Over the years I have worked with my fair share of startups. The ones who decided to pursue fundraising sometimes gain access to large amounts of resources and useful connections. However, they have also unwittingly stepped into a labyrinth of uncertainty and confusion.
The others who choose to instead bootstrap their projects tend to have a smoother more predictable journey. But, often run into financial problems at various stages in the project due to poor money management.
There are pros and cons to each approach depending on your connections and business model. In this article I will be focusing on the latter.
Self-funding your app/website reduces the need rush something to market before it is ready. It also allows you to own 100% of what is created without having to worry about paying back an investor. All the money you make is yours to do with as you see fit.
With bootstrapping you are using your own money, so unless you are rich you cannot afford to "fail fast and often" as modern tech entrepreneurs like to promote. You need to be more cerebral than that. You need to develop a deliberate step by step strategy to ensure that you will get to the finish line without putting yourself in financial turmoil.
The First Step Is to Make Sure That You Have Personal Savings
Before you get into any kind of business, digital or otherwise, you need to make sure that your personal finances are in order. If you can't take control of your own budget, it is unlikely that you will be able to run a profitable business.
That is why your first step should be to ensure that you have an "emergency fund" in place. An emergency fund is specific amount of savings you have put away in cash to protect yourself against the unpredictability life will throw your way.
I am by no mean a financial export. I am a programmer by trade and a consultant by profession. However, I have been managing budgets for software projects for years. What I know is that most of the time these projects end up costing more than expected either during execution or after completion.
The reason for this is that new ideas are usually developed along the way. These ideas are added as “extras” during or after the completion of the original plan. Unpredictability in your business and in life is why it is so important to have extra money tucked away.
My recommendation for your personal emergency fund is as followed:
- 3 Months of expenses if you have a steady income.
- If you are like me and have variable income, this needs to be bumped up to 6 Months.
The majority of the time bootstrappers run into financial issues mid project is due to them not having a realistic amount of monetary protection in their personal lives. Once developed, this emergency fund will shield you from money stress and will allow you to approach your new business/project with a clear head.
Reach out to Your Ideal Software Developer and Ask for a Quote
You have your emergency fund, so it is now time to find the right service provider to actually bring your vision to life.
You and your provider are going to enter into a long-term relationship.
Above all, you need to make sure that you and this person can actually get along.
Once you have found someone with the requisite skill level, start by giving them a call. If after the first interaction you pick up an attitude or get a "bad vibe" it is best to simply move onto the next. The project will not be successful if you are constantly clashing with your programmer.
Once you have leaped over the first hurdle, the next thing you need to do is ask them to provide you with a quote/estimate before making any financial commitment. Once you get this quote, you now have a solid figure or price range needed to fund your project.
This is when you will find out if it is truly realistic for you to bootstrap your startup, or if you will indeed need to get funding.
Take an honest look at yourself and determine whether or not it is practical for you to invest that amount of money into your project. If the figure you have been quoted exceeds what you are personally comfortable with investing, you still have the option of getting a second and third "look" by reaching out to other programmers.
In most cases however, you will likely get similar rates from programmers who are on the same level.
Do Not Steal from Yourself To Fund Your Business
Now that you have built your emergency fund and have a general idea of how much this undertaking will cost, the next thing on your plate is to strategize how you are going to pay for the project. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use your emergency savings to fund the project. Instead, you can do one of the following things:
- Save the total amount estimated for the project and place it in a separate account/location from your normal day to day spending. This account should be dedicated to business investment.
- If you have other investments (i.e., stocks, bonds, crypto etc.) it is smart to cash them out in order to fund your business provided you are confident that this business venture will provide you with better/faster returns.
Taking this approach will significantly reduce the financial stress in your personal life. And best of all, you will still have your original savings to handle life's ups and downs.
Enquire about On-going and Hidden Fees
Whether you are creating a website or mobile app, from experience I can tell you with 100% certainty that there will be on-going costs. This can be in the form of server hosting, third party service subscriptions, on-going technical support, or other support services.
Compared to the cost of development these costs are usually low, however this is not always the case. It is better to be safe than sorry. So, aim to find out what these costs are at the earliest possible point in the project.
In addition to the cost of support services, you also need to consider the potential costs associated with marketing. These costs can vary quite widely depending on your particular circumstances, but most people will fall into one of two categories:
- You have strong social media presence, an existing customer base, or a competitive advantage due to your connections and/or job - Low Marketing Cost
- You have average to low social media presence, no or few customers, and no one knows you or your business - High Marketing Cost
If you fall into the High Marketing Cost category you are going to have to pay to play. This payment will either be in cold hard cash, or if you have the talent and determination, you can also pay with your time and effort by marketing your products and services yourself.
Regardless, this is another "hidden" cost associated with maintaining a digital platform and something you need to be financially and mentally prepared for.
Though bootstrapping your project with your own funds is the slow path, it has a lot of advantages over chasing investors for money.
- Less Stress
- More Equity
- More Control
However, the approach you decide to take will play a large role in your ability to reach the finish line. Remember, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are psychologically and financially prepared for this undertaking.
The service provider gets paid either way, so most will not clue you in on the financial realities of your project outside of what they will personally receive.
That’s why you should work with someone like me 😉. I am not just an experienced software development consultant; I am also someone who believes in long term relationships and cares deeply about the success of your business. The way I look at it, if you win, I win.
Scroll down to the bottom of this page and fill out the form below to get a quote on your next big idea.