SEPTEMBER 27, 2021

How to Start a Small Business on a Budget: 10 Easy Tips

How to Start a Small Business on a Budget: 10 Easy Tips

Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

So, you want to start a small business without breaking the bank. 

Well, the good news is that it’s absolutely possible to start a small business on a tight budget. 

To help create a successful, profitable business with as little money as possible, follow these 10 simple tips: 

  1. Shop second hand and make things last.
  2. Participate in swap events and buy nothing groups. 
  3. Outsource the things you’re not good at or that you really don’t enjoy. 
  4. Form a network with other local freelancers and small businesses.
  5. Use free software. 
  6. Get your branding right the first time. 
  7. Invest in a brand strategy and digital marketing strategy early on. 
  8. Leverage free forms of marketing.
  9. Ask to be featured on other sites and social media accounts. 
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’!

For more detailed information about each item, including additional tips, tricks, and information to save you money, keep reading.

Illustration of a person holding a chart showing an initial cash investment growing substantially.

1. Shop second hand and make things last.

You’d be amazed at what you can find secondhand: 

  • Computers and smartphones can be purchased secondhand or refurbished through most major suppliers, such as Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, and in local stores. Or, if you are a student or belong to a low-income household, you may also qualify for programs like RCT.
  • Computer monitors, shredders, scanners, printers, and other electronics can all be found in secondhand shops like Value Village and can be sourced through other platforms like Marketplace and Kijiji. All of our office equipment was purchased secondhand (except for one printer, which was purchased new 7 years ago!).
  • Office furniture, like desks and computer chairs, can be sourced easily through Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and this article from BlogTO lists other reputable sources of second hand office furniture. 
  • Stationery and writing supplies can also be sourced easily from shops like Value Village.
  • Work-appropriate clothing can be sourced easily from the many thrift and vintage stores across the GTA. For a great starting point, check out this article from BlogTO, which lists 10 of the best thrift stores in the GTA.

Whatever it is you need, there’s a good chance you can find a previously-loved version out there. Just remember that Google is your friend, and don’t be afraid to search for phrases like “where to get _____ [your desired item] second hand in _______ [your city].”

And, of course, be sure to treat your items with care and respect. By properly caring for your business’ assets, you’ll make them last longer and save yourself the costs associated with repair or replacement. 

For example, be sure to keep your electronics free of dust and debris, oil your shredder regularly, and follow the care instructions for any industry-specific tools or equipment you use.

2. Participate in swap events and buy nothing groups.

Swap events (where you can trade pre-loved items you’re no longer in need of for items that would be useful to you) and buy nothing groups (where people gift items they are no longer in need of to interested parties) have become quite popular in recent years. 

Both types of groups or events can be excellent resources for obtaining work-appropriate (regardless of your industry or dress code) clothing and accessories, home and office decor, furniture, stationery, electronics, and other resources. 

By supporting local and sharing-based economies, you’re also contributing something positive to your local community and consuming in a more sustainable and responsible way.

So, where can you find these groups? 

Swap events: 

  • This directory lists local flea markets but also features large-scale swap meets. It is an American site, but it also features Canadian listings. 
  • Evergreen also hosts periodic “swap mall” events.
  • New Circles Community Services runs a clothing bank designed to help those in need and also hosts swap events. 
  • Circular Toronto also hosts swap events.
  • Bunz Trading Zone and similar Facebook groups allow you to trade unwanted or pre-loved items with fellow Facebook users.  

Buy Nothing Groups: 

While swap events are, technically speaking, a type of buy nothing group or event, there are options for folks who are looking to receive items they are in need of without having to trade anything.

  • This article from BlogTO explains a bit more about how Buy Nothing groups work in Toronto. 
  • The Buy Nothing Project’s website allows you to learn more about their mission and locate local groups. 
  • Trading Zone groups will sometimes feature items that are to be gifted (i.e., you don’t need to trade something in exchange for the item), so keep an eye out for these posts. 
  • You can usually post to buy nothing groups to let your community members know if you are in need of something. 

3. Outsource the things you're not good at or that you really don't enjoy.

It may sound counterintuitive, but using your budget to outsource tedious, frustrating, and important tasks you may not excel at will save you time, help your business run more efficiently, and help attract more customers. This will help you earn more money faster. 

How?

  • Trying to handle all aspects of your business on your own can lead to you feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and burnt out. This can lead to you working less efficiently, cutting corners, or giving up on your business. 
  • It can also impact the quality of your work and the customer service experience you provide to your clients.  Not only will you have a hard time building a business if you’re providing substandard services, but you may also find yourself having to clean up messes, offering discounts to compensate for issues with the work performed, or losing customers.
  • You are more likely to attract new customers if your business is being run well on all fronts. Let’s say you’re just not a social media or design person. If you try to handle your social media accounts on your own, will you be able to attract new customers? Let’s say you spend an hour each day on your social media content. Would your business be able to flourish better if you paid someone else to do that hour of work a day and instead spent an extra hour doing what you’re best at? Likely so. 

So, make a list of what aspects of running your business you love most and which ones you do most efficiently. Then, look for overlap between the lists. Wherever you find overlap, those are the tasks you should handle yourself for now. 

For the other items on the list, try to outsource as much as you can, especially if there are items with a negative overlap (i.e., where you both aren’t good at the task and you dislike doing it). 

In short, investing a bit of money in outsourcing work now is likely to get your business off the ground sooner, preserve your sanity, and set you up for long-term success. 

If you’re in need of branding, web design, copywriting, content creation, editing and proofreading, or digital strategy services, you can get in touch with us here for a free, no obligation consultation.

4. Form a network with other local freelancers and small businesses.

Scrap the “everyone’s my competition” mindset and instead think of the local economy as a community — a community you want to be part of. 

By joining a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, you’ll be able to learn, grow, and support one another. Corny as it may sound, we’re always stronger together

Plus, isn’t it a great feeling to know that others around you are rooting for your success? We all need cheerleaders sometimes!

Here are some ways to network and bond with your local community of small businesses:

  • Follow local freelancers and small businesses on social media. Not only will you be showing them your genuine support (and potentially receiving their genuine support in exchange), but you may also be able to learn a bit about effective social media habits and how to engage with your local community.
  • Subscribe to newsletters and bulletins. Again, not only can you learn about effective email marketing by doing this, but you’ll also be super informed about local events and will be able to identify any opportunities for you to share your product or services with other local entrepreneurs. 
  • Shop at local businesses. Supporting your local economy is a worthwhile goal on its own, but it’s also an opportunity to connect with other local businesses and engage in reciprocal support.  
  • Reach out to ask how they got their business off the ground. Don’t be shy. The worst that can happen is that your message will be ignored (oh, well!). Most small business owners and freelancers will be happy to tell you a bit about their experience, what worked for them and what didn’t, and to share any tips they have with you. 
  • See if they can recommend any local service providers you might find useful. Perhaps another member of your local community knows of an awesome website designer who provides a discount to small businesses (like we do!).  
  • See if you can negotiate an energy exchange (if you don’t have the budget to share services). Keep in mind that this won’t always be feasible, but, again, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Maybe you’re a freelance graphic designer who sucks at writing content. You could, for example, find an awesome freelance content writer in your area whose website is lacking and offer to spruce up their website for free in exchange for them helping you spruce up your copy for free. 

Whether you’re offering a product or service, chances are it will benefit you to engage with your local community of fellow entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners. 

This will allow you to share exclusive discounts, exchange tips and ideas, share referrals for affordable services, and even offer energy/service exchanges.

5. Use free software.

Someday, when your business is booming and your team has grown, you’ll most likely need to invest in paid services and software to help you run your business efficiently. 

However, when starting a business, it’s usually perfectly fine to make use of the many free options available to you. 

The Internet is full of resources to connect small businesses to the right free tools: 

  • ProfitBooks has compiled a pretty comprehensive list of free resources to help small businesses thrive. 
  • TechRadar also has an up-to-date list of the best free resources for small businesses in 2021.
  • And PC Mag also has a high-ranking article with diverse suggestions. 

Why spend money on software if you don’t really need to? 

And just remember: a lot of businesses out there will try to tell you that you do need the paid version of their software, but that’s also a part of their marketing strategy. Of course they want you to upgrade to the paid version of their program or lure you away from their free competitors. 

At the end of the day, only you and your team know whether you actually need to use paid software, so just be sure to take a look at the features and benefits of both free and paid resources, and, if you can, stick with the free options until you have the budget (and the need) to upgrade. 

6. Get your branding right the first time.

When you’re starting a business on a tight budget, designing your own logo and slogan can seem very tempting. 

It can also seem very tempting to rush the process. 

And, of course, you should be involved in these processes.

However, unless you are a branding and design expert, it is usually best to enlist the help of a professional brand designer or brand consultant to help you get every element of your branding right, and the branding process should never be rushed!

For a modern business to function and grow successfully, you will need to have a clear and rich brand identity, which includes: 

  1. A brand mission statement and clear values. 
  2. A clear understanding of your target demographics, including specific personas. 
  3. A unique, easily recognizable logo that is in line with your brand mission, makes it clear what your specific product or service is, and that speaks to your target audience. 
  4. Consistent and cohesive visual elements, such as a web site, social media pages, and digital ads. 
  5. On point written elements, such as blog posts, social media posts, and product descriptions. 

Because all elements of your brand identity are tied together, a single change can trigger the need to update or revise all elements of your brand’s visual and digital identity. 

In other words, if you don’t get your branding right the first time, not only are you likely to experience slower growth and difficulty connecting with your customers, but you risk having to undergo the costly and time-consuming process of rebranding. 

For a small business on a budget, a failure to nail the branding process early on can lead to disaster down the line, as many small businesses don’t have the capital to tolerate slow growth and a full re-brand. 

For more information about our branding services or for a free, no obligation consultation, you can get in touch with us here.

7. Invest in a brand strategy and digital marketing strategy early on.

Ideally, your brand identity will be created within the context of a full brand strategy

This means having a clear understanding of:

    • What your business is all about and how to communicate that identity to your customers.
    • Who your ideal customer or target audience is and how to reach them while connecting with them on a meaningful level.
  • What it takes to move your customers through the sales funnel and close the deal. 
  • A clear digital marketing strategy with measurable goals and milestones.  

Having a clear and well-defined brand strategy and digital marketing plan from the get-go will help your business grow faster and free up a lot of your time to focus on what matters. 

Without a clear strategy in place, you will likely find yourself engaged in a lot of research into your competitors, speculation and guesswork about what’s working and what isn’t, why it is or isn’t working, and coming up with ways to pivot your marketing strategy. 

By investing in a brand strategy and digital marketing strategy from your business’ inception, you’ll be able to skip the research, guesswork, and pivoting entirely, as you’ll have a professional to handle these items for you. 

For more information about our brand design and digital marketing strategy services or for a free, no obligation consultation, you can get in touch with us here.

8. Leverage free forms of marketing.

As we mentioned earlier, there are tons of free services and products available to help you grow your business. 

When it comes to marketing your products and services, you can leverage free forms of marketing, like social media marketing, content marketing, and word of mouth referrals. 

So, if you don’t have a ton of funds to invest in paid advertising or influencer marketing, it may be wise to focus your marketing efforts on:

  • Sharing unique, intentional content on free  social media platforms, like Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and FaceBook. (Of course, not all social media platforms are right for every business. For guidance in choosing the right platform(s) for your small business, you can get in touch with us for a free consultation here.)
  • Using free email marketing providers, like Moosend. 
  • Asking your clients to leave reviews and write testimonials. Just be sure to get client consent before sharing them online!
  • Asking your customers, friends, and family to spread the word about your business. There’s no need to be embarrassed about asking for referrals and word-of-mouth hype from your professional and personal circles. 

By making the most of these free marketing tools, you’ll have a better chance of getting your business booming while on a tight budget.

9. Ask to be featured on other sites and social media accounts.

Chances are, big time influencers will want some form of payment for promoting your business. 

However, there’s also a good chance that there are many smaller social media accounts and similar businesses in your community. 

Unlike the big names, these businesses are more likely to be happy to mention your business on social media out of kindness, agree to a cross-promotion deal (i.e., where they promote your business and you promote theirs), or feature your business in their blog.

Having your business mentioned on other accounts and websites can help your site build domain authority and give you additional visibility, all at no cost! 

Just be sure that you’re reaching out to relevant and like-minded businesses and entrepreneurs, keep your messages sincere, and don’t take it personally if anyone declines your request.

10. Don't be afraid to ask, and don't be afraid to say 'no'!

This tip comes in two parts, which are basically two sides of the same coin:

Don’t be afraid to ask.

Want to be featured on someone else’s site or social media account? Looking for someone to redesign your website at a discounted price? Not sure how to write a blog post? Want to collaborate with an influencer in your industry? 

Whatever it is that you need, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

It doesn’t hurt to ask, and many other people are in the same boat as you. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to members of your network or community when you’re looking for guidance or advice, when you want to collaborate, or if you’re hoping for a discount.

Suffering and guessing in silence is more likely to cause you stress, eat up your time, and slow down your business’ growth. 

So, make use of your professional and personal network and reach out when you need to. 

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.

Just as you should respect when other people are unable to assist and need to say “no” to you, learn to say “no” yourself and others. 

A friend or member of your network reaches out to ask if you can do a free project to help them out, but you’re feeling super burnt out? It’s okay to say you can’t take on the work right now. 

A new customer reaches out to ask if you can do a big job, but your schedule’s already full? You may feel like you need to take all the work you can get right now, but, if it would push you over the edge, don’t be afraid to say no or ask if they’ll join your waitlist. 

You may find that you’re tempted to take on more than you can handle or start to feel pressure to turn your business into a multi-million dollar venture overnight. But it’s important that you learn to say “no” to yourself, too, and allow yourself to take much needed personal time and space from your business as needed. 

Just remember: burnout will cost you more time and money in the long run, and your health and wellbeing should always be at the top of your list of priorities.

Summary

It’s absolutely possible to start a successful business on a tight budget, but it can take some creativity and willingness to ask for help. 

By following the 10 tips in this article, you will be able to reduce your short-term and long-term expenses while still building a thriving business.

For more small business tips, guides, and resources, you can check out our blog here

Or, for a free, no obligation consultation for our branding, web design, content creation, proofreading, or digital strategy services, you can get in touch with us here.

Jess Blackwell

Jess Blackwell

Jess is the founder of Lumida Ltd., our editor, a passionate environmentalist living a low-waste life, and an aspiring screenwriter. When she isn't helping our small business clients get their brands off the ground, Jess can be found working on her screenplays, experimenting in the kitchen, or taking nature walks.

Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter

Share this.

We're a remote editing and proofreading service.

Get in touch for a free, no obligation quote.

Skip to content