A lot of us in the creative workforce start our businesses by bootstrapping. Whether you want a side gig that pays for some fun “extras” or a full-fledged web design agency, you’ll probably do some bootstrapping right in the beginning.
The good news is that you’ve got innumerable options for growing your business without having to spend a ton of money. For every premium solution you need, there’s almost always a low-cost way to make it happen. Later, when your business has seen the growth you’re working so hard to achieve, you’ll be in a much better position to spend a little money on those services.
But how do you get to that point? Well, the bottom line is to do the work. While there are no silver bullets and no handouts in this world, there are some shortcuts you can take. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Give your website a refresher
I’m not talking about a redesign. It’s more like a dusting, or a spit-shine. Tired of your H2 font? Switch it out. Need to reorganize a few pages? Go for it. Are there some images you can update? How about a new color scheme?
Clear out any clutter on your site and get it streamlined. Tackling your website to-do list will leave you feeling energized and ready to face the new interest that’s coming your way. It’ll also signal the search engines that you’re still legit, which can only help you.
2. Guest post, strategically
When you’re clear on your target market, you can get clear on how to find them. Look for guest posting opportunities on blogs your audience would like to read. Drop something really remarkable and relevant for them, including a solid bio that reinforces your awesomeness and points them to your site. Bonus points for setting up a landing page with a free goodie they’ll want, so they’ll sign up for your email list!
3. Get some media attention
One quick, easy way to get some free marketing in is to get quoted in things like magazines and news articles. And the best way to do that is to get on HARO. It stands for Help A Reporter Out, and it’s where writers go when they need quotes and information on any topic. You join a mailing list for the topics you choose, a digest is sent at the frequency you choose, and you respond to any inquiries that interest you.
HARO is free to join, and when it works out, you get some free publicity. All it takes is the time to scan the digest when it hits your inbox and shoot out a response. You get credibility, visibility, and free traffic all at once, and it’s free to you.
4. Check in with past clients
Your past clients are a wealth of business-building gold. Check in with your past clients and ask them for referrals or for a review or testimonial. You never know, one of them may write back with a new project for you!
Checking in also sends the message that your clients aren’t just a paycheck to you. Instead, you establish a personal connection with them and you really care about them. The only thing it costs to send an email is a little bit of time, but the potential return can be terrific.
5. Consider freebies
While I don’t recommend you go around giving your services away for free all the time, there might be a strategic opportunity for you to do some unpaid work to build your audience. Offer one of your services (or a product or course, if you have them) in a giveaway to get some new eyeballs on your business.
Another “freebie” model worth considering is some sort of loyalty program for your current and past clients. Offer a 10% discount on a future project every time a client refers someone to you, or have a “punch card program” of sorts for repeat clients.
Whether it’s an in-person workshop or an online webinar, teaching is a great way to scale. You can use those opportunities to see what kinds of questions the attendees have, what their needs are, and how you can best serve them. You can also use teaching opportunities to test out new material for your own products and courses, if those are a part of your business. No matter what your endgame is, though, receiving direct feedback is invaluable for understanding how to serve your clients better in the future.
If there’s something you really need to do for your business to grow and you can’t afford to outsource it at the moment, look for someone who offers that service or solution and talk about bartering. Your skills are valuable, after all, and if you’ve got more time than money, bartering can be a great way to move up a rung without dipping into your income.
What’s your number one tool for building your business on a bootstrapper’s budget?