How to start a company without money or investors

From scratch without money or investors and how to validate your idea before building it

Quote 

“Bootstrapping is a way to do something about the problems you have without letting someone else give you permission to do them.” Tom Preston-Werner, co-founder of Github, billionaire, who is proud to bootstrapping

TLDR

In this post, you’ll learn what bootstrapping is, what are the benefits and why it is a much better way than any other and how to do it step-by-step.

Spoiler

Bootstrapping is the only real way to build a valid business and you’ll understand the big picture overview.

What you’ll learn

 I outline all the steps you need to take to build your own business from scratch, without an investor or without saving money. I’d kill for this guide when I was younger, it’d have saved years of hard-earned lessons.

 

Benefits of bootstrapping and how to get the most out of it

For many years I was waiting.

I learned FB advertising and I wanted to invest just $1000 or $2000 to get started. But I was deep in debt.

“I can’t save up the money I need to get started to earn more money” – I heard this sentence a million times. I believed in it, it was true in my reality. Have you believed the same?

But actually you don’t need money to get started and make money.

First, you need to layout the groundwork. Then you will build your engaged audience. Then you’ll sell your product before you build it. Then you’ll build a product that people actually want and pay for. 

Start with your WHO

Who is your target audience

We have to start with defining your audience. I remember a woman who published to the Go-girl community. She said, “my product is really for everyone”. Really? Where does your revenue come from? More than 97% of your revenue comes from women between a certain age group, trying to solve a similar problem. It doesn’t matter if your solution is “good for everyone”. You have to niche it down.

The sure-fire way to create shitty products that nobody cares about is to target everyone. Especially in today’s market, where everyone has a problem with information overload. 

Instead, define your target market upfront. You can change it over time. But never start this process without them in mind.

3 qualifier method

Narrow your audience by at least 2, preferably 3 qualifiers. You can widen it up but first niche it down.

You can narrow by:

  • Age 
  • Gender
  • Geolocation 
  • Income
  • Profession

More importantly: try to niche it by psychographics, not demographics. In other words, figure out what motivates them? What do they want to achieve?

Positioning and differentiate yourself

The competition is just a click away. Therefore you need to stand out somehow. Positioning is a complicated science but for now makes it easy and actionable. Use this template to position yourself and your solution.

Use this positioning template:

[Your name] is the most sought-after [your superpower] for [your audience] who stands for [your values] and stands against [anti-values].

Just use this template and come up with it quickly. 

Don’t skip this step. It’s tempting but everything else you do from this point forward depends on this.

Pause for a minute, don’t say “I do it later. We all know that “later” means “never”.

You can always expand or change your market.

Widening your focus is much easier than narrowing it.

Your solution

What is their problem you solve? Describe in their language. Not a feature but what it does. Developers are especially good at features. “This product also does this” …so what? What does it mean for me?

The keyword is.: “so you can”. It has this feature so you can do the thing you want.

Benefits VS Features

I see this mistake everywhere, especially on tech sites. Kindle doesn’t speak about megabytes – it talks about books. iPod doesn’t talk about megabytes, it talks about songs. Use their lingo and get in their head. Benefits sell, features don’t.

As the next step, list at least 10 benefits of your solution.

Focus on one primary desire

A workout coach friend said: “yeah, but I’m not just a health coach”. Okay, but you need to target the primary desires first. Then you can say “eternal holistic life and health coach who solves every problem in your life” or whatever bullshit you believe. But first, just focus on one main desire. You can add bonuses later or talk about the benefits endlessly, but nobody cares, unless you earn their attention upfront.

What’s the ONE thing your solution solves?

You can market or sell it differently, or position your solution in another way or target different audiences. Best-seller solutions are solving 1 main problem better than anybody else. What’s the ONE thing you solve?

Where are they hanging out

“Go where the fish are” – as the famous saying goes. You have to find where they already hang out? List everything, not just in online places. Blogs, forums are okay – but go beyond. What do they read? Where do they go out in their free time?

I did a lot of research on FB and Amazon. But when I listed where my brother goes with his dog often, I asked him on the phone and my list became twice as long. Don’t underestimate this. List all the places where your audience already hangs out?

Build your engaged audience

You can build an audience without building a website – but this is for a later post.

Now just let’s acknowledge that “YES” you need an audience and you need to access them. 

Your audience needs to be engaged. Buying a list is a very bad idea. Publishing mediocre content is another bad idea. Your content needs to be very high-quality and engaging. Use personal stories. Use a hook in every piece, post or email.

I used CovertKit when I got started. It has landing pages, lead magnets and you can start for free. If you don’t like ConvertKit, I used SendInBlue at one point, it also starts from free.

I also used bloggingwizzard. I guess you have many questions along the way, how to create a lead magnet, which theme to use? If you’re not a WordPress expert, just go with the flow.

Validate your idea

Validate your product idea before building it

If you did all the steps right and build a strong relationship, then you’re ready to ask a pre-sale. Pre-sale someone puts money down – with a money-back guarantee – if you solve their problem. Ask this:

“I plan to develop a product or service that solves [your audience main pain point]. But before I build it, I wanted to know if there’s any real demand for this? It will cost [your price point] but for now I give it for half price, if you buy it upfront.”

If you happen to send out a survey, even better.

Use the survey to segment your audience. Ask this:

“I plan to release this product / service soon. But before I do, let me ask you, how can I add even more value to it?”

In short, sell your product and ask your audience to pay for it before you create it.

The worst thing can happen? They say “no”. In this case you save a lot of wasted time. 

Furthermore you deepen your relationship with them because you asked their expert opinion beforehand, you actually listened and you don’t bombard them with messages.

How to sell passively

Just a few thoughts on tools, what to use to validate your idea.

The simpler the better. Now you might be thinking that matters, but it’s nearly not as important as your research.

Always choose the passive solution. I was unconsciously lying in a hospital for almost a year. It was a bad surprise, nobody expected it. My free teachable course still was downloaded. My Kindle books still generated some passive income. Yes, passivity matters.

I don’t like the word “passive income” because many think that they just sit and money comes from thin air. It’s hard work. Yes, the idea is validated and it gives you lots of confidence. Make your selling method passive, not the entire process. Do the work upfront so later you can refine your product.

Finally, sell it on something that gives you access to the buyers. I don’t use Udemy. It might seem appealing but it takes away the most important aspect: they don’t have direct access to your audience. Furthemore your sales depend on them, you don’t have control over your revenue.

Benchmarks

By the end of this post, you should understand what bootstrap is and why is it better than any other way. There is no actual skill to develop or other measurable benchmarks that you can achieve. But it’s a very important foundation to understand: you don’t need any money to start, don’t wait for investors. Just do your research, build relationships and start.

Action Steps

  • Narrow íour niche with the 3 qualifier method
  • Create your positioning using the Frank Kern -method
  • List at least 10 benefits of your solution.
  • Create your ONE solution
  • List where your audience hangs out

Summary

In summary: you can build your own company by helping real people to solve a real problem, find where they hang out, build an engaged audience, validate your product by selling it before building it and creating a best selling product.

Get this post

You can download this post at the end of it as a PDF.

If you have any questions, just reply to the download email. I read and try to reply to every email.