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Bootstrapped? Nice idea: If you can afford boots
by Startacus Admin
Guest Writer Dominic Tarn, suggest starting a business with no money is an option, if you let the words do the talking...
I have no money. Well, almost no money. A fact I am rapidly in the process of changing. That's fine, given I was a student for longer than expected (long story, which involved Canada and a girl - doesn't every long story involve romance of some kind?), but whilst still a student I had started to get tired of window shopping as I worked my ass off on the side in order to escape a corporate customer service sweat shop job. So I quit. Just stone cold quit. It was a Thursday. My last shift was that Saturday. I felt as light as a air when I finally bounded down the stairs of that soulless back office of a major international bank. I had finally quit! Then came the problem of still needing money.
Luckily I landed another job in a matter of days. Which I also quit, in record time: four days. It was advertised and sold to me on a false pretense. I landed another, which would of been perfect for me, except for the low pay. So like Mickey Haller, the principal law wielding hustler in The Lincoln Lawyer, I went chasing after Mr Green. Money! And found him. I was finally writing for a living, which is what I am still doing. But it wasn't the happy ending I was looking for. I was getting paid doing what I enjoy, but for the wrong sort of client.
This is because business, at the end of the day, is about people. It is about giving people what they want and getting what you need in return. This was taking place, but the cost to my personal satisfaction was one I wasn't prepared to shoulder much longer. Not after two years in a corporate sweat shop. The irony of the situation is that whilst I was busy shopping around for a new client they went and lost the one which they relied on, so I was once again out on my ass.
Facing unemployment to the right of me, the corporate sweatshop to the left of me, I fired off a random email to a startup CEO I had met a few times before, just to see what would happen. Did he want a content marketing strategy? His answer: "Yes."
To use the language of startups, I had pivoted, from what I was doing for one client, to make it so I could provide a similar service to a range of them. Thereby reducing my downside risk: never again being reliant on a single source for my income. Also, never backing myself into a wall so I end up working for a client I don't personally believe in, and want to work for. Adopting these principals early saves a lot of trouble later on.
There is a lot more I could go into: legal, taxes, time management, business development, marketing, and understanding your client base. For me most of this comes easy, now. After years of learning, trying and failing, and perfecting the core skills which pay the bills. My main tools: Wordpress and Gmail. That's it. Total cost to myself: zero. And I am winning new clients, and keeping existing ones happy on a daily basis. I would argue that this simple process of winning and maintaining good client relations is the key to bootstrapping. Without revenue you don't have a business. Whether you're a creative professional or an innovative new web product. Unless you have investors, or revenue, you have nothing. But ultimately money from investors runs out. Incomes is the only way to buy a pair of boots, and the bootstraps to go with them.
Dominic Tarn - Is a Copywriter, Content Marketing, PR & Strategy professional for startups, and is currently writing a book on startups, due to be released April 2013: The New Goldrush.