You’ve finally decided to embark on the entrepreneurial journey of your dreams and be your own boss. Congratulations! Now that you’re in the planning stages, you’ve likely started thinking about how you’ll fund your dream company. While bootstrapping isn’t for everyone, starting a business with your own funds keeps you from relying on investors for capital — investors who will have a say in what your business does for years to come. I brought my idea for Podcast Hawk, a SaaS product that helps people get booked on podcasts, to life and have assisted other business owners in launching six- and seven-figure companies on a bootstrap budget. I have valuable advice on ways to launch a product-based business on a budget that will help you build your company (and your wealth) in the long run.
The following tried-and-true tips will help you bootstrap your company’s product launch on a limited budget:
Test your product idea before you launch
The preliminary step to take is testing to see if there is an adequate market for your offerings. This means you need to experiment and try selling your products before putting any money and time into actually producing them.
Yes, you read that correctly — sell your startup’s products before they exist.
You must do this to determine if there are enough consumers out there who are willing to spend money on your offerings. Trust me, this step can safeguard you from potentially spending a lot of time and money (and experiencing a ton of stress!) later on, as you won’t produce a product only to find out that consumers don’t actually want to buy it.
There are various ways to go about testing your idea. If you plan to sell physical items on an e-commerce website, try pre-selling your products at a discounted price to determine if people want to purchase them. On the other hand, if you want to launch a software as a service (SaaS) business, test out your idea by trying to sell a set number of discounted lifetime memberships (even before the software exists) to see if consumers sign up. This step is vital, so you don’t go ahead and pay a developer a large sum of money to build software that no one is interested in.
You can conduct these experiments in almost every business niche. Also, don’t worry, you won’t be stealing money from would-be customers; if you don’t have enough sign-ups or presales, simply offer a refund.
Create and launch an MVP
If you find that a lot of consumers participate in your startup’s presale, then it’s time to move forward with your official launch. Since you are bootstrapping your enterprise with your own money, you probably don’t have the funds to hire employees. Therefore, you will need to build and deliver the product that you presold on your own.
To do this, you need to launch a minimum viable product as quickly as you can — and don’t go down the perfection spiral! Produce something that works for your customers and then it’s time for the next step: asking for brutally honest feedback.
Ask customers for candid criticisms
Even if you don’t want to hear it, frank feedback is vital for startup success. When you are in the midst of bootstrapping your new venture, asking your early customers for their brutally honest feedback is a surefire way to save a ton of time and money on possible production costs.
Of course, you want to know which attributes of your product or service initial customers enjoy the most, but finding out what they dislike about your business offering is much more helpful. In doing so, you may discover that major features of your product need to be altered to better suit your customers’ needs.
Remember not to take this candid feedback personally. Use criticisms to improve your product so that it is the best it can be for your target consumers. To garner their truthful critiques, you can email a quick survey to your customers that invites them to rate how they liked the product, and request that they share their comments about what they would change.
Even after you launch, you must continue this feedback cycle for as long as your company is in business. Continuous feedback will help you further improve your company’s offerings and catapult your business to greater levels of success.
Before you set off on the journey of launching the enterprise of your dreams, stop and take a moment to go through the above pivotal steps, summarized as follows:
- Conduct an experiment to determine whether there is consumer demand by preselling your product before you actually spend the funds to create it.
- Then, if you find that your potential company offering does have a sustainable market, forge ahead and launch a minimum viable product as fast as you can so you can obtain initial users’ invaluable critiques.
- You can garner customers’ frank feedback by emailing them a quick and simple survey that asks them to share insight on their experience and what they would change about the product. Use their indispensable criticisms to improve your company offerings and ensure greater business success (and remember to continue asking for customer feedback throughout the life of your enterprise).
Each of these steps is critical for launching and growing a startup that will thrive and grow for many years to come.
Originally published May 12, 2021.