Starting a business on a shoestring
Andrew Beck is proof you don’t need a fortune to start a profitable business, or even to be fully qualified in every aspect of the business you set-up. What you do need is passion.
When Beck started up Sustainable Garden Design Perth his previous jobs had been in education and marketing.
However, a family subdivision gave him a chance to unleash his creativity by designing native gardens and family spaces for the project. As it turned out, he was very good at it. That work led to other jobs, and before long he had built up a portfolio of garden design work and realised he was starting up a business. After asking a friend to take professional photos and his sister to build a modest website, his business was underway.
Beck’s portfolio caught the attention of architects and design media. Five years later, he’s transformed his company from a creative back-garden service to a contemporary landscaping design and construction business.
“To have a good business, it’s critical to have a clear goal, as well as the passion and determination to make that happen,” he says.
Here some tips from Beck – and from Common Cents – on how to start up a business, especially on a tight budget.
1. Find your niche
Have a clear idea of where your business is headed: what do you want to achieve? What’s already out there? Look for market gaps: what can you offer that is different to competitors? You need to respond to market realities without losing the reason you loved your business idea in the first place.
2. Identify your ideal customer
Paint a picture of your ideal customer. Start by listing all the different types of customers that have the problem you think you can solve.
When you understand your customer, you will know what you need to talk to them about and the best way to reach them. If you can genuinely meet their needs, they are more likely to become loyal, repeat customers.
3. Decide on your business name
Getting your business name right is important because it creates your first impression.
There are different ways to register: you can trade under your own name with an ABN, register a business name, or even register a company. All incur costs. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission site can help you work out which is the best option for you. And before you decide on your business name, double-check you can buy that name for your domain name, or website.
4. Work out a budget
How much money do you need to do things such as build a website or get a logo? Do you need business cards? Equipment? Do you need to hire premises? How about electricity and computer costs? A solid budget that includes cash flow projections will help you stay on top of where you are, where you are trying to go, and how much funding you might need to get there. It can be daunting, but there are quite a few online budget templates that you can use to help you get started.
Something to look into when you are budgeting is the host of fabulous tax breaks for small businesses. These could help you claim back costs for equipment your new business needs, making that shoestring just a bit longer.
5. Work out how to talk to your customers
Be clever with your initial marketing. While there might be many different ways to talk to your customers, don’t try to do it all at once and don’t spend more than you need to. Be strategic and creative about how to initially get in touch.
One thing that is a must, however, is a website that works on both laptops and mobiles (known as ‘responsive’). While a professional might charge between $1000 and $5000 to build a simple site, you can also do it yourself – there is a huge range of new generation, user-friendly DIY website services such as Wix, Squarespace and Weebly.
Building a social media site and linking it to your site is also free, but be careful to choose one that you think your customers might use. There is no point having a Twitter account for your business if your customers aren’t really on there.
Once the basics are down you can amp up the advertising and marketing as you grow. The trick is to try to test things out first – you want to make sure you are going to get bang for your buck.
You don’t need a lot of money when you are first setting up a business. What you do need is to understand what you are doing, why and how, and then to put the basics in place to do it right. From there, you are on your way. Good luck.