In today’s episode, I’m going to share with you how to build a business on a budget.
Regardless of your reasons for wanting to have a lean business model and not have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on start-up, you’re going to find this episode super helpful.
Here for the links referenced in the show notes?
Episode 334: Side-hustle tips for busy people: tashcorbin.com/334
Online Business Growth trainings: tashcorbin.com/growthseries
I’m going to share with you my strategies for a really effective and profitable lean business.
Let’s dive on in!
It doesn’t matter what your reason is for building your business on a budget. It could be:
- Wanting to keep really high-profit margins
- Necessity – you just don’t have money to spend
- Fear that you have the money to spend, but you’re not really sure if it’s going to be worthwhile spending it yet
Regardless of your reason, these lean business principles are going to be really effective for you.
As someone who sells high-ticket programs, it may surprise you to learn that I am a huge fan of the lean business model. In fact, lean business is one of the core strategies that underpins a lot of what it is that I teach online.
That being said, building your business on a budget does not mean constantly bootstrapping forever and making your business really hard for yourself.
I am someone who absolutely believes in super big profit margins, super high conversion rates, and not spending if you don’t have to. But I also recognise that sometimes our desire to not spend money is actually costing us income.
When I talk about lean business, it’s not through the lens of creating a super tight, super cheap, spend nothing business. It’s through the lens of being very smart with your money.
I think that it’s important to discern between the two.
In this episode, I’ve got six really good tips for you if you’re wanting to build your business on a budget.
If you’ve got any questions about these tips, come on over and slide into my DMs on Instagram or Facebook. I love having conversations with people about lean business! And it may surprise you to learn… I actually like talking to you!! I love when you send me DMs. I love when you send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m keen for us to have conversations. So please do reach out if you’ve got any follow-up questions or if you want to share any insights that came from reading this episode.
1. Reach is the most expensive part of your client attraction process
When it comes to attracting and converting clients (ie. making sales), the most costly part of your client attraction process is reach – both in time and in money.
If you are building a business on a budget, I would highly recommend that you focus on high-conversion strategies.
The reason for that is that they are the ones that require the smallest audience. If you’ve got a tight budget for building and growing your business, then reach is going to be really hard for you to achieve on that tight or limited budget.
Reach is the most expensive part of the client attraction process.
Just by knowing that reach is the most expensive part of your client attrition process, you’ll notice that it directs you to models and strategies that are not going to rely on needing to have thousands of followers on social media or thousands of people on your mailing list.
Those strategies that require that level of audience are going to be the most expensive.
If you’re building a business on a budget, then look for ways that you can improve your conversion rate first, because that is going to reduce your expenses in your business significantly.
That’s my first tip – reach is the most costly part of the client attraction process, so focus on strategies that don’t require a lot of reach. This leads me to my second tip…
2. Focus on high-conversion strategies
If you’re building a business on a budget, you want to ensure that you’re converting as much of your audience into paying clients as possible.
High-conversion strategies are generally high-connection strategies.
Wherever you can choose a high-connection option over a low-connection option, then I would recommend you make that choice.
For example, if you have the choice between creating a PDF evergreen freebie that people do in their own time, versus creating a live high-connection webinar, I would default to the webinar first. Of course, you can then turn that into something that’s evergreen and low-connection, but you want to focus on high-connection strategies first.
Choose something high-connection over low-connection.
Another high-connection strategy is encouraging people to message and email you (like I just did for you!). On the other hand, a low-connection strategy is one where you set up an autoresponder telling people that you only check your emails once a week.
That’s actually turning people off from connecting with you, therefore, it’s turning off potential clients from creating a relationship with you.
Whilst I understand there are a lot of people out there teaching strategies that are very low-connection (ie. passive/leveraged businesses), if you have a very tight budget and you have the capacity to respond to some emails – knowing that the more people email you, the more clients you’re going to have – then I would encourage you to look at high-connection high-conversion models, especially in the early stages.
At this stage of my business in multiple six figures going for a million-dollar income year, I still encourage people to DM and email me because I know that prioritising that activity in my business is a high return on the investment of my time. Much higher than me creating a bunch of Instagram reels and creating more and more content for people.
There are a lot of people out there who talk about passive income models and low-time-intensive business models. But what they don’t tell you is that even though they don’t spend a lot of time connecting with real-life humans, in order to create the results and the sales that they need, they’re spending hours and hours a week creating content and being on multiple platforms in order to be able to avoid answering people’s emails.
Seems a little counterintuitive to me!
You get to choose what kind of strategy you use.
Of course, if you don’t like answering emails, then that’s not necessarily going to be the right model for you.
But especially in the early stages of business, I highly recommend that if you want to build your business on a budget, create connection with people because connection is far higher conversion.
I am open to the day when it is no longer a good use of my time to answer emails or answer DMs. But at this stage of my business, it is still a very good use of my time. It increases my conversion rates over and over again.
Some of the people who run ginormous launches say that a 1%-2% conversion rate is great… well some of my marketing strategies convert at 7%. I even have a five-day challenge that I run that is still converting at over 11%.
I’m connecting with people and responding to their questions, and I do it in a really boundaried way with my time. I’m not available to people 24/7. But I encourage people to message me, email me, and ask me questions. Then I address those messages, emails and questions in a nice boundaried way.
I certainly do not send them an autoresponder that basically says they’re not important enough for me to listen to or write back to. I definitely don’t treat people that way. It’s a commonly taught strategy, but it’s not one that I subscribe to.
3. Make use of partnerships and collaborations
I do recommend that you invest to be in the room in some way so that you have access to building your network and being around other people who are in the same space. That could be buying an online course or being in a membership.
There are some very low-cost options available for you that get you access to a membership, a mentor and a network, and I think making the most of those is really really effective.
A lot of the people who are inside my programs do podcast swaps with each other. I encourage them to interview each other on their social media channels because they each get to borrow from the other’s audience. That’s a really effective way to grow your audience (remember that the most expensive part of your client attraction process is reach!) in a low-cost, low-time intensive way.
One of the things that I did when I first started my business (which was ten years ago so it’s not necessarily the right strategy for today, but I still think there are ways you can do it today that would work really well) was that I invited a lot of people to be on the interview series that I ran on YouTube. Generally, they were people who I considered to be industry leaders in my market – maybe they served the same market but in a different way.
I would even just invite my peers from group programs or courses that I was in.
YouTube these days isn’t as great for reach. There are far more effective tools to do interviews in a way that reaches more people (ie. Instagram lives, Facebook Lives, podcast, etc.), but back when I started my business, YouTube was the go-to way of doing interviews.
I invited a bunch of people to come and be interviewed on my YouTube channel. Then I shared that with my audience. I would also share it in Facebook communities and with other people’s audiences.
I really did a great job of being a good distributor of those interviews with other people.
That then resulted in those people sharing the interviews, which got me a lot more audience.
There were even times where the interviewee really enjoyed the conversation we had on my channel so they then invited me onto their channel!
It didn’t happen all the time, and with some of the bigger names in the industry, that didn’t happen at all, but they did still share the interview with their audience. They would also link back to it on their website in their ‘as seen in’ section with my logo and a clickable link to the interview.
Those sorts of reciprocal relationships where I gave other people a platform actually grew my audience.
Look for a strategy that works for you.
You might be not interested in video, so instead, you could do audio only. Alternatively, maybe you have an audience that loves written content, so your strategy would be to invite your peers to submit articles to your website.
There are lots of ways to create that reciprocity. I started that reciprocity by being very giving and helpful to those people who I invited on to my interview series.
Instead of just waiting to be chosen, or pitching myself and saying that I should be on their YouTube channel even though I was an unproven in the market, I would say “Hey, would you be interested in coming onto my YouTube channel for an interview? I will be distributing it to my mailing list, which is under 1,000 people. But I will also distribute it in this group, which has 20,000 people, this group, which has 10,000 people, and in this group, which has 5000 people.”
I was able to get that content in front of large-scale audiences that weren’t necessarily my own. But I was willing to do that work.
I’m giving you the opportunity to do that as well!
You could distribute it in the Heart-Centred Community on #freebie day.
Let’s say that you did an interview series where you interviewed different people on your Facebook page. When inviting them onto your interview series, you could let them know you’re sharing it in the Heart-Centred Community on freebie day or market day. That’s a community of 35,000 people.
It’s not your audience, but you have access to that audience and can share your content with that audience.
Think about this as well: If you’re sharing an interview like that in the Heart-Centred Community, and you’re interviewing an industry leader, think of the shared authority that you now have with the audience in the Heart-Centred Community because you got to interview that amazing person.
It gets people to stop and listen if the person you’re interviewing is familiar to them.
This is a really powerful way to start creating that growth of audience, and really building your business without having to spend a cent.
Sure, you might need to do a bit of work or get someone in your team to do that work of distributing it and making sure that you tag the speaker appropriately. But if you’re working with a limited budget, it’s a really quick way to grow your audience and create that opportunity to build some connections and get clients for yourself out of that audience.
That is tip number three for building a business on a budget… partnerships and reciprocity.
4. Be 100% clear on your strategy
One of the biggest ways that you will blow your budget when you’re building a business, is shiny objects and getting caught in someone’s fear-based marketing where they’re telling you that you MUST do this and you MUST do that.
It’s so easy to then get convinced that you need to buy tools, courses, tip sheets or swipe files to do those exact things.
It is in that marketer’s best interest to convince you that you need to do that strategy because they’re about to sell you something that teaches that strategy.
When you are clear on what your strategy is, you can be far stronger and far more resistant to that fear-based marketing that’s going to try and convince you otherwise.
I had someone who came to the Planning Posse call at the start of this year and said that they’d been building an audience on Facebook and making some good sales there, but they felt that they needed to move everything over to Instagram and do a course to grow their following and create reels.
When I asked them what gave them the idea that Instagram was going to be better than Facebook, they said that they’d done a free training with something and were thinking about doing their program because of blah, blah, blah.
That’s fear-based marketing!
That’s telling this person that the thing that they’ve done is completely invalid, even though the audience that they built on Facebook is engaged, they’re getting sales, it’s starting to make momentum, they’re starting to get to that tipping point where it’s going to create a lot of growth and momentum on its own, and now they’re going to abandon that audience to go and create reels on Instagram because some random person has a course to sell them on how to do reels on Instagram.
That marketer is doing a very good job of convincing them… But is that actually in your best interest? Are they looking out for your best interests?
Even if you keep posting to Facebook as you currently have been, if you are doing a course on Instagram reels, you are still dedicating time to something else. That is an opportunity cost.
I would rather see you:
1. Pick a channel
2. Pick a strategy
3. Nail it and put all your time and energy into nailing it
4. See it get to that tipping point and create momentum much sooner, rather than spread yourself thin across multiple channels and multiple strategies
When I say to be 100% clear on your strategy, I don’t just mean your social media channel.
I mean your client attraction process – the strategy that you’re using to reach and convert people into paying clients.
The client attraction process is made up of five stages. It is not just showing up on social media and then making sales.
When it comes to being really clear on your strategy, I want you to consider the following things… What is the strategy you’re using to:
- Reach cold audience?
- Nurture a relationship with that audience and warm them up?
- Generate leads from that warm audience and have them lean in and say they’re interested in working with you?
- Convert them into paying clients?
The last stage of the client attraction process is to deliver.
This is often an underrated but very important way that we attract more clients without having to spend any more money.
One benefit is the word-of-mouth benefit: if you deliver for your existing clients, they’re going to tell people about working with you and recommend you.
But there are other benefits as well…
It increases your confidence in your products and services. It allows you a lot of insight into how to create even more resonant messaging because you can speak to tangible results that your clients are achieving. And it creates that energetic sense of confidence that you are delivering on what you promise and you’re not letting people down.
Don’t forget the deliver stage of your client attraction process.
We want to make sure that you’re 100% confident in your client attraction strategy.
It’s important that you know what you’re doing in those five stages:
- Lead generation
That means that when you see someone online who’s telling you that if you’re not doing X, Y, Z then you’re leaving money on the table, instead of it creating fear in you, you can confidently know that that doesn’t align with your strategy.
You know what you’re focused on and you can commit your time and energy to ensuring you really nail and scale that strategy first, rather than spreading yourself thin and jumping into courses and the belief that you need to be doing thousands of other things because some random guru said so.
This saves you money and helps you build your business on a budget.
Not just because you stopped buying unnecessary courses, templates, cheat sheets, and swipe files, but also because you don’t get convinced that you need to buy that extra tool to manage those six platforms you’re now managing.
You don’t feel like you need to hire people to manage all of this excessive workload that’s not actually contributing to the overall bottom line of your business.
The Pareto Principle is 20% of your effort and energy get you 80% of your results.
Focus down on that core strategy and really nailing and scaling that first, and you will see higher profitability, you will be able to keep your business to budget, and you will see much faster growth.
5. Re-invest strategically
I don’t subscribe to the belief that you need to go into debt to build a business. I definitely don’t believe that you need to put it on the house or build a business where you need to invest thousands of dollars upfront.
If I’d had money to start my business (which I didn’t), I would have wasted it all.
Looking back, the things that I was disappointed that I couldn’t buy, would have been ridiculously convoluted and in no way, shape or form would have helped me grow my business.
In fact, I think if I’d had more money to start my business, I would have been slower to get to the results that I got.
I don’t subscribe to the belief that the more you spend, the more you’ll be able to make and the faster you’ll be able to grow your business.
In fact, I know for myself (it’s different for different personality types) that if I’d had $30,000 to start my business, I would have wasted $30,000.
I’m glad that I didn’t have that money. I’m also glad that I didn’t have the money to buy the things that I wanted to buy because they would have sent me down a trajectory of creating products, services and marketing strategies that actually weren’t as effective as the ones that I did that were free.
Reinvest, but do it strategically.
Be mindful of where you’re going to be putting your money, and see it as reinvesting profits.
If you have a $0 budget to start your business, then maybe decide that 20% of the money that comes in, goes into hiring your first team member. Or 20% of the money that comes in, goes into hiring a mentor or buying a program, because that’s the strategy that you know you want to implement, and that’s the only purchase you’re going to make.
Be very clear on exactly the thing that you’re going to buy, but be very strategic about that reinvestment.
As I said in tip number one, reach is the most costly part of your business.
If you are in the early stages of business, or you’re still at the stage where your conversion is not high, do not invest in reach to solve a conversion problem.
This is where reinvesting strategically is so powerful.
In a lot of cases, you would be better off investing in someone to help you with your messaging, conversion and sales strategies (because that’s going to be much more likely to increase your income straightaway without you having to grow your audience), versus reinvesting that money in Facebook ads, or learning how to get Tik Tok videos or Instagram reels to go viral.
Remember: reach does not equal sales.
Particularly if you’re on a budget, I would much rather see you invest in things that will improve conversion, improve lead generation and improve the extent to which you nurture your relationship with your existing audience, than spend money on the most costly part of your business client attraction process (reach).
Sure, at some point it will be time to invest in reach and scale it up. But generally, that’s when you’re highly profitable and you’re not operating on a limited budget anymore.
If you’re still operating on a limited budget, chances are you will not solve your conversion issues with reach solutions.
Be very strategic about the way that you reinvest any income that comes into your business.
6. Learn how to calculate the real cost of buying something
We know from psychological studies, that when someone clicks to buy a course that’s going to help them be more organised, they get the same endorphin and adrenaline hit as if they had achieved the goal.
If I’m going to buy a course on being more productive and efficient, then just buying the course in itself creates that sense of “Oh my gosh, I’m more productive and efficient!”.
In reality, you’re not more productive and efficient… you’ve simply bought something that may help you to be more productive and efficient.
But there’s also an investment of your time required to net that return.
For example, when I first started my business, I purchased a course on how to build my own website, because I thought it would be cheaper than if I paid someone else to do it. It also meant that I’d be able to do all the updates and posting on my website without needing anyone’s help.
I wasted over 100 hours learning how to build my own website, only to still not be able to build my own website.
Granted, at the time, self-built website tools were not as great as they are today. But in the end, I ended up hiring someone to build me a very basic website for cheaper than the price I paid for the course.
I was buying a course to learn how to DIY, thinking that would be cheaper, and in the end, it was actually cheaper to hire someone else to do it for me.
Plus, it saved me hours and hours of heartache.
Sometimes we think that we’re saving money by learning how to do something ourselves, when in reality, we would actually save more money if we just hired someone else to do it (especially when we calculate the cost of our time trying to DIY).
Think about the long term… What sorts of things do you really need to know how to do in your business? Do you need to know how to build a website in the back end? Or do you just need to know how to add a new blog post to it and do edits where required?
There’s a big difference between how you would invest when you compare those two things.
The other way that I want to talk about learning how to measure the real cost is where you use a free workaround but it actually ends up taking far longer and creating so much frustration.
Time and frustration are two of the biggest resistance points in business.
Things taking much longer than expected creates this sense of frustration that things are going slow, and you start to wonder whether you’re cut out for this.
Very often, you get bored.
You didn’t start a business to do the same thing over and over again. You likely have an entrepreneurial brain – you’re craving creativity, you’re creating variety… and then you have to sit and do the same thing over and over again 400 times in order to get something working?!
That’s not the best use of your time. There’s an opportunity cost with that.
Sometimes, it is so worthwhile to spend the money to save you time and frustration.
Perhaps it will cost you $40 to hire someone to do this thing for you. Not only does that $40 save you the time that it takes you to do the thing, but it also avoids the mindset wobbles that then get triggered when you’re not good at something the first time. And it saves you the frustration of having to do tasks that aren’t in your wheelhouse.
In those cases, it’s worth spending the money to get someone else to do it for you.
Something that I shared in last week’s podcast episode (Episode 334: Side-hustle tips for busy people) is to hire sooner rather than later.
Even if you’re building a business on a budget, I still recommend hiring sooner rather than later.
You can hire someone for five hours a week off Upwork, and they will have such a significant impact on how you feel about your business, the momentum you make in your business, and the results you get in your business, simply because you have someone to do those things that aren’t necessarily in your wheelhouse, that frustrate you, and that take up your time.
Sure, you could get it done. I’m sure you’re a very diligent person, and I’m sure you’re a very fast learner. But is that actually a smart business decision as the CEO of your business?
Sometimes it’s better to spend that little bit of money and save yourself the frustration, time and heartache.
The same thing goes for those free tools versus very low-cost tools.
In the early stages of my business, there was a free tool that I used to run webinars
It took me 10 hours to set it up, I had to do all of these workarounds, and I had to import people’s names into my mailing list and then export them later because I had to jump around hoops to make sure that I was never charged.
To be honest with you, I wish I’d never done that.
I wish that I had instead just spent the money earlier for the tools that I needed to get the job done, knowing that it also would have meant I would feel more obligated (I’m an obliger in the four tendencies) to actually use the tool that I was paying for.
For example, if I had started using a paid mail service sooner, I would have sent far more newsletters and emails.
If I had used a paid webinar service far sooner, I would have created far more webinars.
If I had used a paid booking service to get people booked into my calendar, I would have booked far more people into my calendar.
Learn how to calculate the real cost. Pay attention to where you’re trying to save money but actually, you’re reducing your income – the money you’re saving is actually being negated.
A great example of that is PayPal, Stripe and bank processing fees.
They are a normal part of doing business. As someone who uses PayPal to make most of my purchases, when I see someone who doesn’t offer PayPal as an option, I will actually send an email to ask if I can pay via PayPal. (I lose my bank card often so it’s waaayyy easier for me to just log into PayPal and pay through that.)
On so many occasions, I get a reply where they say that they don’t use PayPal because the fees are too high.
Sure, you’ve saved yourself a $12 fee… but you’ve just cost yourself a $400 sale!!
Would you rather have $400 and pay a $12 fee? Or not have the sale at all?
When it comes to checking out on PayPal, that’s generally what you get from me as a buyer, and I know that I’m not alone in that.
Yes, I understand the desire to want to keep those expenses low and find ways to do things as cost-effectively as possible. But sometimes your desire to save money on those things is actually costing you income that would have more than covered that expense.
Be mindful and learn how to calculate the real cost.
This is so exciting!
I am really excited to help you build your business on a budget. It’s kind of my thing.
If you’ve found this episode really helpful, I also have an upcoming class on how to build your business on a budget.
In that class, I’m going to go into the details of what is a good marketing strategy and client attraction process if you’ve got a limited budget.
I’ll also give you some more detail on high-connection, high-conversion strategies that will help you to get income in really quickly so that you don’t have to go into debt to grow your business.
If you want to grow your business on a budget – whether you’ve been in business for three seconds or three years – then make sure you come to register for that upcoming workshop: tashcorbin.com/growthseries
Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the Heart-Centred Business Podcast!
Until next time, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE.