By Angela Bickford
Originally guest posted on Market Mommy
Running a business isn’t easy. Whether you’re running it while holding a full-time job, raising kids, or both, maintaining a business has its ups and downs. How do you start? Where do you get the money from? Will you have a partner? These are all questions we ask ourselves when we decide to be our own boss. Here’s the story of how my business, always B designs, started, and how I maintain it for next to nothing.
A tax refund. Yes, a tax refund. $1000, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a lot. When I told my husband I wanted to start a business, he didn’t have a problem with it, but he wasn’t willing to go into debt and wanted me to find a way to make it work without it breaking our bank or taking out a loan. So, when we got our check from Uncle Sam, I used that to get the bare essentials: supplies to make my first products, and said a prayer.
For awhile, it was money out, money in, make ends meet paycheck to paycheck. I barely had enough to pay my monthly website fee, and sometimes I had to borrow money from our personal account long enough for the check from the customer to come in. It wasn’t easy to get customers without having invested in advertising. I had to come up with some creative ways to market my business without breaking the bank. So I read a ton of books, asked friends who were wiser than me, and learned the following tricks:
Social Media Rules: I can’t emphasize this enough. You MUST use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other tools to get your name out there. Don’t just set them up and post once a week. Consistency is key and your customers will come to appreciate your ‘real’ self. Respond to them, engage, post daily, tweet several times a day. I have gained many friends, fans, and customers from just this simple act, and it cost nothing. If you need help with this, connect with me.
Bartering is Alive and Well: I don’t pay for over $100 per advertisement, no matter what (well, maybe with a few exceptions, but it has to be for a good cause). I have advertised in magazines for $200+ and had no return on investment. But, I’ve also advertised on mom sites for $25 and had inquiries from customers. I’ve traded blog posts, done guest posts and had people tweet about me, and have connected with many potential customers for no cost at all. Just ask. Watch for those people out there that are willing to invest in you and your business and figure out a way that you can help each other. It works.
Honesty is Still the Golden Rule: I make it a point to be honest with myself. I have to know my limits, my strengths, and my customers. So do you. Take time to explore this so you can run a business that others will trust – no amount of money can buy honesty.
Be Patient: If you choose to run your business without paying for advertising, you will get frustrated. You’ll get impatient. Don’t. The best marketing happens through word-of-mouth. It happens with trust, and it happens at little or no cost. But, it takes time.
So, how will you choose to run your business? This is just one way, and it won’t work for everyone – but, try it, you never know!