The secret to bootstrapping your business

Dump the office

For 90 per cent of start-up businesses having an office is pure vanity. As technology gets cheaper and communications improve (plus the more coffee shops spring up), conducting meetings virtually or in a nice café is not only allowable, but even businesses with beautiful offices pop out to meet clients.

The problem with some - not all we hasten to add - cheap office space is that you wouldn't want bring potential important clients there anyway. It's an unnecessary expense; if you have a computer, internet and a phone, then you have all the basic infrastructure that's required.

Burn the marketing budget

PR companies are for growing businesses with provable cash-flow. You have no money coming in (yet) so it's a good idea to either call in favours from people (especially if you're lucky enough to have a friend in marketing), or, you guessed it, do it yourself.

Basically, what your aiming for is to have a conversation about your business with as many people as possible. Social media is your friend here. It's free and you can start amassing fans and followers at no expense and at a rate of knots.

Hire contractors

Having a big workforce is lovely, but it ain't half complicated. As soon as you take on your first recruit you come under a massive group of employment laws and your paperwork quadruples. Plus if something goes wrong it can be difficult and expensive to sack someone and replace them.

In the early days, at least, using contractors is a workable, cheap and efficient alternative. All you have to do is offer the work, and if they say 'yes' then you agree terms (rates pay, deliverables and deadlines) and job done!

Don't buy any stock

It's a rarely uttered truism that some businesses are much more difficult to run than others. Among the hardest are restaurants, shops and bars. Why? Because you have to buy stock constantly, so managing you cash-flow can be extremely difficult.

Much better, then, is to become a consultant. And by better we mean 'cheaper'. As a consultant you sell your unique set of skills: you might be good at marketing, know about architecture, be good at tennis etc.

You sell your ability to teach others the secrets of your trade, which, being in your brain already, you don't have to keep buying in order to 'sell'. Any fees you make go straight on the bottom line, and with much smaller costs, your margins are bigger.

Take advantage of 'freemuim'

Freemium is a sales strategy in which companies give you stuff for free in the hope that you'll upgrade to the premium version later on. Everyone's at it, from app developers, to accountancy software to anti-virus programmes.

As a start-up or small business you can use a whole suit of online website, marketing, accounting, HR and communications tools and you won't necessarily need to upgrade until your business grows considerably larger.

So there you have it, the secret to a profit-only business is to work from home as a consultant, with no staff, using social media to brag about your business and running the whole show through software you've picked up for free.

If after a year you still aren't making a profit this way, then to be completely honest you never will…

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