1. Don’t Have a Business Plan, Just Let It Flow
The world changes every day. Don’t set a regimented set in stone plan which states ‘we’re going to be this, we’re going to be that’.
Instead, have an idea of what you might be. Think about what else you could be. See what happens. It’s so much more exciting.
I understand it’s hard to simply play jazz if you have partners or employees in your start up. But if you’re all like-minded you’ll understand the importance of being free flowing like water.
You’d be gobsmacked at the amount of times we changed and tweaked Fat Joe as a product and service. So many ideas and plans with daily changes in the early days. It can get annoying yes, but it’s quite exciting at the same time.
2. “Cheat” To Get Started. Good Enough Is Good Enough.
Here’s a secret – Fat Joe is not our first link building service! When we first started we were trading as Link Boss and in the first few weeks of launching we did not have the resource to hire staff to train to build links according to our unique methodology. So we simply resold an existing link building service at a higher price. We called it ‘Box Shifting’ at the time… It was incredibly easy and the service we were reselling was OK, but it wasn’t ours. Once we had enough profit we used it to test and train UK staff with our unique link building methodology we knew worked extremely well.
A few months later with a solid team and process, we launched Fat Joe.
Link Boss was kind of our testing ground and a way to get started. It was a shortcut. We kinda wanted to run it the bootstrap way, with little initial investments. In fact the only thing that came out of our own pocket was a £10 domain name for LinkBoss.co.uk – we recouped that in the first week.
So my advice to you – Get started, find a short cut. Cheat. Don’t wait until you’ve found that golden nugget, or perfect process… resell someone else’s established service if you have to. Once you have enough profit, invest it into your real plan.
3. Don’t Hire Employees On An Hourly Basis, Hire Freelancers On A Project Basis.
Ok I’m going to say something here that might piss a few people off but… Employees don’t work, especially in a creative industry. In a factory, shop or restaurant, yes, it works. You need measurable results, and in my working career in offices working with SEO’s, marketers, web designers and other ‘creative’ types, I’ve realised one thing. Employees do jack shit. They push that little button at the end of the week that will keep them ticking over until next week.
If you’re in a start up, it’s really important that you’re spending less on the employees wage than the profit he or she is generating… especially if you’re bootstrapping like us. This is why we pay our staff on a project basis. Every project they get assigned has a deadline, and a value, they get paid, we get paid the profit. It all works out good. The more they do the more they get paid, and the more we get paid, and at the minute they’re getting plenty of work.
All our staff are UK born and bred freelancers, but most now are exclusive to us, so it’s a safe bet to call them Fat Joe staff. We train every member of staff vigorously with test projects until it’s 100% right. We’re strict on deadlines and give generous bonuses every now and then.
So my advice to you is, if you’re bootstrapping – pay on a per project basis – the best kind of staff like it better too
4. You Don’t Need An Office
You don’t need an office. I know how cool it would be to bring your girlfriend to your new cool office with a couple of Apple Macs in there, a bean bag and a pool table… but hey, realistically, you don’t need it do you?
Keep your overheads to an absolute minimum.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of money we spend testing and training staff to get a better product, month on month. We wouldn’t be able to do this if we had an office. And the best people for the job probably don’t live near you, so why restrict yourself from getting the best staff? Why settle for mediocre?
Potentially Fat Joe will probably get an office. Sometime in the future. When we get a good enough reason to… maybe just to play pool.
5. Keep Funding To A Minimum, Only Ugly People Idiots Pay For Sex Marketing
We were very close in the initial launch to accepting office space and funding for staff, computers, website build, marketing etc.
We decided against it and thought, let’s just let it roll, see what happens. You know about what happened with Link Boss, how it was our initial ‘cheat’ to get some capital to launch the real thing? Yeah? Then we built this website using a free WordPress theme and a bit of editing. We got a cool video of Fiverr. The only thing we’ve ever forked out for out of our own pockets is the initial domain.
This is proper bootstrapping, and we recommend you do the same. You don’t want to be under pressure of investors and business loan managers when you’re trying to be ‘creative’.
We haven’t paid for any advertising; we simply get the word out. Talk to people. Network. Create Good Content and share it. (Oh god I sound like Matt Cutts now.)
6. Don’t Pay Yourself, Put The Money Back Into Your Business. Make Your Product Better.
We haven’t paid ourselves yet. We have been using the money to reinvest in staff training, form software to manage orders like Wufoo (which is brilliant) and various fiverr gigs (as we have an addiction to weird Fiverr gigs).
Eventually we may use that money to buy advertising, which goes against point 5. Only Idiots Pay For Marketing but we think that in the bootstrap stages that is true. Once you get out of that bootstrapping stage and you have profits you can spend, go for it. Why not? Scale it up. Reach as many people as possible. You have earned the right to advertise
7. Marketing Matters. Make Sure You Have The Best Marketing In Your Niche.
We know there’s a lot of link building companies out there. None as cool as us, have you noticed? This is not by accident. I mean, yeah, we’re pretty cool anyway, but we wanted to reflect it on our website. We have the best link building website by far in the industry. We had to.
Everything from the name, to the design (which is a modified free WordPress theme), to the video (only $5), to the package names, to the ordering process was designed with coolness in mind.
We created the product we wished existed when we were working in agencies and as consultants for companies, therefore we knew it would strike a chord for those in similar positions.
If you starting a start up, don’t let your marketing go sloppy. Make sure you’re the best in the industry. Or else you will fail.
Pick a great name. Talk on your website like you do in real life. Don’t use Stock Images. Be honest.
8. Elevator Test
We picked a niche we thought was so tiny we wouldn’t get many customers to warrant a successful business.
“Outsourced Link Building for UK SEOs”
Turns out, the tinier the better. We discussed ideas with Conversion Rate Experts, who are actually quite local. We took their advice on small niches.
I had actually read somewhere else about an ‘elevator test’ which basically means, if you can explain your business to a random someone in the time it takes in an elevator, then your business is too broad.
So, don’t be scared to go niche, then niche again. Go small. Micro Niche. Be the only one out there doing what your doing for a specific group of people… and reap the rewards
Our First Month Start Up Costs
- Domain name was around £6
- First Month Hosting about £4
- Free WordPress Template Customised by Ourselves
That’s it… Further investments were paid for after we started receiving orders 🙂