Tips on Bootstrapping

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

A little while back, Business Fund had a post, How to: bootstrap it (27 tips). The tips are split up into two sections: “where do I get the money” and “how do I get started”.

This is a great list of tips, well worth reading. There are a number of funding sources that I hadn’t thought of. Though if you decide to use credit cards to fund a startup – as many people do – just keep in mind how easy it is to go from bootstrapping to being in debt.

Of course, if you manage to get a 0% APR balance-transfer credit card, you might have anywhere from 6-18 months of interest-free credit. However, you do need a good credit rating to qualify. If you get accepted, just be sure you’re always on top of your current and predicted cashflow – which of course should be realistic.

Nomadic Entrepreneurs?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

The Lost Girls and their around-the-world travel plans seem to have inspired others to stoke their travel lust, including entrepreneurs. And since location for digital entrepreneurs isn’t much of an issue anymore, what if someone carried being a mobile entrepreneur to another level? That is, could you be a successful entrepreneur while spending a significant portion of your time traveling around the world? Or at least while moving from location to location after a period of time.

Since the cost of living is not consistent around the world, meager revenues in some parts of the world could go a long way elsewhere. And there are enough of those elsewheres that you could spend many years being an expatriate, changing your home base and still living well. That is, provided you could continue to earn the same revenue regardless of where you go.

Of course, the best platform with minimal hassles for that kind of career is the Internet. If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, you can surely find additional opportunities in each locale – which you can then at least attempt to promote online.

In fact, anyone who builds up a successful Internet business will at some point probably be able to live abroad long-term and still maintain the business – even live off of it. For this reason, I think that the next “Age” will the be Age of Leisure. People will start quitting their jobs and live off online businesses, and to deflect the boredom of less work, will start travelling for long periods.

There are of course a number of negative aspects in taking extended leaves:

  1. Banking issues.
    You can’t quite conduct all of your monetary transactions digitally. Close, but you’ll need hard currency at times, and that means having access to local banks. Some countries only allow landed immigrants and citizens to hold bank accounts.

  2. Citizenship status.
    Losing certain status in your home country if you don’t spend X months per calendar there. And if you are planning to stay extended durations in each locale, you may need to apply for special visas, etc., especially if you are earning a living, even online.

  3. Taxes.
    You may have to pay income taxes in two countries.

  4. Impermanence.
    You no longer have a permanent home base. How do you ensure that your snail-mail/ packages get forwarded? Email as well as phone calls can be handled online, of course.

  5. Displacement.
    There are of course expatriates everywhere, but it’s not for everyone. If you decide to become a true expatriate, you lose your status, and that makes it more difficult to come back and visit with friends and family.

Hopefully governments will realize that more citizens will become nomadic, and maybe the forward-thinking ones will make it easier for digital nomads to retain citizenship, pay taxes, etc.

So, assuming you can work out the negative aspects, it’s quite possible that you could turn yourself into a roving entrepreneur. It takes a certain personality to pull it off, of course, but I think it can be done.

You could even set up a travel-cum-entrepreneur weblog, write about your experiences, and potentially earn advertising revenues. If you talk about the places you visit in detail, there’s also the opportunity to earn Amazon book affiliate commissions. There are many other options to consider, but I also suggest you try to set up a Squidoo lens for each city you visit/ live in.

These websites/ weblogs could fund your travel as you seek out new entrpreneurial opportunities.

5 Reasons To Get Out Of Debt Fast

Monday, June 11, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

While proper bootstrapping practice typically does not put you into debt, regular entrepreneuring can. It’s exciting to think of all the opportunities our activities could lead us to, but being over-eager at the detriment of other aspects of life is not a prize. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded why not to hold debt. A few thoughts…

  1. Stay out of bankruptcy.
    Protect your home and other assets, which won’t have to be sold off at auction at a low return on the dollar, to pay off your debts.

  2. Better health.
    Debt does cause depression in some people. Getting out of debt usually results in less anxiety, more sanity.

  3. Save your marriage.
    A more peaceful family life. Is there a family you know that has never argued about the bills? Probably not. It’s normal. However, when it goes too far, relationships sour.

  4. Better quality of life.
    Spend less overall, have more money saved, and enjoy more out of life. Go on vacation more often or gift your self.

  5. Save for retirement.
    Experts have been saying that Social Security cannot be relied on after the Baby Boomers have all retired. Save now, by first paying off your debts. Then, whatever monthly amount you’ve been paying towards interest charges can now earn you interest with a safe online savings account. At least until you’re ready to reinvest it into your startup.

That said, Credit Card Lowdown has a list of who they feel are the 100 most influential personal finance bloggers. While many “pfblogs” are geared towards personal finance, when you’re an entrepreneuring, especially a bootstrapping one, you may find it hard to separate work and private life. So your finances for both facets are treated identically. In other words, go check the list out.

Comments (1) | Filed under: Cash Flow

5 Ways To Increase Your Wealth

Sunday, June 10, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Some people become entrepreneurs because they know that the potential for becoming wealthy exists – something they feel isn’t possible with a “regular” job. However, one thing I’ve learned the hard way, and also from studying other entrepreneurs is that wealth is both a process and a frame of mind. That is, you don’t necessarily have to be entrepreneurial to eventually find wealth. (Though it probably helps.)

That said, here are some thoughts about increasing wealth, whether or not you’re an entrepreneur.

  1. Earn more by:

    1. Getting a second job. It can be from home, online. This might be a safe way to start your career as an entrepreneur.
    2. Selling off items you own but don’t need. Your source of startup capital?
    3. Upgrading your skills/ education and getting a promotion. Do you know what you’re getting into? Are you prepared?
  2. Spend less.
    Double think all your medium- and big-ticket items. Be a bargain hunter. Frugality is a characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.

  3. Pay off your debts.
    If you continue to use credit afterwards, pay off your balances each month. This is part of slicing out unnecessary expenses. Credit is good if you use it wisely. After making in mistakes in this regard, I’ve learned to pay off my debts monthly.

  4. Save your money.
    In CDs (Certificates of Deposit), Treasury Bills, or interest-bearing accounts such as online savings accounts.

  5. Save for retirement.
    Protect some of your savings against income taxes in a registered retirement savings plan. You can have money deposited periodically and directly from your  bank account.

Productivity and Entrepreneurship Roundup – Thur June 07, 2007

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Spice Girl Name Entrepreneur and Woman of the Year
At the Glamour Magazine Awards the other day, former Spice Girl Victoria “Posh” Beckham was named both the Entrepreneur of the Year and Britain’s Woman of the Year. [via]

Dare I say it? I’m not sure Posh is at the level of successful entrepreneurial women like Oprah (not British) or even Paul McCartney’s successful fashion designer daughter Stella (British). But then again I have no idea what qualifies Posh for either title.

Maybe There’s Hope?
The Helderberg reports that a former jailbird turned entrepreneur in South Africa. It’s one of the few options available to those who have been in jail. In this case, Trevor Claasen is also trying to make sure that others don’t make the mistakes he did.

Is Entrepreneuring the Future of Employment?
The venerable BBC has a story asking do you have the DNA for entrepreneuring. They point out  that a report states that over half of the UK GDP will be produced by entrepreneurs, and that the Internet is a powerful platform for entrepreneuring. What’s more, it affords people the opportunity to work a shorter work week and more time for vacation. Now isn’t that what I’ve been saying too :)

Airline Wait Times vs Productivity
Speaking of shorter work weeks and vacation, if you are travelling inside the U.S., keep in mind that flight schedules have been padded intentionally over the past decade to increase the probability that a flight will arrive “on time” (within 15 minutes). [via Consumerist]

Exclusive Clubs Still Thrive
It seems there’s always room for exclusive clubs for the wealthy. Or at least that’s what Sam Elshafey must be hoping, since he’s just launched an invite-only lifestyle club for the super-rich. What he does is help members find the luxury items they’re looking for. Moral: find your niche.

Go West Young Entrepreneur? Or Maybe East?
Of course, that advice depends on where you are now. Montana is supposedly ahead of the rest of the United States, but it’s population is low. If you want to know where the most entrepreneurial activity per capita is, check the Kaufman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (PDF, 24 pgs), courtesy of the SSRN. [via Idaho Business Review]

Mistakes of the Web Entrepreneur
Going back to last month, Web Worker Daily offered their Top 5 web worker mistakes. The best advice on the list, in my opinion, is to not go it alone. You may be able to do a lot of things yourself as a digital entrepreneur, but there are some things others should do for you.

How Not To Use Design To Brand Your Business?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 9:00pm by Site Administrator

Warning: I am no professional designer and I’m not pretending to be. I’m probably what you might call an armchair designer. After spending five years at the local university library studying both graphic design books and “old master” art collections on my own time, I can draw, but I can’t design. I can sketch out ideas and have more talented people finish them off better than I could. Unfortunately, a good design is a part of corporate branding, and it’s something that every entrepreneur probably needs to address at some point.

So after all my browsing, I know what I like and what I don’t in design. What I don’t like is the London 2012 Olympics logo (above). It’s turning heads all over, but not in a good way. It seems so out of place, compared to the more elegant designs of past Olympics. Some people dislike it more than I – many being Londoners – and are voicing their opinion. (What Seth Godin said made me chuckle, and it’s good advice when looking for a logo or other design components.) Hopefully, the London committee will accept these suggestions for alternate designs [via Logo Design Works].

But when you have an old brand like the Olympics, a bad logo for one event probably isn’t going to have too much long-lasting negative effect. If you’re a new business, that’s another story. Now in addition to typical print-related branding design elements, digital entrepreneurs building a web-based business have additional graphic needs: website/ weblog theme and something called a favicon (fave icon). faviconA favicon is a 16×16 pixel graphic that is either a scaled down version of your logo, or something that suggests the same thing. For example, I sketched out an original logo that a professional designer turned into the large image you see somewhere in this paragraph. You can see the favicon version (tiny graphic) as well. It’s actually my original design, and it works better for the favicon. Even though the real logo is a stylized chameleon, it has too much detail that will not show at a 16×16 pixel size. The original design was raw and incomplete, but for all intents and purposes, it’s visually similar enough to the logo to act as a stand-in.

Do you need a favicon for your website, given that some web browsers will not show it anyway? Some websites don’t use one, but they probably should. Jennifer Slegg, aka Jenstar/ Jensense, is an SEM (Search Engine Marketing) expert who wrote at length about the importance of a favicon as a visual branding element.

And of course, any logo and favicon has to work with the color scheme for your business’ website. But let’s get to that another time.

Building a Web 2.0 Business From Scratch

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

On Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World blog, he offers a lot of practical advice, much of which is relating to entpreneurship.  In By the numbers, Guy breaks down the amount of time and the cost of the components he used to build his recently launched Trumors web 2.0 site. The site allows you to leave either a nugget of truth or a rumor – via phone, text message, email, or posting on the site via web browser.

Since the Trumors site needed custom software, I can understand how paying $4500 for software development is justified. But nearly $5K for legal fees sounds like a lot. I suppose it all depends on what you’re expecting. If you’re expecting quick success, it might be worth it to be prepared, to have some good business legal advice in advance. If you’re a bootstrapping entrepreneur, on the other hand, you may not have this kind of money to throw around upfront.

The $400 spent on the site’s logo could be cut in half. There are many logo design sites out there that charge under $200 for a quality design. (In fact, one such is a client of mine.) But if you want stationary, cards, etc., then expect to pay more. Full corporate packages that include website setup and design adds several hundred more. It really depends on what you can do yourself or thanks to partners.

But the numbers that surprise me are the $1100+ spent on registering 55 domain names – variations of trumors. So alternate TLDs (Top Level Domains) such as .de, .biz, etc., were registered. Guy admits that he “was too stupid and lazy” to have used a domain registrar service such as GoDaddy to have saved some of that cost. So he paid about $20 per domain, on average. He could have cut that to $6.50 for some TLDs, even $0.99 for .info at GoDaddy.

However, 55 domains, not the domain cost, seems like overkill. I’m not saying it’s wrong for what Guy is doing, just that not every web business needs to do that. Unless you have serious reasons to own pretty much every TLD variation, I’d say stick to .com, .biz, .net, .info. Maybes include .org, .us (if applicable) or possibly a .tv, etc.

Where you may want to get some variation is in the domain name itself. Is your domain name easily mispelled? Does it “look” different than it sounds? Register some .com variations.

You are not going to build websites on every single domain you register. Just build one and redirect the rest to it. Though some companies are starting to use the .info variation to provide company information, and .org for non-profit projects. That means building additional sites, and the average bootstrapper may the intent, but it will come later, when funds permit.

Now, Guy expresses surprise in how many page views his Trumors site had in just 11 days, and that surprises me. His blog is extremely popular, and has many loyal readers. Plus he got “press” at a number of key websites.

This just goes to show you that even if you don’t want to earn revenue from writing a blog, it can be a strategic branding tool for your later entrepreneurial endeavors.

If you don’t have time to go through Guy’s article completely just now (since I’ve babbled at length), his final bullet point lists the four lessons he learned (as well as a little slideshow). I’ve paraphrased them here in bold, with some commentary.

  1. Bad PR can be good.
    On the Internet, bad PR can bring you traffic from the curious. Some may then realize that they disagree with the bad PR, and these visitors may become loyal to you.

  2. $12,000 goes a long way.
    Yes it does. So does $5,000. If you’re bootstrapping and trying to produce a web-based business, don’t skimp on the essentials. Do, however, defer other costs until they’re (almost) necessary, with the revenue that comes in.

  3. You can work with a virtual team.
    This is one of the best aspects of working online. I collaborate with people all over the world on a daily basis. This is especially important if you’re a mobile digital entrepreneur.

  4. Life is good for entrepreneurs these days.
    Yes, yes it is. I’d dare say it’s easier to build a brand online than offline, and you have the option of a shorter work week or many mini-vacations while remaining connected to your team.

Festival of Frugality #77

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 3:14pm by Site Administrator

David at My Two Dollars has just posted all the editor’s selections for the Festival of Frugality #77. My piece on free applications for entrepreneurs was one of the selections. Check out the festival, as there is a giant list of links to articles about frugality. If you feel like hosting this carnival, check out the Festival of Frugality blog. Carnivals are a great way to network within the blogosphere, draw backlinks, and visitors. So it can be worth the time. Also check out the description for the new Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs, which will start off here soon, then hopefully move elsewhere.

Comments (0) | Filed under: carnivals

The Mobile Needs of Digital Entrepreneurs

Monday, June 4, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

The entrepreneurial playing field was forever changed with the Internet, as any digital entrepreneur knows. And those of you planning to start down the entrepreneurial path should know all the benefits of being an online-based business over an offline business. Still, even if you’re the latter, the Internet affords you the ability to run a portion of your business online and to stay connected when you have to travel.

Being able to work anywhere is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view. I like to think of it as a blessing, since I work entirely online.

Some of the benefits of being a fully digital entrepreneur:

  1. Work from anywhere with an Internet connection, including the beach while on vacation.
  2. A short work week, should you want it.
  3. Work with virtual teams, with members based anywhere in the world.
  4. Cheaply build a brand online with free or inexpensive tools and web2.0 applications.
  5. Opportunities to add online revenue streams, sometimes with great ease.

Of course, to achieve this kind of digital nomad lifestyle, there are some things that you need. Andy Abramson, a well-known VoIP blogger, has been writing a fair bit about digital nomads. He has a list of 15 things a global nomad wants in a hotel, so that they can work anywhere. Some are absolutely crucial, others just conveniences. A number of commenters offer some additional items for consideration.

Other VoIP and tech bloggers offer their comments re Andy’s post: Ken Camp, Global Nerdy, Jon Arnold, Russell Shaw, Jim Courtney, and Matthew Miller. Having followed most of these bloggers’ blogs for nearly a year, I happen to know they do travel. So while not all of them are true Digital Nomads, they are close to that category. It’s also their job to write about the IP (Internet Protocol) communication tools available.

Being a VoIP blogger myself, though not as frequently as in the past, I’d have to say that a good VoIP program is the number one software tool in a Digital Nomad’s arsenal, after a web browser and before a web feed reader. And if you plan to be a travelling digital entrepreneur, you need to choose a good VoIP client. More on that later, though you can read Christina Laun’s Ultimate guide to VoIP on a Mac, if you’re so inclined.

Coming Soon: Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs #1

Sunday, June 3, 2007 at 10:12pm by Site Administrator

I’m working on setting up a Blog Carnival called the Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs. While blogs about business and entpreneuring in general are most welcome, the intent is to promote blog posts about bootstrapping business success. This includes discussions of entrepreneurship, cash flow, marketing, productivity, tool sets, etc. Since bootstrappers typically do not get financing, either by choice or ineligibility, articles discussing creative cash flow are especially welcome.

If there is enough interest, this will be a weekly carnival. Else just monthly.

Categories for Carnival #1 are: business, cash flow, entrepreneurship, productivity, bootstrapping. (I don’t want to get too restrictive just yet.) To submit an article, use the submission form for the Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs. The deadline for #1 is Sat June 30th, 12 midnight, EST (Eastern/ New York City/ Toronto).

Please note: One submission per person per carnival edition, please. If you submit multiple times, all of your submissions will be ignored.

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