Time and money seem to be the two perpetual challenges every entrepreneur and business owner faces. I speak from experience; I started a successful small retail business while attending college in the United States and now am juggling two other startups as I finish my degree in Germany.
What I’ve learned from my endeavors (especially while balancing university, work and my personal life) is that regardless of country, language or business idea, time and money always seem to be in short supply.
Here are a few hard-earned tips for how you can cut down costs for your startup or small business. You’d be surprised how little time and effort is required to make these money-saving changes:
1. Outsource personnel
You don’t have to go as radical as hiring a virtual personal assistant based in India, but many services can be done out-of-house for a much more affordable price.
On Freelancer.com, you can post your project and let virtual workers bid on the price for which they’ll complete the task. Everything from Web design and online marketing to translation and bookkeeping can be put on the Freelancer.com market.
If you’re not looking for a one-off collaboration, plenty of other positions can be handled out-of-house as well, such as virtual secretaries, tax accountants, etc.
2. Take advantage of technology
Online payment services and direct debit payment options are well-known ways to avoid late fees and save yourself the hassle of remembering deadlines. Beyond PayPal and online banking, technology can help you save time and money in a number of ways.
Conference calls can be made online using FreeConference.com. The basic service is at no cost, and a number of add-ons such as conference recording, desktop sharing and a toll-free dial-in number can be used for an additional charge.
You can also switch to a VoIP (Voice-over Internet Protocol) phone to make and receive calls through an online connection. This is not to be confused with Skype, which is an instant messaging service with voice and video capabilities.
By using a mobile phone and a good VoIP provider, you can drastically reduce your phone bills. Voilá IP offers several different VoIP packages including three-way calling, call forwarding, desktop fax and more starting at about $30 (USD) per month.
3. Open up to open source
Open source software is absolutely free. It’s not the free limited trial version of a more expensive software; it’s truly free because programmers all over the globe work on bits and pieces of the software until it’s complete. For example, OpenOffice is a well-known package that includes a word processing program, slide show presentations and spreadsheets—a sort of free version of Microsoft Office.
Google Drive is great way to backup your files for free and even to collaborate with different people on the same document at the same time. (You do need a Google account.) Google offers calendars, notifications and other office standards as well.
You could also replace Microsoft Outlook with Thunderbird Mail or replace a website hosting service and web designer with a free WordPress blog. (Registering a “.com” domain is only $18 USD per year).
4. Redefine your office space
Quite a few new ventures cater to the new generation of workers—those who are self-employed, working out of their home offices or e-working. Coworking solutions (different people from different companies working in the same building space) are a great way to cut down on office space costs and also increase word of mouth about your business.
If you want to keep your home office but want a more professional presence, some companies offer meeting rooms, conference rooms, telephone answering services and even business address registration services. You can register your business in a fancy, upscale location and even host meetings in the provided facilities. But, in reality, you spend most of your time working from home and pay only a fraction of the full-time rental costs.
5. Be creative on a budget
Even if you can’t draw a stick figure to save your life, you can still be inventive and resourceful (and save money). Rather than ordering expensive business cards from a printing company, try printing them at home on cardstock (thicker than normal) paper. I punched holes in mine and tied bits of cute, fancy ribbon through each hole—a small task to complete while relaxing and watching a movie—and the result was a creative, unique business card that people don’t want to throw away!
Besides arts and crafts, you can also be creative in how you do business. Try bartering your services or products, for example.
If you have any other tips or ideas on how you’ve cut down costs for your small business, please leave a comment below!
Kasey Navita Phifer works part-time in the PR department of a virtual secretary service and also studies International Business at the University of Applied Sciences, Berlin. For questions or comments, she can be reached at kasey.phifer[@]office24.co.uk.