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Are you rolling your eyes yet? I am. Sure there are a whole host of online businesses you can start with very little capital, especially if, like me, you’re a sole trader working from home.
What these clickbait headlines fail to mention, though, is that to actually GROW your online business, you’re going to have to put your hand in your pocket and invest in your startup.
Building a business on a budget.
I’m writing this in December and, despite my desire to down tools and launch myself into a vat of mulled wine, my mind keeps wandering into the New Year and my plans for 2018. My business has enjoyed fantastic growth this year and I know that if I want this trend to continue, I will need to keep investing. But, like you, I’m working with a budget. Not a penny will be spent without some serious thought and consideration of the potential for a decent ROI.
If you’ve decided to invest in yourself and your business this year, here are my top tips for the most effective way to spend your hard-earned pennies.
Without a doubt, the most important thing I’ve invested in this year has been networking. Coming back to my business, after a year spent taking care of my family, I didn’t have a huge budget to work with so I concentrated on free, local networking events. The result of my year of networking was a lot of new contacts, a handful of new clients and even a few new friends — well worth the cost of a couple of new ‘work’ outfits and a few bus fares.
I’ve had such success with networking that I’ve decided it’s worth spending a bit more on it in 2018. I’ve recently joined Scottish Women in Business and I can’t wait to get along to my first event.
If you’re in the Glasgow area, it’s also worth checking out The Wonder Women Club (See the Facebook page for event dates). Events cost very little and the group is so friendly and supportive it’s well worth the small investment. There is no better way of growing your business than just getting out there and meeting people.
Another of my top investments this year was a professional logo. If you’ve ever been to a networking event, you’ll appreciate the power of a strong logo and a well-designed business card. And a logo is something that you’ll use constantly; your website, your contracts, invoices, your social media profile will all look a million times more impressive if you have a professional brand design to show off.
My logo was designed by Fiona at Fiona Robertson Graphics and I’ll definitely call on her again in 2018 to help me with newsletter templates and a few other bits and bobs. Fiona’s prices are very reasonable and worth every penny but if professional design isn’t in your budget right now, and you’re designing your own logo, I’d recommend you invest in her Pick My Brain service. For a small fee you can book a Skype call with Fiona and she’ll give you solid advice on how to improve your design for maximum impact.
Membership of professional bodies.
For me, this includes the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Membership isn’t cheap but nor is it extortionate and I believe it has been worth every penny. I reckon that investing in professional membership lends your business credibility — we all expect the freelancers we use to adhere to professional standards, right? And, while my membership hasn’t yet led to any new clients, I have enjoyed getting to know other society members and I’ve profited from money off the society’s training courses.
It’s well worth checking out your own industry’s professional body and looking into the benefits they offer. Remember that a great return on investment doesn’t always translate to financial profit! Access to training, fellow professionals, and insider industry info can be worth its weight in gold.
And talking of training, education is another area in which I strongly recommend you invest a little money. If you’re really struggling financially, you can pick up a few bargains on Amazon, particularly if you don’t mind buying used books. I’ve found a few gems this year and, while investing in my professional development doesn’t directly bring in the cash, I know my obsessive reading has massively improved the quality of my work, which all goes towards gaining more word-of-mouth referrals. Definitely worth the investment.
(This year, I’ve particularly enjoyed Mark Schaefer’s Known and recommend it to anyone interested in content marketing and building a brand.)
If you have a little more to spend, attending a business training day or signing up for an online course can work wonders. For example, if you’re in the early stages of business, a business growth workshop could be a great investment. *Shameless plug alert!* If you’re in Glasgow or Edinburgh, have a wee look at this business boot camp I’ll be presenting in February. Along with three other experts, I’ll be sharing all sorts of start-up secrets that will help your business explode in 2018. Between us we’ll cover the ins and outs of social media and blogging, how to write amazing website copy, the secrets of sales funnels, and developing a business growth mindset. Obviously I’m biased, but I reckon it’ll be well worth the investment and I’m looking forward to meeting loads of fabulous business owners.
This would be an appropriate place for a second shameless plug; however, it’s possible that you can get through the first year without investing in professional copywriting. There’s no denying that great copywriting is invaluable and, at some point, it’s definitely worthwhile investing in a professional writer (well, I would say that). However, if you’re stony broke, it might just not be feasible. And that’s okay! There are loads of great online resources that can help you improve your own copywriting efforts. One thing that is worth investing in, though, is a professional editing or proofreading service. There’s nothing worse than reading through a business website only to find typos, stray apostrophes and dodgy grammar. It screams unprofessional and could alienate a large part of your target audience. Editing services cost less than writing from scratch so it can be a great compromise when you’re trying to stick to your startup budget.
Okay, ignore everything I’ve just said — I’ve been sat here writing for about 3 hours now and I’ve just realised that the best investment I’ve made this year has been my super-duper comfy spinning chair. When you spend as much time at a desk as I do, you need to be comfortable so buying equipment that will help you avoid RSI or back pain is sooooo important. So whether it’s a standing desk, a fabulous chair, or an ergonomic keyboard; treat yourself. You’re worth the investment!
Over to you…
Are you planning to invest in your business in 2018? What are your top tips for the purchases that will help your business grow?