When I first started up (and even now) I needed to make sure I kept my costs to an absolute minimum. None of us want to spend money on 'stuff' unless we absolutely have to. These are things I did to keep costs down. I hope they help you to do the same:
1. Work from home. I don't need lot's of staff in-house so there's no need for an office right now. If I do need a meeting room I use my 'virtual office' facility which is very impressive. It only costs a few pounds to rent a room for an hour. My post also goes to my virtual office which keeps my home address private.
2. Talking about staff, one thing I felt was really important was for my phone to be answered personally - I hate answer machines. I use a telephone answer service who sound like 'main reception' and are really efficient and handle all my calls and take messages for me when I am away from the 'home office'. It's very cheap when compared to hiring a full time receptionist and gives a good impression to callers and I never miss a call. Even if I am engaged, the incoming call diverts to them so callers never get an engaged signal which can be a real put off.
3. There are plenty of freelancers if you need staff - for example, sales people. Put them on a commission only package. You have no responsibility for their tax and national insurance but you must have a legal contract. You can find a lot of templates online for free but it's always best to check it with a lawyer so that you don't get yourself into trouble!
4. Telephony - a vast subject and depending on how you use your phones, this will dictate the right provider for you. You need to do lots of research before you can find the cheapest provider for your way of working. I negotiated a really good package including texts and talk time. If you press them hard and can get them up against a wall they will give you a really good deal. For landlines, again, there are so many packages available. I have a deal which costs a few pounds a month and I get all my landline calls included in the price. Again, it depends on your usage on which one would be best for you.
5. Online resources - there are loads of resources online that you can get for free on just about any subject you want. BUT - they can be a false economy so make sure you remain compliant with the law and any other regulatory requirements you may have for your specialist business.
6. Look to do Joint Ventures (JVs) with other companies. If you've got what they want and vice versa then you can do a lot of trade-offs with each other.
7. Never pay full price for something if you can get a discount. I always ask for a discount - I don't always get one but I usually do! Always ask - there are so many deals out there and the market has never been better or people more willing to cut their margins.
8. Free advertising. Get some good stories going about your business and what you are doing, especially if it benefits the local community. If it doesn't, invent something around your business that does! You can get your story in the local press easily with a good story which is great advertising. Also, send a press release to every magazine and newspaper within a 100 mile radius of where you are based. I did that and have a feature article coming up in January for a very glossy magazine that specialises in businesses and people 'out and about' in my county. It cost nothing!
9. Enter for awards. Again, this is free and if you get shortlisted or win, you can plaster this over your website and get into your local press.
10. Offer to do a column or a blog for your local newspaper - they are always looking for good content. You won't get paid but again, its great advertising and PR.
11. Use social media. I use Linkedin and Facebook mainly and I have got so many good contacts for free and publicised my business to many hundreds if not thousands of people, all for free.
12. Be strong - only pay out for what you actually need, not what you want. You need business cards and a website so, at the beginning, those are the two things that are absolutely necessary.
13. Look for sponsors. If your business is right for sponsorship, ask a large company or a successful local business to sponsor you. Your business may be able to offer them reciprocal business - I have done this and managed to secure a large project as I am giving them a direct route to a market they cannot normally get to! They want young entrepreneurs as clients and if I can give them access to them, I get my project paid for!
14. Don't spend a fortune on a flashy website. A basic website is fine to start with so don't let your ego get carried away and start paying for expensive gadgets. It doesn't make you more sales. Getting more visitors to your website will get you more sales and converting your visitors to paying customers is more important than having a revolving glitter ball on your landing page!
15. Get corporate gym membership. If people sign up to the gym through you the gym will give you and your clients a better rate. I pay £35 instead of about £50 which is what it would usually cost - it is worth it to save £15 per month!
To the Future