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5 ways to bootstrap your online startup

Posted by Sam Golden on 5th June 2013

Starting an online company is easy. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can register a business, get a massive loan, call themselves a CEO and swan around in a suit smoking cigars.

“Who does this chump think he is?” I hear you cry, and if so, you’re missing the point. You see, founding an online startup IS easy, it’s starting a successful business and actually making some money that’s the hard thing. Starting a successful business is a whole different beast, you need a great idea, solid plan, market research, financial backing, a talented team and bags and bags of energy, drive and tenacity.

However, one thing that has stood out to me over the last few years is that the expression “you’ve got to spend money to make money” is only half as relevant now as it was twenty years ago. In fact, even then it was probably already a lot less relevant than when Plautus first wrote it over 2000 years ago. We have a wealth of cost-effective and sometimes completely free resources at our fingertips.

Here at EML Wildfire, we deal with tech startups on a daily basis. I advise companies on everything from social marketing to international press tours, and although I might not have my own business yet, my time in tech PR positions me well to offer some strategic advice to anyone planning to take the plunge.

Here’s my 5 tips on how to bootstrap your startup and hit the ground running…

#1 – Get your head in the clouds

This may be obvious now but getting into the cloud can be the first step to having an agile and efficient business. Hosting documents in the cloud using sites like Google Drive or Dropbox means you and your employees can work from anywhere and, in some cases, collaborate online with each other. It also means you’ll never forget that presentation or lose that contract again. Worried about security? Well there are even sites like MEGA offering specialist user controlled encryption for anything you host on their site.

#2 – Access global talent

Online employment platforms, like Elance, give businesses from around the world the ability to find the perfect people for the job on a freelance basis. Whether that’s an Australian accountant to do your books or a Canadian lawyer to write your contracts, you can find anyone online. Talent from around the world can now be accessed at the touch of a button meaning you can focus on what you do best and outsource the rest.

#3 – Share space 

With the emergence of more collaborative workspaces such as Club Workspace and Campus, it’s easier than ever to find an affordable desk, grab a decent coffee and get down to business. Not only is hotdesking and sharing space a money saver, it also allows you to meet new people every day. This is not only a great way to stave off monotony, but it also gives you the chance to form partnerships and find talent in a way the traditional office environment doesn’t.

#4 – Shout about what you believe in

If you genuinely believe your business is something that people need to hear about then don’t be afraid to talk about it. If you think there are better ways to do things then don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. It should be obvious by now but for many businesses (not all) Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms can be a great way to get your message out there for free.

Using microblogging platforms like Twitter can often also be a good way to reach your influencers directly. Just as LinkedIn allows you to connect with current business partners and stakeholders, Twitter can be a good way to get in touch with journalists or analysts that you have identified as key contacts for your business.

#5 – Scour the web and negotiate everything

Hailing back to the old school even in the 21st century, negotiation is key. In fact in the age of the Internet there are more service suppliers available to you than ever, and all of them will be jostling for your attention. Take advantage of this by negotiating for the best price, the fairest price. Use the web to do your research and explore all the possibilities out there. But remember, the lowest price isn’t always going to be the best.

Weigh up your investments and make sure you’re paying for quality where quality counts. Examples of this include hiring specialist staff, sponsoring industry events and (shameless plug) finding the best tech PR agency.

Photo courtesy of x-ray Delta one.

Sam Golden