I started my business a year and a half ago without any prior planning and minimal savings. I didn't have a lot of money to make mistakes with. Because of that, I really wished someone could have told me what to spend money on and what not to! I want to try and share what I've learned with you and hopefully keep you out of some of the spending traps I fell into or saw others fall into. Here is part 1 of my How to Start a Business on a Budget series: 3 Things Not to Spend Your Money On!
Instagram and Facebook ads:
There are a lot of reasons that these ads aren't a great value, but my biggest reason for avoiding them is that there are soooo many ways to get your business out there that don't involve spending money! Throwing 5 bucks on a Facebook ad sounds like a quick-fix, but especially if cash is tight, don't do it. Some forms of free marketing I love include:
- Posting regularly on your social medias and using good hashtags! Good hashtags are ones that someone might use who would be your ideal customer. Vague hashtags like "#drawing" are overcrowded and won't get you much traction, but if you find more niche hashtags that are relevant to your business ("#narutofanart"), you have a better chance of connecting with someone who has been looking for work like yours!
- Create friendships with other business owners and creatives. They know the struggle and will do their best to get the word out about your business! Make sure you're doing the same for them. If they have a similar customer base to yours, chat with them about trading products so you can promote each other!
- Facebook groups. Find Facebook communities that have overlapping interests with your products or services and don't be afraid to mention your business when it's applicable! Obviously, don't spam these groups, but post your work when it fits. For example, when I was doing pet commissions, I posted about them in a cat group I was part of and people loved them!
- The best way to promote yourself is to keep making new, creative things. If you're making something new, people will share it with their friends and get excited!
When you're starting out, it's unwise to invest in a ton of inventory right off the bat! You'll also most likely have a limited selection of designs that you'll build on with time. What this means, though, is that you don't have enough inventory to do big expensive shows. Let's say you have 3 prints, 5 stickers, and a tote bag design. You could probably make a big impact at a local show where tables are $45! If you sell a few prints and a couple tote bags, you're in the money. But a show where the table is $300? It's not that your work isn't good enough, you just don't have enough of it yet!
You never ever want to just "make table". (i.e. your table costs $300 and you make $300)
Making table is kind of like giving away your merchandise for free.
Before a show, I set a goal: To make 3 times or more what it cost me to table there. This should include my travel costs and hotel, if applicable. Then, I think "do I have enough inventory to make that goal?"
Fancy Business Cards:
Really beautiful business cards with a matte finish, rounded edges, and art on both sides are soooo tempting! Unless the work your doing is extremely high end, don't invest in fancy business cards!! You want your business cards to be SO cheap that if someone asked you for 10 to give to all their friends, you wouldn't bat an eye. I'm talking each card should cost a few pennies. You want to be THROWIN these cards at people! Get your name out!!
That's all for now! I'll be making posts about must-have supplies, making products, and where to sell your goods, so keep an eye out!