How To Stay Frugal When Working On Your Startup


Early-stage startups have one enormous challenge in common—lack of funds. Let’s get real people: the days or organic reach are behind us. You must now pay to play. Now, this could mean advertising, enacting a strong SEO plan, or even getting good PR. The fact of the matter is that growing any business doesn’t come without a price tag. While we all would like to believe that our business and even us as individuals are strong enough and amazing enough to scale at a high rate, it isn’t that easy. We’re living in a world with red oceans, friends, so if you want to get ahead, it’s essential that you invest.

But how do you manage to grow while still operating on a small budget? Well, let’s start with investing your capital in all the right places.

Seriously consider your software

The price of software will quickly add up without you really noticing—if you let it. Things like accounting software, design software, project management software, email automation software, landing page software, etc., can add up quickly. We all love the functionality, but be sure to take a step back and think about what you actually need versus what you want to have.

For example, project management software is amazing, but I found that my team can handle most of our task management with a Google sheet, which costs zero dollars. Trello can also be a fantastic option for managing projects for free.

Take a hard look at the software you use and consider if there could be a less convenient, yet less expensive way to manage the tasks you currently manage with software. Chances are, there’s a great deal you can accomplish for free if you take a little extra time to make it work.

Advertise smart

I’ll be honest with you, I’m a big fan of social advertising. Never before have we, as marketers, been able to target audiences so precisely. My advice to you is this: don’t give up. Advertising on Facebook or Instagram is all about testing. You need to spend a little money to learn about what copy is best, what imagery gets the most clicks, and even about what audience segments are most receptive to your message.

This takes time. Advertise smart by continuing to invest little amounts into social advertising until you find the combination of copy, imagery, and audience that gets you conversions for a low, low rate.

Don’t tell me “it’s not working” after you’ve only spent $200. Go back, refine the campaign, and try again.

Look to grassroots strategies

“Traditional marketing” has gotten a bad rap over the past few years, but I can honestly say that that bad rap isn’t justified. There’s nothing wrong with Inbound Marketing, but let’s be honest with one another: it takes time.

The idea that you can start blogging and all of a sudden you’ll get leads is ludacris. It takes time. And effort. And dedication. While plenty of startups are willing to put in the work, they don’t have a ton of time to wait around for things to happen.

You’ve got to be scrappy, and this typically means going grassroots. If you want to be frugal with your startup capital, plan on doing a great deal of networking. Plan on visiting businesses in person. Plan on selling your product or service one at a time. Plan on switching from the marketing mindset to the sales mindset.

It’s easy to say that we could put everything on automation and things will just start happening for your business, but easy doesn’t always equate to effective. Stop automating, and start getting your hands dirty.

Create partnerships

Ahhhh partnerships. This is a tough strategy, yet it can be oh, so effective! Everyone needs something, so look to brands that serve the same audience as you do but are farther along in their journey than you are—and then find out what they need.

They could be happy with shoutouts to your small, but engaged audience. They might like some free content or promotions and mentions for their events.

The truth is that you never truly know until you ask…. So start asking. Start creating connections. Almost 100% of the time you can find a way to provide something worthwhile to another brand serving the same audience as your brand if you take the time to connect, listen, and observe. Make sure that you’re always providing something valuable instead of simply promotional, and you’ll start to see good things come your way.


So there you have it! Be conscious of the software you use, be conscious of the partnerships you create, make sure to be smart with your advertising, and go grassroots whenever possible. Don’t get sucked in by all the “easy buttons” out there. Growing a startup is hard, so if you want to save money, you’ll have to put in extra work to scale it.


Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage

Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.

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