8 Ways To Survive The Bootstrapping Years

Mary Walton

Starting up your own business is a life-changing venture, filled with ups and downs—and potentially, incredible success. Let’s not sugarcoat it – chances are you’re going to face challenges and obstacles, and you may even be tempted to call it quits. It’s tough out there, but in the end, bootstrapping your own business venture is unbelievably satisfying and fulfilling in so many ways. When you’re able to look back and see what you’ve built and the progress you’ve made, it’ll be impossible to not swell with pride.

But knowing that challenges are waiting is just one way to prepare for what’s ahead. There are a few things you should know ahead of time in order to better survive those bootstrapping years.

1. Design a business model that generates cash quickly

With most new startups, the amount of money going out is generally greater than what’s being brought in, at least at the beginning. No matter how great your idea or product is, people usually won’t jump on board right off the bat. It’s going to take time, lots of effort, and investments to get things going, build a customer base, and start making serious money. Lots of startups find themselves running out of money before their business has the time it needs to actually start generating revenue. Knowing this ahead of time means you can develop your business model to start generating cash quickly. Determine ways you can start bringing money in faster so you don’t run out of cash.

2. Invest in your website domain and incorporating

Everything is online these days, and it’s one of the first places customers will look to get more information about your business. If you’re not online, you’re definitely going to miss out on immense customer and cash potential. Investing in your website domain secures your place online and lets your customers access your business info anytime and anywhere.

Remember that once your business starts to build a name for itself, the domain name you want could be gone. Many big companies that we recognize today had to pay big bucks to acquire domain names that had already been snatched up. Prepare for success by investing in your website domain and incorporating your business from the start.

3. Be discerning when chasing revenue

Sometimes money can be a huge distraction, especially when it comes to bootstrapping a startup. When you’re on the hunt for revenue, make sure your strategy won’t send your business model and vision on the wrong track. The bump in revenue may not be worth the effects of going off-course. If your revenue opportunities are right in line with your goals, jump on them right away. If not, take a good hard look at whether they will be worthwhile to your business in the long run.

4. Don’t outsource jobs you can do yourself

Throughout the bootstrapping years, you’ll likely need to outsource some tasks. If you’re overwhelmed with putting together content for your website, for example, turn to freelancers at Upwork and Guru, and look to the experts at Contently, BoomEssays, and Custom Writing for high-quality content.

Keep in mind, however, that there are plenty of things you can do yourself. This is great for two reasons: You don’t need to spend money for someone else to do a job you can easily do yourself, and it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to sit back and see what you’ve created.

On the other hand, if you really don’t know how to do something, like design a logo or other graphic work, you can get expert help through a service like Toptal or 99Designs. So do what you can yourself, but remember that services can help with the things you can’t.

5. Pick a cofounder wisely

Two heads are better than one, right? Partnering with someone can have huge benefits to your startup—just be sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your vision for the business, and that you complement each other’s skills and strengths. If you’re each bringing your own strengths to the business, you can rely on each other to help build up the business, utilizing your skills while keeping your expenses down.

6. Talk to people early and often

Sometimes hearing negative feedback can be deflating. You’ve worked hard to build up your business, so you don’t want to hear anything but glowing reviews. But getting negative feedback and criticism is incredibly important to making the adjustments you’ll need to make early in your startup. It won’t do you any good to think everything’s great when a simple fix could make a huge difference in how your business develops and grows. Talk to people early and often, and get as much feedback as possible. Find out what you’re doing right and wrong so you can change what’s wrong and keep doing what’s right.

7. Forget the “proven” team

Often we focus on acquiring people who have “proven” themselves in the industry. But remember that experienced people also come with a price—they often demand a much higher salary than someone much less experienced. They also come with habits they’ve picked up over the years, which can be good or bad.

Looking to fresh new faces instead of more seasoned talent could let you hire the people you need without the high price tag. Many newbies are brimming with talent and are just waiting for an opportunity to prove themselves. Why not take advantage of their energy and let them show you what they can do?

8. Focus on function, not form

When you’re in the bootstrapping years, it’s essential to focus on function over form. The function part of your business just needs to work – to get things from point A to point B. And when you’re starting out, as long as things are functioning as they should, form should generally take a back seat.

Getting through those bootstrapping years can be tough, with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. Be prepared and aware that challenges will be waiting. Keep your eyes on the end game and on your vision of the future.

For more strategies for enterpreneurs, see Guide To Startup Success In Any Economy.


Mary Walton

About Mary Walton

Mary Walton is a content manager and online tutor currently living in Santa Monica. Read her educational blog Simple Grad. Follow Mary on Twitter and Linkedin.