How to Run and Grow Your Business on a Bootstrap Budget

Thanks to the growth of the online marketplace, anyone and everyone can become an entrepreneur without spending so much as a dime. With online marketing, social media and free management software, there has never been a better time to launch your startup on the cheap, but can a business ever achieve success without investment?

The reality is that businesses demand resources, so even the smallest startups will incur costs. The key is to know which areas of your business you can scrimp on, and where you should spend a little more to ensure steady growth.

If you’re grappling with a big idea and a small budget, then don’t despair. Instead of getting deeper into debt or shutting your concept down completely, read these low-cost strategies for running and growing your business on a bootstrap budget.

Embrace Online Marketing

Online marketing is essential to small businesses as it provides an economical way to communicate with customers, promote products and increase recognition. Creating a website and uploading the odd social media post won’t generate much custom, however. You need to embrace the more technical aspects of online marketing and maintain your presence consistently to reap the many rewards the Internet has to offer. There are several types of online marketing to consider, including:

  • Email Marketing

Email marketing is a free way to connect with customers through newsletters, freebies and discounts, so growing your subscriber list is the first step to take. Enable a prompt on your website offering customers a one-off deal or freebie for signing up, and advertise this promotion on all your social media channels.

If you run an e-commerce business, give online shoppers an exclusive discount. If you’re a local business, advertise your services in the area and encourage people to sign up to your mailing list with coupons. Email marketing won’t make you money overnight: you will need to spend time growing your audience and driving traffic to your website, but the results will be worth it in the end.

  • Social Media

Social media is essentially a free marketing tool for businesses, so you’d be foolish not to utilize it. Think about your target audience and what platforms they are likely to be using. If you’re selling business services, platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook are a great place to advertise, whereas Instagram is more likely to attract students and young people. You will need to do a bit of research to make your posts visible, but once you’ve mastered the knack and built an online presence, you will be glad you acquired those skills.

  • Search Engine Optimization

Understanding fundamental SEO (search engine optimization) could make or break your business, particularly if you operate solely online. If you run a website or blog, but you don’t know how to make it visible on search engines, no one will know it’s even there. Take a course in SEO (many of the online courses are free!) and learn how to use keywords, link building and sitemap optimization to grow your online presence.

Other free ways to market your business include asking previous clients to provide testimonials for your marketing materials, connecting with startups offering free business cards or brochures and simply getting out onto the streets to communicate with people.

Outsource Your Accounting and Payroll

It may sound backwards to pay for someone to take care of your accounts, but the time you will save on business hours will feed money back into the business. One of the biggest mistakes a new entrepreneur can make is to try and do everything himself. It is much better to outsource smartly, so you don’t run yourself, and your business, into the ground.

By hiring an accountant, you can rest assured that your tax returns are in line and that your invoices are paid, which will save you a great deal of stress and money in the long term. Compare prices of freelancers by using a reputable business buyer guide like

Consider Your Location

Where you choose to run your business will have a direct impact on your profit. This works two ways, as although office space may be cheaper in smaller cities or less populated areas, you’re unlikely to generate much high-paying custom. Get around this issue by operating online and using your home as a workspace until you can afford to upgrade your premises, and hire employees remotely. You don’t need a corner office to make waves in business, and most successful businessmen and women didn’t start out that way.

Look After Your Employees

There’s no getting around it: hiring and training talented employees will cost you money, but this is one area that you can’t afford to skimp on. Great employees are the backbone of any business, so you want to find a team that will work hard for you and treat them well. Pay your employers fairly for their work, provide benefits such as holiday pay and bonuses, and they are more likely to stick with you.

Having to replace existing team members will cost you money, and poor staff retention will reflect badly on your business, so don’t underestimate the importance of good people management. Look after your employees, and they will look after your customers. In turn, your business will profit.

When you’re just starting out, you may not be able to afford staff, but you will hopefully get to a point where you need to share your workload. In the beginning, you could hire interns to work for free, but be wary of relying on this strategy for too long; if you want a good reputation, then you should at least pay them minimum wage. Most graduates intern for a while to build their resumes, not to serve your business, so don’t view them as free labor. Provide valuable feedback and testimonials and make sure they leave with a positive view of you and your business.


You don’t need investment to get your business off the ground, but you do need to be smart about where and how you spend your money. Don’t be afraid to outsource specific tasks, and make sure you look after your staff. In the end, you will get what you put into your business, but pouring money into an idea does not guarantee success: hard work, dedication and education are more likely to achieve growth and success, whatever the size of your budget.

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