Good advice for new online businesses with razor-thin budgets

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone with a great business idea had an unlimited startup budget, or at least angel investors with deep pockets? It would certainly feel nice if you were the one with the well-funded startup.

The reality (damn it) is that cash is a limited resource and we usually need the struggle of making decisions involving limited dollars or else we do stupid things.

So, assuming few assets beyond an idea you believe in passionately, how do you run your business on a tight budget without looking so bad you undermine your chances of future growth?

Jerry Jao - Retention Science

A lot of that is trial and error (speaking from experience here), but you can pick up several good ideas from Christina DesMarias’s interview with serial entrepreneur Jerry Jao.

Jao shared with DesMarias his “10 Extreme Bootstrapping Ideas,” a collection of tips based on Jao’s experience founding and running three startups.

You can probably figure out which point grabbed my attention: How to get a website for your new business. I disagree somewhat with Jao’s suggested pathway, though.

He’s correct when he says that hiring an agency can be expensive, but it’s often money well spent — if you have it. The cost of a website for a new venture should be in proportion to other expenses, though, and design agency website budgets can swallow a new business whole.

Costly advice

Where I part ways with Jao is his suggestion to try Freelancer.com to hire someone to help you with your site. The trouble with that approach is that freelancers listed are all over the map in terms of both price and talent.

It’s easy enough to find someone willing to work for just about any budget, but quality and communication barriers are two serious issues that plague projects using freelancers hired via gig sites like Freelancer.com. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that, unless you’re experienced with website projects, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Until it’s too late.

Better advice

Best to hang onto that $300 you were going to pay the guy working out of an Internet cafe in Chechnya.

The simplest/least expensive alternative is to create your own site on WordPress.com. There are ways you can make it look professional if you devote a bit of time to it.

If you’re sure you need “regular” (a.k.a., self-hosted) WordPress from the start, consider giving it a go yourself.

No, it’s not easy. But if you have barely any budget and no room for mistakes, you should know this:

Many, many people who bill themselves as web designers or developers actually lack the comprehensive skill set needed to create a good website.

I see it over and over when people who haven’t really understood who they’re hiring come to me to fix the mess they’ve been left with.

Building your own site might not yield perfect results, but you’ll learn enough to better judge any pro you hire down the road.

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