you set ‘realistic’ goals that will be fairly easy to reach, you won’t go the extra mile in your efforts and it’s unlikely you will have a big hit because you have limited the possibilities. If you set high and ambitious targets that are very unlikely, you will doubt your ability to reach them, you will stress (again sabotaging the possibility of a big hit) and likely end up disappointed when things fall short.

With my initial Kickstarter campaign for the Exercise Cards, I set high expectations about how many pre-orders I would get (way above the $18K funding goal) and stressing about it was a counter-productive distraction in running the campaign that ultimately failed. This time around, I did not set those type of expectations. Instead, I am focusing all of my energy on the quality of the campaign and my activities around it – a more concise presentation, high quality photos, simpler rewards setup, better promotion, etc. I am enjoying the process much more and looking forward to a successful result.

Keep an open mind and follow your intuition, do your best and let go of expectations – these lessons reach far beyond launching a fitness product and have helped me find happiness, success and fulfillment in various areas of my life. What about you? What are your thoughts on these three principles and do you apply them in your life?

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About the Author: William (Artem Lapitski) Artamon

william artamonWilliam is a New York based designer and entrepreneur with a passion for creating simple high quality products that make lives better. Founder of the ROQ design studio and creator of the popular Repeat Timer app, William now spends most of this time developing WorkoutLabs into the web’s highest quality fitness resource.

Find William on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

How did the Moose is Loose blog begin? [Video Interview]

How did the Moose is Loose blog begin? [Video Interview]

Feedburner---Moose-logoSince 2008 I've been actively blogging on the Moose is Loose.  My topics vary but gravitate to health, fitness, motivation and daily inspirations, tips and tricks for maintaining a “fun”ctionally fit life.  But do you know the why and how I started my blog?  

Recently I was asked to speak on a blogger panel for #YVRBloggers at Hootsuite.  The topics I'm discussing are health and fitness blogging.  As a lead-up to the event, the following Google Hangout interview was conducted by Ricky Shetty, the panel moderator, of DaddyBlogger.ca

Enjoy learning a bit about the history of the Moose is Loose.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plj7zrede74

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