When I set up my virtual PA business in 2012 I didn’t have lots of money to spend, I started with about £1500, lots of ideas and masses of enthusiasm. I’ve learnt a lot in the last two years and if I did it all again I’d probably do some things differently!
Here are my top tips on how to set up a business on a budget – and the things I wish I’d known when I started out:
1. Choose a good laptop
The first thing you’ll need to buy – if you haven’t got one already – is a good laptop. Remember you’ll often need to work remotely so a desktop machine is not suitable.
Things to think about:
- Mac or PC? Apple laptops are expensive but fast, reliable and have a long shelf life. Windows machines are more affordable, and remember that most businesses will use Windows based software. The Sony VAIO is a good starting machine for under £500
- If you’re going to spend a lot of time on your computer do you need a large screen?
- Could you buy a second-hand or a reconditioned computer?
- iPads and tablets look cool, but can you realistically work properly on them?
Remember that you’ll probably need to buy specific software and you’ll definitely need WiFi so make sure you budget for them.
2. Create the right first impression
You have to have business cards and if I was only giving you one tip it would be to spend a bit of money on them. You probably won’t need anything really fancy but don’t be tempted by the cheapest deals. Trust me, people will perceive your business in a certain way if you have a cheap business card and you’ll end up spending twice, you can get good quality cards printed from £50 upwards.
Moo.com do a range of great business cards (the Luxe cards are really impressive, but a little pricey). I got a good deal from printing.com for 500 cards – I knew that I would need that many once I started networking! Tip: get the artwork ready to go and lookout for a good deal, the big printing companies always do seasonal offers.
3. Create a strong brand
Branding is vitally important for any business, large or small, b2c or b2b. The foundation of your brand is your logo, so get a designer to create a strong logo that you can apply to all your marketing materials. Designers can be expensive but there are options – if you don’t know anyone to ask for a budget job (or favour!), online services like Fiverr or PeoplePerHour could be the answer. Make sure you ask for any graphics you buy to be supplied in a variety of formats.
4. Get a good website, that people can find
I work from my home office and don’t have an office people can visit so it’s really important people can find me, having a website isn’t expensive and is essential these days. You can even do it by yourself – buy a domain name (about £10/year), pay for your site to be hosted (from £5 / month) and if you use WordPress.org the site itself is free and it’s fairly easy to set it up, or you can budget about £400 for your first website. Consider buying a premium theme to get the job done quickly – they can be easily customised to suit your brand.
5. Go networking
Unless you’ve got a ready-made stream of work you’ll need to find customers for your new business. Networking has been an absolutely brilliant way of meeting new clients for me and it needn’t cost the earth, there are lots of free and non-expensive groups you can go to.
Once I was a bit more established I joined BNI, which has been great for my business and well worth the membership fees but it might be too expensive when you start out.
6. Word of mouth
This has also been a great way of building my business – make sure everyone you know knows that you’ve set up a new business. You can ask your clients to tell other people about you or to think of you if they meet someone who needs your help too, that way people hear about your business without you having to pay for advertising.
7. Your nearest and dearest
If you’re on a budget you’ll want to keep any expenditure to a minimum so don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for a hand. When I started I asked for help with child minding and everyone was really supportive, they wanted me to be successful.
8. Be sociable
This one doesn’t cost you anything and is so worth doing – set up a profile for your business on social media. The most popular platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest but you might not need to be on all of them.
My top tip is to think about where your clients are and be where they are before you launch yourself on every site. If you publish content online like a blog, remember to publish on all channels – and try to engage with prospects as often as possible. It’s also worth checking when the best times are to publish on the social platforms.
9. Track your finances
This is an obvious one but the best way to get as much as you can out of your budget is to keep any eye on what you’re spending. Make sure that you’re only paying for things that you really need, to begin with it’s fine to make do, when your business grows your expenditure can too. GoogleDocs can be a useful tool to help input your finances. Consider getting an accountant later on to help deal with tax issues and advice, it’s well worth the small annual fee to reduce the stress!
I hope you’ve found my tips helpful, it is possible to set up a successful business on budget, it just takes a bit of ingenuity and planning!
Good luck and if you’ve got any tips you’d like to share or you’d like to leave a Comment please do below and I’ll get back to you.