- Branding - If you are just starting out and have a limited budget, it's worth considering carefully whether to invest heavily in branding. In my experience, it's the quality of the work you provide, not the colours of your logo, that is the most important thing to customers. Of course, it's helpful to have a logo to share, and some brand colours that can help tie in all of your business and marketing materials, but it is often worth saving money for major branding projects until you've proven the concept in your business and built yourself a positive reputation.
- Marketing - Marketing is an important activity for any business. Just because you are getting plenty of new customers via word of mouth right now, or want to keep your business small because of your current availability, it doesn't mean that you don't want to prepare for the future. What if recommendations dry up, or if you want to grow your business? Promoting your business on Social Media, via a Website and using traditional marketing methods (in local magazines, on the radio, etc.,) can be helpful, as if you ever want to increase the number of customers you have, you won't have a standing start to work from - you've already done the hard work! Just remember that if marketing isn't your zone of genius, there are outsourced professionals out there who can assist you to ensure that the content you are creating is engaging, positive and professional.
- Website - You don't have to spend thousands of pounds on a website. In fact, when you're just starting out, it can be helpful to use a simple WordPress site or similar, which allows you to get your business online without spending too much money. However, if you have the budget available, and you require a site that has advanced functionality that you simply can't get from a simple theme and plugins (such as a Shop), then it's worth considering investing in a bespoke website - just remember that the associated maintenance fees will also be much higher!
- Bookkeeping - When it comes to your business finances, you shouldn't cut costs here. Whether you invest in bookkeeping software or seek support from remote working business professionals to collate receipts, chase invoices, submit VAT returns, run your Payroll, or even prepare your accounts (check they are qualified to do so!), there are plenty of ways that you can streamline and simplify your business bookkeeping to ensure that it is correct and up to date.
- Networking - Although it can feel uncomfortable if you're not into in-person business gatherings, networking can be really valuable. There are lots of different business networking groups available, from formal to informal, local to national, face-to-face and online. Take a look around and find one that works for you, and invest in it if you can regularly attend. It's a great way of building positive professional relationships with other business owners in your local area, and it's a spend I would highly recommend!
- Merchandise - Do you need pens with your logo on them? How about those little fluffy googley-eyed bugs that stick to things? What about branded USB sticks? Unless you are attending a business show and have a stand, and specifically want to create promotional materials that people can pick up and take home with them (and hopefully remember your name and what you do!), these things are simply a nice shiny extra. Again, it's your reputation and the service that you provide that people remember - they aren't necessarily going to think any more highly of you just because you gave them a cupcake with your logo on it!
Step back / Pause / Consult
Before you invest in anything in your business, take a step back and think carefully about whether it will prove beneficial to you. It's easy to be convinced that you need certain software, branded hats, or a website designed by NASA engineers, but do you need that at the moment? Could you outsource that task for less, or make do without it until your business is a little more established? It's important to be mindful of every penny you are spending in business - after all, it is YOUR money!
I really hope this has given you some food for thought when it comes to budgeting for your small business. There are areas where it certainly is worth investing, and others where you could definitely save some money. Just remember to think really carefully about each purchase, before you hand over your hard-earned cash!
What are your thoughts? Have you had any experience budgeting for a small business? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!