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4 Essential Skills for Bootstrapping Start-Ups

These four skills will enable bootstrap entrepreneurs to develop a digital marketing experience with a professional look and feel.

"Bootstrapping" your start-up company means you don't have a ton of capital to spend on items that are essential to success. After the essentials are secured--legal, compliance and other regulatory obligations--there might be little leftover for marketing. The advertising portion of your business will have to be DIY.

But there's a very shiny silver lining to this challenge. There's never been a better time to market your bootstrapped company. The Internet has produced a wealth of free channels and programs over the past decade to help you reach prospective buyers. Learning how to use these tools--programs that can help you with social media, website design, SEO and content--will enable you to add a professional touch to Internet marketing channels that are essential to success.

1. Design. Basic design skills and professional templates for websites, emails and other Internet marketing channels can get your start-up the polished look and feel your brand needs. However, even the best templates need to be tweaked to your brand message.

Of the scores graphic design books I've read, The Elements of Graphic Design is the most comprehensive introduction to basic design concepts. Understanding these concepts is essential to customizing a well-designed template with your brand message.

2. Photoshop. Photoshop skills are a must for every bootstrap company marketer. Photoshop allows the bootstrap marketer to edit company logos and images to fit the look and feel of each Web-marketing platform. This is essential to a professional digital brand presence.

Use tutorials to learn Photoshop quickly and easily. Adobe offers tutorial videos, and there are books, magazines and how-to guides devoted to the program as well. Grab a comprehensive book on the basics of Photoshop. Just one weekend invested in learning the basics can save you days and weeks of frustration down the road.

3. Copywriting. Unless you have a formal education in marketing, copywriting tends to be among the most challenging skills for most entrepreneurs to acquire. Copywriting skills allow the bootstrapped entrepreneur to communicate the value of their product or service offerings in a compelling way. Get started on developing copywriting skills in just one weekend with The Copywriter's Handbook by Robert Bly. High quality and persuasive content is core to all online marketing channels--and having a command of copywriting mechanics will serve you in all aspects of your business.

4. Basic HTML and CSS. Whether it's an email, WordPress theme or social media profile, the bootstrapped marketer will need to tweak HTML code. Most templates can be easily tweaked (or easily broken!) with very minor HTML/CSS edits. The books available on CSS and HTML don't compare to the tutorials at W3Schools CSS and W3Schools HTML. Go through the tutorials and examples one-by-one on the left column of these pages, and you'll know all you need to be able to professionally tweak any Web or email template.

Since bootstrapped organizations don't have giant marketing budgets, learning these skills is crucial to maintaining a trustworthy brand online. Sacrificing just a few weekends out of your busy schedule can help you develop the tools you need to be a professional presence on the Web.

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