In case you missed it, I have an article on Consulting Buzz titled “What Pokemon and my 10-year-old son taught me about bootstrapping“.
My son is obsessed with Pokemon cards–as well as Legos, Star Wars, etc.–and was pestering me to let him buy some Pokemon cards. Not with my money, mind you, but with his. He’s been doing odd jobs around the house to earn “commission” (we don’t give our kids allowance), and now that he’s got a little money, he’s eager to spend it all. Give a boy a fish, and it’ll burn a hole in his pocket.
Being cheap, I refused, and, well, you can read the rest at Consulting Buzz.
Constraints are hidden opportunities
The point is that when you have constraints, those very limits force you to be more creative. You pare down what you need to the essentials. Maybe you don’t have much money, or maybe time is your biggest constraint. Bootstrapping is all about working within your limits AND getting your needs met. You may not get exactly what you originally envisioned, but you can usually get pretty close–and you may even be able to do it better by having to get more creative about it.
On my Tools & Resources page, I’ve listed a bunch of free and low-cost tools that most freelancers/consultants will need for their business. On the Consulting Buzz article, I listed a few other ideas.
The bootstrapping mindset
Bootstrapping is a mindset. Think about what it is you really need to achieve–not WANT to achieve, but NEED. Pare it down to the essential core. Then start thinking of all the ways you could make it happen. This requires a bit of brainstorming and flexible thinking, but it can actually be pretty fun once you get going. It’s like finding a big bargain on something expensive–which is sort of what bootstrapping boils down to.
For example, you’re starting your business, and you know you’ll need a phone and fax. Your first thought is to call the local phone company. But wait! You already know how expensive that’ll be. How else could you get phone and fax service? Do you have a cell phone? Are you connected to the internet? Well, there you go. Ditch the phone company, and use Skype, RingCentral, or if you’re going to do tons of faxes and need to track things, maybe MyFax. They’re all cheaper, more mobile, and more full-featured than the old-school route. After all, you’d look like an idiot lugging a giant fax machine everywhere you go.
So, embrace your constraints. You’ll save money and time, and will often get better results than simply throwing money at a problem or spending hours slogging through it.