As a business owner (yes, blogging also counts as a business), how often have you heard the phrase you have to spend money to make money? Relatively often, right?
Well, what if I told you, in many cases, I just don’t agree with this statement. I know that might be an unpopular opinion, and there’s no doubt there are many cases of people who have spent money on their blogs and businesses, and they’ve seen the payoff. But what happens when you put money into a blog or a business, and you don’t see any return? More often than not, the money loss occurs, and we have to wonder, was spending money to make money a risk that I had to take?
I’m here to tell you as a blogger and former small business owner myself, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re working on a budget, you absolutely can still run a blog or a business.
Disclaimer: there are some affiliate links in this post, but I always only recommend the best of the best 🙂
Let’s first discuss why you shouldn’t invest a large sun of money into your blog as a new blogger on a budget
Let me preface this by saying every blog is different, but I am strong believer when you’re just starting out with a blog, there’s absolutely no reason to invest money in it, especially if you’ve never done any type of blogging before. There are only two things you need to invest in initially: (1) a domain and (2) hosting services.
I’m not going to go into detail about why these two things are important, but just know, if you invest in them now, it will save you a lot of time and a headache down the road. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to elaborate.
If you’re looking for quality hosting services, I use BlueHost and have had no problem with them. It literally took me about 5 minutes to have my blog up and running (and this is coming from a not-so-tech-savvy chick). Ain’t nobody got time to deal with technical issues when setting up their blog!
Definitely click the image below if you’re looking to start blogging ASAP and need a quality hosting service that’s super simple to set up.
So, after you’ve purchased your custom domain and you’ve got hosting services set up, stop spending. Yes, you heard me right. It’s time to put that credit card down.
At this point your blog is just a baby. If you have a ton of money to spend, sure, go ahead and buy your baby some designer brand clothing, but chances are, your baby is going to outgrow that clothing pretty fast. Yes, I’m comparing your blog to a child, but in all seriousness, when you’re just starting a blog, your total focus and energy needs to be on content, content, content. I can’t stress that enough. You can have the most amazing site design in the world, but if there’s no good content on it, really, who cares?
I’ll let you in on a little secret…
My entire site is designed using a free WordPress theme *shush, don’t tell anyone*. That’s right: I didn’t spend a penny on designing this website. And yes, I did it all entirely on my own. I know it’s not the most amazing design out there, by any means. There’s a lot I don’t like about, but you know what? I’m sure nobody is coming to Hustle and Hearts to look at my website design. They’re coming to read my content, so as long as your website is relatively easy on the eyes, you’re good. (This doesn’t mean I won’t invest in a theme eventually, but for now, I know I want to focus on my content).
Also, when you’re just launching a blog, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the “fun” aspects of it: designing a logo, coming up with a name, picking brand colours, etc. So let me tell you this: the more time you put into these “fun” aspects, the less time your blog is out there, meaning less opportunities for it to get discovered. I’m not saying rush the process, but I am saying in these first couple months of blogging, it’s more important to just start rather than wait for everything to be perfect. Trust me, you’ll probably never feel like your blog is perfect, but you can always refine and work on it as you go.
Here are the services I would suggest not spending money on when you’re budget blogging (and what to use instead):
1) Any graphic design software (Canva is free and you can make beautiful graphics with it)
2) Email marketing (eventually you’ll probably want to spend money here as you grow, but when you’re just collecting those initial sign-ups, use something free like Mailchimp)
3) Scheduling services (again, eventually you’ll probably want to invest in something like Board Booster or Tailwind to schedule Pinterest. But to begin, focus on your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These social media posts can be scheduled ahead of time for free using Buffer. This will save you time and money!)
UPDATE: I have since invested in both Tailwind and Board Booster, and have seen my traffic increase x9 !! Craziness. There’s not a lot of things I suggest investing money into, but if there was only one it would be Tailwind and then Board Booster. No doubts or post-purchase regret there.
4) Email (I think this goes without saying, but just stick with a regular free gmail account when you’re first starting. I invested in a custom email for my business and ended up having to pay for it a year after I closed shop #annoyingAF)
I’m not delusional, though; I realize if you stick with your blog and hustle hard to grow it, you’ll likely want to invest money into it eventually (when this point occurs is different for everyone). The problem is, most new bloggers come into blogging with some of the top blogs on the internet as their inspiration. This creates an idea in these new bloggers’ minds that they too must create a blog similar to these top blogs. But girl, please, stop rushing it. You’re likely not going to launch the next Cupcakes and Cashmere overnight. Unless you’re just getting off a season of the Bachelor, or you already have celebrity status, nobody knows and nobody cares about your blog (tough love, baby).
The takeaway for new bloggers?
Your sole focus as a new blogger needs to be on content. You should experiment with your content, find your voice, figure out your niche, listen to your readers, discover what people actually want to read (more on optimizing your content for increased traffic here).
Remember, there are so many free ways to do this: tweet about your posts, join Facebook groups, create amazing Pinterest graphics using Canva, ask people questions on Instagram, get creative with your promotion!
RELATED: Instagram Growth Hacks
Then, once you feel like you’ve pushed yourself to the limit with these free methods, and you’ve established a readership, it will be time to invest money into blogging tools to help you grow your business. But first and foremost, prove your concept, which leads us into the next topic (and bloggers, read this too, because if you want your blog to grow, you need to start treating it like a business).
So why should small business owners not invest a lot of money into their new venture in the initial stages?
Again, let me first preface this by saying every business is very different. I believe there is definitely some instances where you have to invest money, but I also think we often get carried away with our own ideas and end up spending without a concrete (proven) plan/strategy. How do I know this? Because I did this with my own business. So first, let me quickly summarize my story as a small business owner.
After graduating from a Fashion Marketing and Merchandising program, I knew the fashion industry in general just wasn’t for me, and yet I still wanted to work in fashion in some capacity. My solution was to open an online boutique selling women’s fashion with my friend. We loved what we did, but unfortunately after a year, we realized we just couldn’t financially support our shop. This largely had to do with the amount of money we were paying in having product shipped to us, and then shipped out to customers. It just didn’t make sense, and so, Willow & Park closed up shop (still makes me sad saying that).
So what did my introduction into small business ownership teach me?
Something very important, and if you’re thinking about opening up a shop, here’s what you need to know: you absolutely must, no questions asked, prove that you actually have a market for people who want to buy your product, similar to how you must prove you have a readership for a blog. And no, I’m not just talking about growing a following on Instagram, or having people “like” your Facebook page (been there, done that). I’m talking about having actual people tell you they want your product in a very clear way. This step should be completed before you invest any money into your business, especially inventory.
How to prove you have a good business idea before investing money?
Create an email sign up form, preferably using a free service like MailChimp. Having people sign up for an email list is the best indication of interest. Why? Think of it from your perspective: how often do you give out your email address when prompted? Everybody will answer a little differently on this, but generally speaking, most people only give their email address away when they’re really interested in a product, service, or business. Receiving an email address from a potential customer says, “hey I’m interested in what you’re doing, please keep me up to date; I might want to buy from you.” Receiving a “like” on Facebook says, “I like what you’re doing; keep up the good work,” but it’s not necessarily any indication that you’ve reached a potential customer. See the difference?
This is the biggest mistake that was made in my business. We assumed because people like fashion, they’re obviously going to want to buy fashion items from a new, trendy boutique. I hate to break it to my past self, but this just isn’t necessarily true.
We launched Willow & Park and bought inventory before we had a proven concept. Sure, we had some friends and family show interest. And hey, we even had some completely random strangers sign up to our newsletter. What we didn’t have was enough interest to justify buying inventory.
What I wish we would have done? Built a large, highly engaged following of people interested in our concept prior to any inventory investment, even if this would have taken more time. I personally know patience is not one my strengths, but it’s definitely something I think we all need to work on.
Then, once we knew we had highly engaged potential customers just waiting for us to launch, only then should we have purchased product (keep in mind the same goes for your blog: invest the money into blogging tools, like Tailwind and Board Booster, only when you know you have a highly engaged audience).
In my experience, when it comes to shops, especially small ones with tiny budgets (like mine), it’s even more important to have a shop with an extremely targeted audience. Why? This will keep your budget down, because you’ll be more capable of finding and reaching these people without spending large sums of money on advertising. If you have a large budget and can spend a lot on advertising, by all means, go for it, but if you’re a small shop with a small budget, I highly recommend spending as little as possible and proving your concept before any investing.
I have so much more I could say about this, so if you’re thinking of opening a shop and you have questions, or you’d like to see more posts from me about small business ownership, please let me know in the comments below.
The Takeaway when it comes to launching a blog or business on a budget?
Just remember, these new ventures are still babies. Let them learn to crawl before you’re pushing them to walk. We live in an impatient society where we want results as quickly as possible. We want growth, growth, growth; and we think we need to spend money, money, money to get there.
But, if you can afford to, the only thing you should be investing in for this new venture is patience. Would it be cliche of me to say Rome wasn’t built in a day? Probably… but hey, it’s true: find your audience/customers, engage them, study them, learn from them. Once you have them, only then, get that credit card out; you’ve proven your concept and it’s time to invest in the future success of your business.