One of the hardest parts about starting a business is figuring out how to scale it when you have no cash. I had to figure this out quick when I started my co-working space and community for women entrepreneurs! You want to hire someone to help you so you can fulfill that new contract you just got, but you haven't got the money in hand yet to pay them quite yet.
You have to set up workers compensation and payroll services since they are your first employee. You need some help, but now they are costing you more than you are paying yourself! You already maxed all your credit cards when you had to pay for the furniture for your fancy office that makes you look reputable and well-established. Your credit score is in the tank, and you have no idea how you are going to get the money to pay them plus now pay yourself. You plan on just keeping the faith that it will all work itself out. It always does-until it doesn't anymore.
I feel ya.
I have bootstrapped every part and learned a TON along the way. I started the business by refinancing my house and pulling out the bare minimum amount of cash I needed to get into a space, remodel it, and buy the furniture. Everything else, has been accomplished by the grace of God, a lot of personal growth, and weekly mentoring. Here are some of my biggest takeaways as I have scaled.
Be your own biggest cheerleader.
No one is going to save you. You have to save yourself. Quit playing the blame game. It is not your mom's fault that you have social anxiety because you were home schooled as a child. It is your fault because you never made an effort to change that by going to networking events or standing in crowds of people long enough to make yourself want to puke. Get out of your comfort zone enough that it feels more normal. Then get uncomfortable some more. It is called personal growth.
I highly recommend a life coach or therapy. They will help heal those gaping wounds of your past by helping you recognize how they have actually helped you. There is a great lesson to be learned from every single demon in your past. I promise.
Heal yourself, and through that healing learn to love yourself. You can't be your own cheerleader if you hate yourself.
You have to be your own cheerleader because you have to keep your frequency high in order to attract ideal clients. Higher frequency = higher paying clients. Act as if you are the bad ass boss that you want to be even if you feel like a failure on the inside. Dress more professional. Eat more whole foods. Exercise. Do things that make you happy and feel better.
What is this whole "frequency" mumbo jumbo? Read "You are a Badass" and "You are a Badass at Making Money", by Jen Sincero. Reading those books should be a prerequisite for starting a business. It is $20 to purchase both books. They will CHANGE.YOUR.LIFE!
Put in the extra hours.
You may WANT to hire help right now, but odds are, you won't know how to delegate to them yet. It will be a waste of money! In the beginning stages of your business you do not know how to do all of the tasks yet. That is okay. Take the extra time you need to learn how to do all of the things you need to make your business run. Come up with the processes and systems that will make the work flow efficiently. It takes a lot longer than you think it will to do everything. Put in the extra hours yourself for now, to reap the rewards long term. Your pocketbook will thank you.
You have to ask for help even if you can't pay them.
There are going to be parts of your business that you could have someone quickly learn how to do. Maybe some kind of tedious or monotonous tasks such as filing, scheduling appointments, answering basic questions for customers via email or phone? In some cases, you may be able to have someone help you that you do not have to pay.
1. Let's think of your support system- those who love you who may be able to help you "off the record" just because they love you and want you to succeed. Buy them lunch and maybe help them run their kids around for a day or two after you you have met your deadlines. Those family members or friends will be happy to do what they can- all you have to do is ask!
2. Depending on your company structure, you may be able to take on a volunteer. (This is only for non-profits.) Many folks will be looking for something to do for a few hours here and there if it is for a good cause. Start a Facebook group around the cause you are supporting and after you have built the following, seek out recruits.
3. Hire an intern. Look into intern programs at your local community and state colleges. There are different rules for different types of entities, so just double check what you can and cannot do legally with hired intern help. You must make sure that they are learning many different facets of your business- not doing tedious tasks. Our Make Her Mark interns help us take care of our coworking space members during the day as well as work on marketing and planning activities for our business academy. The goal is they will have new skills to add to their resume by the time they are done with the semester. There are many good and bad reasons to hire interns. Many people do it right and many people abuse the system. Don't be that guy.
Trust in the process.
You are doing all the "right things". You are seeking lots of help and relying on professionals to help your business grow. You are booking clients, doing the hustle life, and your bank account is still empty. Keep your frequency high my friend. You will soon see the dollars start to reflect your new attitude.
A couple things to add if you aren't doing them already:
1. Client Testimonials. Your client is not just going to make a testimonial video for you. You have to ask. Most people are willing to write a little something for you, or for you to write it up for them and they approve it.
2. Ask clients to pay you. People are notorious for not paying you on time. Many will, but don't count on 100% of what you billed to get back to you by when you need it. You have to follow up and ask them to please write you a check by a certain date. Let your clients know that it is "make or break" for your small business if they don't pay on time.
3. Ask current clients if they know anyone who could also use your services. If they do, ask them to introduce you! Most clients would be willing to refer you business because they LOVE working with you. They just may have not thought of who else may need you. If they do not know anyone off the top of their head, no worries. Now you have planted the seed, and they may think of someone in the next few days. The universe usually works that way ;-)
Learn to stay grounded.
I hated when my coach would tell me that I needed to learn to stay grounded in the beginning of my journey. I didn't know what it meant and I was very frustrated with the whole concept.
A great way to envision this is to think of a great oak tree. On top of the soil, it is beautiful with lots of leaves, and grows tall. Under the surface, it has roots just as long as the branches above. Through wind, rain, or snow, that tree is staying solidly placed in the ground.
Now think of a pine tree. The pine tree's roots are still present, but they do not go as wide of deep as the oak trees. If there is a big storm, the pine tree is much more likely to topple over than the oak.
Which tree do you want to be in the storm of your life?
You of course want to be the oak tree! You want to be strong and confident that you can get through whatever life throws at you. You are calm. You do not waiver when you have a rough week. You do not let your emotions get the best of you when little things happen. You do not worry so much about all small stuff. You stand strong and remember the bigger picture.
Learn to love yourself through this journey, and don't forget to take time for YOU-not just your business. Your business can't survive without you. And don't worry, things always work out in the end ;-)
About the Author:
Kayla Pendleton is the founder of Make Her Mark, a community for women entrepreneurs headquartered in Fresno, California. Kayla and her team's vision for Make Her Mark is to improve the economic landscape of Fresno and beyond, by supporting female-owned small businesses.