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4 Free-Or-Cheap Things You Can Do To Start Your Small Business Today

By Wednesday, October 20, 2021

This article is created in partnership with Squarespace.

Recently we spoke with tv personality turned content creator and business owner, Aja Dang, about her own journey to being self-made. As an online creator, YouTuber, and founder and CEO of MSTRPLN, Aja knows a thing or two about taking small, yet intentional steps, towards success. Most famously known for her journey out of a $200,000 debt, there was little to no room in Aja’s budget as a budding business owner for costly errors or any kind of investments. 

A longtime user of Squarespace, Aja recently sat down with us to offer up a few tips on what helped her reach her goals. Read on for her best advice, and catch her full video over on our Instagram.

1. Create A Budget & A Backup

When starting a business with little to no access to funds, it’s easy to assume that “no money” is the budget until you make money. But no. According to Aja, you have to create a budget for yourself, even if it’s tentative. Aja notes that putting a budget together that you can stick to can be tricky, especially if you don’t know how much you’re going to get paid or if your main income varies on a project-to-project basis. However, she notes two important factors:

  • Create a base budget: this should include the least amount of money you need to pay your rent, utilities, food, recurring debt, and/or all else that may apply. Basically, it’s the baseline amount of money you need to live off of. The next part of this is the amount of money you project you’ll make at the beginning of your business. For Aja, her goal was to net roughly $1500- $2000 a month at the start of her business venture, so she based her overall budget and pricing on this amount. Your amount may vary, or perhaps you have more wiggle room to not worry about losses. In the end, this number is for you to decide — and stick to.
  • Have an emergency fund: the MSTRPLN founder admits she is a huge believer of having “a few fail-safe plans” in place at all times. When you are starting off your business, you may not be afforded much of a backup plan, but one you should immediately invest in is your business’ emergency fund. Having one in place will take off that pressure in the off-seasons of being an early entrepreneur and will tide you over between projects and unforeseen expenses.

2. Build A Website With Reliable Customer Service

“I do not know how to build a website. Period.” When Aja first kicked off her business, she jokingly admits she signed up for Squarespace as a means of getting the domain rights to her name and to ensure that no one stole “ajadang.com.” Fast forward and she’s been a loyal Squarespace user for five years. “It worked out because I eventually ended up selling merchandise via Squarespace. The one thing that I absolutely love is the customer service. I did not know how to build a website but I built mine on Squarespace by myself and the customer service people were great. I had a ton of questions. And the e-commerce aspect was really easy to set up. It was perfect!”

While it may be tempting to try and secure a dotcom with any company that boasts “free websites,” it’s important to use a reputable brand that will offer you premium customer service and access to round the clock help. You also want a site whose services can accommodate and adjust to your company’s growing needs. For Aja, starting — and sticking with — Squarespace meant having a site that grew and changed when she did.

3. Congratulate Yourself For (sm)All Wins!

Positive thinking can feel cheesy, cliché, and at times, nearly impossible to do. But there are many benefits of a happy mindset. For one, positive reinforcement is free and while it costs you nothing at all, it may pay off in the end. Aja stresses that one thing she’d tell her earlier-entrepreneur self is to celebrate her progress at all stages. She admits that it’s easy to get distracted with your end-goal and get side-tracked into thinking, “What’s the next best thing?” while totally ignoring your strides. “You should really be appreciating yourself and how far you’ve come on your journey,” she says. 

If your personality is part of your brand, it’s best to just be yourself from the beginning. “The biggest business mistake I made when I first started was copying what I saw other successful people do.” Aja confesses she went through many phases when figuring out who she was as a person or a content creator, joking that all of her phases “kind of sucked.” But once she found her own voice, that’s when her youtube channel started growing significantly.

4. Create A Spreadsheet To Track Your Payments

Whether it’s $1 or $10,000, tracking your money is solely your job. As an entrepreneur, people will forget to pay you, so to speak. Aja says at the beginning of her career as a solo contractor, she trusted other people to make sure she got paid, but then quickly realized that was a no-no. “You can not rely on other people to make sure you get your money.” She continues, “I’m really serious about getting my dollar when I’ve deserved it and earned it.”

Instead, she uses a Google tracking doc, that she breaks down below:

  • Create a Google doc tracking every client you’re working with and the scope of the work
  • Add the due date for when you’re supposed to get paid
  • Highlight the client in red and keep them highlighted until the invoice is satisfied or payment is made
  • Once payment is made, remove highlight and denote as “PAID”
  • Set aside 30% of payment for EOY taxes

If you are at the very beginning of your journey, creating a spreadsheet regardless, is great for tracking your own expenses, as well as manifesting future income. It’s never too early to start planning!

If you’re ready to get started building your own personal website, head to Squarespace for a free trial. With our offer code “FINANCIALDIET,” you can save 10% off your first purchase of any website or domain.

Image via Unsplash

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