How to Start an Online Business Without Breaking the Bank
You’ve made that important decision – you want to be a solopreneur. You have the passion and you’ve thought through all the implications.
(If you’re not sure about the implications, this article will help.)
It is exciting – and perhaps a little scary at the same time.
Some of your anxiety may be about confidence: “Do I know enough?”; “Why would people listen to me?” for example. That’s perfectly natural – and we will deal with that, step by step.
Part of you, though, may be worried about the financial side of things. After all, you’ve seen ads by people offering to build your website for thousands of dollars. Or maybe you’ve listened to webinars by “gurus” who promise you will become a millionaire overnight – but only if you sign up to their $2,000 course.
Or perhaps you’re worried that you’ll have to invest in massive resources. Will your business leave the family savings account empty?
Let’s look at what resources you’ll actually need to start your own online business – today.
Resources You Need That Won’t Cost a Cent
You may think the most important resources are physical: a computer, an office, business cards…
You will need those things, of course – we’ll come to that later – but they’re not the most important. Not by a long way.
The most important resource for anyone starting a new business is –
Business success is never guaranteed, no matter how much money you throw at it (despite what the “gurus” might tell you.) It’s not about the money.
The clue is in the name: “Solopreneur”.
It’s all about you.
But that’s a bit vague, so let’s narrow “you” down.
Your passion. You might have the most brilliant money-making ideas in the world, but without a genuine excitement for the subject of your business, your energy and motivation will wane. You’ll find the days are becoming a drag.
Don’t worry at this stage about whether the ideas you have for your business are a viable proposition. SBI!’s Action Guide will help you think through that, later. If you have more than one idea, it will also help you decide which is the more achievable.
But for now…
Ask yourself: What do I really love doing? What did I used to love doing as a child? Might that be something I can turn into a business? Will writing about my chosen topic day in, day out for years to come lift my spirits? Or will it make me feel I don’t want to get up in the morning? In other words, brainstorm yourself!
Your knowledge and experience. It’s not only about passion, of course. Knowledge and experience are two of your most valuable assets. Knowledge can be acquired; in fact it’s a good idea to budget a small amount each month to buy one or two books about your niche. You can use them for reference when necessary, and review them to sell too!
But you don’t want your online business to become another WikiPedia. That’s where your experience comes in.
Ask yourself: Thinking about my potential business topic (or “niche”), do I have enough knowledge? Could I acquire it? What experience do I have? How might I use that to help other people?
Your perspective. This is what SBI! calls a “Valuable PRE-selling Proposition”. It’s your unique take on your chosen subject. It’s what makes you stand out from the rest. It’s what inspires your potential customers to like and trust you.
Ask yourself: What is it about you which would make your business stand out from all the others in your niche? What would make people want to come back to your website rather than anyone else’s? How determined are you to provide your customers with outstanding, personalized service?
Let’s take these three areas together.
Suppose you’re thinking of a niche related to your great passion: gardening. You love gardening. You can’t get out there enough. In fact, if there were 24 hours of daylight, that’s where you’d want to spend it.
You may not have in-depth knowledge about every variety of plant. But, thinking back to the days when you had your first garden, you can relate to people who are just starting out. You’ve been there. You know what it’s like trying to work out which plants like sun, which can’t tolerate cold. In fact, you could write a book about it!
This could work!
Can you see how “having resources” to start an online business begins, not with money, but with you? Your passion. Your motivation. Your experience. Your unique take on the world.
Your self belief.
You do have self-belief, right?
Not sure? OK – let’s talk about it a little.
There’s evidence that if you will believe you’re going to succeed, you probably will.
This isn’t to do with arrogance. It’s to do with acknowledging weaknesses as well as strengths. It’s about being proud of your achievements, no matter how small. It’s about not listening to the voices in your head telling you “I can’t” and replacing them with “Oh yes, I can!”
It may include finding the right tools to help you with your business. The right platform to host your website. The right learning program to develop your knowledge.
Ask yourself: What’s stopping you from having a belief in yourself? Are you prepared to investigate what you need to build your self-confidence? Are you ready to invest time and money in your own development?
Above all, do you have the conviction to make it work? Because giving yourself to your business is not without its own costs. Not in terms of hard cash, but time.
Let’s Talk About Time
You probably recognize that time is a resource – one of your most valuable resources, in fact. But do you recognize it as an outlay for your business, even though it’s not costing you hard cash?
Think of it this way. If you were paying someone to come up with the kind of high quality, personal content you need, how much would you expect it to cost? $15 an hour? $20? More?
(I can tell you – you would be paying a premium for that kind of work!)
Your business won’t feel it as a cost, because you’re not paying yourself. But it’s a resource you cannot do without, and it can come at an emotional and physical cost.
Solopreneurs tend to be far more motivated than people who work for someone else. After all, you’re building your own business, not putting money into someone else’s pocket.
That’s a great benefit. If you’re prepared to put in the time, and use that time wisely, you’ll start out streets ahead of your competitors.
Many people starting an online business think they just need to put up a pretty website. Hey presto – the money will start rolling in!
But – life’s not like that.
But your time investment can come at a cost, too. Make no mistake. This precious resource will take effort. It will take time away from your family, your other interests, your time out.
“How much time will it take?” – I hear you asking. The answer to that is… as long as it takes. It will vary from one person to another.
What matters is how long it will take you. And that will depend in part on how well you can focus.
Ask yourself: Being realistic, how much time will you have to devote to your business? What can you do to make that time count? How can you get a break from the household chores, the day job, the family?
Need to read more about prioritizing, including how to focus your time? This article will help!
Find Yourself a Community!
You may not need paying hard cash – at least, not at the start of your online business journey. But you still need an investment.
It’s not always easy being a solopreneur. Anyone who tells you differently may be trying to shield you from the cold, hard, truth.
Sometimes, it’s difficult. Difficult to sustain motivation. Difficult to work in isolation. Don’t forget, you won’t have colleagues around you to share ideas with.
Or will you?
Colleagues are an immensely important resource. You need to investigate this as a priority. Find like-minded people who’ve been there, done that. They can help when the going gets tough – and celebrate the victories, too.
There’s no need to buy into a training program to do that, at least not at first. When you’re starting out, the information they provide can become overwhelming. And they tend to be expensive.
It’s tempting, though, because “gurus” generally offer a support resource like a Facebook group.
Those groups can be fun. Some include very knowledgeable people. But often they’re tied into courses, so they come at a financial cost. Sometimes this is hundreds of dollars per course – sometimes thousands.
Take a look instead at SBI! Forums. They’re exactly the kind of place a new solopreneur needs. SBIers gather there to ask and answer questions; to “help and be helped.” No question is too small, or too “stupid.”
SBIers know exactly where you’re coming from, because they’ve been there, too.
I was pleasantly surprised about the SBI! forums, how community driven the spirit of SiteSell is. It’s not just the corporate entity there to help you. You’ve got all the people within SBI!. They all help you. It doesn’t matter if a question has been asked a thousand times. And the nice thing about it is, it does again feel very familiar and it’s something you move into easily because you feel you are part of a family.
It’s Not All About You!
So that’s your most precious, your most “costly”, your most immediate resource – YOU! That’s the resource you should examine first.
Because without it, you do not have a solopreneur business.
And with it, you have – almost – everything.
I can hear the cogs whizzing round in your head now. “Aha! Now comes the crunch. Now she’s going to ask us for thousands of dollars!”
But it would be wrong to suggest that starting an online business comes at no monetary cost. Of course, there are resources you’re going to have to find which will need a financial outlay. But probably not quite as much as you might have thought.
Let’s take a look at some physical resources you’re going to need. Is it possible to get them without breaking the bank?
Well, that would be nice.
Somewhere to shut yourself away from the distractions of the outside world. A nice, cosy “den” with a coffee machine and an en-suite bathroom. Somewhere the kids can’t interrupt and there’s no noise from the family T.V.
Let’s be realistic, though. For most people, that’s a dream. It’s a dream which may one day become a reality.
But at the start of your solopreneur journey, it probably is – just a dream.
And that’s fine!
Because there’s always a way, and your way does not have to cost you money. Maybe you don’t have a spare room you can turn into an office. Is there a corner of a room you could work in? A kitchen table you could work on when it’s not in use?
Or, failing that, how about somewhere outside the home? One of the massive benefits of having an online business is that you can work from anywhere, at any time.
How about a desk at your local library? Or a cafe with free internet access?
Remember J. K. Rowling? She wrote the Harry Potter books. Her life as a writer began when she had no money. She wrote in longhand, balancing her notebook on tables in local cafés. She was too poor to afford anything else. Even now, as a multi-millionaire author, she believes that cafés are the best places to write:
“It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writer’s block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think.”
Ask yourself: Whereabouts would be a good place for me to start my business? Where would I feel most comfortable? Where am I likely to be most productive? If there’s no space in my home, where else could I go?
A Computer and Internet Connection
Well, you’re starting an online business. So it stands to reason you will need a means of getting online.
Mobile devices are good for day-to-day work like checking emails, or responding to customer queries. They’re more challenging when it comes to designing and building your website.
For that reason, use of a desk- or laptop computer is a must, as is an internet connection and modem. You need to count these as a financial cost of setting up your business.
You don’t need an all-singing, all dancing set-up, though. That can come later, once your business is established and earning enough money to upgrade.
Start with the best you can afford without going overboard. Remember J. K. Rowling, and if finances don’t run to a computer at the moment, start thinking outside the box.
Ask yourself: What resources do you currently have which you could use? If you don’t have a desktop or laptop, could you borrow one? Can you use one at your day job, outside working hours? Is there a local library which provides free use of computers?
A Website and Hosting Company
Yep. An online business needs a website. So does an offline business. That can be pretty daunting, especially if this is your first venture into the world of website building.
So it can be tempting to look at the many ads from agencies or individuals, offering to set up a website for you. It will likely come complete with color palette, logo, all necessary coding, plug-ins, dancing pigs…
If that’s the way you want to go, and you have the resources to do it – great!
The reality is, though, that you may end up with a site which you don’t much like, don’t feel any connection to and don’t know how to use.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to do all that yourself.
I can feel your feet getting colder even now. “Me? Never!”
(Oh, listen! There are those pesky voices again!)
Not by yourself, perhaps. Unless you want to spend countless hours researching different platforms, templates and site-building processes.
Take a look at SBI!’s platform. It makes building an online business straightforward. Ask any of the solopreneurs who started off exactly where you are now.
Listen to them talk about:
- the ease of creating your own site from a range of designer templates
- using a simple “drag and drop” method to create pages
- the “Action Guide”, which took them from where you are now to owning a successful business, in ten steps
- how good it is to have a hosting company whose aim is to “cover your back” from all those hackers and bugs.
Then, ask them how much all this costs. You may well be surprised at the reply.
What About an Advertising Budget?
Surely a website can’t get anywhere these days without a big advertising budget?
Actually, it can!
Of course, once you have your website up and running, you want people to find it. For that reason, many new solopreneurs are advised to set aside a marketing budget. Sometimes they’re advised to set aside thousands of dollars.
But it’s really not necessary. So stop stressing about it!
Instead, while you’re reading about those successful SBIers, look for mentions of this:
- SBI! tools help you understand exactly how your site can “rank” with the all-important Search Engines.
Your website’s high quality, personalized, original content will do all the advertising for you. Later, your business will grow and you’ll begin to develop contacts. At that stage you may want to pay for business cards and stationery.
But for now, at the start of your journey, it’s not necessary.
So, can you start your online business journey now?
Where to Go Next?
Starting an online business as a solopreneur is not about spending lots of money. Nor is it about an intricate knowledge of how to build a website.
It’s about viewing yourself as a resource, and being prepared to nurture and develop that resource as you would any other.
Of course, you can’t run a business with no outlay at all. But it’s much less costly, and requires far fewer resources, than you might have thought.
Here’s the bottom line. From your own resources, you need:
- passion for and experience of your niche
- belief in yourself
- an unique view which will help you stand out
- willingness to invest time and energy
- vision, and a commitment to working hard
From external resources, you need:
- somewhere to work
- access to basic “tools of the trade”: a computer and internet connection
- a reliable hosting company
- an easy to use platform which guides you through building a successful business, step by step
- colleagues to help when the going gets tough – and to celebrate the victories.
Success is never guaranteed. It depends largely on your own, and your external, resources.
Don’t delay. It’s your time.
After all, if J. K. Rowling can do it from a standing start – why not you?
(2) ‘Business Matters’: “Why Self- Confidence is the Vital Ingredient of Great Leadership”
(3) The Guardian: “How to Set Up an Online Business”