Starting Your Business on a Shoestring: A Frugal Guide

by Kelly · 8 comments

in Living Frugally

I’m only on a six month contract with my current employer, and as much as I love my job (and I hope that they are happy with me), I can’t be sure that my contract will be renewed in November, either temporarily or permanently. Never one to sit and wait for good things to come to me, I’m making plans for possibly launching my own consulting business* if and when my contract finishes.

Of course, I don’t have a lot of money with which to splash out on fancy stuff. Not to mention that, having lived through several business booms and busts, I’ve seen what happens when small companies over invest in ‘stuff’ rather than ideas. So when, and if, I start a consulting business, I’m going to need to do so as frugally as possible.

The most important tool for me when starting a new activity has always been networking. Through the networking association that I belong to I have made some invaluable contacts, including the designer of the squirrel logo for Almost Frugal. I’ve also met marketing and communication consultants, HR managers, cold sales experts and so on. The contacts that I’ve made will not only serve as a possible introduction to others, but more importantly, as a guide to how successful business are run.

The association that I belong to happens to be for English speaking women in the Grenoble area, but other groups are all over the place. You might try the local Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary club, your religious organization or even the PTA at you kids’ school. Any group in which you take an active and regular role will be a source of good, frugal, leads for your new business.

Networking is not strictly related to offline activities. Online activities, of which blogging is one of course, are a great frugal way to spread the word about your own business, whether it’s the Etsy user groups that help Etsy sellers network and find customers, or Twitter, on which it’s becoming more and more common to see overtly commercial messages.

Another very important tool for any (new) business is a well designed business card, and I have to say that I am in love with Moo and their business and greeting cards. I am not affiliated with them in any way, but I have ordered business cards from them before, as well as seen cards ordered by my friends. I love the way they look, and the price is more than reasonable, especially considering that you can order cards in denominations of 50. Finally, as a prospective consultant, I’m not going to be looking to rent a fancy office, nor any office at all in fact. I’ll also be making do with my run of the mill laptop and getting my printing done at the French equivilent of Kinkos.

I know that I’m not the only person trying to start my own business- some of the best advice you hear when you’re trying to balance your budget is to earn more money. So what are your frugal tips to starting your own business? How are you going to (or how did you become) a success?

*I can’t start my own business, or work for another employer, while I’m still under contract with my current company as I have an exclusivity clause in my contract. I do have the right to work on my blogs, and two projects that I had already started before beginning work with my current job. Similarly, if my contract is renewed, I either have to try to renegotiate it or give up on the idea of starting my own consulting company.


1 Janie Out of Debt August 3, 2009

I agree with Craig’s statement, “things can be done to make the business look and feel professional even if it is run out of your room.” Plus you can keep your start-up costs low by running it out of your room because you are already paying rent or a mortgage for it. This is one of those double positive situations.

I just found your website and I love it! I will be back. Thanks.
.-= Janie Out of Debt´s last blog ..Was I exhausted by my debt? =-.

2 Carol August 3, 2009

I hope you are more successful than your parents. Being in business for yourself is hard–especially in these economic times.

3 WAHMy August 3, 2009

I work on a contract basis, too. I love the flexibility, but sometimes I yearn for more stability.

I wish I could offer some advice on starting a business… I’ve thought about it myself, but somehow I suspect I lack the follow-through and determination to be successful at it.
.-= WAHMy´s last blog ..Sickie =-.

4 Craig August 3, 2009

The great thing about the internet is starting your own consulting business is easier these days than in the past, and little things can be done to make the business look and feel professional even if it is run out of your room.
.-= Craig´s last blog ..Interview on the SF Examiner =-.

5 Scott Lovingood August 4, 2009

The biggest thing to remember when you start a business – how are you going to get customers. If you are thinking about starting a consulting business, can you start a blog related to it? Getting a list of potential clients already interested in your potential services.

I would also suggest looking at Vistaprint (and sign up as a reseller). I got some significantly good deals on business cards using their reseller program.

Also with your blog on frugality, you already understand about not spending money you don't have. Develop a list of potential clients and set up a database on your computer. Get their names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.

Getting started in business need not be expensive but it can be if you let it. Also sign up for Google voice and consider myFax or efax for a fax number as well.

Hope that helps.
.-= Scott Lovingood´s last blog ..Do you have a Wealth Squad in your small business? =-.

6 Chris Roland August 4, 2009

Being in the technology industry, I never realized how much networking would help me professionally. I always thought networking was when you joined a networking group. However technology conferences are a great networking resource for me, especially multi-day events.

7 AJ August 5, 2009

I need to start a business. I have so much debt and it is not getting paid off the way things are going now.
.-= AJ´s last blog ..Increasing my salary from 38k to 100k in a year =-.

8 The Prudent Homemaker August 9, 2009

I didn’t know you were in (or near 🙂 ) Grenoble! I spent a day in Grenoble at a conference (I was living in Clermont-Ferrand at the time).

In the U.S., I would have to say that ordering business cards from Vista Print is a great way to go. They have deals all the time, and once you’ve ordered from them, they send you emails with new specials that aren’t on their site. My husband is able to reorder from them at really low prices, and their shipping is pretty quick (quicker than they say it will be), so he usually goes with the least expensive shipping option). They have some great brochures as well; he has ordered from them many times and been very happy with them.

Bon Chance!

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