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Bootstrapping isn’t the only way to finance a business.
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While in college, I wanted to start a book-publishing company representing historically underrepresented populations within the publishing industry. At the time, I thought bank loans or coming from a wealthy family were the only two ways to finance a business venture. As a student saddled with debt and nonexistent credit history, I walked into the bank to apply for a loan. I was laughed out of the bank.
I researched other financing options and decided my best option was to bootstrap my dream publishing company. I found free resources on the internet: blogs and articles that estimated the cost of starting a new business, financial-planning resources to help me create a budget to obtain that money and lists of side hustles for college students. Since high school, I had been a freelance copywriter, so I continued freelancing to save for my dream business.
I pushed myself into a state of near-burnout: working over 60 hours per week while maintaining high marks in graduate school and planning my future business. I was doing the work of five people and working for more clients than I could independently manage and retain the high-quality copywriting and editing services upon which I pride myself.
Relevant: How I Transitioned From a Solo Entrepreneur to a Team Leader
I recognized my freelance work could become its own business, but lacked the capital to make it one. Digital-marketing services, such as copywriting and editing, are always needed in the digital age, so I started focusing on turning my freelance services into a company. I worked diligently on a business plan that included a detailed budget and consulted with experts instead of solely relying on free online resources. I learned what a standard operating procedure (SOP) was and created one.
My experience learning to finance my digital-marketing company prepared me to create my independent-publishing company. I knew where to find free online resources and already had a wealth of resources saved to my computer. I knew what routine business expenses were and their costs. I learned how to prepare for unexpected business costs. I knew where to find free resources and focused more on organic social media to generate business than solely relying on paid ads. Any mistakes made while building, planning and financing my digital-marketing company served as lessons for the publishing company.
Bootstrapping is not the only way to finance your business. Below are some alternative options I learned about when initially seeking funding for my businesses and some recent discoveries.
Related: How To Start A Business Without Money… And in Five Steps
1. Business credit cards
I only recently learned about business credit cards’ true power after I read a number of articles on the subject including a Yahoo Finance story about how fellow 27-year-old serial entrepreneur Jack McColl leveraged business credit to create four six-figure businesses. The article spoke about how relying on your personal savings can be detrimental to your business, as business credit cards allow you to borrow the bank’s money to scale your business more quickly. If he could do it, so could I!
Business credit cards offer a higher borrowing limit than personal credit cards, which means you have a better opportunity to build your business credit score. Many business credit cards also offer 0% interest, which is often rare with personal credit cards. In addition, a business credit card affects both your business and your personal credit score.
Related: 4 Steps to Establishing a Good Business Credit Score
2. Venture capital
Venture capital generally comes from financially stable investors, investment banks or other financial institutions looking to invest in startup companies and small businesses with long-term growth potential. To attract investors, you will need a nearly flawless business plan and quantitative evidence to support your growth potential. One main caveat is that investors typically get a say in company decisions if they choose to invest in your business.
Crowdfunding is a type of investment where other people donate to help raise funds for your specific need. GoFundMe and Kickstarter are two of the most well-known examples of crowdfunding. Aspiring entrepreneurs can share their financial needs on platforms like GoFundMe and share their donation links on social media. Donors typically donate in smaller amounts compared to venture capitalists. Entrepreneurs relying on crowdfunding must plan for their campaign or business to fail. While entrepreneurs never expect their business to fail, they can suffer legal consequences for underdelivering or never delivering on their business promises. Having a contingency plan in place in this situation can help avoid angry donors and legal action.
4. Small-business loans or grants
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers small-business owners counseling and contracting expertise and capital. In addition, they partner with various lenders to make it easier for small businesses to get loans, as the SBA takes on some business risks. Some of these loan programs offer continued financial counseling and education to help entrepreneurs start and maintain their businesses. The SBA also provides resources for investment capital, disaster assistance, surety bonds and grants. Entrepreneurs planning to enroll in SBA programs will need a comprehensive business plan, expense sheet and financial projections for the next five years.
Related: Does a Short-Term Loan Ever Make Sense for Your Business?