Money needn't be the reason that now isn't the right time to start something of your own. Maybe you've an idea for a side business, something you're passionate about, or know a lot about, but the thing that's stopping you exploring the possibility of taking it further is the idea that you have to lay out a large amount of money to get it off the ground.
You can include the running costs of your business in your monthly household budget.
You can simply and inexpensively run a small business alongside your day job, slotting your monthly running costs into your household budget (with maybe one or two sacrifices to fund it, but hey, how committed are you?) and if you haven't invested a huge sum of money, there's less pressure on your side-project to start earning straight away.
This is the toolkit I currently use to run my business.
They're all you need to run either a product-based or service-based business, and you don't need anything else to be able to sell your wares, build your fan-base and share everything you know about your chosen field. You can augment your marketing with other methods - social media, online workshops, live talks etc. I can cover marketing in more detail in another post (Would that be useful to you? Let me know if you'd like me to write a piece on marketing by sending me a message here). Using these tools saves me not only money, but time, which one could argue is even more precious. I'm not the textbook entrepreneur with 100's of hours in the week to put into my business. I've got limited time and I need to be really efficient with it, and using these tools has helped me achieve that no end.
**I've recommended particular brands in this post not because I'm affiliated in any way, just because I use them and they work for me. I've offered alternative suggestions where I know of them, please feel free to send me your suggestions too!**
Website & Hosting - Squarespace - just under $30
I would argue that these days a website is almost essential. It's the equivalent of a business card, where even just one page is enough to state your presence and give people a way to find you. I use Squarespace because I found it super-simple to build my own site (using their 'drag & drop' templates), I find their customer service and online support community is awesome if I need help figuring something out, and they have excellent integration with email capture services and e-commerce, making it a really streamlined process to build my business and sell my products. My blog posts, for example, are written and published in Squarespace, and get sent automatically to my email list, which is held in Mailchimp. I can also sell products direct from my website and receive online payments. You can design your website on another platform, like Wordpress, and have it hosted elsewhere. Squarespace do the site and hosting as a package.
Cloud Storage - Dropbox - $10
Dropbox acts as an online backup service, as it holds all the files I save there online as well as on my computer (I just work straight from my Dropbox folders for ease). It's also super -easy to share documents, files and folders with other people, even if they don't have a Dropbox account, which is ideal for me as it's a great way to send clients worksheets and view their completed work as soon as they upload it to our shared folder. Google Drive does the same thing, it really just comes down to preference.
Email Marketing & Automation - Mailchimp - Free / $10
Even if you're not selling anything to begin with, you need to be capturing the email addresses of people who are interested in what you have to say. If you're going to write a regular blog for example, people might want to get it sent straight to their inbox. And if you have exciting news as you develop your side-project, your email list is your ready-made audience. I've put the prices as free and also $10, because you can get different levels of service depending on how many subscribers you have on your list. Mailchimp is free up to 2000, and all the functions available on the free service will enable you to capture email automatically via signup forms on your website, send email campaigns to your list, and automatically feed new blog posts from your website via RSS to anyone who's signed up to get them. Other email capture services include Drip, Tiny Letter and Active Campaign (although these may not be free).
Appointments and payments - Acuity - $10
Acuity is especially useful if you're running a service-based business, like I am. Spending time going back and forth to try to sort out either of your availability for appointments can eat into your working hours. This houses your schdeule online, synced with your usual calendar, and gives your availablility automatically. Clients book direct, they can only book when you're free, and they get to see straight away when there's a time that suits them. I'm not aware of the alternatives for this one.
Online payments - PAYG
If you want to be paid via online, you need to have an account with either Stripe or Paypal, or both. Again it's down to preference or ease on this one, as their costs are not far off the same as each other. You don't pay for the service, they just deduct a percentage from each transaction that they handle.
There you have it for the basics. Of course you can start adding other useful paid apps once your revenue picks up and your side-project starts paying for itself, but in the beginning you don't need anything other than these simple tools to launch your small business or blog and easily and simply run it for a very minimal monthly cost, with no huge initial outlay.
So forget the misconception that starting a small business needs big investment. You just need your ideas, a platform on which to share them, and the tools to start building an audience who wants to hear them. Everything else will build in time, if it's meant to. But nothing will get built if you don't start laying the bricks of your foundations.
One less reason not to begin.