Business expert and Revolancer CEO (Revolancer is a virtual freelance marketplace, connecting ambitious entrepreneurs with skilled freelancers), Karl Swanepoel lets us in on his proven tips to start and grow your business with little to no money!
1.Keep learning and educating yourself
Karl’s first tip to starting a business with little to no money is to always educate yourself! The more research and work you put into learning all about business and starting a business, the more successful you will be. Be passionate, have determination to keep going and keep learning.
Networking is a great way to educate yourself, try to connect and talk to new people. Go to conferences, or networking events, and speak to the panellists or anyone you think you can learn something new from! Be honest about your weaknesses and connect with people who have complementary strengths who can help you. This is an amazing way of getting experienced advice without spending too much money.
Always take opportunities, be on the lookout for grants, awards, or competitions to help get your business off the ground! Apply to everything you think will help you and your business, even if you’re not successful, you’re building your experience and you’ll always learn something new for next time!
Remember – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” Wayne Gretzky
Lastly Karl gave an example of how educating yourself can help build your business on a small budget. Accountants could charge you upwards of £200+ to register your company and do all of the paperwork… but you can actually do this yourself for £12! All of the information on how to do this is out there, and it will save you so much money.
Great resources to educate yourself that Karl mentions are:
GOV.uk – which has many helpful free guides.
The Lean Startup book by Eric Ries – this book talks about how entrepreneurs use innovation to create radically successful businesses and describes his lean start-up strategy for start-up companies.
Blinkist App – this app has over 3,000 nonfiction books which are summarized for you to read and made into 15–20-minute audiobooks! It’s a great way to learn new things quickly.
2.Have a MVP mindset with everything you do
So, you may be thinking, what is an MVP mindset? MVP stands for: Minimum Viable Product.
Karl explains that this is a development technique that many businesses use, where a product or service is launched with basic features but has enough to it to get the attention of consumers. The final product is then launched after getting feedback from the initial users.
Using this mindset and technique, you will get feedback from potential customers for free that will help you develop your business, product, or service before launching. A way to get feedback is to create surveys or email sign ups on social media or a very simple web page, and all of this costs little to no money to do.
3.Lean Business Canvas
Traditionally business plans can be pages and pages long, that take a long time to create and complete. Karl tells us about using the Lean Business Canvas, example image below. The Lean Business Canvas was created by Eric Ries who we spoke about earlier in the resources. This business canvas is a great way to get all your business ideas and goals down on paper, it can be completed quickly and for free! It’s super simple to use and you can spot any conflict or errors in your business with ease.
You can find templates of this to fill out digitally if that’s what you prefer, or if you like to get your ideas out on paper you can write one out yourself. The book mentioned earlier by Eric Ries has more information about this, and Karl recommends you read this as it’s a way of educating yourself further that costs very little.
4.Growing on a budget
Karl explains 3 ways to grow your business on a budget!
Network Effect (affiliates + word of mouth)
First is the Network Effect, building that word of mouth about your business. A way to do this is implementing an affiliate programme or incentive in your business to get people talking about it! For example, a small deal or discount to a customer for sharing your business with others through an online link.
PR is another great way of getting word of mouth, and Big Ideas Wales are a great company to keep in mind for this. They are a company funded by the Welsh Government to help young entrepreneurs and start-ups and can help a lot with PR. It’s a brilliant and free way of getting your business in the press and gaining interest from the public.
Organic Content (blogs, podcast, social media)
Second is Organic Content i.e., social media. Social media is king for growing your business on a budget, it’s the perfect way to pull together an audience of potential customers who can engage with your content and be turn into paying customers. The best platforms to use are Linked in for B2B businesses, and Instagram and Facebook are best for business to customer businesses.
Karl makes it clear you should start your growth and promotion on social media BEFORE you launch, because you can build an audience and interest for free before your product or service is even ready! Put images of mock-up products, or services you’ll be offering and what’s to come in the business, have call to actions like ‘follow us’ or ‘sign up to our newsletter for updates’ and you’ll grow an organic engaged audience in no time!
Collaborations (content swaps with other brands, partnering and exchanging content)
Karl’s last tip for growing your business on a budget is Collaborations. Collaborate with others who have more experience and can help guide you and your business, reach out to contacts and you can easily get free advice from experts to help grow.
Another way of collaborating is creating blogs or social media posts interviewing other entrepreneurs or businesses, collaborating with others will share your business out with different audiences you may not have reached before and it’s completely free to do!
Here’s an example of Revolancer doing this and creating a blog about our Outreach Director here at ICE, Lesley Williams.
Financials are super important to growing a business on little to no money, you need to keep a track of your financials and Karl says your main focus should be = Don’t run out of money!!
Ways to do this are:
- Keep a low overhead
- Keep expenses as low as possible
- You don’t need an office or a fancy website
- Keep track of financials with a spreadsheet or automated accounting software
- Plan for the worst-case scenario
- Look out for funding and grants
- Invest in yourself (if possible) for example, spending £10 on a domain name, or a couple of £100 on the most important parts of your business.
- Only raise from investors if necessary
- AVOID loans!!!
Last but certainly not least, Karl says have a core team! Make sure that you or your team have all the skills necessary to go to market, including tech development, because this is a way you could easily use up a lot of money and quickly. You or your team should be able to do everything in house, it will then cost nothing except for sweat equity from someone else who owns part of the business or yourself.
Try to find co-founders you already know and can trust, and make sure your communications are strong and your visions are aligned, this way you won’t spend thousands of pounds on others doing this work for you and will keep your budget and financials low.
So there you have it, the 5 things we learned from Karl Swanepoel’s ‘Starting a Business with Little to No Money’ workshop!
If you would like to watch the whole workshop, you can do so from our catch up library here