Running a small business on a shoestring budget (SBW P.4)

part 4 in the series, helping you to take the leap and become a Small Biz Whizz! (SBW)

You’ve  started a new business, narrowed down your small business niche, and built an awesome portfolio, so now it’s time to balance that shoestring budget!

It’s so difficult to decide what to spend your money on when funds are limited, so take the time to think long and hard about which investments will give you the most value for your small business.

As mentioned in my article What happens when you want redundancy and don’t get it, my shoestring budget was only enough to see me through the first three months of launching my copywriting business. I was keen not to waste my precious pounds on anything that wouldn’t be of benefit, so here are my top tips for investing wisely:

Find someone who understands balance sheets!

As a copywriter, I obviously love words, but on the flip side, Excel spreadsheets hate me with a passion. The only area of my business that I was particularly nervous about was the accounting side, so I knew I had to invest my money in someone who would look after my financial interests.

Luckily, my knight in shining armour turned out to be Paul Simmons of Nagler Simmons, who was recommended to me by another small business owner. He completely understands the challenges of setting up a small business on a shoestring budget, and has offered advice and support along the way.

I know accountants are usually about as popular as Katie Hopkins, but Paul has been an absolute joy to work with. He’s an invaluable asset to my business as someone I can trust to look after my finances, and I’m planning on us being together for the long-term. (Apologies Paul’s wife if it seems I’m over-stepping the mark, I’m only after his business brain.)

Get yourself a great business coach

Shoestring_Budget_NadiaFinerSetting up a small business on my own felt really overwhelming, so I found myself a business coach. I met Nadia Finer a few years ago when I was working in the Tesco social media team, and attended some of her networking night outs. She’s an amazing entrepreneur who’s experienced the ups and downs of businesses for many years, so I knew I was in safe hands.

Unfortunately, there was no way I could afford her on an ongoing 1:1 basis, so luckily for me, she’d just started up her Actionista Academy, a female-only, online group for women running their own small business. Although it’s a dedicated monthly subscription, the help, advice and support I’ve received is a large part of why my business has been so successful to this point.

There’s a vault full of useful documents that cover everything you might need as a start-up – creating a website, sales funnel, PR, T&Cs, an action planner full of useful touch points throughout the year… the list goes on. There’s no competition amongst the members either, even though some of us work in similar fields. Instead, it’s a welcoming and open forum to ask questions, get feedback on ideas, celebrate successful outcomes and encourage each other when it feels like it’s all going wrong.

I’ve also gained five clients from being an active part of the group, which has already offset the cost of membership so far.

Don’t skimp on business insurance

Just like home or car insurance, business insurance is an absolute must, even on a shoestring budget. There are many different types of insurance to choose from which cover yourself, goods/services, equipment etc, so read through all of the options and choose the right cover for you.

I asked other small business owners for recommendations and several people suggested Hiscox. I liked their range of cover and signed up, although I almost signed up to Crunch.

Outsource the tough stuff!

If there is something that you just can’t do very well yourself (copywriting often comes up at this point), then outsource it to an expert. It may seem like a luxury you can’t afford, but stop and think for a moment about the impact it will have on your business.

If you hire a quality copywriter who understands how to write persuasive copy for your Home, About and Product/Service website pages, then you’ll reap the benefits as soon as it goes live, by having a fantastic online ‘shop window’ for people to look at. The copy should pay for itself with sales of your products/services if the tone, language and brand positioning are targeted to your ideal customer. Sometimes, digging a little into that overdraft is the best way forward.

If you’re thinking about more general tasks such as online research, data entry, scheduling etc, then think about hiring a virtual assistant (VA) for a few hours at a time. They are usually multi-skilled and you have the flexibility of hiring them by the hour if needed.

Set up a home office

You might feel more like a ‘proper business’ if you’re renting office space, however the overheads and travel costs are all expenses that can be avoided at the start. Give yourself a dedicated space in your home, even if it’s only a small corner, where you can set up a desk and laptop.

You’ll feel much more ‘in the zone’ and have much better posture if you have a specific work area, as opposed to sitting on the sofa while being distracted by the TV! It also means you can make your own lunch and hot drinks, probably saving you another £25 a week.

Create your own website

If you need to have an online presence and haven’t got your head around WordPress yet, you can use DIY website builders like Wix and Weebly. Their basic packages are free (although they usually have some sort of ads on them), and it’s a case of dragging-and-dropping images to create each page. It’s won’t be the slickest web design on the block however, it will give you a website you can create yourself within a couple of hours. And it also stretches your shoestring budget that little bit further for other things.

Use social media


Although it’s often seen as an entertaining time waster, social media is also a great way to get you and your business out there for free. You DON’T have to be on every platform, find your favourite and see if your tribe is on there too. If they aren’t, move on and try another.

Choosing a platform you enjoy being on will make it feel less arduous when you spend time on it. Engage your tribe in genuine conversations, be helpful, share interesting tips and make them curious to find out more about your business.

I’ve organically grown my own Lottie Loves Food followers to over 1,100+ simply by chatting about my favourite health topics. What’s even more important than this stat is that they’re quality followers. My tribe is full of brands and individuals who love leading a healthy lifestyle, following various eating styles e.g. veggie, vegan, Paleo etc, and love exercise because it makes them feel great. This platform for engagement is priceless and only cost me the time I would have spent on Twitter anyway.

Don’t forget – it’s much better to have 10 genuine tribe members as followers, than 100 randoms just making up the numbers.

Find free resources full of shoestring budget options

There are many free resources online to help you throughout the different stages of your business. Some of my favourites include Talented Ladies Club, Crunch (they have great articles if you follow them on Twitter) Janet Murray, Spark & Fuse and JournoLink to name but a few.

These are my top tips for those of us start-ups on a shoestring budget, but there’s always room for more – let me know yours!

Don’t forget, if you’re a healthy lifestyle brand that needs a copywriter to help you write wonderful words for your website, blog and articles like this, email me!