Years ago if you wanted to start a business, you needed a location. You needed equipment, you needed workers. Today all it really takes to start a business is something to sell and a way to collect payment.
Sounds cheap right?
Not so fast.
There are lots of opportunities for you to spend money when setting up shop online. Many of the expensive platforms and services (I’m looking at you Infusionsoft) seem to do everything under the sun. There can be a huge temptation to sign up for them if you believe the convenience of having everything in one place is worth the price. Perhaps you’re convinced a big, expensive program will save you time down the road. The problem is, you have to hope and pray the service will bring you enough business to pay for itself.
The Good News About Launch Tech
The good news is, there are also many inexpensive options that will also allow you to grow and expand while you focus on building up your following. If you start out with heavy monthly payments for programs you can’t afford, it will kill your creativity and your ability to focus on building a successful business. Instead, you’ll worry about how to pay your bills and will begin taking on work you don’t like just to bring in money.
I’ve worked online for over 7 years as a Virtual Assistant, I’ve come across a multitude of free and inexpensive services that I use every day. I figured it only fair that I share them with you!
The following list is not exhaustive. I’m sure there are more resources out there, but here’s the thing. When I find something that works, when someone recommends something to me they’ve used successfully, I figure using that system saves me time and research. So, if it’s something that works for me, I quit looking. These systems work for me.
Email Service Providers (ESPs)
If you’re going to go into business online, you need to build an email list. If you want more information, you can read this. Your email list is how you communicate with your ideal customers. There are many options for email service providers: Aweber, Get Response, Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, Drip or Active Campaign to name a few. In fact, I compare the most popular here.
If you plan to build a successful online business, there are things you need to be able to do down the line: segmenting lists, tagging customers, automating responses and sending out newsletters. For that reason, I do NOT recommend MailChimp or Constant Contact. While they are terrific programs, they don’t offer the list flexibility to grow your business down the line.
You don’t need to immediately go with a paid option. Many of the ESPS have free trials to see if the platform feels comfortable to you. Sign up for a few and decide which one you like. The beautiful thing about email service provides is that the price increases only as your list size increases, so they start out very affordable.
Canva: I am not a graphic designer. In fact, I hate anything to do with design but I love Canva. Canva is a drag and drop design platform that allows you to create everything from graphic posts for social media to Facebook ads and invitations. The free option is all I’ve ever needed.
Use a landing page instead. All you need to start your online presence is your domain. You have to buy it, and host it using BlueHost or GoDaddy or a similar service, but you don’t have to start out with a big fancy site. Set up a landing page and use it on your site as the home page. You can start collecting emails even before your site is built.
Teamwork: If you want to stay organized from day one, Teamwork is for you. Set up tasks, assign the due dates, send messages to your teams and create templates that you can use for repetitive jobs. Setting up your first two projects on Teamwork is free and I guarantee you this is one thing you won’t regret having from day one. Teamwork keeps all of your business information in one place and makes it very easy to add team members as you grow because they will have access to all of the work you’ve done for past online launches and projects.
Video Hosting, Creating and Shooting
The popularity of video cannot be denied and it is only going to grow. Many people love video because it is faster and easier than writing and editing weekly blog posts. The perceived costs of setting up a fancy place to shoot video, however, scare many people away.
I’ll talk about the specifics of shooting video in a later post, but here’s what you need to know. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Videos can be shot on iPhones or, in many cases, on a digital SLR camera you already own. If you don’t have an iPhone yourself, I bet someone you know does. Batch your video shoots together and spend an hour or two with a friend and her phone and get all of your video recorded in an afternoon.
Editing video doesn’t have to be expensive, either. If you are not techie and don’t feel the need to learn a new skill, you can find many inexpensive video editors on Fiverr.com. Just make sure to check their reviews and turn-around time to make sure you aren’t waiting weeks for your project to be completed. If you’re the DIY type, Lightworks is a free video editing option.
If you’re worried about how you’ll look on camera, plan to shoot your video the next time you get your hair cut. You could even head to your local makeup counter for a mini-makeover if you’re worried about your makeup!
Zoom: Until recently, if you wanted to host a webinar, there weren’t many options available. You could use a platform based on Google Hangouts (which I hate using) or you could use GoToWebinar, which is very expensive. There weren’t many other options. Enter Zoom. Zoom is simple, works great and has both a free and very inexpensive first level option. The great thing about Zoom is that it allows you to hop on a call quickly to answer a question or hold a meeting – perfect for when you’re hosting webinars that won’t bring in money but are adding value to your service.
Sometimes, what you really want is not to have to do the work yourself. Rest assured, there are some lower cost options for hiring help as well.
Fiverr and Upwork are both services I use often. There is a difference between the two. Fiverr, theoretically, is full of “gigs” (think small projects) that people will complete for you for $5. As it’s gained popularity, prices on Fiverr have gone up a bit and experienced contractors can now cost more. You also need to read the fine print. Often Fiverr gigs don’t allow for revisions or for you to own the original file so you can make changes down the road. I would consider Fiverr to be for more one-off type projects although I’ve heard of people finding long-term contractors there they love.
Upwork is an online service where you can find contractors for one-time projects or long-term work on your team. It is a great spot to find graphic designers, programmers, and other hihgly trained professionals you don’t need on your team full time. I have built entire online businesses using only Upwork contractors.
Facebook groups: Feel like you need a membership site or forum so you can communicate directly with your clients in a private setting? Consider Facebook groups as a place to start. There are many very large, very active Facebook groups out there that allow access only to paying members. The benefit is you can figure out the ins and outs of communicating with your tribe before putting a lot of money into a membership platform.
Bootstrapping Your Launch Tech
As you can see, there are many different ways to save money while getting yourself established online. I’ve listed a few of my favorites, but I’m curious… what are yours?
Comment below and let us all know your favorite ways to save money while you grow you business and increase your followers!
Copyright: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo
*** Some of the links in this article are affiliate links and I will get a nominal fee for recommending them to you if you click on the link and then sign up. I only do this with companies I do business with on a regular basis and truly recommend to my clients.