Starting your own business is a roller coaster ride. It’s complicated, thrilling and exhausting, but the one thing it doesn’t have to be is expensive.

When it comes to just starting your business, you may think you need to spend a lot of cash to get up and running. I’m a firm believer in paying for quality when you need it. That doesn’t mean I don’t take advantage of the many free options for businesses available today! Knowing what to spend your hard earned case on and what items you can get-by and save on is key.

I figured out what to spend on, and what to save on by thinking long term about my business. Sit down and come up with a general outline of what you want your business to do and be. Having those guidelines will help you figure out what your true needs are. To grow your business, you need to be smart about your upfront costs.

To get you started, here’s a quick run down of things I think it’s smart to save on, and the things that you definitely need to spend wisely — but more — on. Personalize these tips for your business to keep your finances on track and see your business boom.

Spend:

Accounting: Having your finances in order is absolutely key to running your own business. This is not something you let slide. If you mess up your finances, you can be in legal and financial troubles. Whether you hire an accountant or purchase a software like Quickbooks, make sure that you’re clearly tracing your invoices, expenses, and profits.

Incentives: I needed to email my subscribers and ask them to take a short survey. To incentivize them, I offered a $5 Starbucks gift card lottery. Investing in incentives that you can offer your existing or potential customers will help you grow your business more quickly. People love free things! And though this was a small thing, it was all I could afford, but it did the trick and people liked it and supported me.

Design and presentation: Let me make an amendment to the old adage “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Design the website for the business you want to build, not the one you currently have. Of course, you are going to make sure that your business is going well and you don’t have to pivot tomorrow. But make as nice of a site as you can afford.

Get professional photos of yourself taken, and use them on your blog and social media channels. You want to project confidence and competence, and an iPhone selfie won’t do the trick. Take it one step further and invest in creating a beautiful website. Even if your business isn’t solely online, it pays to have a well-designed website. People will Google you and your product. You want them to find a well laid out, simple to use website. Make the investment now to reap the rewards later.

Save:

Email Lists: No matter what your business is, you should be collecting email addresses. Email marketing is a great way to grow your business and generate more revenue. To start with, you don’t need to pay for a service. Many sites will let you use their service for free until you hit a larger number of subscribers. When you’re starting, your list is probably pretty small. Use the free service until you grow large enough to start paying.

Networking: Networking is key to building your business, but paying for memberships or high priced events is not. Instead, reach out to people you admire via email or social media. Tell them what you love about their work, and mention their influence on your own work. Attend free events of all kinds — you never know who you’ll meet at something. Put yourself out there (literally!) before you shell out any cash.  

Office setup: You might see Instagram and Pinterest posts of beautiful office spaces everywhere you look. Don’t fall victim to keeping up with the Jones’ on this one. Work from your kitchen table or the stockroom at your store if you have to. Before you can have a designer office space, you need to earn designer money. The money for your work space may be better spent somewhere else at first.

Different businesses have different needs, so spend on the areas that will take you to the next level. What’s most important is that you spend on the areas you really need to, and not just blindly spend on whatever catches your eye. Form a plan, commit to your goals, and stay focused.

Only spend in accordance to your goals as you grow, and you’ll see the progress you really want. Keep the vision of what you are building in your mind, and who and what you are building this business for and then what you need to spend your money on will be more clear to you.

 

Kara Perez is the founder of Bravely, a company that connects women and money. She freelances in the areas of personal finance and travel, and she eats peanut butter straight out of the jar.

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