Invest in the Nest: Bootstrapping Your Home Business

Though much has been written about bootstrapping a business, I’m often surprised that many people I talk to about starting a home-based business don’t understand the concept. The term refers to “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” meaning to rely on your own effort and your own financing. According to Investopedia, bootstrapping is:

A situation in which an entrepreneur starts a company with little capital. An individual is said to be boot strapping when he or she attempts to found and build a company from personal finances or from the operating revenues of the new company.

I love the self-reliant nature of bootstrapping, particularly when starting and running a home-based business. There’s a big misconception that starting any business is expensive, and requires business plans, investment strategies, and business loans. The idea behind bootstrapping is that you forgo all that and use your own know-how, creativity, hard work, and money (and as little money as possible) to get up and running.

bootstrapper

One of the biggest benefits of a nest-based company is low overhead. You’ll find many articles like this one citing “Small-business owners spend about $10,000 to start their companies, mostly out of their own pockets…” I’m so glad I didn’t have any of this info available to me when I started, otherwise I would have thought “there’s no way I can afford to start a business.” I always remind people that these types of startup costs are not typical of a home-based business.

It’s hard to know where to look for good bootstrapping advice. There are tons of resources on the inter-web on the best way to bootstrap your business, some good, some bad, and some just plain wrong. But two that I consistently recommend are Seth Godin’s The Bootstrapper’s Bible (download in PDF format), and Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of Bootstrapping (a companion post to the excellent book The Art of the Start).

Starting a business, any business, is hard work. The most important lesson that I’ve learned is to find something you enjoy, that utilizes your talents and passions, and to get started quickly and as cheaply as possible. If you love it, the work doesn’t seem as hard. And by working from home and being self-reliant, you keep expenses down, making profits so much easier to achieve.

Yeah-But Rebuttals: Your Office Space

yeah-butt-headThis is the first in a series of periodic posts on rebuttals to common “yeah-buts” that I hear from people wanting to work from home.

Yeah-But

“Yeah, but, I just don’t have anywhere to set up an office in my home.”

The Rebuttal

This is a common one – and frankly, one of the silliest. I’ve had highly intelligent people, with well thought out home-business plans, decide to scrap their dreams of working from home, because of space. Crazy, huh?

They cite so-called “small business experts” who say you MUST have a separate office, and clearly defined boundaries. They think they need a big bonus room or office over the garage, decked out with all the latest home-office furniture and gear. Sure that would be nice, but it’s not necessary.

Often this is just an excuse masking doubt and fear about starting a home business. So the best way to alleviate it is to see the truth. You can really start from anywhere.

It’s pretty well known that Lillian Vernon got started at her kitchen table. It’s not an uncommon approach. I started in the corner of a guest bedroom, on a old table. You don’t really need much. The kitchen table works fine for those who are working while the kids are in school. If you have younger ones, and you don’t have help, you may have to work during naps and at night anyway. Just be sure that your business stuff is easily moved and set aside when not in use.

If your business is mostly done on a laptop, then you can really make your office mobile. The living room, deck, coffee shop. Unless you absolutely feel the need to have a permanent “space,” you can be a nest nomad. I know several people who work in a different spots every day, and love the freedom it provides. Their cell phone and instant messenger is their modes of communication, and their laptop is their office.

If you do want to set up a permanent space, be creative. Small and mobile workstations and desks make a great permanent or semi-permanent office space. A card table in the bedroom works too. Heck, you can even make a desk out of FedEx boxes if you want to.

The important thing is to decide, then do. It may seem more complicated, but its not really. Tell yourself, you’ll start with the FedEx box desk in the garage, and work your way up to the dream office. The key is to start, and not get bogged down in the misconceptions about a home office. If you have the desire to succeed as a nest-based professional, then you will. Regardless of where you’re starting from.

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