If you have a dollar and a dream, this one is for you!
This post is for my friends with a dollar and a dream. For the person who really wants to start, promote, or elevate their business on a tight budget. To be clear, I DO think you need to spend money to make money. If you are spending money that leads to growth though, what you’re really doing is investing in your business. Depending on how much money you have to invest, there are certain things you can do on your own or do without.
With that being said, the first step is creating an expense budget for your business. I’d recommend using the Profit First model (this model says you should only spend 30% of your revenue on expenses). For example if your revenue is $1,000/month then your expense budget should be $300/month. Now if you still aren’t making revenue, then use your targeted revenue to make your budget, for example, if you’d like to be making $300/month, budget your expenses at $90/month. I like this method because it’s simple and it helps keep expenses low.
What categories should you include in your expense budget?!
There are 3 major areas that entrepreneur and star of The Profit, Marcus Lemonis, says he focuses on in his businesses — people, product, process. I’m going to add two more— marketing and branding. Again, your budget will determine how much can go towards each of these 5 categories (if anything at all)).
Dos and Don’t when the budget is tight.
Hiring people could speed up your progress and free up some of your time to do more important tasks than the task at hand (e.g admin work, social media posts). The problem is that the budget might not allow for additional staff or even consultants. For this category DO use contracted workers for special projects when necessary. For example, occasionally hiring a photographer for professional pictures of a new product could be worth the one time expense. DON’T hire additional staff or ongoing consultants until your budget allows.
Process refers to all the administrative tasks and tools you use to make your business run well. This includes things like your scheduling system (if your business is service based) or your website. DON’T just sell your products or services for free on social media without purchasing a website. You don’t own anything on social media and you could lose all your followers (and sales) without notice. DO create your own website to protect yourself from losing your potential clients and revenue streams. DON’T use a free website. The free version will not let you use a unique domain and will likely include a watermark on your website. This gives your brand an amateur look and decreases credibility. Besides, websites are relatively inexpensive— you could sign up for a Shopify store right now for as little as $9/month. DO use other free tools, such as email marketing subscriptions and scheduling systems, when you are first starting out. DO upgrade once your income increases.
If you are a new business owner, you need to make sure your products are good quality and something that your customers would recommend to their friends and loved one. DO research supply costs for your specific product and compare that to the market value and your budget. DON’T select cheaper materials that will cheapen the look, feel and application of your product and disappoint your customers. DON’T be afraid to spend a little extra making a really great product, especially since word of mouth, reviews and recommendations are still the best ways to sell products and services.
Since we are talking about spending in this post, marketing in this context is paid promotions i.e ads. It is important to be strategic and intentional about your marketing strategy, especially on a tight budget. The U.S Small Business Administration recommends spending between 7-8 percent of gross revenue on marketing, however, most of the available research shows that small businesses spend just around 1%. No matter what your marketing budget is, you want to make sure each dollar is working hard to make you a sale. DO take your time learning about ads management. DO make sure you understand how to read your ads data and how to adjust your ads for maximum return on investment. If you’d rather not learn how to manage ads, DO hire an ads specialist. If you don’t have the budget to hire a specialist, DON’T run ads. Ads are dynamic and their effectiveness can change over time, so it is very important to learn how to set up and interpret your ads or hire someone who can.
Branding refers to your graphics, your designs, your business’ overall esthetic. There are several tools that offer free templates for creating an appealing and cohesive brand. DO start off using free tools like Canva to create your graphics and other designs. If you have some funds, DO use services like Fiverr or 99Designs to hire a one time, inexpensive designer that can create a brand kit for you to use in all your graphics. DON’T hire ongoing designers until your budget allows.
In the end, you can run a successful business with very few expenses— just keep in mind that if it doesn’t cost you money, it will likely cost you time. From the five categories mentioned, you can save the most money on people and branding. I’d recommend spending a little bit of money on process, especially on creating a professional looking website and an email capturing system. And finally, you should spend the bulk of your money on making a phenomenal product and on making effective ads that will convert.
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Cat Marte is a Small Business Coach + Social Media Strategist who helps success driven people launch and grow their small businesses using online marketing strategies. Book your free introductory call today.