Startup Playbook

How to launch a startup: without any money or technical skills

10 Steps for Anyone to Launch a Startup

Do you want to become an entrepreneur, but have no idea where to start? We get it, because we were just like you several years ago. There is too much information out there and it's hard to figure out the right steps. There are so many business incubators, multiple startup schools, business courses, etc. who all claim to know the right strategy. 

After being entrepreneurs for many years, we found something that works like a charm and is an ideal strategy for first time founders.  In this article we are going to tell you how to launch your first startup in a matter of several weeks even if you don't have technical skills or money. There are 10 basic steps for startup founders to follow. All of the steps fall into four categories: audience and its segments, product, funnels and traffic. Let's get started.  

1. Locate a worthy problem

Your first step is to identify a problem that many people face and are willing to pay to have it go away. Solutions don't really matter at this point. Just find the pain and poke it hard.

For Fe/male Switch, the problem was given by the Dutch government. They realized that there aren't enough women in tech startups. Alright, sounds like it is indeed a problem, but how big is it? Is it just the Netherlands or do other countries feel the same way? What about women themselves: do they even want to be in tech startups?

Once we received confirmation regarding both questions, we needed to figure out the financial aspect. Who is willing to pay for this problem to be solved and how eager are they to pay? Ideally, you want the "please, take my money and make the pain go away" situation. In reality, you usually end up with needing to figure out if your user is also your customer or not. Is the government going to pay to bring more women into tech startups or are the women going to pay to be able to start their entrepreneurial journeys? There might be a third party that is interested as well. In our case it's tech companies and startups themselves that are eager to attract more women and are willing to spend some money. 

At this stage you should not care about the solution to the problem. What you must care about is the problem itself. Do you personally feel anything for the problem? Do you think you will be willing to wake up every morning and have the desire to work on this problem? Even in a year or two? If not, find another problem, because if you are not passionate about it, you will give up and potentially even burn out if you push yourself too hard working on something that you don't care about. 

What can help is the F/MS canvas that we created for people like you. Just get the template and start filling it in as you move further. 

2. Identify your competition and audience

Once you have identified a problem, you’ll want to validate it with the potential users and customers. How do you do it if you don't know anybody who has the problem? Start digging!

So, women who would be willing to become tech entrepreneurs...where are you? Here's a hack for you to get started: google stuff. It might be obvious but a lot of people don't really understand how much valuable info you can get by googling. In a few hours you will have an idea of who your possible competitors are. For Fe/male Switch is would be startup incubators, accelerators, business courses, communities for female entrepreneurs, etc. Alright, half the job done. Now dig deeper and get a list of 10 top competitors, find their social media and start watching what they are doing, what kind of people are in their communities, study their websites and just get to know their process. Move on to the next step, which is basically a sub-step of audience building. 

3. Get started with community creation

Now that you have a rough idea of what is happening around your problem, it's time to establish your presence. Start with creating your own social media account. By now you should already have an idea of what the best social media channel is for you (at least you need to make an intelligent guess as to which platform you think is best to start with). Hint: choose the same platform where your competitors are most active. 

Set up an account (do you need help with this? Sign up for our free startup school and use the guides) and follow all of your competitors. You are in passive mode now: watching, collecting info, learning. 

Let's get you active so you can actually talk to people. 

4. Create visuals with Canva

Before you start saying hello, we need to dress you up. Get a free Canva account and get yourself a logo, a social media banner, pick your fonts and colors. Proceed with creating a few visuals and make your social media account look presentable. Make your first post and start the active phase: follow the followers of your competitors, make comments under the posts of your competitors and grow your own following. 

Work on storytelling, which won't be hard if you actually filled in some of the parts of the F/MS Canvas and studied the "Build your audience" modules in Startup School. 

Depending on how much effort you put into growing your social media following, you can grow at a rate of 10-20 people per day. So, in a week, you will have a nice mini-audience that you can start talking to. 

Once they become active, the interaction needs to become regular. Don't lose their interest. At the same time, proceed to the next step while simultaneously continuing with this one.

5. Launch a landing page with Tilda

Once you have people in the social media, you need to start testing and validating stuff with them. Remember that you don't own any data on social media. If your account gets blocked, you have lost every single follower. 

Don't allow this to happen: always have a Plan B. In this case your Plane B coincides with building the first version of your product. Don't worry, we know that you still have no idea about the solution or the product. That's exactly when your followers are going to be very useful. 

Start building your homebase, aka your first prototype: a landing page. Create a free account with Tilda and use a template that you like. If you followed Step 4 properly, then the design part is going to be a piece of cake: get your Canva visuals, colors and fonts into Tilda and voila, the template feels like it's yours. 

Add the link of your landing page into your social media account and start sending your followers to check it out. Is nobody doing it? Did you actually explain why they would need to go? In other words, what's your call to action? What are they supposed to do once they land at your page? Your goal is to have them leave their info (email address and name at the very least) so that you don't lose them in case your social media account gets hacked. 

6. Start a newsletter with MailChimp

At this point you should already have a few email addresses in your database. It's time to deliver value and get to know your audience better. 

Get a free account with MailChimp and create your first Newsletter. Make sure you are actually sending something valuable otherwise people will immediately unsubscribe.  

At this point you have all you need to continue building your audience, validate the problem and even come up with the first ideas regarding the solution. Just continue iterating, repeating the previous steps and testing new things. 

7. Build an MVP with Bubble or Adalo

Only continue to this step if you have a validated problem, a potentially viable solution and a substantial amount of people from your audience who are willing to commit (yes, you can pre-sell a product before actually building it). 

And yes, we remember that you don't have any technical skills, but if you actually made it to this step, it means you already know how to use several zero-code tools. Canva, Tilda, Mailchimp are all tools that don't require their users to know how to code. Bubble and Adalo are also zero-code tools, albeit they are more complicated. You have a choice here: learn the basics of these tools and build the first prototype yourself. Yes, it is possible and no, it won't take years or even months. Or you can look for a co-founder. We don't advice to hire developers at this point because there's a 99% chance that you will burn through the money and get nothing good in return. And it's not because of the developers, but because you still have a very vague idea of what it is you are building. 

So get to learning. You know the drill: our startup school has everything you need to build your first prototype. Need feedback and more help? Our startup game for women if launching this fall, so sign up here. Not a woman? We are also building a startup incubator and more in-depth courses with homework and expert help. Sign up for our newsletter not to miss the launch.  

8. Collect feedback with TallyForms

Another awesome tool for you to use is a form creator. You need to be able to collect feedback from users in a way that you can analyse it. TallyForms is free for most of your needs, so get started with it. 

Check out all the tools that we love and use in this presentation.

9. Check metrics and improve

Make sure you are always analysing your metrics and improving stuff. Tilda has a built-in CRM and statistics. So does social media, Mailchimp and others. Spend some time on figuring them out and start tracking the most important things. 

For example, is your social media following growing? By how much? What percentage of your followers is visiting your landing page? Is that number growing? What percentage of the landing page visitors is signing up for your newsletter? Is that number growing? What percentage of your subscribers is opening your emails? Is that number growing? You get the drill. 

If something is not growing, go back to that step and spend time on figuring out why. Change stuff and don't stop until you get a positive result. Unless, there is nothing more that you can do. That's when you might need to decide to change something drastically: come up with another problem or another solution. These things happen more than you might think. First startups fail a lot. 

10. Take care of your mental health

You might be thinking: why did I just read this whole article if there's no happy ending? Oh but that is a happy ending! In the best case you succeed, in the worst case you only devoted a couple of months to this problem/solution, you didn't waste any money and you spent your time learning. You understood the process of idea validation and audience building. You learned how to build stuff with your own hands and how to grow from zero followers to an amount that is bigger than that. And, whether you wanted that or not, you grew your inner entrepreneur. 

Creativity, confidence and other entrepreneurial skills that are part of the startup mindset are very useful even if you decide not to become an entrepreneur.

One last piece of advice: no matter what you end up doing, always put yourself first. Your mental and physical health are your biggest asset and you need to take care of them. 

If you have questions or need additional help, reach out to us and we will figure out a way to steer you in the right direction. 

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