The only reason why I can afford to take zero salary at Terkel is because I sold my marketing agency in December 2021. My family and I are purely living off the proceeds.
If I hadn’t had sold the business to focus on and fund Terkel, I probably would have had to raise more money for my salary, or sacrifice hiring a developer to pay myself.
With that said, supporting yourself as a founder comes with a lot of gray area, innovation, and struggle. I don’t have infinite runway, and I’m tired of eating carrots at my coworking space (Industrious) to save money on meals. I’m tired of my young kids asking if I can buy them this, buy them that. As Kanye said, when you see clothes close your eyelids.
So how do other startup founders support themselves? What do they do to get through the challenges, live their life, support themselves and their families? To find the answers, I asked Terkel.
How Do Startup Founders Support Themselves?
To help startup founders navigate the challenging early stages of their company, we asked CEOs, founders, and other business leaders for their best advice. From bartering services for resources to prioritizing financial planning and funding, here are the top 12 tips these experts shared on how to support yourself as a startup founder in the early stages of a company.
- Barter Services for Resources
- Embrace Side Jobs and Part-Time Work
- Pursue Freelance Work or Consulting
- Live Frugally and Seek Funding
- Focus On Long-Term Well-Being
- Practice Financial Discipline and Revenue Focus
- Leverage Your Network for Support
- Bootstrap and Reduce Initial Costs
- Use Professional Skills and Networks
- Build a Supportive Team
- Seek Help From Your Contacts
- Prioritize Financial Planning and Funding
Barter Services for Resources
Startup founders often have to find creative ways to support themselves in the early stages of their company.
One uncommon approach is bartering services for products or services from other businesses, which can help reduce costs and provide necessary resources that may not be accessible with a traditional monetary exchange.
For example, instead of exchanging cash for web hosting services, a startup founder could offer technical consulting support to the web host. This type of arrangement allows both parties to benefit without requiring startup capital.
CEO, Virtual Team Building
Embrace Side Jobs, and Part-Time Work
You can sustain yourself while working on expanding your business by taking on side jobs or other part-time work. A startup founder can gain from a side job in several ways:
Flexibility: Many side jobs provide flexible hours, enabling founders to balance focusing on their firm and making money.
Networking opportunities: A few side jobs can introduce the entrepreneur to new people and potential clients or partners in their sector.
Financing the business: In some situations, the earnings from a side job can pay for startup expenses like product development, marketing, or employing former team members.
Time management abilities: Balancing a side gig with a startup can help founders build good time management abilities and valuable tools for expanding a successful business.
Thus, by looking to maximize auxiliary income sources, you can help support yourself and your nascent business as a startup founder.
Community Manager, ResumeLab
Pursue Freelance Work or Consulting
As a startup founder in the early stages of a company, one uncommon way you can support yourself is to take on freelance work or consulting. This approach gives you flexibility in terms of both financial support and the ability to focus on your own startup.
It also provides an extra stream of income and gives you exposure to different experiences that might be beneficial for your business. It’s important to note that taking on freelance work or consulting needs to be managed carefully so as not to take away too much time from developing and growing your company.
With thoughtful consideration and reliable time management, taking on smaller projects can provide meaningful returns and valuable experience along the journey.
A portable card machine allows businesses to accept card payments anywhere, providing flexibility and convenience. Having a merchant account for your card readers means that it’s easy to track recorded transactions and use regular online statements to manage the books. You can retrieve and examine transactions at any time if there are ever any issues.
Managing Partner, Rigits
Live Frugally and Seek Funding
Save money by living as frugally as possible and using the savings to finance your business. If you have a full-time job, then don’t quit just yet. If you don’t, consider taking on a contract or freelance work that can help bring in extra income while you get your company off the ground.
If you can’t afford to pay yourself yet, look into creative ways of getting things done, such as bartering and trading services with other startups.
Consider applying for grants, angel investors, crowdfunding campaigns, or loans if you need additional funding. The most important thing is to ensure the business has enough funding to meet its financial obligations and expenses before you pay for yourself.
Focus On Long-Term Well-Being
Early-stage startup founders can experience extreme highs and lows, so I’ve always tried to take a 5 or 10-year view.
Even though we had chances to make a quick profit, we wanted to always do what was best for our customers. It was important to keep in mind that our customers would be more valuable to us as long-term success stories than as short-term revenue numbers.
On the personal side of things, I always reminded myself that success would not be predicated on how much work I did in one day or one week, but on how much work I could do over the course of 5 to 10 years.
With that in mind, it was much easier to always prioritize mental and physical well-being—even amidst the chaos that can happen in a startup.
CEO and CHRO, OutSail
Practice Financial Discipline and Revenue Focus
Starting a company is an exciting and challenging experience, and it’s important to have a simple plan for supporting yourself in the early stages. To succeed as a startup founder, you must be disciplined with your finances, minimize expenses, and focus on generating revenue.
You can do this by launching a minimum viable product or offering freelance services. Seeking funding from investors or grants can also be helpful.
It’s important to stay motivated and persistent, celebrate your small wins, and learn from your failures. With hard work, dedication, and perseverance, you can succeed as a startup founder and make your dream a reality.
CEO, Griffin Funding
Leverage Your Network for Support
Reach out to your network and let them know you are starting a company. Many people in your support system will probably be willing to help you get started. Ask for advice from experienced entrepreneurs, mentors, or even industry contacts you’ve made.
You may also find potential employees through your network who can help you build the business without taking an immediate salary. Take advantage of resources offered by organizations such as accelerators and incubators that provide mentorship and financial support for early-stage startups.
Bootstrap and Reduce Initial Costs
One effective strategy for supporting yourself as a startup founder in the early stages is bootstrapping, which entails leveraging personal finances and resources to fund the company. By keeping initial costs low, prioritizing essential expenses, and optimizing cash flow, founders can maintain a lean operation while gradually growing their business.
Using shared workspaces, negotiating favorable terms with suppliers, and employing agile methodologies can further reduce overhead and enhance efficiency.
Use Professional Skills and Networks
One approach to supporting yourself as an entrepreneur is to leverage existing professional skills and networks. It could be useful for startup founders to take on temporary gigs or side projects that align with their talents, allowing them to keep up with living expenses while having more time available for company building.
By using their qualifications and contacts, they can find work that pays well enough to support their endeavors until the new product or service can fully sustain itself. This method also has the opportunity of networking with potential investors who may be interested in helping grow the business by providing additional financial resources.
Amy Ling Lin
Build a Supportive Team
Starting a company and getting it off the ground can be a challenging feat. While it’s crucial to be clear about your long-term goals, having the right people around you to support you on your journey is just as important.
When they share your vision and will put in that effort to grow the company, you’re likely to feel more confident and supported. To find the right people, reach out to those in your network and find people who share the same vision as you.
Once you identify them and bring them on board, it’s likely to be much easier and seamless, even with the challenges your journey presents.
Founder, Lower Street
Seek Help From Your Contacts
You have given your all to your startup. Money, time, and energy. It is literally your child. Now, it is very possible that you are broke—financially, emotionally, or both.
My advice would be to realize that in building your company, you have also built a network of contacts—employees, mentors, and friends, to name a few. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Marco Genaro Palma
Prioritize Financial Planning and Funding
Well, one of the most important things you can do as a startup founder is to prepare a solid financial plan early on. This means creating a budget and sticking to it, as well as finding creative ways to cut costs and save money wherever possible.
You can also immediately plan to seek funding from investors or apply for grants or loans that help in the steady growth of your business, even if you have just started up. The idea is to be proactive and strategic with your approach and have your funding line clear from day one.
Founder, Writing Tips Institute
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