Starting a business on a shoestring – Tools of the trade


With more than 3 billion people using the Internet, shoestring entrepreneurs with a dream or a hobby can access a worldwide customer base for very little cost. The key to success is to keep an eye on your finances and master the right tools to promote your business, engage with customers and surge ahead of the competition.

Here are some top tips from WiRE Entrepreneurs to get you started without stretching your budget.

The internet and social media has made it easy to get going on a limited budget. You can spend all your time on online tools to help market your business but in reality you just need a few basic


Be clear about what you want; traffic, enquiries, online sales or just an online brochure and sketch out a brief with that in mind, above all making sure it is always easy for customers to do the thing you want them to do.

Decide how much of a role you want to take in the website build, design and administration, from commissioning a whole build by web agency, template based or off the shelf.

Whatever you choose, make sure your site:

  • has a good content management system, otherwise you ll have to go back to the web designer (and pay them) each time you want to update the site
  • is marketing focused to improve the profile of the site; include a blog or news if you want high search rankings and to attract lots of traffic from Google (it loves regular and new content)
  • makes the most of social media feeds to keep the home page current and customers aware of your other activity
  • is mobile enabled, the world is increasingly viewing via a mobile phone and Google ranks mobile sites highly, so make sure the site can scale for tiny screens
  • reflects your brand (not your personal taste) and features the best photography that you can afford; it can turn a mediocre website into a great one

Expert tip:

Take time to understand title tags and meta descriptions, they make a big difference when you come to optimise your site for search engines and sign up for Google Analytics to find out how people use your site. See Google Digital Garage

Social Media:

Be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, social media is incredibly cost effective and forms a big part of your marketing activity; it helps attract customers, allows you to tell your story, explains your values and allows you to stand out from the crowd. People buy from people and social media gives you the opportunity to capture online word of mouth marketing and build a relationship with potential customers – when they like and understand you, they will buy.

Before you commit to any particular platform, ask yourself a few questions

1) Which social media platform is used by the majority of your customers?

Invest your time and energy on those platforms – if you try to be active on all of them you’ll spend all your time updating and creating content, and never engage with the people who will buy.

2) How regularly can you update it?

If it is only once a week – Twitter is probably not for you, find the platform that fits with the time you have.

3) How are you going to find fresh and interesting content?

Writing from scratch is time-consuming so engage with guest writers, recirculate content and encourage customers to talk to you.

4) What is your measure of success?

It may be more followers or more sales, work towards that goal and don’t be distracted by social media noise. It is very easy for it to become a hobby rather than a business activity, so stay on track.

Then plan your social media activity in month long chunks with ideas for Tweets or Facebook and blog posts. Create schedules and topics in advance so you have something to fall back on when life gets in the way or you have blank page syndrome. Think about your customers, what they like and what they do and create your content and stories with them in mind and using the 80/20 rule of stories to selling.

* Expert tip:

If your results are not reaching the audience that you want, have a look at paid options (ad words, boosted posts etc.) these are available on all the major platforms and use some very clever metrics to help target your activity, create a call to action and reach the right customers. See Facebook Business

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