Are you thinking about launching your own company, but lack the funds for your endeavor? No problem. Here are some startup hacks that will save you money.
Choose a Low-Cost Startup Business
Pick a service-based business you can start at a low cost. Consulting, caregiving, pet training, content writing and cleaning businesses are just a few examples that can be launched for less than $100. Selling a service means you don’t have to purchase inventory or pay shipping expenses. However, some service-based businesses don’t lend themselves to low startup costs. Particularly if major equipment is needed to perform the service. So keep this in mind when choosing.
- Sell online
Opt to sell online instead of renting a storefront. Not only does this save you money, but your customer reach will be much greater. Also, don’t limit yourself to eBay and Amazon. There are many online selling platforms you can choose from. Not to mention CraigsList, NextDoor and LetGo.
If you don’t have your own product, you can purchase new or used items to sell. Or, avoid the headache of shipping and buying inventory up front by choosing wholesalers that offer drop shipping.
- Choose something you love
When selecting your business, align it with your passion. This passion will carry you over the hurdles that come naturally with owning your own business. If you’re going to do something long-term, make sure it’s something you enjoy.
Rely on yourself
- Build on what you know
You don’t have to do it all at once. Launch your business with what you know now and build on that. For example, perhaps your vision is to provide home accessible upgrades for the disabled, but you only know how to install wheel chair ramps. Start there. You can gradually add to your portfolio by learning how to design drop-down kitchen shelves or how to add grab bars and other accessories to a bathroom.
- Learn the business
You’re not going to know everything about running a business. But with today’s ability to tap into a vast pool of free and low-cost resources, you can learn many aspects of the business yourself without having to farm out everything. Visit websites. Buy books. Listen to podcasts. Read magazine articles. Take a class at your local SCORE facility. Even if you end up delegating some of these functions to others, it will help you be more informed.
- Write your own business plan
Take a deep breath. This isn’t as daunting as you think. You don’t need a 207-page, set-in-stone document. Business plans are not tools used by investors as much as they used to be. In fact, Martin Zwilling the author of Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur? believes “finding (investors) takes too much time and effort, and takes away control and ownership.”
Instead, consider your business plan a “fluid” document. Include the primary information and know that, without a doubt, it will change constantly. You might need to update your marketing needs. You will probably need to add, delete or update your products or services. Even your customer demographic could change. All you need is a simple plan that outlines your goals.
Writing your own plan doesn’t just save you money, but it also gives you focus which directs your expenses and keeps you financially accountable. Refer to it often.
Reduce Startup Expenses
- Register your business
For no cost you can register your business as a sole proprietor. While this is option free, you may want to consider operating as an LLC instead, for a minimal fee of approximately $100. The benefit of an LLC is that it protects you and your personal assets if your business incurs a financial or legal liability. So weigh these options in light of your needs.
- Negotiate professional fees
You will need both a business lawyer and accountant. Don’t shy away from negotiating fees or asking to make payments. Not all professionals are in a position to do negotiate, but it’s worth a try. And for individual tasks — for example, requesting legal documents for a specific cause — ask for a fixed fee. Matt Faustman CEO of UpCounsel notes that “fixed fees are good for you and the lawyer because it gives the lawyer an incentive to be efficient, but be sure you understand the fine print in the agreement.”
- Connect locally
Tap into local agencies that offer no or low-cost funding, training and consulting. Chances are, there is a treasure of resources in your area. If you aren’t sure where to look, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s site lists active organizations by state and zip code to help entrepreneurs find assistance nearby.
- Determine your location
What do Disney, Amazon, Hewlett Packard and Google all have in common? They began at home. Save money by working out of your home, garage, shed or barn until your company grows enough to pay for its own place.
If you are selling products you may be able to simply house your business online. Begin selling on eBay, Etsy, Amazon and a number of other sites for a minimal fee. To sell either services or products, you can use free or low-cost website package from any variety of website hosting platforms. A few examples of these include Weebly, WordPress and Wix,
Another, less traditional inexpensive option for home base would be a mobile kiosk where the upfront investment for a kiosk or a cart ranges from just $2,000 to $10,000, according to Entrepreneur.com
- Office supplies
There are a number of ways to save money on office supplies. In relation to printing, many printers have an economy setting for everyday pieces that don’t require high resolution. Other ways of cutting costs include double-sided printing, using scrap paper and focusing on electronic communication. Purchasing recycled ink cartridges is another cost-saver.
Consider purchasing office supplies in bulk and taking advantage of suppliers that offer reward programs. And there are always deals to be found online.
- Tech tools
Here’s a find! Download.cnet offers software downloads for business use. Choose from the ample lineup that includes accounting, seo tools, project management, inventory control, time tracking and so much more. Do a little research and check reviews to make sure these options work well with your business. Also, be aware when selecting that some of the offers are free and some only offer a free trial.
For back-up/storage options, check out cloud storage options, like Dropbox, iCloud, Microsoft and Google. Most of these also provide you with more on-the-go freedom since you can access them on other computers and mobile devices.
Also check for free or almost free apps on your smart phone. There’s an app for everything, from keeping track of time, booking appointments to processing payments. The only question is, which ones work best for you?
- Equipment considerations
Any equipment you currently own that will transfer over to your business will save you money and will also become a tax deduction. Some common items include computers, phones, printers and vehicles. When in doubt if a particular item is a tax deduction, contact an accountant.
Alternatively, you can purchase used equipment or simply rent what you need when you need it.
Marketing & Advertising
Entrepreneu.com suggests small businesses take advantage of “piggyback promotions.” By “including advertising material in other mailings, such as in invoices,” you will save money on printing and postage. Also, insert fliers, coupons and other media into your customers’ bags at check-out.
Another creative technique that helps reduce advertising costs is to team up with one or more businesses to sponsor or promote an event.
- Write articles
Share your wisdom by writing articles highlighting tips, information and how-tos related to your industry. Make sure the media which you submit your work to also targets the audience that best suits your customer demographic. For example, if your ideal customer is older and preparing to retire, you will want to submit pieces to magazines or blogs where the majority of readers are baby boomers.
- Create an online presence
Launching a website is mandatory for any business that hopes to thrive. But also consider joining online networks and sharing your expertise and business information when appropriate. Check out chat rooms, Linkedin groups, Facebook pages, and other sites that cater to your audience.
If you haven’t taken the plunge into all that social media has to offer, now is the time. Create a Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and an Instagram account. Then, learn how to use them and be consistent. Keep viewers engaged by adding new content. This can include special offers, information about your products or services, tidbits about your business, your blog posts, photos and even staff updates. Be sure to include your website information on each media. You will be surprised how fast news spreads once you’ve gone social.
- Press releases
Learn how to write a press release. You can compose a release announcing your launch, but also write one every time you host or sponsor an event or when your company undergoes any major changes. Submitting the release to radio and television stations, newspapers and any online media that would be interested in your business. Exposure from these outlets is not guaranteed. The media uses press releases at its own discretion. On the other hand, it could land you a radio or television interview.
Easy access to global and local information and technology has made shoestring startups more of a reality for anyone determined to be their own boss. The resources are out there and they are easy to find. Don’t let lack of funds rule out your entrepreneurial dream. There’s never a more affordable time to launch your business.
Author: Cindy Lynn Sawyer
Cindy specializes in writing features, how-to articles and informative pieces on topics of interest to entrepreneurs and homeowners. She owns and operates her own company, Capitol Hardware, LLC, with her husband. As an experienced business owner, she has developed expertise in various areas of entrepreneurship, but emphasizes, “There’s always something new to learn.”