I’ve come close to running out of money a few times so I’ve developed a few strategies for making it last longer and cashing up.
But first remind yourself: it’s never the end of anything, your life, your business or the world.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
Each outcome of every experiment is a set of results. Running out of money is simply a result of investing in yourself and your work and a sign that you’re ready to try something different to generate different results.
You’re ready to run new experiments with a new set of results.
So here are the 5 things to do before you run out of business funds.
1. Measure Your Runway
Whether you’re starting up on the side or taking time off to launch your ideas it’s imperative to know how much money you have and how long it will last you.
Even if you still have a full-time or part-time income you can over spend. And when you’ve quit to focus full-time it’s smart to have a milestone, a deadline, a backup plan AND enough funds to cover your life & business for the duration.
E.g. In the next 6 months I’ll spend ‘x’ amount on living expenses and invest ‘x’ in my business and if I don’t make ‘x’ I’ll freelance for 6 months to cash up and re-think.
Golden rule: Always know exactly how many months you have left for your life and business.
I call this your personal runway and your startup runway.
For many – like me – they are one in the same.
At first all my business costs came out of my personal runway. I’ve bootstrapped all the way and kept my business costs minimal. Not idea, just the nature of my personal circumstances when I started up.
Leveraging your lifestyle can extend your runway for months or years.
I have a few strategies up my sleeve that have kept me going for over a decade, including working abroad where my role is paid double that of the UK, traveling, and …. House sitting!
My life in Mexico 50 yards from the ocean and as much organic food as I can get into me costs US $400 per month. Life in London, well… haha! You can imagine.
I live in 5 bedroom houses on the water and giant country Manor’s around the world without paying a penny. It’s all part of my adventure lifestyle; and I’ve been willing to experiment with many different ways of living.
I’ve literally become the Queen of the runway!
As long as your personal runway is extended you can do the foundational work on your business that costs you next to nothing, like validating your ideas, researching your audience, perfecting your product, offer, or service, and content marketing.
While you’ve got time and energy – and delicious food and somewhere warm & safe to rest your head – you can still be growing your business.
E.g. I have 3 months personal runway left in London, so I’ll rent out my apartment and head to South America so I can extend it to 18 months while I try to get my idea off the ground.
You might also get more ideas from my post: How to travel more without ruining your career.
- Define your goals
- Calculate your life & work runway
- Make lifestyle & startup strategy adjustments to lengthen it
2. Get Crystal Clear On Your Life and Work Expenses
To calculate your runway you’ve first got to know your costs & expenses.
There are ways to cut down your cost of living & starting up just by employing common sense but first you have to know what those costs are.
It’s not about cutting out your morning latte at your favourite cafe, it’s about knowing how you want to live and what it costs.
It’s also about knowing how to grow a strong foundation for your business without bankrupting yourself too quickly.
It’s easy to spend lavishly on things that don’t really matter when you’ve got the funds, only to realise – when you’ve run out! – that many of them were cart before the horse. When you know what you want, you can actually build a business that supports that from the beginning.
Essentially the golden rule: work with what you’ve got.
Startup costs really depend on your business model and what you want to make & sell.
I started with consulting, then writing books, then coaching, and now a digital information product. But, even if you’re selling something more complex or a physical product, you can invest your time and energy in validating the idea and selling it before you create it.
For me it was simple to start with. I launched my coaching service StephanieHolland.Co in January 2014 after investing every penny into self-publishing my first book Absolutely on Purpose. My business budget was zero, so everything I spent on my business would have come out of my living allowance.
I built my own website on Strikingly.com and told everyone I knew what I was doing and somehow I landed 3 clients within 3 days. (Great start, but since then things have not always been so easy!)
- Calculate your essential living expenses (food, rent, bills)
- Calculate your social & luxury expenses
- Calculate your essential business expenses (hosting, domain etc)
- Calculate your luxury business expenses
Since the beginning I’ve used Freeagent to keep track of my business expenses and income because I love the one-click tax return at year end.
Use my affiliate code: 43ngrmlq for 10% off your monthly subscriptions.
PS. I love this company so much I became an investor during their first crowdfunding campaign, which leads nicely into my next step…
3. Research Other Sources of Funding
Knowing how to access cash or help with your mounting debt is a good thing to have up your sleeve even if you never act on it.
Google ‘startup funding in [your country]’ and you’ll come up with a wealth of resources to research further.
If you’re willing to do your due diligence you might just find something that resonates with you.
I found that the UK government offers working tax credits to those who are self-employed and earning under a certain amount of money.
In my first year of ‘self-employment’ I was writing my book and could have covered my entire grocery bill if I had known about this. When I finally starting sell things it was still nice to receive a small monthly grant. Every little helps.
Whether it’s crowd funding, debt funding, incubators, an angel round, a VC round or government funding there’s a wealth of funds to suit all types of people, situations and entrepreneurial vision.
My favourite resource in the UK for all things startup funding related if Grant Tree.
- Google ‘startup funding in [your country]
- Make a note of what you’d like to research further
- Speak to as many people as possible about your top 3
4. Get Your CV Ready
I’ve had 5 corporate ‘contracts’ since embarking on my own freelance/ consulting/ entrepreneurial adventure over a decade ago.
Three to four months of a 6-figure salary keeps me going for over a year, sometimes longer, because my dream life includes cabanas on the beach in Mexico and other simple pleasures.
It’s by no accident that my dream life doesn’t cost a fortune – I’ve spent years simplifying and embracing a minimalist lifestyle from the inside out.
It’s not for everyone but if you can open your mind to simplicity you’ll have a much longer runway to play with your ideas and get them off the ground.
Keeping my CV fresh and leveraging my time off, study and self-publishing in-between stints has made me a more interesting candidate to European and Antipodean employers.
I used quotation marks around contracts above because I never could figure out how to get actual freelancing roles in my industry with my role (Media Strategy), so I would accept permanent roles and then quit when I was ready.
Legitimate freelance roles are much wiser if you have the opportunity.
But you can also work part-time in a ‘fantasy’ job. Ever dreamed of tending bar or becoming a barista? I know many who hit the farm for 3 month stints or bar tend in Fortaleza for the summer months. They choose lifestyle over $$$s while still funding their dreams.
- Spruce up your CV & LinkedIn Profile
- Re-connect to your network & re-activate your connections
- Brainstorm ‘fantasy’ or lifestyle jobs
5. Talk to your parents
Bank of Mum & Dad gets a bad rap… if you have a good relationship with your parents, they support your dream & buy into your vision, and you can negotiate favourable terms, then why not?
Besides, I don’t have a single friend who has bought a house without either an inheritance or a loan from their parents, so why not say yes to help with building your dream?
Mum has been my most important supporter and high-interest investor to date, both emotionally and financially. Money-wise it’s still a debt that has to be repaid in full which also serves as a powerful motivation to keep going even when I question the destination.
Even if they’re not in a position to help financially, they can still be a powerful ‘board’. They might have some great tips and advice up their sleeve about more than just money.
- Share your startup vision with your parents
- Explain your financial situation & ask for help
- Be open to their tips and advice
One final note:
I’m obsessed with mindset and lifestyle as a strategic imperative for staying in the game until you get the results you’re looking for. Money is a finite resource, but your perspective and ability to thrive regardless of outcome will separate you from the pack and catapult you towards personal success.
Your first idea us unlikely to succeed right out of the gates, but if you stay in the game, and if you see everything you do as a set of results, you’ll gradually accumulate the insight and wisdom to move mountains. No amount of money at the outset can ever replace the wealth of knowledge you’ll gain from tackling your obstacles.
Which strategy do you like best and why? If you have a great strategy for making your funds last longer, or for cashing up to continue, please let me know!
Image: Mathew Hamilton via Unsplash