More and more startups are born every year. And in the age of the dot-com boom and social media friendzy, it’s no surprise that people are starting their own businesses left and right.
Multimillionaire tech luminaries like Peter Thiel are even encouraging students to skip college and proceed immediately to launching their own ventures.
However, one of the biggest hurdles entrepreneurs face is coming up with the money to get their startup going. Without funds, it can be difficult, or nearly impossible, to get off the ground. If you have a great idea for a product or service, here are five lean ways you can approach launching your startup:
Outsource Your Website Design & Development
Unless you’re a combo design and developer, chances are you don’t have the time or expertise to build your website on your own. Of course, there are some platforms that are easier than others to learn, although every platform commands its own time commitment and learning curve. However, using a platform like Upwork, you’ll be able to access the highest level of design and programming knowledge–often at a fraction of the price.
For example, let’s say you’re using WordPress to build your site. In this case, you’d need someone who understands the importance of front-end design to appeal to your target audience, AND how to maneuver WordPress’ .htaccess file to keep your website as secure as possible. You’ll be able to check out profiles and read extensive reviews on the freelancer’s previous work, which will help you narrow the best talent on the marketplace.
Test Your Market In Advance
Whether you’re launching a startup that deals with products or information services, it’s important to test your market. Testing your market isn’t necessarily the same thing as market research. With the later, you’re conducting research to ensure you have the most appropriate audience for your business. You use that research to gather information about an audience’s needs, preferences, and purchasing habits.
Testing your market is the process of verifying your research before you’ve invested too much money into it. For example, let’s say you’re a marketing company that specializes in helping startup businesses build crowdfunding campaigns.
In addition to putting some funds into AdWords and social campaigns, you might create a WordPress landing page that captures emails of potential customers who are interested in this type of service. You might offer a free 30-minute consultation or e-book in exchange for the email. The more emails you capture, the more you’ll understand how valuable and available the current market is.
Join An Incubator
A startup incubator is a program that accepts a limited amount of startups to help them grow. To apply, you’ll need to undergo a competitive application and interview process.
If accepted, incubators usually offer mentorship, coworking space, and capital in exchange for equity. These programs culminate with “Demo Days,” where you’ll present your idea in front in front of a room of investors looking for the next big thing.
This can be a great way for you to get exposure and fund your concept. Some of the most well-known businesses came from startup incubators, including Airbnb at Y Combinator, Class Pass at TechStars, and PostMates at AngelPad.
Start A Crowdfunding Campaign
If you believe you have a great concept, but haven’t been able to secure the funding, consider starting a crowdfunding campaign. Starting a campaign costs $0, but you will need to invest serious time into crafting the perfect story.
The better the campaign, the more backing you’ll get. If you have somewhat of a budget, you’ll want to consider hiring a designer (for your images and graphics), a video editor (campaigns with videos are much more likely to succeed), and a marketing professional to help get you some exposure before and after you’ve launched. Many businesses have found tremendous success on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Take a look at some of the more successful campaigns to get a better idea of what it takes to raise money on crowdfunding platforms.
Offer Your Product Or Service For Free
If you’re just building your customer base or client list, it can help to offer it for free during your early stages. At first, this may not feel like a lean, agile way to explore growth opportunities, but the truth is, it’s an easy way to score great clients you may not have otherwise. Most importantly, offering your product or service for free gives you the ability to garner reviews for other potential customers and clients.
Today’s business successes–especially newly launched startups–rely heavily on reviews.
In fact, 84% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they trust word-of-mouth recommendations. Unfortunately, startups experience a Catch-22 fairly early on–you can’t get reviews if you don’t have a customer base, and you can’t get a customer base if you don’t have reviews.
Free services helps remedy this issue. Furthermore, this roster of early adopters can give you valuable feedback that you don’t get often when working with traditional, paying customers.