How to Have a Professional Office Even When You Bootstrap

If you want to attract investors and earn your first clients, your workplace has to say everything there is to say about you. While not every startup needs office space, a professional workplace speaks volumes about the potential of your entrepreneurial venture. For bootstrappers, that presents some clear challenges.

If your budget is stretched thin and you already have clients booking appointments, you need your office to look its best. Here’s how even the most cash-strapped startup can make their office look professional enough to satisfy clients and investors alike.

Break From the Norm

A traditional office is all slick boardrooms and agendas set in stone. For startups, there are plenty of ways to distance yourself from that stale mindset. One of the best options is to create small spaces available for all team members to relax and brainstorm. When your average startup has more imagination and creativity on day one than those globe-spanning corporations, you need to embrace that.

Those casual meeting spaces can be amazing for nurturing new ideas and explosive brainstorming sessions. And all you need is some places to sit (beanbags are a common choice), some writing surfaces (look in charity outlets!), and a few whiteboards. When investors walk in and see those little hubs of creativity, they’ll see your energy immediately.

Think Color

It’s easy to overlook how important color is when designing an office space on a bootstrap budget. But color psychology is very real and can have a major impact on your potential to scale. Even a small splash of color in the right place goes a long way. Think about the colors of your branding, and look at the basics of color psychology to complement that branding.

If you stick to grey or beige, you might as well be telling office visitors that you’re just another corporation. Go wild with your colors to create a more unforgettable, creative, and unique workspace that still resonates with those looking for professionalism. Don’t assume that you have to paint every surface either. Use accent walls, cheap carpet, or decals that are much better for your budget.

Rent Office Furniture

During a bootstrapping phase, everything is about the money. To rent or buy what you need in the office is one of the first decisions you’ll face. Financially, it makes less sense to rent what you need. From chairs and desks to printers and computers, renting always costs more in the long-term than renting.

You need to remember that you can’t afford to think long-term right now. You need to ensure that you have low enough costs to easily manage your budget. Rent for now, and only consider buying what you need when the first big invoices get paid into your account. All startups need to be flexible, and the long-term commitment of purchased office essentials limits your ability to exit should things go wrong.

Optimize Your Reception Space

A lot of launching a startup is about making the best first impressions. Get those first impressions wrong, and you’ll have to work harder and longer. That’s why your reception space is so critical. The best thing about this approach is that you can lean into making that fantastic first impression, all while focusing on what might be the smallest part of your office space!

If you’re bootstrapping, you can afford to keep it simple. Plants and greenery are an easy way to add a more professional feel to a workspace. Combine plants and planters to transform your reception space, and complement those splashes of color with a statement desk and some low-cost modern art. Get your reception area right, and it can easily become the key to improving brand perception from day one.

The Music Question

The old guard of the business world would generally frown on music in the workplace. That’s good news for startups because it can be used to make a statement. If the mentality of your startup is disruption and changing the game, then music playing in the office is always going to let visitors know just that.

The right playlist can even improve productivity, which can only be a good thing. Get your office some Bluetooth speakers, choose your playlist (let everyone in the office have time as the music controller), and get to work. Always choose your music carefully, as this option could backfire if you’re not careful, especially if you’re targeting more old-school investors.

Use Books as Decor

Startup employees are a unique breed. Unsatisfied with the traditional 9-5, the average startup employee is someone who is always on the lookout to learn more. And that’s where books come in. Using books as decor can be an extremely low-cost way to add professionalism and class to your office.

Get some cheap bookcases and ask members of your team to bring in books that they either want to share or simply no longer want. Not only will you have an immediate library available for break times, but those books also provide a great talking point for visitors. Check local libraries for some inexpensive bulk-buy deals for a quick way to build your library.

Design a Dress Code

There’s a temptation with many startup owners not to implement a dress code at all. It makes sense, as the goal of most startups is to distance themselves from the stale dinosaurs in any sector. The problem is that if every member of your team is rocking up to work wearing their workout clothes or tatty t-shirts, then your perceived professionalism is going to spiral.

Use your common sense when developing a dress code. While you might not want to force your team to get fully suited up every day, you also don’t want them to meet clients wearing ripped jeans and muddy trainers. Create a dress code that you and your team feel comfortable with. Business casual is a good choice; you’ll look professional enough to get the job done without being one of those outdated corporations that care more about looks than results.

Bootstrapping and Professionalism

While bootstrapping is notoriously difficult to get right, it’s not the barrier to growth that it used to be. With more investors out there looking for fresh brands and with technology continuing to offer solutions that have been overlooked, startups are in a great position.

When it comes to showcasing your professionalism, the look and feel of your office could be all that separates you from your competitors. Spend time getting your office looking like a startup venture that will last the distance, and you could begin scaling faster than even your most ambitious growth plans.

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