You can't make something from nothing. When you decide it's time to start your own business, you're going to incur costs, most likely before you've earned much in the way of revenue. Truthfully, starting a business can be scary for that reason (and more). But if you've educated yourself about your options in terms of how to get funding for a business, it can help lower your stress level.
Let's explore some of your options.
1. Use your savings.
Most of us don't just wake up one morning and decide to open a business. We have ideas that we refine. We make plans. We prepare. Part of that preparation should be focusing on how to get funding for a business.
Knowing that most new businesses are undercapitalized should be big encouragement to save your pennies as you prepare.
Set aside any funds you can spare for your company while you're still in the planning and prep phase so you can avoid going too deep in the hole when you decide it's time to borrow money.
2. Tap your 401(k).
This may seem like a scary step, and, in fact, it is. Pulling money from your 401(k) means you're risking your retirement on the future success of your new business.
But using your own money may mean you don't have to fret about how to get funding for a business. If you have a solid business plan, investing your own money from savings and your 401(k) can be a good strategy.
3. Get a business loan.
Practice your elevator pitch and keep a copy of your business plan in your desk and car—you never know when you might meet your angel.
Interest rates, collateral requirements, waiting/processing times and repayment terms can vary widely, so explore all your options before you commit.
4. Reach out to friends and family.
All those people who told you they thought you had a goldmine of an idea? Go hit them up.
While emotion can certainly influence lending decisions with friends and family, I encourage entrepreneurs who are looking to get funding for their business to approach transactions in a professional fashion. Make the pitch just as you would to a bank, complete with business plan and repayment terms for your friends turned investors.
5. Consider crowdfunding.
As you're refining your pitch to friends and family to get funding for your business, think about whether you have something that might appeal to the masses.
Millions upon millions of dollars have been raised via crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. You make a pitch—both in writing and video, typically—and you promise cool rewards for folks who contribute to help you realize your dreams. (The caveat, of course, is that your business must produce something tangible in order to have carrots to dangle in front of your micro-investors.)
If you can weave a compelling enough tale, you can raise a lot of money to launch your new business.
A piece of advice: If you're not a skilled writer and/or videographer, invest in some professional assistance. Strangers don't typically plunk down money on amateurish crowdfunding efforts.
6. Reach out to angel investors.
Success rates will vary for this method of getting financing for your small business, but angel investors do sometimes come through with big bucks.
In order to succeed, you need to think big and outside the box. Think outside your industry. Look for successful folks whose values align with yours. Practice your elevator pitch and keep a copy of your business plan in your desk and car—you never know when you might meet your angel.
7. Get the basics right, right from the start.
Figuring out how to get funding for a business is important, but it's just one component of successfully launching your fledgling company. In fact, getting the basics right can help you to secure the financing you'll need.
There are three important pieces of advice I share when I'm counseling someone who's launching a new business:
- First, find your point of difference. Focus on what sets you apart from the crowd.
- Second, take your profit first, from the very first dollar you bring in. Profit should be baked into every transaction along the way.
- And third, have an exit strategy. This piece of advice may sound pessimistic, but it's not. When you're talking about loans, investors and your personal savings, we're talking about real money. If your business isn't going to make it, it's sensible to have a point beyond which you won't venture. Figure out what your limits are and heed them.
Getting funding for your business is critical; you're best positioned to do that if you've taken care of the basics and set yourself up to succeed. Keep in mind that the options outlined above aren't mutually exclusive. Most companies use a combination of all these funding options.
Read more articles on financing.
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