They say nothing in life is free – except for the entrepreneur who is willing to think outside the box. In this day and age, there are many money saving alternatives to traditional ways of doing the things we need to do to run your business. One of the ways we can use that skill we all have – to think of things from a different perspective – is to take advantage of free opportunities
13 Money Saving Tips for Your Entrepreneurial Venture
In this new age of technology, it’s possible to work from just about anywhere: from home, in your car, at the airport, in a hotel room or in a coffee shop. Especially in the beginning, you may not want to spend money on a workspace. Get creative and find money saving ways to be around others when you work. Go to your local Starbucks, or your favorite coffee shop. Use space at the local university once a week. Mix it up so you don’t get bored. By working virtually (and allowing your employees to do the same) it’s not necessary to take on the expense of establishing an office when you’re launching your business.
Use Free Communications Platforms
Communication is one of those areas that should cost you very little if done correctly. These solutions are available both domestically and internationally. Some examples of money saving communication services are:
Basic Communications. Use services like Skype to handle your basic communications. This is effective for both domestic and international communications. Don’t run up those cell phone bills when you have basic services that can handle communications for free. You can also use free chat services to accomplish the same. Services like WhatsApp are also very effective as a free communication tool.
Web conferencing software. You can find a variety of web conferencing services that offer free options. Explore options that may fit your situation. Google Hangouts, AnyMeeting , Zoom or OoVoo are three possibilities, and there are many more.
Conference call bridges. Free conference call services are easy to find. Try a service like FreeConference.com or Freeconferencecall.com instead of paying for a conference bridge service. More and more of these services pop up every day, so keep your eyes peeled.
Use Free Software
Free and inexpensive software is plentiful online. You can also take advantage of free trial periods for most business software. This gives you a chance to use the application for free for 30 days or more to determine if you really need it. In some of these packages, you may even be able to maintain the service beyond the free trial if you only have a limited number of users. Try these:
Document, presentation and spreadsheet software (e.g., Dropbox)
Collaboration, CRM, and sales management software. In each of these areas, you’ll find free versions and money saving options. And in some cases they will continue to be free for a limited number of users.
Download.com also has a plethora of free downloads in categories like security, development, and networking, so check there first before forking over cash unnecessarily. This and other free download sites offer a variety of money saving services that you can take advantage of.
Free Trial Periods
Even outside the area of software, you can find a variety of services that provide free trial periods. These services run the gamut from accounting to SEO to analytics to design. Sometimes you don’t need a full solution but just need to get your feet wet. Take advantage of these money saving trial periods to do just that.
Mentors and Advisers
In the beginning, you may not need to invest in expensive advice and services for legal, accounting and other key business issues. Use your brain trust of mentors and advisers as much as you can. You can find willing and able advisers in places like university, local incubators and accelerators, and through your network of friends and family. Many of these people are happy to help entrepreneurs along their path.
Free Consulting Services
Organizations like SCORE and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offer free consulting and training for every entrepreneur. SCORE has more than 300 chapters in the United States, and everyone who calls gets an appointment. The consultants there are usually seasoned business professionals that have a wide range of experience. They are mostly retired executives and can be great resources for entrepreneurs. There are nearly 1,000 SBDCs in the United States that offer free consulting and educational services for money saving ways to learn and grow. While the services they offer will vary, you can find a center at all most universities and in most major cities.
Universities throughout the country are packed with undergraduate and in some cases graduate students eager to gain real life experience as an entrepreneur. They are ready, willing and eager to gain experience as part of a real business. Some universities will have formal programs for interns. Others will have informal networks ranging from clubs to meetups to social media groups. Keep in mind when you bring on an intern, they are often also in school so you need to make sure that you manage them and provide them with tasks that help you and are commensurate with their time and skill set. If you can organize this way, using interns can be a great money saving way to divide and conquer the many tasks that need to be accomplished.
Barter or Trade
Bartering — swapping one thing for another — has been an effective way of doing business for centuries. In recent years, bartering has evolved into a sound strategy for finding goods, trading services, conserving cash, moving inventory, and locating excess production capacity. Check out International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) for help with matching up companies interested in bartering for goods and services. But on a less formal basis, you can find other entrepreneurs that need the skill that you have in exchange for some of your expertise. For example, if you are a social media consultant, offer to trade your services to a business who has something that you may need (e.g., building a web site). Be creative and reach out to folks where a barter makes sense. Keep in mind it is likely that smaller companies will be more willing to enter into barter relationships than others.
Commissioned Sales Force
Use a commission sales program when you’re ready to hire team members to sell. This will attract people who really believe in you, your products, and your purpose. It also conserves cash by keeping your fixed costs low. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few pitfalls you must avoid.
First, often those that are willing to work on commission only are doing so because they lack the sales capabilities to be full-time commissioned sales people. This is not always true but you should be aware.
Next, it is difficult to convince an individual or a company to offer your products only on commission. You will have to find a real partner. When you do, be creative. Give them a high commission percentage to get them going in the beginning. Once they hit their stride, you can level it out, but be aware that giving them this incentive is key.
Commission sales teams are hard to find, but if you do, it can advance your business. And while it is true that “you get what you pay for”, if you do it well this can be a money saving way to add some valuable resources to your business.
Buying Followers, Email Marketing Lists or Other ‘Customers’
You should know that this is not a great way to get customers, and it’s sometimes a scam. It may look good to say you have thousands of followers, but if they’re fake, you’re never going to see a return on that cost. Think about it – if it was as easy as purchasing these followers, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? In most cases, these efforts sound good in the advertisement but rarely amount to meaningful connections much less customers. It is much more effective for you to find an active social media group in your area and engage in that than it is to try to buy a massive amount of followers.
Travel is not only expensive, but you are less productive during travel. Aside from a critical sales call that you simply MUST attend — use email and phone instead. Skype video conferences and Google Hangouts are two free substitutes for in-person meetings. I know that sometimes you are itching to get out of the house. And there is no doubt that there are times where being out in your industry or with potential customers is essential. But many times you’ll find that travel expenses aren’t worth the benefit of what will actually be accomplished. Try to stay local when you can so you won’t incur extra expense. There may be a networking group across the country, but you likely have one in your back yard too. Be discerning when you decide how you are going to allocate your scarce travel time and effort.
Limit Paid Networking Groups
If you’re considering one, at least hold off joining until you figure out whether you really can benefit from one. Many times an entrepreneur joins a networking group without really determining whether those at the group are the right potential people to be customers, employees, investors or other relationships you want or need. Try Meetups instead – they are either free, or charge only a nominal fee. Meetups often have a specific purpose or description that you can hone in on to help you target the right people. Networking with the right people is very valuable. Networking with the wrong people is a waste of time and money. Make sure you know the difference before you start spending your money on entrepreneur networking.
Your University Alumni Groups.
Most universities have active alumni groups that are more than happy to help an entrepreneur. This can be a great source of free advice. Some of these groups have formal ways to connect, and others have informal clubs either nationally or locally. This is a great money saving source of information, talent and connections for an entrepreneur. Many times because of your shared alumni status, these individuals will be more than happy to help a fellow alumni. You can ask for help with a specific issue, an overview of a market space, introductions or just someone to run ideas by on a regular basis or when you are stuck. And unlike most relationships you have when you are building your business, your connection and fellow alums can start from a place of common kinship that often can help you move things forward more quickly than two strangers can.
There are so many demands on your money when you are growing your business. You must be creative in how you allocate your funds and how you spend your scarce cash. More than ever, there are many services that you can get for free. Many companies are looking to gain entrepreneurs as customers, so they offer money saving services to entrepreneurs and small business professionals. You’ll need to do a little poking around to take advantage of some of the techniques that we have mentioned here.
Of course, there are some areas that you will not want to skimp on. After all, the old adage, “you get what you pay for” is true. So don’t let the need for free things dictate everything you do. That being said, as you can see, there are certain services that you can take advantage of to help preserve your scarce cash. We hope these money saving tips will help.