Free and cheap resources for business start-ups and entrepreneurs

May 20, 2019

Starting and running a business can be expensive, especially before you have a steady income stream. It can be easy to rack up expenses before you know it, but there are cheap - and even free - resources out there if you know where to look. I consider myself to be fairly resourceful, so I’m sharing some of my tips below.

You may not want to be carrying on all of these long-term, nor may you have the time or inclination once business builds up, but these can be great when you’re getting started.

 

Marketing

Whatever you’re selling, you’ll need to consider your marketing plan (i.e. what your product or service is, your target market etc.), but once you do, you can get going with these:

Reviews & recommendations – good reviews are always nice, but they’re especially important in the early days when you’re trying to build up a reputation. Actively collect these from customers and publicise these on your website, social media etc. There are generally places to collect and display them as part of your profile and you can also do additional posts to highlight and promote them.

Referrals – this is a great indirect benefit of networking and all those connections you’re building up on social media. I’ve found half of my clients in this way!

Newsletter – assuming you have permission to use people’s email addresses (check out the GDPR guidance on this), you could put together a simple newsletter to give your contacts a periodic update

Networking – see section below

Social media - see section below

 

Networking

For all its benefits, networking can be an expensive pastime, especially using some of the membership groups. Luckily there are a number of alternatives:

  • Free events - often hosted or sponsored by an organisation such as a bank or larger business. These are typically themed e.g. Facebook focus or for a specific audience e.g. local professionals. You may need to listen to some sponsored content, but this is a small price to pay for what could be a ‘free lunch’!
  • Free ticket – some events enable you to attend free for your first time to enable you to ‘try before you buy’. Others allow you to attend for a fee before you decide to sign up. Either option can give you a taste of what it would be like. If nothing else, you have the potential to walk away with a few new contacts or even a delegates list if you’re lucky.
  • Guest invite – some membership groups allow members to invite a guest – either free or for a small fee.
  • Substitute – similarly some membership groups require members to send a substitute when they cannot attend in person. You may have to ‘pitch’ for the absent member, but you also get an opportunity to pitch your own business.
  • For the options above, get to know members of different groups, or better still, the organisers!
  • Guest speaker – if you have a topic you’d be willing to speak on, this is another inroad to access diverse groups. In addition to getting free tickets for different events, it can be great publicity in the lead up and at the event itself!

No idea where to start? Check out Eventbrite in your local area or simply ask around any of your local business contacts. I am constantly amazed at how many networking events occur in my local area.

 

Online networking

There are also many special interest groups on social media platforms, forums e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Take the time to do a little research to see what’s available and what might be most valuable for you.

Some groups have rules e.g. no selling. Get acquainted with the rules of each group, so you can make them work for you…and not get inadvertently booted out!

You can even check out your connections on LinkedIn to see which groups they’re part of, which can be useful, whether they’re potential clients or competitors.

 

Training

This is the information era and there are simply masses of training opportunities out there, including in person and online. You can find these in the form of seminars, workshops, webinars, videos etc.

While some cost money, others charge a small fee or are even free. Try different things out and see what works for you. I guarantee you will always learn something, even if the content is not entirely original or innovative. Different people put different spins on a topic or it may serve to reinforce or remind existing knowledge.  Questions asked by other delegates can also be really useful! For the free ones, there’s often a sales patter at some point, but either leave before or tune out, if you’re not that interested. But, please be polite. Remember, we’re all just trying different ways to make a living.

 

Information

There is so much free content available everywhere these days. Whether in articles, blogs, videos, webinars or free downloadable e-gifts, it is available in abundance. The biggest problem may be sifting through and trying to be selective about what best serves your particular purpose. There is also ‘subscriber content’ which typically costs money, but can sometimes represent good value as you can get much more than the freely available stuff + additional support etc in the mix too.

 

Social media

Facebook

Facebook has in the region of 2.4 billion users! Given that some people have no access to computers or the internet then practically most of rest of the world is on it. This probably means your current or future customers are on it in some shape or form. People typically have a personal profile and link any of their business pages to this. Everything can be set up and used simply and for free! Get your Facebook friends to ‘like’ and ‘share’ to build support in the early days.

Facebook Boosts and Ads are fee paying, but can be used easily and fairly cheaply to give you a great opportunity to get your message out to your target audience. You can also use them to test what works and what doesn’t for you and your business.

LinkedIn

This is more traditionally used for your professional network than Facebook.  Again, set up your own profile and then populate this as a kind of dynamic online CV.

 

If you’re not sure about social media, there are loads of resources online to assist. There are also courses and workshops, from beginner to expert level.

Managing social media

You can manage your own social media for free. There is, of course, a time-cost associated with this and you’re not as clued up as the experts on what your customers (or more importantly the algorithms) are looking for.

You can also outsource your social media for a monthly fee. This can be a good investment for a month or two, even if simply how it’s done and learn from it. I tried this for a month but I personally wanted to be more involved in this, as I’m essentially selling me!

The bottom line is to ensure your profiles and your posts reflect the messages about you and your business that you want them too. And, be consistent in terms of frequency and content.

The Founder of The Business Ninja offers this service (shameless plug)

 

Connections

In today’s internet frenzied world, the number of people any of us are connected to has skyrocketed. I have some that I know online and in person. I also have real connections that I’m not connected to online and virtual connections that I’ve never met or spoken to.

Who do you know? Take the time to build up your connections steadily and organically. A useful piece of advice that sticks in my mind is “Don’t wait for the drought to build your well”.

I also learned the term ‘social capital’ recently, referring to the number (and probably quality) of connections you have. It really is “who you know”!

 

Leverage your network

In my experience, many people are happy for a chat. Take the time, listen attentively, understand their position, understand your position in relation to them, find common ground, see if you can work together in some way. They may also pitch at you – you are under no obligation, but be polite!

They may be able to point you towards some other people who can help:

  • Best contacts – let you know who can help (for free or on recommendation)
  • Offer value added info or service
  • Offer / accept to be a Guinea pig when someone is learning something new

 

 

Services

I know we don’t have to be geographically close to anyone now. However, it’s nice to be able to buy services from other local contacts to support the local economy e.g. I recently bought cards and flyers from a local printer and the personal experience I got was way better than the online websites.

There are also cheap online service sites e.g. fiver and freelancer, connecting those who provide services to those who want them. I have used these a couple of times and I love the way I can get something done quickly and cheaply – often overnight while I’m asleep. This obviously depends on knowing exactly what you want and being able to articulate in a clear and succinct manner.

 

Wrap-up

There are many amazing resources at our fingertips. The biggest risk is there is actually way too much to choose from, so sometimes you just need to be selective.

Always, go back to what you’re trying to achieve. Check out my article Work smarter, not harder.

Select resources because they support your goals, not just because they’re cheap or free!

 

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