We are living in astonishing times. It’s never been so easy to create and grow your own business.
The power of the web means you no longer have to go cap-in-hand to the bank or investors. You can build a business from your own efforts alone, that requires virtually no money to get off the ground.
It’s a strategy known as ‘bootstrapping’, and thousands of entrepreneurs all over the world are using this approach to establish viable and profitable companies, without high-interest loans or demanding shareholders hanging over their heads.
Read on as we explain the basics of how to launch your brand on a budget of nearly nothing.
1. Start with a purpose
Before you get too excited about founding your brand, you should first focus on a fundamental truth. If anyone in 2019 can find a business, then that’s going to mean a lot of potential competition. So you’re going to have to find a point of difference to help you stand out.
Before you start focusing on the nitty-gritty details, then, you need to nail the big picture. Ask yourself three questions. Why do you want your own business? What makes you unique? Once you have honestly answered those questions, you should have a good idea about what your brand’s purpose or mission is, and what makes it different and likely to succeed.
How to know if you’ve truly nailed it? Try the elevator pitch; explaining your brand to someone in 20-30 seconds flat. If you can’t, it’s a sign that your vision is not yet focused enough. Don’t move to the next stage until you get it right.
2. Come up with a name
Once you’ve found the focus of your brand, a name is the obvious next step. It's usually trickier than you might think. Not only does it need to inspire people and explain, or at least hint at, what makes your brand special, there are also several legal considerations too.
If you're a limited company, the most obvious is that another company is not using it (find this out via Companies House by using their free WebCheck service). Even if you're a sole trader, though, it’s still useful to research online to make sure your name is not going to be confused with a competitor.
Also, check to see whether you’ll be able to get a proper domain name for your website via any of the domain name registration sites. And check social media services, too, to see if your preferred @ handles are available.
3. Create a logo
Got a name? Now you need a logo. This is the cornerstone on which you’ll build a visual identity for your brand. You’ll need to include it on all your stationery (letterheads, business cards, compliment slips and so on), as well as your website, social media accounts, and any other marketing material you create.
A logo is an instant way to convey that your brand is not just an idea but a living entity. And so you need to be thinking about creating a logo as early in the process as possible. For example, before you approach a bank to set up your business account, you’ll undoubtedly want a letterhead with your logo to put in front of them.
Graphic designers will usually charge thousands to design a logo for you. But if you’re bootstrapping your company, you’ll need to look for alternatives. One way of creating a logo that looks professional but costs very little is to use an online logo maker. We’d recommend website building platform Wix’s logo builder, which ask you a series of questions - just like a real-life human designer would - and then magically generates a logo for your brand. You can then, if you wish, easily customise this design in terms of colour, size and spacing.
Wix’s service allows you to design your logo for free, with no obligation to buy and no credit card details needed. Then, if you like it, you can download the high-res files at what is a very minimal cost.
4. Build a website
Yes, we’re living in a social media-dominated era. But if you want your brand to be taken seriously, a professional-looking website is still a must-have.
For instance, a Facebook page is excellent for sharing your company’s latest updates. But people don’t have time to scroll through hundreds of social media posts to find the specific info they’re looking for: only the more user-friendly menu system of a website can provide that. (Also bear in mind that, shocking though it may seem, not all of your target audience will actually be on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.)
Again, though, if you’re bootstrapping your company, you won’t be able to afford to pay a web design agency to build your site. Thankfully, in 2019, you no longer need to.
An online website platform like Wix offers a cheap and easy way to construct your website, using customisable templates, that will make your brand look a million dollars, but for only a few pounds. It’s also a fast way to get a website up and running, so you can have more time to focus on building your brand.
5. Establish and build your brand
Building a brand means, among other things, creating a visual identity that can be applied consistently to all your marketing across the board, which will evoke credibility and quality. This starts with a logo but also includes things like typography and colour.
That said, a brand is not just about visuals. A successful brand is built from the totality of how people interact with it, from the quality of the actual product and services you offer, to how well enquiries and complaints are handled.
However, customers interact with your brand; successful branding is about being consistent, making people happy and - crucially - encouraging them to associate these happy feelings with your brand. None of this needs to cost money; it’s more about having a clear strategy and applying it across all your activities.
So that may mean, for example, 'owning' mistakes and complaints by apologising quickly and appropriately on social media. It could mean joining groups and campaigns that mesh with your brands’ values. It might mean becoming a ‘thought leader’ in your area by writing guest posts or speaking at conferences on your specialist topic.
There are no right or wrong answers here; the main thing is to find ways to make people respond to and engage with your brand on an emotional level. And if you can crack that, everything else will slot into place.