This is a guest blog by Sinead Koehler, Founder and Director of Crafty Fox Market.
All small businesses have different needs but the one thing they tend to have in common is a desire to keep start-up costs to a minimum. I started my business, Crafty Fox Market, with a very minimal budget.
I was keen to take advantage of as many free and good value tools as possible and here are a few of the practices and tools which I have found most useful:
– In the ideas phase of any business, it’s a good idea to undertake market research. This can help you to refine your product. A simple questionnaire put together using Google Docs or SurveyMonkey can provide valuable insights. If you don’t already have an audience, you can start by asking friends and family.
– You could also consider running a focus group to get people talking about your product in a group setting. I have found this to be a really useful exercise which I repeat on an annual basis.
– It’s worth paying for good quality design. When you are starting out, you will need to develop a visual identity (eg. logo, website). It’s worth taking the time to get this right from the outset.
– If you are selling products online, you need to think about your product photography. Many people do their own photography at the outset but later benefit from paying for a professional shoot. Good quality photos will directly influence online sales
– PicMonkey is a free online tool which is great for quick and easy photo editing. You can also use it to add text to images and produce basic designs for your blog or website
– I also enjoy using Canva, another free and simplistic graphic design tool for blogs which contains a lot of useful existing templates. It’s particularly useful for creating social media banners and pictures.
– A website is often one of the first things to consider. Do you want to sell products from it, tell your story via a blog or use it as a showcase for your products or services? There are a wide range of free website providers available as well as services with a paid subscription. I started out using the free version of Blogger but then moved to the paid verison of Squarespace. I like that it’s well-designed, easy-to-use and has excellent customer support
– Embrace social media – an amazing free marketing tool for any new business! Get to know the different platforms and focus your efforts on the one or two which will help you reach your audience most effectively
– Mailchimp is one of many mailing list providers who can help you to manage your subscribers and keep in touch via professional looking email newsletters. It’s free to use until you reach 2000 subscribers.
– Many businesses start out recording income and expenses via a simple spreadsheet but online services like Sage One Accounts can help you to manage cashflow better and get paid faster by emailing invoices which can even contain a Sage Pay ‘Pay Now’ button if you connect the two services
– Think about how you will receive payments. A mobile card reader can be a great tool if you need to take payments on the go. I currently use iZettle which is reliable, easy-to-use and has a low transaction fee