When you’re planning a start up and need to stick to a budget (who doesn’t?) you sometimes need to be ruthless with the features you can include from the offset.

From nearly 20 years of helping start ups get off the ground, and helping entrepreneur’s manage a budget, these are some of the things I think you can manage without with a bit of creative thinking.

Online payments

Let’s start with the big one. The one I’m sure many will disagree with. Setting up online payments – especially subscriptions – can be a large part of a start up. I know, I know – people will read this and say “oh you just do this, this and this” – but that’s still a bit to do. Or even if you use a tool to manage subscriptions, that’s still something to set up or a monthly cost to face.

Don’t get me wrong – at my web development agency our main specialism is in helping people with membership platforms which usually involve recurring payments. But I’m just saying that if you are really being ruthless, you can manage this aspect manually.

Think about the things you’re requesting payment for. Could you just make a simple invoice template in Word with your bank account details on it and send people a manual invoice? When I started out in business many moons ago, I had a spreadsheet of all the invoices I sent out, which I made in Excel, and updated the spreadsheet when they were paid. There’s nothing to stop you doing that now – with Google Docs perhaps so even the spreadsheet is free.

Yes, things don’t auto renew. Yes there’s a lot more work involved for you. But my point is you can manage things like this whereas there will likely be other parts of your project that you can’t manage yourself manually in any form, so they’re where your budget is best spent.

If recurring payments are an absolute must, how about a PayPal subscription button? With no API / webhook to tell your website when the payment is received, or to automatically block someone if they don’t pay? And no interfaces on your site for managing subscriptions / users and chasing renewals. Just have the facility to suspend someone’s account (which you might want for a variety of reasons) and then manually block them if they don’t re-pay. Yes it’s hassle. Yes you’ll need to be on top of things and perhaps keep notes or do a weekly check of who’s gone over. But if you’re just starting out, let’s face it – you probably won’t have many users, and if you do, so what if they get a few extra days service? When you first launch you’re in trial mode – you want all the testing and feedback you can get from people.


This one obviously depends on the sort of content you’re publishing to the web, but if it’s harmless, so what if you publish it on a site that has hardly any visitors initially? Rather than some kind of moderation system, or an external moderation tool, what if someone writes something, and you see it a few hours later, and edit it then? Or ask your web developers to delete it if you really don’t think it’s suitable for your site? Obviously you’ll need to pay for your developer’s time,  but maybe you can trial how often you actually need them to step in, vs. the cost of a full moderation system?

Reporting and analysis

Often I see briefs from start ups who want lots of reporting – with graphs and monthly reports they can send clients. They see it as vital to their product’s success. Great – we love doing that stuff. But it’s a lot of work! Collecting data, crunching it, analysing it, putting it into charts with various charting APIs and then designing and building PDFs which are autogenerated every month? In what world is that a minimal viable product?

Instead, think carefully about what data you definately need and whether that could be recorded using Event Tracking or funnels in Google Analytics (you might want some expert guidance on this). Next,make sure that anything that couldn’t be captured in GA – or couldn’t be captured if people opted out of Third Party Cookies – is captured and stored on your website instead (inline with your privacy policy). You just need it stored in your database. Then, once a month, you can ask your developers for a dump of the database – or you can ask to be shown how to access this data yourself (be careful!). And you can manually put together reports for your biggest clients, or for yourself. Yes, it’s manual. Yes, it’s time consuming. But it’ll free up a lot of budget for things you can’t do yourself.

Skin in the game.

I’ve been in this game long enough to remember when everything wasn’t just available at the click of a button and you had to do things more manually. I also used to make myself websites before I had a team of developers who can code better than I can, so I had to think creatively and do as much as possible without relying on tech. Sometimes you just need to be less reliant on technology and make your budget go further whilst you’re testing your idea.