Start Up A Business On a Budget
If you want to start a business on a budget, your going to want to follow these tips. Truth is cost it the number 1 factor when you first get started. Whether it’s a side gig or your new full time thing, you have to make the most of every penny. Every business takes time to grow. And that means very little cash flow at the start. So I wanted to compile a list of helpful tools, tips and tricks to start up a business on a budget. If you have some ideas to add to this, please let me know.
Setting Up Your BUSINESS STRUCTURE on a Budget
The first thing you need to do when starting up a business is to work out what business structure you want. You have three basic options.
Sole Trader – Cheapest and Easiest
This is by far the easiest and cheapest option. If you trade under your own name (you don’t have to) you don’t even have to purchase a business name (that will save you $36/yr) or get a Tax File Number (as you can use your own). It’s a great way to get started but does come with some downsides. All your profit goes straight to your taxable income so there’s no flexibility and you pay personal tax rates. More concerning though is you and anything you own is liable if you get sued or things go belly up. That said it’s probably the best way to get started for a small side gig or to test the waters on a new venture on the cheap. You can essentially start up for $0.
Trust – Most Flexibility, Medium Cost.
A trust is a business structure where a trustee cares over a trusts assets and business. See my post on this for more details. All profits are distributed to designated beneficiaries. It allows you to distribute profits to a variety of beneficiaries in a more tax advantageous way. And also helps protect your personal assets as the trust owns the business, not you directly. The safest option is to have a company trustee of the trust, but that has more costs as well. All this comes with added costs and administration. You have to set up a trust ($150-$500), buy a business name ($36/yr), do annual trust tax returns, etc. You will also need a solicitor to set up your trust docs for you (you can do this cheaply online for a simple trust). This is one of the better longer term options or if you have significant assets to protect. It might be what you switch to if things start going well.
Company – Less Tax, More Regulation, Higher Cost.
Companies come with the highest costs and regulations. But they also allow you to pay a company tax rate. It will cost about $700-1200 to set up through a solicitor. There are annual ASIC fees of about $267. You also need to register a company name. And you need to do an annual company tax return.
To register a business name you can visit https://register.business.gov.au/. You can check what names are available. I’d also check if you can get a website domain with that name as well with a .com.au ending. It will set you back $36 for 1 year or $85 for 3 years, I’d go for 1 year to start as you just don’t know what will happen. At the same time you can get yourself an ABN for free and a Tax File Number as well. You can also register for GST and PAYG, but see the note below. The ABR website is also helpful and you can maintain and update your registrations there. If you want a company you’ll need to check out https://asic.gov.au/ and I’d use a solicitor or online company registration business to set it up. This isn’t something you can do yourself.
GST and PAYG
You only need to register for GST if your income exceeds $75 000, so don’t do this unless you will. It also means quarterly BAS, business activity statements. You want to avoid that for as long as possible. Likewise you only need to register for PAYG once you have paid employees.
WEBSITES on a Budget
If you have a business, you probably will want a website at some point. This is one of those costs you need to control to start up a business on a budget. Depending on your business you may be able to avoid one for a while, but at some point you will want it. So make sure that your domain name is available and purchase it ASAP. You will need 3 things.
- Domain Name: yourbusiness.com.au (you must get this to secure that domain name for your business)
- Web Hosting: Hosts your website on a server. Get this when you are ready to put up your site.
- Website Design and Upkeep
Domain Names and Hosting
You can buy domains cheaply. I’d buy mine from the same service I buy my web hosting from to make things easy. .com.au domain names are usually about $15/yr. For web hosting I now use VentraIP. They charge $8.95/month but often have specials for less if you get them at the right time. The reason I use VentraIP is they are Australian. There support is fantastic. You speak with an aussie on the phone. They back up your site every hour. Your site is hosted in Australia and not overseas, so the speeds are better. You can get cheaper options, but when something goes wrong, you wished you hadn’t. Trust me on this! Once you’ve bought your hosting use their ‘one click install’ to install wordpress on your site. Now your ready to add a theme and some content.
Website Design and Upkeep
If you want to start a business on a budget this is one cost that can overwhelm. So here’s what you need to know. You can build and upkeep your own website. Let me say that again: YOU CAN build your own site! Even if you know nothing now, you CAN! It’s a skill you should probably learn if you are going to run a business. You could outsource this for $1000-$10 000, but when you are starting out you are best to do it yourself. See this as a learning experience. I’ve done all my own websites and have had to learn my way through it. Now I’ve designed lots of websites for friends and can knock them up pretty quickly. It’s a really valuable skill to develop and google can solve almost any issue along the way (and there will be issues!). Here’s how to get started.
Search for the best Free or Premium WordPress Templates. For premium templates I often use Envato Market/ Themeforest. Premium templates will come with better support, so may be the way to go if you are new to this. Get one with lots of 5 star reviews, especially if they say support is excellent. That’s the biggest thing you need. You can search by industry and find one that looks like it has everything you want. A premium wordpress theme will be about $80. Once you have the theme you can you can add it (go to appearance, themes, add theme) to your site (call your host if you need help). And now you are ready to add pages and content and images (royalty free ones, use pixabay or another free image site). You’ll need a basic security plugin like Wordfence (the free version is fine). And now you just need to add in your content and build it up over time. Most premium sites will come with most functionality built in, but expect a week or two to get it up fully.
ACCOUNTING on a Budget
Accounting isn’t cheap, especially if you pay someone else to do it. Even on your own you’ll find that accounting programs can be hugely expensive. And when you are starting up a business on a budget, this isn’t a cost you can afford. So once again you get to learn a new skill, basic accounting! I use a free program that is Australian based called free accounting software. It can actually handle everything, payroll, PAYG, BAS and everything you will need as your business grows. It will also do your invoicing as well. So this is something worth having if you want to do your own accounting on a budget. If you are new to this it will be a learning curve, but one that’s worth doing. You’ll be googling how to account for depreciation. But overtime you’ll get the hang of it. The key with accounting is to keep on top of it. Record all your expenses, income and payments and keep it up to date.
How to Pay Yourself, Super
You’ll also want to figure out how to pay yourself. As a sole trader it’s simple, your net profit goes straight on the income line of your tax return. But if you have a trust or a company you have choices. You can pay yourself a wage and super, or if you have a company you can pay dividends or directors fees or a distribution if you have a trust. If you don’t take super, you might want to think about making your own deductible super contributions. But all of this needs to be figured out as you get your head around accounting on a budget.
Again getting someone to do your tax can be a substantial cost. Particularly if you have a trust or a company, think min $1200. But if you are just getting started this is an expense you can ill afford to pay at the start. And again this is something you can do. Personal tax returns, trust tax returns and company tax returns can all be completed yourself. And the tax office provides very detailed step by step information docs with each of these. All you have to do is follow the instructions. The first year will take you a while, but once you’ve figured it out, you can knock them out pretty quickly, especially if you’ve kept your records up to date with your accounting software.
Business Cards, Promotional Material, Logos, Etc
Promotion is another area that can cost a truck load if you are not careful. But if you are a start up on a budget, you need to keep these costs low. Here’s a few tips
- Design your own logo – it’s not that hard. Get a nice font, find an icon in your field and save it as an image. You can always pay to update later on down the track for something a bit more fancy. But at the start the DIY one is best. You can use places like 99 designs, fiverr.com and others for cheap design if yo have to. But I’d aim to do it myself.
- Design your own business cards. Once you have your logo, put that on a simple business card. Vista print and others let you do this very cheaply.
- Make up a facebook page. You need this and it’s free. Start posting your services or wares on local facebook pages, business pages, buy/swap sell pages. Let all your friends know too. This is free.
- Use Canva for design work. It’s free and you can make some killer social media posts.
- You can advertise for free on gumtree, put up a free ad
- Don’t pay for advertising. Google ads, facebook ads, community newspapers, one flare, hi-pages, service seeking radio & flyer drops are too expensive to do at the start (unless you walk the neighbourhood yourself). Exhaust free options first and then down the track begin to explore the effectiveness of some of these more expensive promotional options.
- Attend any free networking meetings or go to the first one free visits. Get your name out and take your business cards where ever you go.
- Consider affiliate marketing if you have a product to sell. Affiliates will do the selling for you for a small cut of the action. As this only costs you per sale, it’s better than paying for advertising you have no idea will work.
- likewise, think about referrals. Can you connect with a complimentary business and refer one another or offer a kickback. Again, this means you are only paying for sales and leads, not the hope of a lead or sale.
Don’t fall into the trap of spending too much on logos, designs and advertising early on. Instead set aside a percentage of profit for advertising and promotion (eg. 20%) that can grow with the business. It’s a mistake to spend up big on the front end and find that you wasted your cash return is not sufficient to cover costs.
There’s also a multitude of other equipment costs that come with a business. But once again when you start a business on a budget, many of these costs can be avoided. Laptops, phones, printers, vehicles, warehouse/retail space are a few that come to mind. Your best bet at the start is to make do, rather than buying new gear. Use the phone you’ve got, the old laptop, share the car, make use of the garage/work from home, make do. Starting a mowing business, use that old mower in the shed. Once your business grows and has cashflow you can buy more and better dedicated equipment. But at the start keep your costs as low as possible by making do. Then as you grow you have a budget for these other expenses. In the mean time, you can still deduct the portion you use your phone or car or internet or home for business.
To start a business on a budget you need to use what you can that’s free. Software costs can really rack up. And most businesses will need some software. Thankfully there are lots of free tools out there. I use toodledo for my to do list. Asana is a great project management tool that is free to start. Gmail for email, google docs and sheets for word processing. Pixabay for images. Free accounting software I’ve already mentioned. Canva for design. Mailchimp for newsletters. There’s also free social media posting tools to schedule out regular posts. And pretty much any other software you need will have something either free or freemium to get you started. There’s no need to fork out for software so you can start a business on a budget.
One other great resource, once your up and running is App Sumo. They offer lifetime access at a way, way reduced cost for software. They are often starting up. But is a great way to get some amazing software capability at a super cheap lifetime price. I’ve bought some duds, but have also ended up with some software I could never have afforded otherwise. It’s worth a look.
If you absolutely decide that you can’t do something yourself, consider outsourcing. The cheapest options for this will always be overseas. Some tasks are repetitive, some are technical and it does make sense to pay someone else to do them for you. When starting out your cheapest options are sites like fiverr, 99 designs & upwork. You’ll find people to do just about anything. And if you look for good reviews the work can be very good quality too. Realise you’ll be paying in US dollars often, so if you have a credit card with $0 international transactions fees, use that one.
Starting a Business on a Budget
As you can see, if you want to start a business on a budget, it means you’ve got lots of learning to do. Learning how to do accounting, website building, design & marketing and more. It’s a steep learning curve, but one that will put you ahead of your competitors and give you an edge at the start with lower start up costs. It may be the difference between getting it to profitability and giving up too early. If you don’t have huge capital it’s really your only option to keep costs low and grow from scratch. If you have any other good ideas to start a business on a budget, please add your comments and let us know.