As a bootstrapped entrepreneur, cutting costs can be a huge part of your strategy. Saving on your office space can mean more money for marketing. Save money on your web host and you can afford to pay for more A/B testing on your landing page.
But coming up with ways to reduce your expenses isn’t easy. It may take a little out-of-the-box thinking, and will definitely mean negotiating wherever possible. To help you make the most of your dollar, here are 33 ways to save money in business.
A great marketing plan is one where every dollar spent returns multiple dollars back to you in the form of sales. Unfortunately, the spend side of that equation can sometimes be hard to minimize and get below the return side. Let’s look at a few ways you can market your business for less.
Get a Discount on your PPC Marketing
Planning to use pay-per-click? Save by looking for coupons to stretch your marketing budget. Try some of these below:
Double Down on Word of Mouth
Ask your customers for testimonials. Hand them business cards. Give out coupons on a loss leader for them to give to their friends. Word of mouth means no billboards, no cold calls, no expensive pay-per-click campaigns.
Appear on TV
Advertising on TV can be expensive. But if you play your cards right, you can get free publicity by appearing as a guest on a television talk show.
Participate in Forums
This can be a difficult one to pull off. If existing forum-goers sniff out your marketing intentions they may be a little hostile. Your best bet is to provide value first: answer questions, tell jokes, solve problems. Only mention your business when it’s natural to do so.
Build your Own Forum
With all the tools available, forums are relatively easy to set up. By adding a place for your customers to interact, you keep in your world and talking about your business. This can be a great place to test new offers or gather feedback too.
Start a Facebook Group
Facebook groups are a fantastic way to engage with customers for free. You could set up a private group only open to existing customers, a discount groups where you offer new promotions, or anything else you can think of. It won’t cost you a penny and is a great way to use the audience you’ve built with your Facebook page.
Go Open Source
For some, open-source software may seem a little scary. There’s a certain feeling that open-source technology is “untested,” or “unsafe.” In reality the support community around an open-source project is often so large, anything that could go wrong will already have extensive documentation to help you fix it. If it all possible, switch to open source and save on expensive software costs.
OK. Let’s talk about purchasing. Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely dissolve the cost of doing business. Setting up an office, purchasing equipment, keeping the supply cabinet stocked… it all costs money. However, that doesn’t mean you should pay a vendor’s asking price without blinking. Try some of the following options to reduce the impact of your purchasing expenses.
Stop Buying Premium Ink
Unless you’re a marketing firm or a print shop, you probably don’t need to be buying brand-loyal ink. Search Amazon for compatible cartridges from a third party and you could save up to 86%!
Laptops allow employees to continue working at home, are easy to take from meeting to meeting, and can save you a ton of money on electricity costs.
Get a Mac for Less
Running your company on Apple hardware? If you aren’t about to move to a different brand anytime soon, don’t pay off-the-shelf prices.
- Why You Should Only Buy Refurbished Macs
- Get on Apple’s Business Program
- Six Ways to Save Money on Apple Hardware
Save on Data Backup
Backing up your employee’s data is both essential and expensive. Adding each employee to a back up plan can quickly add up in licensing fees. Save money by going open-source or using a cheaper option.
- 7 Awesome Open Source Cloud Storage Software
- How to Obtain 30 GBs of Free High-Quality Cloud Storage
Can You Hear Me Now?
The business phone system has changed drastically in the past few decades. While you may be able to get away with a cellphone-first business, sometimes it’s impossible to get away from landlines. Save money by going to the cloud or open source.
- VoIP Done Right: 11 Best Practices for Moving to Cloud-Hosted PBX
- The Upsides and Downsides of Open Source VoIP Systems
Forget the Merchant Account
With Stripe, Paypal, and Square the traditional merchant account is becoming an expensive relic of the past. Of course this doesn’t always make sense depending on the scale of your organization. Weigh your options, and decide what makes the most sense.
Host for Less
How much are you spending on your website? If your technical needs aren’t too extreme, consider shopping around for a better host. You can often negotiate lower rates or even have certain fees and addons waived.
Clip Some Coupons
Anytime you make a purchase online and you’re asked for your promo code, do a quick search for codes on Google. Sites like RetailMeNot often post coupons that can save you cash.
Whatever the size of your business, you inevitably need some space to carry it out. If you’re just starting out, the kitchen table may be sufficient. But as you grow and begin renting office space, you’ll quickly see how it can add a serious sum to your running costs. Here are a few ways to make sure your office isn’t driving you to ruin.
Use a Shared Space
One step up from working out of the Library, look for coworking spaces in your area to share resources and network at the same time! You can save the printer, scanner, and wifi router purchases for later. In a coworking space, you have access to these basic office supplies and comfortable furniture to build your dreams on.
With the recent explosion of startups and bootstrapped entrepreneurship there’s been a rise in companies offering short-term rentals on office space. These are a great way to build your business gradually, only paying for the amount of office you actually need.
- Quick Guide to Choosing Startup Office Space
- ‘Breather’ App Lets You Rent Private Office Space for $25 an Hour
Renting in the industrial area of your town can save you serious cash month over month. Of course, you won’t be near the newest restaurants or hipster food trucks, but you’ll have a much healthier bottom line to show for it.
Turn it Off
Do you keep the bathrooms illuminated all day regardless of how often they’re used? How about the basement? Try installing motion detectors or timers to reduce energy usage.
- Using Timers and Motion Switches to Save Power http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Conservation/MotionSW.htm
Don’t Buy New Office Furniture
Not only is this good for your wallet, it’s good for the environment too. Try sites like Craigslist, eBay, or just a Google search for “Used Office Furniture” and the name of your city.
- Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Used Office Furniture
- 4 Sites to Find Stores Going out of Business and Buy up Surplus for Cheap
Keeping the office fridge stocked with soda is a great perk but can be expensive and time consuming. Instead, keep your employees fueled with snacks by contacting a vending machine company and allowing them to set up shop at your building.
Like purchasing, hiring is another overhead cost that often cannot be avoided. However, similar to marketing, your goal is to make wise hiring decisions, ensuring money spent equals some amount of profit down the road. To make your hiring more cost-efficient, follow these tips.
Work Fewer Days
Let’s start with the most controversial— work four days instead of five. Before you cry “treason!” understand that there is a legitimate case to be made for the four-day workweek. In addition to its productivity and creativity benefits, a short workweek also means lower overhead on staffing costs.
Outsource the Inessentials
Managing your IP, developing your product, day-to-day ideation— these things should never be outsourced. But HR and payroll can be such a routine process that it actually makes sense to have another firm do it. This saves you time, hassle, and of course… money.
Speaking of Payroll…
Stop ordering checks from your bank. Printing companies will often offer significantly better rates in order to claim your business. Call a few shops and negotiate a great deal.
Hire Remote Workers
Hiring a graphic designer who doesn’t need rented office space can save you some serious cash. Plus, if you hire on a per-project basis or leverage the a lower cost of living in a different country hiring remote workers can mean great work for a huge bargains.
Internships are a great way to help fresh-faced college students some real world experience. They’re also a way to save on hiring costs.
It’s easy to imagine yourself offering your product at cost in order to receive another company’s product at cost, right? Now think about how you might do that for skills. Don’t have the bandwidth to hire a Business Intelligence specialist for your marketing firm? Consider offering a marketing campaign in exchange for their services.
As you grow into your role as an entrepreneur you may find yourself on a constant search for new ideas. Instead of dropping a fortune on a personal library, try these tips to save cash as you upgrade your skills.
Look online for places to trade books with other readers. This a great way to level up your knowledge without breaking the bank. Check out these to sites to get started:
Find a Deal on Used Books
Some books just have to be owned. If you’ve got a book in mind that you absolutely have to find, try looking for a used copy to save big.
Just Get the Actionable Advice
Sometimes, the best advice in a book can be surrounded by pages and pages of filler and fluff. Save time and money by reading through a summary of the book and just get the actionable info.
- Actionable Books, Free Summaries of Business Books
- SqueezedBooks, Free Summaries and Discussion of Business Books
Check the Public Domain
Some books are already free. Before you open your wallet, check to see if you can find it in the public domain first.
Take Some Online Courses
Upgrade your knowledge by taking some courses online. But save yourself the cost of a typical course by looking for free alternatives.
- 12 Sites That Will Teach You Coding for Free
- 9 Places to Learn Leadership Skills for Free
- 12 Dozen Places to Educate Yourself Online for Free
What did I miss? If you’ve got a great idea for saving money as a bootstrapped business, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the post.