If you’ve got a business idea you’re excited about or you’re determined to start earning money for yourself from selling online, it’s possible to start up a small business on a modest budget if you base the concept around a website and don’t need to invest in business premises.

You will need to have some capital to cover running costs and a degree of investment, but many businesses function well with just a website and other forms of online communication and marketing. This is good news for people with ambitions towards working for themselves, but restricted funds to call on.

Marketing budgets

Marketing is one of the least quantifiable areas to budget for, as it’s hard to pin down a set amount. You could spend a small fortune on various forms of marketing, or you could spend very little. Often business owners allocate their funds to the more tangible costs such as stock, fixed overheads, and staff, and leave marketing to the end, assigning whatever’s left after all the other expenses have been considered.

If you’re in the position of having minimal funds, try not to use your personal money to bolster the business. It’s tempting to say you’ll cover a bill or pay for some stock out of your own pocket, but doing so can cause all sorts of problems, from accounting to understanding your net profits or losses. If you want to invest in your business from your personal assets, make sure it’s all accounted for correctly. A small business could quite easily do this by finding the best credit cards and allocating a specific one to business purchases, so budgeting needn’t be too complicated.

Choosing free resources

It’s amazing what you can get for free on the internet, and one of the great things about the online world is the number of good quality free and low-cost resources that are available. If you’re starting a business on a tight budget, every penny counts, and that means you’ll need to consider where you most need to invest, and where you can save money by using free resources and online tools.

There are many and various online resources that could help you market your website, and while some are excellent, others are of far less value. The challenge is in determining which resources will be of most benefit to you, and in most cases, you’ll find a bewildering array of options for every function you can think of. Try typing “plug-ins” or “extensions for websites” into Google, and you’ll be overwhelmed with results. Where do you start?

Reviews & Feedback: One great way of finding the best resources is to look for reviews and feedback from people who have needs that match yours. It could be others working in the same kind of industry, small start-ups, homeworkers or freelancers, or people who are experts in that particular type of application. Finding out what other users think of the resources and tools they’ve tried gives you a much narrower field of choice, and provides you with a higher level of insight into what works well and what doesn’t in each example.

Platforms: It’s worth having a browse on video platforms like YouTube as well as websites and printed literature (more on this to follow). You could well find that people have posted reports on specific tools and resources, and with a video, they can talk you through what they’ve found and show you examples as they explain. A visual aid can give you a much clearer idea of how good the product is and how well it matches your requirements, so this is an ideal way to get to grips with new technologies, especially when it’s a type you’re not too familiar with.

Magazines & Websites: Reviews in professional or tech-oriented magazines and websites can be useful if they’re genuinely independent and the reviewers know their stuff. Or you could ask the question in a related forum and see how other people respond. People love to give their opinions on forums and chatrooms, so find one that covers the relevant topic and explain what you’re looking for. You’ll soon get all sorts of responses, and a few could be extremely helpful. There’ll be some that are no use, for instance, when someone responds who has no more knowledge about a subject than you do. In many cases, however, someone with expertise will offer up valuable guidance, often in great detail, to help answer your question.

How to spend a limited marketing budget

Once you’ve located the best of the free resources for your website, you’ll be left with some decisions to make as to how to spend any money you do have for marketing. Despite the fact that you can do an awful lot for free, there are undeniable benefits in using paid-for advertising.

One of the most cost-effective routes is to use a social media platform like Facebook. You should have your own free business account that you update regularly, but in addition to that, you can allocate a budget from just a few dollars for targeted advertising. It means ads for your business will show up on the feeds of people who meet the demographics you specified. For small businesses, this is an advantage over options like AdWords, which can soon become very expensive and are more complex to target effectively.

Final thoughts

 

As a sole trader or micro business, you may not have much in the way of a budget at all for marketing by the time you’ve paid for equipment, stock, a website, and all the other essentials. The problem is that without a solid marketing strategy, you’ll struggle to get your message across to potential customers, and as marketing is vital for building a profitable customer base, your business will struggle to survive. Therefore, you have to take a smart approach to marketing your business and spend what money you do have to the best possible effect.