7 Resources for Bootstrapping Startups

Bootstrapping a startup mimics the Greek mythology of Sisyphus pushing a massive boulder uphill just to see it roll back down again later. Entrepreneurs often inquire for some of the best online tools in the beginning stages of their business to thwart the “one step forward, two steps backward” mentality. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best resources I’ve used over the years with my own businesses.
  1. Naming and Domaining– One of the first steps of creating a business is naming it and securing its domain. These two processes go hand in hand, and suffice it to say, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
    • If you’re new to domains, checkout the Starter Guide to MorganLinton.com outlining some of the basics.
    • If you have several questions regarding finding or buying a domain, I strongly recommend the Domain Beginners section on NamePros. You can have your questions answered by its massive user base.
    • Do you have some ideas or domains in mind for your company already? Make sure it’s memorable using the Domain Test and that it has some innate value with a free domain appraisal.
    • If you’re looking to acquire a domain owned by someone else, check out my guide on how to negotiate buying a domain name.
    • If you have the time, several portions of Morgan’s Domain Investing Handbook are extremely useful for buying sensible domains for your business.
  2. Sales and Customer Service – At the onset of your company, your primary goal should be pushing for sales and keeping your existing clients.
    • I’ve had some pleasant experiences with the Salesforce CRM to streamline tracking customer engagement and follow-through.
    • For customer service and team communication I strongly recommend Intercom.io. They respond quickly to suggestions and they allow you to talk to your customers over live chat across all channels.
  3. Accounting and Billing – You should already have a system in place for sending out invoices and diligently recording your income and expenses. If you wait until after you’ve made the sale, or until tax time, you’ll scurry to makeup the time and make mistakes.
    • For simple free invoicing I recommend Slimvoice. It easily pairs with Stripe and its minimalist UI warms my OCD heart.
    • For accounting I strongly implore you to begin with a brief conversation with an accountant to get your records correct from the start of your business. It’s a nightmare to find out in April that you’ve been incorrectly logging your expenses or refunds. Once you know the bookkeeping basics check out Quickbooks.
  4. Online Marketing – Putting out messages over social media, newsletters, and blogging can be overwhelming. Not to mention the constant question of whether you should be paying for ads on any of these platforms.
    • Make your life simple and use Buffer social media management. They have a clean UI and responsive staff. If your primary social media outlet is not Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google +, try using Hootsuite that incorporates a plethora of platforms.
    • If you’re having trouble creating simple infographics or just overlaying text on a picture, try Canva and Pablo.
    • Mailchimp has a great suite of tools under their umbrella for sending out newsletters to your subscribers or gauging email analytics with their subsidiary, Mandrill.
    • If you’re considering paying for ads on Google or a social media platform keep this information in mind:
      1. For best results, you should do this after you’ve created copy, graphics, and some semblance of a targeted following.
      2. When done correctly and with surgical precision, it can act as a catalyst for growing your following, but you have to know their exact demographics and which platform they use the most.
      3. It’s not cheap or a one time cost. To get the most out of your campaign, it will cost you thousands of dollars a month, and for several months. A good way of looking at this is comparing its opportunity cost against using the funds for a social media manager.
    • If you’re looking to create a great logo, try 99designs to crowdsource designs. You’ll get the best results if you have a general idea of what you want and your key customer demographics. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you’ll be able to buy an OK logo from a designer on Fiverr. Just make sure you use a reverse Google image search to verify its authenticity.
    • Use bitly’s free custom domain link shortener to increase your brand equity online. Just make sure your shorter custom domain is recognizable and seems trustworthy. I personally wouldn’t click on a shortened link on Twitter that started with the words “virus” or “free”.
  5. Competitive Intelligence – Part of positioning yourself in an industry will be predicated on carving out your space by tapping into your competitors’ clients and suppliers.
    • There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and look for traffic in only new locations when you can utilize useful tools like Similarweb to see where their traffic is originating and funneling.
    • Moz.com also has some great tools to examine your competitors’ traffic and even social media followings.
    • For industry analysis, sales leads, supplier discovery and pure CI, look into Fuld, Hoovers, and Dun&Bradstreet.
  6. Email, Analytics, and Cloud Storage – I’m a Google fanboy through and through, so I recommend their suite of Google apps for everything from email and storage to web analytics and consumer surveys.
  7. Legal – Protect yourself before a catastrophe strikes and briefly converse with a lawyer. A basic consult should be free as long as you have quick specific questions. It’s always a wise move to create a relationship with a viable firm before a disaster hits. After you’ve got the basics down, here are some of the best online resources I’ve used:
    • If you’re at the beginning stages of creating a company, Legalzoom has been a cost saving haven. The cheaper route is filing all your incorporation papers yourself, but I don’t recommend it unless your background is in tax law or finance. If you have a particularly complex situation, it’s always advisable to bite the bullet and have an accountant help you with this process.
    • For researching legal documents and contracts use Docracy.
    • If you’ve exhausted your free legal advice, but you can’t afford to pay for a lawyer to review a contract or ask more basic questions, see if RocketLawyer can solve your problem.
Edward Zeiden

Edward Zeiden

Domain enthusiast and entrepreneur, Edward Zeiden, has been in the tech industry for several years. After co-founding the startup, NameLayer (subsequently acquired by Techstars) he pursued a career in