Chosing to start Debt Free, stay Debt Free and to start with virtually no money

debt.thumbnailIn case you missed it, someone recently commented that there are not many 40+ year old bloggers (I resemble that remark and so does Fred), but we bring a lot of life experience along with those 40 plus years. FYI, Christine is in her early 30′s (how cool it would be to be 30ish again).

If you are thinking about starting an online business or even an offline business, try to avoid using your credit card(s) or other forms of debt to fund it and don’t deplete your savings. What? “If that’s the case, I’d better give up now.” No you shouldn’t! You’ll never regret the long term benefits of having a debt free business. If what you are thinking about doing requires a BIG upfront investment, you may want to re-consider it.

Fred and I started our business debt free with virtually no money, are still debt free and plan to stay debt free. Yes, at times, cash flow goes on a roller coaster ride, but we can both sleep better at night with no debt. We’re not single guys either and my wife, Brenda, works in the business with us.

So, how do you start debt free, stay debt free and actually make money?

The list below is not in any particular order and this is by no means a complete list. It’s more of a fast start list. (Don’t forget proper business set up with your state which I am not covering here.)

1) Get online by starting with what you know: In Fred’s case, he’s a programmer and I’m a marketer. We can put up a website or blog internally for next to nothing. But, in your case, if you don’t have the ability to put up a site yourself, you can barter (trade services) with someone, build a blog on BLOGGER (which is great for newbies) or do like I did years before Fred… build a $20 per month website myself online.

2) Network online and off. If you network offline (and you should), you should get $20 worth of business cards from your local printer or office supply store or try GOT PRINT. DO NOT get free business cards online or print poorly done ones yourself. Drop the $20 and get something that at least makes you appear that you are in business.

You can network offline by getting involved with the local chamber and business groups like BNI or maybe your city has a less expensive version like this one. If a local chamber membership it too expensive, you can usually attend breakfast or lunch events as a non-member for about $15. I did this with one chamber and made $795 off of someone on my first visit.

To network online, you can join Fast Pitch Networking for FREE or consider their $14.95 paid membership which comes with some nice perks. You can also post legitimate comments on blogs and get to know the folks behind the blog to help build your online network. Forums are another great place to get the word out. I have spent thousands with a guy that I found on a forum. It’s been a great working relationship for both of us. Finally, tap into the power of Craigs List. Explore ways that Craigs List can help your business grow.

3) Keep your day job or consider getting a night job. What? If you have a good day job, let it support your moonlighting at nights and on the weekend until you build up your business. On the other hand, if your day job is so so, you may want to consider waiting tables at night and working your new business during the day. Wannibee actors wait tables, I’ve waited tables and delivered pizza, it might work for you. Just a thought.

4) Teach a class. In 1999, I started with ZIP, 0, NADA in the teaching arena. I had knowledge but that’s it. I contacted the North Carolina Community College Small Business Centers, local parks and recreation centers offering classes, etc. Now, in 2007, I’m exclusive to NC Small Business Centers and should do about 75 paid workshops by the end of the year. They do all the promotion. I just show up and give a quality 3 hour class which I have built a great reputation doing. Can you teach a class in your local community and get paid to do it?

5) For ongoing knowledge…Get RSS feeds. If you are new to RSS, here’s a tutorial. RSS will save you time. RSS will keep you educated and up to date about areas that you are interested in. By getting numerous feeds, you’ll gain knowledge, get tips and grow your business by staying informed.

DO NOT DO THESE THINGS… Spend big money on phone book advertising, do expensive direct mail or newspaper ads in the early stages of your business and fall for virtually every other sales pitch out there about how if you’ll just spend $500 with us then you’ll have all the business you want. You can find better ways to spend that $500 and many are mentioned above. If you network yourself right online and off, you will be amazed at the results.

The things above are just a few of the many things that I have done in the past to help my (now our) business grow. I have generated six figures ( not bragging just being honest with what low cost tactics can do for your business) many times over just using what I have mentioned in this post. It takes consistent action and determination, but you can do it to. Make a commitment to start debt free, stay debt free. If you are already in debt with your business, you can make a new commitment to minimize future debt. You’ll never regret it.

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