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how to start a business on a tight budget


I was looking through my old posts to gather everything I had written about pricing furniture pieces and I came across this half-written post.  I decided it was a good day to dust it off and finish it.  The economy has hit a lot of families hard and SAHMs are trying to find ways to help out.  Here are some thoughts on starting a business on a teeny tiny budget.

I know you’re out there.  Yes, you…right there.  Reading this.  Thinking, “I really want to start a business, but I don’t have the money to do it.”  If you want to open up your own shop right away, yes, you need money, but you don’t need a lot of money to put your toe into the world of being a “business owner.”  Every business is different, but if you want to get into a design/antique/painting/crafty sort of business, the list of necessary expenses is pretty small.

The legal stuff:
It’s not the kind of stuff you want to spend your money on, but you need to spend money on registering your name with your state, getting any necessary licenses, and making sure you’re an official business in the eyes of your state.  It probably costs around $50-100 to do all of this in most states.  If you’re putting your toe in, don’t worry about registered trademarks, LLC, and all of that other stuff.  Take care of that later when the money is there.

Again, this one is not fun, but you really need to protect yourself.  Liability insurance is a must in this sue-happy world we live in.  You don’t need to get billions of dollars of insurance…just enough to cover yourself.

Marketing Materials:
You don’t need to dump a bunch of money into this, either, but you do need a way to market yourself to your potential clients.  I started out by printing my own business cards and marketing brochures that my husband designed in MS Publisher.  A word to the wise, if you do have your cards and materials professionally printed, order in smaller quantities.  I ordered 1000 postcards advertising my mural services that I don’t even offer any longer.  So, lesson learned.

A website:
A blogspot blog is free and can act as your website until you have a full-functioning one developed…if that’s ever even necessary for you.  You can buy the domain through Google, so you lose the “dot blogspot” part from your blog name.  It’s important to have an online presence and you can do it for free (or really cheap.)  When you grow, you can then put money towards a designer.  I had my blog for about 18 months before I hired a professional blog designer. Until that point, I had a friend help me out and I did a lot of it myself.

A computer:
You need a computer that is current, fast, and just for you.  If you just can’t afford it right now, save up for one ASAP.  The day of notebooks, a Rolodex and ledger have passed and you need a computer to keep track of all of your business stuff. It doesn’t have to be the biggest and best, it just needs to suit your needs.

A camera:
This is important for a lot of reasons.  You have to take pictures of your work for marketing purposes, for your website, to show customers what is for sale and to build a portfolio.  You don’t need a super fancy camera…just get a simple PNS digital that will take good pictures.  You can upgrade down the road.

Obviously, if you’re selling custom painted furniture, you need furniture, paint, brushes, etc.  If you’re on a super-tight budget, paint some off cast furniture you have around your house, from yardsales, off the curb even.  I know some of you girls have done that!  When I first started, most of my furniture pieces cost me under $20.  Now, my max is around $250 if the piece is fabulous, but I’ve put in almost three years of hard work to build up to that buying power.  For paint, buy $5.00 test pots instead of pricey quarts or frequent the “oops” shelf to find pretty colors.  Wal-Mart carries inexpensive Rubbermaid brushes that have cushy handles and smooth bristles.  This is the place where it is the easiest to get carried away and buy more than you need.  Keep it simple and add and upgrade as you make more money.

Some other thoughts…

Don’t go into debt:
If you’re starting a business to contribute financially to your family as I did, going into debt is only going to add to your stress.  It’s going to make those early weeks and months of your business all about money and making up what you borrowed.  Don’t do that to yourself.  It will stifle your creativity and make you look at success and failure in terms of numbers.  If you paid cash for everything, you can relax and enjoy the first sale, business opportunities that may yield a high return down the road, but not immediately and you can allow yourself rest.

Pay yourself:
Most of your money in the beginning will go right back into your business.  It took about two years to make my business a profitable one and it was about a year until I started paying myself.  So, it’s important to know it might take a while for your business to pay off and that’s normal, but make sure you are paying yourself…even if it’s just a little.  It’s imprtant to know your hard work is going towards its goal and contributing to your family.

The best advice I can give is to make sure your family is supportive of your efforts.  If you’re sneaking money out of your account to start a business that your spouse is not on board with, it’s not going to be a positive experience.  Just be patient for the right timing.  You need support in this venture and you don’t want it to be a point of stress or resentment.

If you missed my previous posts on starting a business, here they are:
In the very beginning – getting started
The nitty gritty – all of the details and not-so-fun stuff
Be worth the risk
Don’t be afraid
My story

I know I’ve neglected all of the “business girls” for a while, but I’m picking that back up again.  My business became an LLC this year, so I’ll walk you through that process and I’ve learned more about pricing pieces, insurance and more.  I’ll share it all, including how to start selling your pieces and ideas on where to sell when all else fails.

**All of the information provided in this post is my opinion and is geared towards those who wish to start a business on a very small budget.  There are a lot of other things you should purchase for your business, but they may be out of reach at this point.  Please do your own research and invest in the things you think will help your business succeed.

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  1. Another very important thing which I didn’t even factor in… a truck or some sort of vehicle or trailer to tote all the furniture! I cannot find any of that in my price range, so having to switch to just smalls for now. All my big furniture is what people have given me, but I still need a truck to transport it all when I need to. Wish I had factored that in what a conundrum that put me in.

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to write these posts for all us wonderful ladies who are still in the land of learning.

  3. I like what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll.

  4. Deanna Lowe says:

    Thanks so much! I was starting to get stressed out from all the research (procrastinating) I was doing and getting hung up on doing the “right” thing first. I wanted to just jump right in and start my blog….get my feet wet and get going. The more I researched and read though the more I worried. Should I pay for a sight up front or just use a free sight? I don’t know exactly what my voice is yet but want to say something-does that matter????? So thank you for all your posts about your start. The information and motivate is just what I need!

    P.s. picked up your book for my staycation this week and am loving it!

  5. Hi there, just wanted to mention, I liked this blog post.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!

  6. Wow, superb blog layout! How lengthy have you ever been blogging
    for? you made running a blog look easy. The total
    glance of your website is wonderful, let alone the content!

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