By Kelly Tolosa-Hayashi

We hear it every day – times are changing and careers aren’t what they were 20 years ago. Gone are the days where we find jobs like our parents that offer incredible insurance, pension packages and job security for 30+ years. It’s no surprise that more and more, our fellow millennials, are jumping on the entrepreneurship bandwagon.

After 6 years of working as a stay-at-home mom, my entrepreneurial journey was a little different than most. But regardless, just a few months ago, with my eldest daughter currently in Grade 6 and my youngest in Grade 1, I decided it was time to jump back into the work force. With a Digital Marketing Management Program certificate from the University of Toronto, I decided to take a big leap of faith and launch Social Platform – a social media marketing and branding freelancing company to help local and small businesses.

“Can I really do this, financially?” was a thought that crossed my mind many times while starting up my business. My two children, my husband who works 55+ hours a week, a single income family household, mortgage, household bills and costs of extracurricular activities were just a few of my many financial concerns. I had to get just as creative on how to cut start up costs as I was with helping my clients build their social media presence.

As Marie Forleo, entrepreneur, writer and philanthropist says, “Everything is figureoutable.” After much research, brainstorming, and some trial and error of my own, here are my top 7 tips for keeping start up costs to a minimum

Self-Learning

With so many online resources available to us, learning to build your own website and making your own graphics and logo will save you the cost of hiring a computer programmer or graphic designer. Website builders such as Squarespace and Wix are great to start with and graphic design programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Canva and Lightroom are easier to use – all thanks to Google and YouTube tutorials!

Use What You Have

Chances are, you’ll need to take photos of yourself and your new biz either for your website or other marketing purposes. Don’t be in a rush to invest in a brand new DSLR or hire a photographer, instead use what you have. You’re probably reading this directly from your smartphone, why not put its amazing camera features and capabilities to use. Don’t have an eye for photography? No worries, you probably have a friend or family member, who’s an expert at taking selfies and has a knack for photography – ask them to take your photos! I’m sure they’d be more than willing to help you.

Collaborate

This is one of my personal favourites. Not only will you reap the benefits of saving and cutting start up costs, this gives you the opportunity to network, spread the word about your new business and start building a community! It’s a win-win! Collaborate with photographers, graphic designers, social media managers, or other contractors that could help you get your feet off the ground. After all, it’s about community over competition, right?

Make your Flexible Spending a Little Less Flexible

This may seem obvious but trust me, a latte here, a lunch there, a few times a week – it adds up quickly! Full disclosure, it can sometimes get a little isolating and lonely working from home everyday, so running out, laptop in hand, provides me with some much-needed change of scenery while I also get to be around other humans again. As much as I would love not having to brew my own coffee everyday, I do limit my coffee runs to once a week. As for going out to eat, I try to save these lunch dates for face-to-face client meetings. We all deserve to treat ourselves, so, set a weekly budget for your flexible spending, cut costs where you can and redistribute extra funds to your business.

Keep Track of Your Business Expenses

Whether it’s a course you took online, a conference you attended, a new app you purchased or anything business related (yes, even that Monday coffee meeting with a potential client you paid for) keep track of everything. If you’re commuting, pay attention to your gas mileage and consumption, any parking meter fees and plug them into a spreadsheet or use a budgeting app.

Know What’s Tax Deductible

Most of us launching a new business will be using personal savings for our business expenses. Do your research and find out what’s tax deductible. When in doubt, ask questions, visit the CRA’s website or ask an accountant.

Have An Emergency Fund

It’s no secret that launching a new business is not for the faint of heart. Statistics say that 77 percent of small businesses are dependent on personal savings for their startup costs, only 40 percent of small businesses are profitable, 30 percent break even and 30 percent are continually losing money. I know this sounds intimidating, but don’t let this stop you! Build an emergency fund well before your launch date and continue making contributions even after your business is bringing in the dollars, this way you’ll be ready for those ebbs and flows of entrepreneur life.

While I still have moments when I ask myself, “Can I really do this?”, these tips have helped me stay financially grounded over the last 7 months. Yes, I may not be able to splurge on that new pair of shoes for awhile and my family and I may have to wait an extra few months to go on that tropical vacation, but nothing great comes out of anything easy, right? So take that leap of faith, launch that business you’ve been dreaming of, and remember to plan and budget, budget and plan!

Kelly is the founder of Social Platform, a freelancing company focused on helping other entrepreneurs, local and small businesses with building their social media presence and branding identity. When she is not helping her clients with their social media content and branding strategies, she enjoys reading, working out, party planning, and hitting up Home Sense for new home decor finds. She lives in Markham with her husband and two daughters and loves visiting local restaurants and shops.