Bootstrapping? Try crowdfunding.

 Sisters Amanda and Melissa are running a Kickstarter Campaign to take their line of dog stationery to the National Stationery Show. Photo from The Dog Studio

Sisters Amanda and Melissa are running a Kickstarter Campaign to take their line of dog stationery to the National Stationery Show. Photo from The Dog Studio

Another of the topics that often comes up when discussing launching something new is that of money. How are you planning to fund your business? Bootstrapping is a commonly used term that simply means launching or running the business on an extremely tight budget. It's most often associated with starting a business with your own (or parents) money, using a personal credit card for purchases and living on cup noodles.

It's pretty easy for artists and creatives to launch a business 'on a shoestring' especially if the business has evolved out of a hobby, like painting or sewing. You probably already have the equipment. It's free to open an online store on a platform like Etsy. Open a PayPal account. You can reinvest the money made from sales directly back into the business, grow slowly.

But what do you do when you want to take your business to the next level? Step up your game?

Have you heard of crowdfunding? Sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are among the bigger platforms that give ordinary people the means to raise money to make a film, write a book, start a small business and more. Here's how it works: you set up a page, pitch your idea and hope that friends, family and beyond will donate.

Featured in the picture above is a crowdfunded campaign that caught my eye. Amanda is an acclaimed dog photographer who wants to 'revolutionize the way dogs are treated on greeting cards'. That sentence alone convinced me to read on. Dogs, puppies, kittens are subjected to all kinds of stuff for the sake of the greeting card industry. But Amanda just photographs beautiful dogs (no bows or baskets here, she says). 

She's ambitiously hoping to raise $35,000 and with just two weeks to go she's only halfway there. The project only gets funded if the goal is reached. You can donate if you like, click here.

So what are some tips for running a successful crowdfunding campaign?

  • start with an idea that benefits others, not just yourself 
  • tell your story in a compelling way, ideally with a great video
  • share your campaign with everyone you know and ask them to share with their friends
  • offer meaningful 'perks' or benefits to the people who show their support
  • make your page look professional and show supporters that you mean business
  • make it easy to share with great 'tweetable' quotes and 'pinterestable' photos
  • generate as much public interest as possible by contacting newspaper / blogs / anyone

Here's another campaign I personally supported that has done really well: HereO GPS watch for kids. With just two days to go they've exceeded their goal, 181%. Rock'n!

And another successfully funded campaign, the sister of an acquaintance of mine was heading to India to do some research into education for poverty stricken children. My friend reached out to me personally. Of course I was happy to help.

So don't be afraid to run campaigns that are quite personal in nature but still have some 'greater good' aspect and then feel no shame in ruthlessly contacting old friends, relatives, colleagues to enlist support.

Click over to Indiegogo for more 'Small Business' ideas from currently running campaigns.

And when you're ready to launch, here's a template for a letter to friends, from ShopLocket.