How can you get started with a business or making money if you have literally no money to put towards it?
Ideally, when starting a business you’d register your business name, trademark and get everything set up from the start perfectly. This is not always the case. For a while, I ran a business as a homeless single mother. I’ll share my tips to run everything on a shoestring but make sure you get professional advice as needed. For ideas on ways to make money from home, check out this post.
The tips below are a way to get started if you have no options but if you do have a little money, I’d recommend starting differently. Getting good legal and accounting advice for tax purposes when you can afford it and making sure everything is set up properly is important. As you make money from the business, make sure you allocate some of it for tax and investing in your business.
The tips are not in an exact order, you don’t need to do them all, but they can help. All up, it is under $100 to get started here. For ways to make money to help you kick it off, check out this post.
1.) Get a separate account – Free
You will need a business name and paperwork to get a business account. If you are starting out and unsure about whether you will turn it into a full business or don’t have the money to register a business name, you can start with an ING account and get $100 for signing up with the code CNW116, which means you now have $100 to use for your business too!
You need to be over 18, a new customer and have $1,000 deposited into that account in a calendar month. Then you need to open a Savings Maximiser and use your Orange Everyday card 5 times to get the bonus by February 28th, 2018. You can find out more about it here. It’s not an immediate process, it can help though.
What I did was join, had a Centrelink payment go into it to be the $1,000 deposited in the month, then moved Centrelink back to my old account and kept everything in this account separate. I set up the Savings Maximiser to put aside cash for tax purposes. I got the bonus and was able to use it for my business (this is a few years ago).
Keeping your banking separate is important because you want to be able to easily track your income and expenses to ensure your tax is done easily.
Once you are properly set up, get a business account and proper accounting software (such as Xero which you can try for free).
2.) Sort out the business name – Free if your own name otherwise $32+
Depending on the type of business you have, you may need to register a business name. This can cost $35 for 1 year or $82 for 3 years and you do it through ASIC here. It is relatively simple to do. Before you register, check the domain and social media handles you will want for it to make sure they are available and check trademarks to ensure you are not infringing on any.
If you are doing services and trading under your own name (for example if you are a freelance writer, coach, personal trainer or any other business and trading only as Sally Smith, you can skip this part. However, you cannot be Sally Smith Training without registering).
3.) Get an ABN – Free
This is FREE. Do not pay to get one. Head to the ABR website to find out more.
4.) Get self-hosted – From $3.95 per month
Having your own website makes you a more legitimate business. Personally, I have my sites hosted with SiteGround and have found their customer service to be superior. I have used BlueHost, HostGator and a few Aussie options but SiteGround has been the best. The cheaper monthly options are for if you pay for a 1 to 10 years upfront. When starting out, you can opt for a pay by the month deal which is around $9.95 a month (or less in sale times). This way your outlay is only $9.95 while you set up.
I have some of my domain names with Crazy Domains and others with SiteGround. I prefer to keep the domain name and hosting separate for security and other reasons. Domain names are around $12 to $25 for .com.au or under $5 for many .com domains, although some hosting packages have one free.
With a domain name at Crazy Domains you will need to log in and change your DNS so the domain name is pointed to SiteGround and will show properly. To do this, SiteGround will have sent you an email with the DNS you need or you can log into your SiteGround account. Click on “My Account” then click on “information & settings” and the DNS will be there.
Next head over to CrazyDomains, log in, click on your domain name and scroll down to the Name Servers. Click to modify and change them to the ones from SiteGround.
If you have any issues, use support in SiteGround and they will talk you through it.
With your hosting you will get an email address so you can have [email protected] which is more professional than outlook or Gmail.
Next, I use WordPress which is free. It is one click installation with SiteGround and they can walk you through it. Then you choose a free theme (or purchase a premium one if you want), add plugins to make the site better (I recommend Yoast for SEO, WordPress editorial calendar, share to any and WP Total Cache as a base, all of which have free options). If you want to sell things, you can set up WooCommerce. If you want clients to book, acuity scheduling makes this easy.
5.) Set up social media and email marketing – Free
Now you have your site, secure the social media handles you want. I generally recommend focusing on one or two platforms when you start as it can be a lot to manage, but you can get all the names. Facebook and Instagram tend to be the ones relevant to most audiences.
Choose someone to do your email marketing through. MailChimp starts out free. As you grow you might want to move to a different platform with more options to streamline the whole process. Get it set up then make it easy to sign up to your list on your site. Have a thank you email welcoming new subscribers, take time to learn how to use it properly then plan emails to send out with good content, exclusive deals and other things people will want.
6.) Use free wifi
When I was setting up, I couldn’t afford the internet at times so I used free wifi at the library, Maccas, local shops etc. Aside from cafes or Maccas, I could sit there and not feel guilty as I worked. Some shopping centres only gave 30 minutes of free wifi before I had to reconnect, but it was my only option. Libraries were by far my favourite option.
If you need portable wifi, I have found OVO to be the cheapest and most reliable plus it can be prepaid.
7.) Get insurance – $20+
I see too many businesses skip this step and while I personally have never needed to use my business insurance, it is an essential step. How much it costs varies depending on your location, if you need to include premises and a car, how much you earn etc. I did a few scenarios with services many mums can do from home such as photography, graphic design, freelance writing or virtual assistance work and they were all around $25 per month, pay by the month, with cheaper options if you paid in full for the year. Start with pay by the month if you need, but make sure you get it.
Choose an accounting option for your business. I like Xero, which you can try free for a month with this link. It is the most comprehensive. Other good options include QuickBooks or FreshBooks (both of which you can try for free with those links).
Come tax time, Xero will be your best friend if set up properly and free accounting programs I have tried were more expensive at tax time (paying someone to sort it out). Remember, business expenses are tax deductible, so use the right tools.
Getting set up is one thing, but getting your name out there, getting clients or sales it the next part and it can be daunting. A proper marketing strategy is not cheap but definitely worth it. To get you started, here are a few free things you can do plus free tools.
Canva is a free way to make images for your site, social media and anything else you need. You can get free images from Unsplash to use for whatever you need and they are better than your regular stock photo websites. Hootsuite has a free option to help you schedule content to multiple social media platforms, otherwise, you can schedule straight on Facebook and other social platforms.
Facebook can be your best marketing option for most businesses if done right.
Update your personal profile
Go to your personal profile, click to edit your profile. In this section add featured photos which relate to your new business, add your work (which means you can link to your Facebook page) and write a bit about it. Have this set to public so anyone who sees you on Facebook or views your profile will see this. It is extremely important if you are engaging in Facebook groups (which you should do!)
Join Facebook groups and get active
My favourite Facebook groups for this are Mums With Hustle, LMBDW, Freelance Jungle and a few specific to my niche. Check the rules for when you can post, but more importantly, get in there, answer questions, ask questions and help each other. You do not need to be promoting yourself heavily. Instead, get known for providing valuable information and you will get the business.
On your Facebook Page
Invite friends and family to like your page. Not all your friends and family will accept the invite and not all will engage, but it can help get some numbers at the beginning.
Set up the page to have a cover photo, complete all the sections such as the About section and website, then start posting. Be aware only around 1% to 3% of your audience is likely to see the posts. Do not make your page all about you or sales you have. Instead ask questions, share relevant images, memes, videos and content which will be engaging, relevant and interesting. If you wouldn’t stop scrolling your newsfeed to look at whatever you are about to post, then others won’t either. Share content from other pages (using the share feature, not copying without credit!) and get involved in the Facebook community. Check out this post on Canva for Facebook page tips.
Set up Pixels
Go to Facebook ads manager and get into the Pixels section. Install Pixels on your site so Facebook can track the visitors. This will be crucial for when you start doing paid ads on Facebook. Facebook steps you through it easily.
In case you haven’t noticed, I love blogging! I could write numerous articles on this alone. For this post, I’ll keep it short with a few tips.
Firstly, check how user-friendly your site is through a service such as Peek. Or ask friends and family to review it. If you can add a blog to your site and commit to providing useful articles regularly (even once a week or fortnight is good) then it can help drive traffic. When doing this, create Pinterest images, as in images with the heading of the article on it, which are pretty and people can pin from your site to Pinterest.
Add Google analytics to your website so you can see everything about everyone who visits your site and look for patterns or what needs to be changed.
A few of the articles and resources I have found useful for blogging are:
Day One Advice: 78 successful bloggers reveal what advice they wish they knew which has some great friends of mine in it who have sold their sites for over a million dollars.
Problogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging is a great book to help you get started. If you are already blogging I found 31 Days To Build A Better Blog by Problogger extremely valuable with easy to implement advice, lots of resources, links and a forum/community too.
General marketing and PR
Know who your target audience is. Get specific about age, gender, location, interests etc. This will help when you go to target on Facebook and other areas. It will save money because targeting a specific audience gets better results.
Sign up to SourceBottle and respond to callouts. I have been featured in various magazines and articles online this way. It is great, free exposure.
Post regularly on social media. Think about the content your audience would find helpful, relevant and interesting. Ask them questions in each post to give them something to engage with and respond to with a comment. Respond to everything as well when others comment on your social platforms.
Use the free training on each platform. All social media platforms have guides on how to use them. Search online for more information and teach yourself everything you can.
Go for it!
I know this might seem overwhelming, but you’ve got this! Do it one step at a time and you will get there.
When it comes to finances, you can set up for under $100, but you will need to have the money each month to continue to pay for things you need such as accounting. Always keep your business finances separate to your personal. Keep a record of all your expenses so you can claim them later (get an accountant to do your tax) and reinvest the money in your business, especially at the beginning so you can continue to grow.