But after spending months, or even years, meticulously fine-tuning your unique selling point — the heavy lifting starts. Building a business takes an enormous investment in time and money, both of which can be in short supply for a budding entrepreneur.
While established businesspeople advise not to skimp on fundamental elements of a business such as financial and legal advice, there are free resources which can help entrepreneurs save some much needed cash.
Here are five things you can do to help lift your start-up off the ground without spending any money at all.
Have a solid business plan. In order to navigate your way to success, you must plan how to stay afloat through the rough times. Unless you’re a business school graduate, it’s possible you’ve never laid eyes on a business plan — an essential tool for anyone setting out on their own and trying to attract investment.
You can hire professional advisers to help craft one, or you can save money by taking advantage of several online resources which can guide you through the process. BPlans offer free sample business plans for several categories, so whether you’re opening a bakery, beauty salon or a software firm, there’s a plan for you.
Banks and charities also often offer template business plans. If you live in the United States, your local Chamber of Commerce is a good source for free consulting for those first steps you take toward building a company.
If your garage is not big enough for a home office, working out of your bedroom doesn’t appeal, or you just want to mix with other entrepreneurs, a co-working space can be a good option. Some charge a fee but others offer space in lieu of non-monetary compensation, like the Wix Lounge in New York which hosts start-ups who use the Wix website platform.
Seats2meet is a European service which offers free co-working space to independent professionals in return for what they call social capital. Users list their expertise when they register on the website, and are encouraged to share their wisdom with people who may be their co-workers for the day. And from France to India, the Free Coworking Directory lists places across the globe that will welcome entrepreneurs for no charge at all.
In today’s digital world it goes without saying that a business should have a website, but that alone is not enough to properly market your business. Having a lively and responsive Twitter and Facebook company page is a necessity for raising the profile of your start-up. An increasing number of people reach for social media first if they have a comment or a query so it’s a must for any new business.
Communicating directly with consumers will also help your business show a human face and assist you in building a community, which could ultimately prove more valuable than any advertising you might pay for. Google Analytics can give you understanding of how people are using your company’s website, and assist you in crafting your strategy.
It’s hard striking out on your own, especially if it’s in a field you have not previously worked in. If you’re lucky enough to know an influential or knowledgeable person in your industry, your business can enormously benefit from their insight. But finding an online mentor through a website like Find a Mentor can also prove successful. It hosts a database of mentors in areas from business and advertising to art and entertainment, and one day when you’ve made it you can pay it forward by signing up to pass on your accumulated wisdom to others.
No PA? No problem! With digital tools like Evernote you can archive notes, receipts, save interesting articles or snap and upload pictures. The service works across several devices, so you access your records from your laptop, tablet or smartphone. The Expensify app can also help you keep on top of your receipts by letting you take pictures of them, upload them and then create expense reports on the go.