How to get cash for your business without credit
What to do if you need a few hundred dollars and credit cards aren't an option
Your Business Credit
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of 200kfreelancer.com, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for CreditCards.com.
Ask Elaine a question
or read her prior answers in the 'Your Business Credit' archive
Dear Your Business Credit,
I know I don't have very good credit -- all because of a bad wreck. But I'm trying very hard to make it better. I have five websites I need help with. I need a new printer, lots of spiral books -- and paid traffic, which costs $100 a piece for my websites. I need $500, or if I can't get that much, I could use $400. --Sandra
I am really sorry to hear about the wreck and hope that the damage was limited to your car.
It's not easy to start or grow a business on a shoestring, especially if you're also dealing with a recent traumatic experience. The good news is that the money you need is in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands, so with some ingenuity and hard work, you should be able to come up with it in a month or two.
That requires you to set some priorities. No matter how energetic you are, you only have 24 hours in a day. I couldn't tell from your email if the five websites are blogs, e-commerce sites or another kind of site, but it's possible that running so many is diluting your efforts on all of them. You may be better off narrowing your focus for the time being to the site that has the greatest earning potential and leaving the rest on autopilot for a few months. What you learn from growing the first one could help you improve the others later.
I also wonder why you are paying for traffic. That can be a good way to attract eyeballs to your websites, but it's not the only one. You may want to invest more time in building your presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media, depending on your audience. Many business owners find that posting high-quality articles on their websites also attracts traffic, but that takes time and, if you need to a hire a writer, money.
Given your cash shortage and damaged credit, I suspect you need to find a job for a while to rebuild your finances, and to focus on the websites in your time off. That will give you the peace of mind you need to focus on your business strategy, instead of operating in a state of financial panic. Set a regular schedule where you get up two hours early and work on the websites before you go to work -- or hit the computer after dinner every night -- so you keep your momentum going. Have $50 automatically deducted from your checking account each week and moved to a savings account, and you'll sock away $400 in a couple of months. If you need to start with a minimum wage job, then you may only be able to sock away a smaller amount each week, over a longer stretch of time. Join a local Meetup group for entrepreneurs to keep yourself inspired in the meantime.
What if you can't get a job outside the home right now, because, for instance, you're juggling the websites while raising small children? If that's the case, I would take a look at the skills you can sell as a freelancer while you're building the websites. If you are good at the tech side of putting up websites, for instance, you may be able to make money from that expertise through marketplaces like Elance, Guru or oDesk or by responding to ads on Craigslist. Doing a small project for free for a nonprofit organization or house of worship in your community can be a good way to raise your profile as a freelancer while also doing something good for others.
I'd suggest that you also take a close look at your planned expenses. A new printer can run you a couple hundred dollars if you buy it at the office supply store, but you don't necessarily need to buy yours new. Check your local thrift shop or join the Freecycle Network in your community, where people post used items they're giving away.
Also consider going paperless. After a move when my printer was packed away, I discovered that using a free program called Nitro Reader would allow me to easily create PDF files that I could annotate and sign digitally -- which eliminated my need for a printer. I don't know why you need the spiral notebooks, but if you're using them for writing or note taking, you may be able to transition those processes to a computer, too.
What you're doing isn't easy, but building your own business can come with many rewards, so I hope you stick with it. The more creative you can get in stretching your resources, the stronger your business will be. Good luck!
See related: Rebuilding credit to run your new business, How businesses can start on the road to credit
Meet CreditCards.com's reader Q&A experts
Vexed by a personal finance problem?
CreditCards.com's Q&A experts answer questions from readers every weekday. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.
Published: November 25, 2013