Every new year is ripe with possibilities, both personally and professionally. When you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, there are many things you want to accomplish each and every month, and likely topping that list is cutting expenses. No matter how successful you are, there is always incentive to give yourself a little more breathing room in terms of your profit margin. In the sprit of starting over in 2014, we’re offering you this list of 50 different ways you can save money on your day to day operations without inconveniencing, overworking, or otherwise making your life harder.
Cheaper Truth in Advertising
Promotion is key to business success, but marketing budgets can quickly get out of hand. Including your marketing materials in non-traditional places, like shopping bags and invoices helps save on overall promotional costs. Sharing marketing costs with neighboring businesses can drive down your costs even more, while still driving traffic to your door.
One of the best ways to get new business at a low cost is through referrals. In fact, 82% of small business owners have said referrals are their main source of new business. But you can’t get referrals if you don’t ask. Reach out to your professional contacts and tell them you want referrals. Chances are you’ll get plenty. At the same time, be sure you’re asking happy customers to spread the word about your services. That means telling their friends and family, and even posting reviews online since 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Finally, be sure you are using free publicity to your advantage. That means making local television appearance or posting online video content, and even offering expert advice whether that’s teaching an offline class or guest blogging for a popular industry publication. It is easy (and cheap) to get your name out there if you are willing to put in the time.
Get Online for Your Bottom Line
Chances are you already have a website. But are you taking full advantage of the other information the internet can offer you? Take an hour to research your market , your competitors, and your keys demographics. You’ll be surprised the details you can find with some smart searching. But don’t let your online life stop there. Be sure that you’re promoting your business via social media, a tactic which is largely free, and also networking online using sites like LinkedIn to find other professionals and get advice from gurus in your field, all for little to no cost.
And if you want to set up an ecommerce site, keep in mind that there are a lot of free storefront tools that let you plug in your inventory and get started fast, without investing in pricey website development.
Office Space Savers
Office space can be one of the biggest expenses for a small business. Sometimes it’s necessary, but sometimes its not. Consider working remotely. Online meeting tools make it easy to assemble a team from around the world without ever renting so much as a conference room. Some, like Google Hangouts, are even completely free. If you do need physical space, look for a co-working space or other shared office arrangement that can give you the privacy and services you need (like mail delivery and printing) at a fraction of the cost of an entire office.
Duck Under a Lower Overhead
Whether you’re working from home or out of an office space, those little office expenses can add up, but a few economical solutions can help keep them down down down. For instance, buy recycled printer cartridges, which are widely available online, look for free form templates instead of slaving over a spreadsheet to find your own, download and use free versions of software since many free, open source programs have the exact same features as costly “brand name” versions, and buy used office equipmentfrom refurbished laptops to rented out copy machines, this is a place where you may be able to afford to cut corners. If you’re resourceful and put in a little bit of research, you can save on virtually any office cost.
Ensure You’re Smart About Insurance
Insurance is one of those places where it’s very tempting to skimp, since it can be a major expense. Luckily there are ways to save while still protecting yourself. Always check with relevant trade associations for savings since you’ll almost always get a better deal going in as a group. You can also save by having a emergency plan. For instance, The Insurance Information Institute says “By arranging for an alternative place to run your business in case of a major disaster, you may be able to save on business interruption insurance.”And remember that the right insurance plan does save you money in the long run.
Medical insurance can cost a pretty penny, too, particularly if 2014 is the first time you’ll be insuring employees due to the Affordable Care Act. Check with you insurance broker to make sure you’re getting the best plan at a price you can afford, and if you need to, raise your deductible.
Hire Smart, Work Smart
As your business grows in 2014, you may notice your payroll growing right along with it. To keep costs down, consider some creative hiring practices. For instance, a lot of administrative and even legal work can be outsourced at much lower rate than hiring someone full time. By the same toke, you can hire temporary workersfor busy times of year and roll them off when you don’t have work for them. Interns as well as contractorsare both cost cutting measures. Some interns can work for school credit, depending on your line of business, and contractors come on a per project basis, meaning you don’t have to pay their salary for the entire year unless they work the entire year. Finally, your sales department can be slimmed down if you hire outside sales repswho work on commission. Not to mention commission means motivation.
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Save on Shipping
Depending on your industry, you may spend a lot on shipping both products and marketing materials. To save on your promotions have the Postal Service review your mailing list. They can make sure addresses are accurate and add the +4 zip code – plus the service is free. You’ll also want to cull that list as best you can so that your materials are only getting to likely customers and you’re not sending that shipping money into the ether.
One insider tip for getting the most from your mail says you should get to the post office early because it increases the likelihood your mail will go out that day and you’ll get faster shipping without paying for it. If you do choose to use a courier service for some packages, just be sure that you shop around for the best deal since courier prices can vary wildly.
Get Tactical About Taxes
It may be too late for getting your 2013 taxes organized, but that doesn’t mean you can’t implement a better system this year. First, be sure to keep track of small spending because even though you don’t need receipts for some smaller purchases, they can really add up if you don’t pay attention. If you’ve got a mom n’ pop shop that could use some extra labor, you can hire your kids if they’re old enough and let them file their own taxes, which can end up letting you file in a lower bracket. You may also be able to negotiate a lower tax ratewith local authorities if more established small businesses are getting a break and you aren’t. Do your homework and you could end up saving a lot. When you work from home, remember that you can deduct some household expenseslike internet service, a portion of your rent or mortgage, or even law care. And be sure to track all business-related travel expenses including mileage and client meals and entertainment. Don’t overlook these important items when it comes to tax time and be sure to consult an experience small business accountant.
Fix Your Finances
Have a small business credit card is essential for keeping track of finances, but make sure you have the right one. You may need one with a lower rate if you carry a balance or with no annual fee if you don’t. It’s also good to get a card with rewards whether that means miles or cash back, because chances are you’ll be using your care a lot. Whether you’re a small business or just an individual who doesn’t like huge interest rates, do not get a cash advance using your credit card since the rates are generally astronomical.
Many small business owners still use checks, so don’t overpay for them. You can get checks online or from third party retailers much cheaper than you can from the bank.
When it comes to inventory, join a buying alliance if you can, and reap the benefit of group purchases. If you pay a lot in shipping, see if it makes sense for you to pick up inventory rather than having it shipped to you. For local suppliers, this could make a lot of sense and save you a ton in the long run. And just like you can’t get a credit card that you haven’t earned, don’t make it a habit to offer store credit to anyone that hasn’t proven themselves trustworthy. It’s just not good business.
Lawyers, Consultants, and Savings, Oh My!
Even the most savvy business owners will need professional advice from outside consultants from time to time. You probably already have a few that you rely on regularly, like an accountant, an attorney, or a bookkeeper. If you have a good relationship, be sure that you are getting the best rate you can. Negotiate with consultants and other professionals by asking them how they might be able to cut costs, or even offering your services in a barter. When it comes to hiring a good attorney cutting corners is certainly not recommended, but that does not mean that your fees should go through the roof. Instead be sure you have a written agreement for attorney fees so that you’re not surprised when your legal bill comes. Of course, it’s also a good idea for small businesses (and everyone else, really) to avoid lawsuits whenever possible.
Get the most out of your consultants fees by imploring the experts your hire to teach you a new skill instead of just bringing you proverbial fish. The more you can do for yourself, the less you have to pay others to do.
Straighten Up and Buy Right
Purchasing inventory is a big part of many businesses, so keeping costs low in that department can make a big difference. See if any suppliers are open to a barter agreement. You can either barter directly or through a barter broker for more complex deals.
You should always pay your suppliers on time, but in some cases it may behoove you to pay early. Ask your supplier if they offer a discount for early payment. If yes, you save and if not, you can better prioritize your payment structure. Some suppliers may also offer a discount if you pay online or set up an automatic recurring payment, so check on that too.
Finally, always, always shop around. A good rule of thumb is to get at least three bids before making any decisions to be sure you’re getting the best deal you can swing.
Not all 50 tips are going to apply to every small business owners, but they are certainly a good jumping off point to save money for your business in 2014 and get things off to a great, economical start.