Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Kindly refuse the help of others. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off. However you define the concept of ‘bootstrap financing’ in the business world, the general principle is simple: Go fund yourself.

Bootstrapping is the best and most inexpensive way for any member of the freelance nation to start a business. And with technology playing a big role in minimizing the costs that are actually required to launch a portable company, it’s easier than ever to comfortably settle into the bootstrap frame of mind.

Here are three ways new freelancers can do it:

Use Your Own Money NOW

Let’s say you have done well in your day job. You have enough money socked away to invest a chunk into the freelance accounting, graphic design or writing operation you’ve always wanted to start. The good news is it really doesn’t cost a lot to get started – especially if you’re offering a service through online advertising means. Going with a brick-and-mortar operation is obviously another animal.

For a freelance business, you really only need an online presence, an Internet connection and your expertise. A sleek, SEO-equipped website can cost a few thousand dollars if you were to choose an agency to build it. Or you can go with a website builder that charges only a few bucks per month.

There are also inexpensive options on the market for logo design, online marketing campaigns and virtual phone systems.

Use Your Own Money LATER

In my book Freelance Nation, I caution overeager readers from setting up shop before testing their idea in the digital marketplace. Instead of quitting your day job today, it’s much more practical to start a freelance operation on the side to see if your idea is even viable as a product or service.

Take a year to work early mornings, evenings or weekends on your business idea. Find some customers. Make some money. Set this cash aside into a “bootstrap” pile. Once you can reasonably say: “Hey, I could actually cover the bills if I devoted 40 or 50 hours to this per week,” then it’s time to jump into the freelance nation.

Consider Investors… and Then Run the Other Way!

Shark Tank is one of my favorite shows on TV. Its stories should be inspirational to aspiring business owners everywhere. But I cringe at many of the deals. Show after show, entrepreneurs give up big slices of their companies for the help of the sharks. In the case of new businesses, it’s best to put in your own money so you’ll be in a better position if the time does come to raise outside funding.

Let’s say you invest $5,000 of your own money to start your business. That’s $5,000 that you didn’t borrow from someone else, giving you less debt on hand. If you can naturally grow without the help others, you keep more equity in your pocket and more control of your business.

And in today’s competitive business world, control is the cornerstone of an effective bootstrap operation.

Let’s keep this dialogue going. Please comment below with any questions or comments on bootstrapping your way to business success.


Melissa Cooper

Melissa Cooper

J. Melissa Cooper is an expert in the human resources field, with over a decade of experience and a Masters of Science in Human Resource Management from New York University, as well as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation. She started her own business as a one-woman shop in 2009. Five years later she was managing 400 freelancers.

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