Cash is the lifeblood of all businesses. This is especially true for a small business. While giant corporations have many more options when it comes to funding operations, a small business doesn’t.
It is imperative that small businesses continually look for ways to conserve cash by saving money. In fact, spending money wisely can reap greater dividends that spending money haphazardly.
Here are 76 tips on how to save money for small businesses, brought to you by the folks at Ximble.com, who help you manage your business better with their employee scheduling and time tracking tool.
Promotions are a critical component of marketing and growing your sales. Here are some tips on how to use promotions effectively while saving money.
1. Use piggy back promotions as much as you can
What strategies do you use for advertising your business? Put piggyback promotions on the list as well. Try to include your advertising material in mailers which you send to customers and bring down your marketing costs. For instance, if you are sending them an invoice, you can also slide a brochure or flyer in the package, thereby avoiding postage and shipping costs. Similarly, for “boring” transactional emails such as purchase or shipping confirmations, why not include a line or two about a related promotion? Remember that any emails which include promotions are subject to the CAN-Spam laws, so make sure those you email have your explicit permission to do so.
Similarly, you can also include your promotional material when you deliver your customers’ orders. Drop a coupon, newsletter or catalogue (yes, people still read them) in the bag, and you might just get more business from the same clients, without actually having to spend money on promotions.
2. Partner up with other local businesses
Do you know other talented business owners with whom you can partner with? Share advertising and promotional costs with them. The two of you can jointly market and conduct a sidewalk sale or another similar event. You can also split advertising costs with your vendors and suppliers. Publish a combined ad which informs your target audience you distribute their products, and divide the costs incurred. Your marketing message gets out, and you only have to pay for half the costs.
Other than advertising costs, mailing lists and distribution channels can also be shared.
3. Word of mouth
To what extent are you willing to put in effort to satisfy your customers? If you strive to meet their needs and keep them happy, you can not only gain a competitive edge but also increase your sales through repeat purchases and referrals. As long as you keep your existing customers happy, they will keep mentioning you in informal conversations, share your content online and advise people in their social circles to buy from you. Some of the most successful brands have built their business not through advertising, but through word of mouth: Zappos, Costco, Nordstrom, the Body Shop.
4. Ask those you know to spread the word for you
Your contacts can play an important role in marketing your business. Reach out to your network and ask for as many referrals as you can. Referrals are all those people who match your target audience and need your products and services. Get in touch with these referrals and encourage them to buy from you. This only costs time, and nothing else. Simply using email or social media such as LinkedIn can do the trick. This also highlights the importance of maintaining your network and keeping it strong.
5. Demonstrate your expertise
If you build and demonstrate your credibility, people will want to try out your products and services. You can get them to take notice by establishing yourself as an expert. Offer them valuable advice or share interesting information with them at a meeting, in a conference or during a lecture. Get your articles published on industry websites. Offer informative whitepapers to download. Not only will your target audience come to know about your company, but they will also find you more credible than your competition.
6. Promote your business on local TV
Surprised to see this one on the list? TV ads may have a reputation for being expensive, but only when you have to broadcast them at prime times or on national networks. That is not what we are suggesting. Instead, get your TV ads shown during time slots which are available at lower rates and which only target local audiences. You’d be surprised at how affordable it can be.
7. Maintain your mailing lists
How big is your mailing list? Take some time to update and manage your contacts. A good mailing list is literally worth its weight in gold simply because a) they’ve purchased from you before or inquired about your services, and b) you own and control the list. Literal marketing empires have been built on the backs of mailing lists, either direct mail or emails. Look to get “opt-in” email addresses on your website, in exchange for something valuable (coupons, special promotion code, free report). Tools like the Hello Bar are great at increasing opt-ins, as are tools like Bounce Exchange. Use a high quality email system like AWeber to manage your opt-ins.
8. Mail things early
Got plenty of things that you want to be delivered early? Rather than spending any money on Priority Mail or express services, send the mail early, well before the date on which you want it to be delivered. Other than the standard postage charges, you will not be spending any extra money, and your mail or package will still be delivered in a timely manner. A little foresight can add up to a lot of savings. Calculate shipping rates for the US Postal Service here.
9. Shop around for courier services
Which courier service do you generally use? Try searching around for other services and see if any of them are offering lower rates. Compare several options and stick with the one that is priced the lowest, but make sure you are getting all the features you want. Remember to also check out local couriers or lesser known services like DHL.
To sort through the confusion of shipping costs, check out this excellent post comparing USPS, FedEx and UPS.
A proper marketing strategy is vital if you want to build your brand image and increase awareness about your company. But while at it, save as much as you can. And trust us, you can do this without losing the effectiveness of your marketing campaign while still enjoying incredible results.
10. Use free trials for online ad accounts
Facebook Advertising, Google Adwords and Outbrain often offers discounts up to $100 for first time customers. Utilize these to your advantage. You can also register for other online ad accounts that offer a free trial. Since these take you setting up a brand new ad account, you can get $100 free ads if you don’t mind the hassle of creating a new email account and advertising account. Use this opportunity to test the various online ad networks and see which ones offer you the lowest Cost Per Click (CPC) with the best conversion (eg sales or contacting you). If you come across the right ad network that is driving affordable leads and sales, simply increase your ad budget and reap the rewards.
11. Gain exposure through free sites
One of the most powerful things about the Internet is the multiple avenues to promote yourself for free, if you know where to look.
LinkedIn and Craigslist are listed as the tenth and twelfthmost visitedsites in the US. That is quite a high rank, so make sure you are using them wisely to reach prospects. Craigslist requires a unique email address and phone number for each account created, but technically you could create 5 Craigslist accounts for 5 different major cities and reach prospects for free. Include Pinterest and YouTube on the list as well if you can publish visual content. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are still important, but their organic reach has been steadily declining as they’ve started shifting impressions to their paid services.
12. Buy “remnant” ad space at huge discounts
Remnant ad space is the left over ad space that is sold at discounted rates. Since media companies do not want this space to be wasted and unsold, they significantly lower their charges by around 40% to 90%.
Online ad exchanges like SiteScout lets you buy advertising space across mobile and web platforms in real time, with the ability to segment based on geography, interest, demographics and more. For print ads, contact the sales rep and ask if there are any remnant ads available.
13. Buy Google AdWords at huge discounts
Traffic Auctionis another type of online ad exchange, but the cool part is you can run ads on Google’s Display network for less (sometimes much less) than if you were to purchase directly via Google’s AdWords system. Google’s Display network gets your text or banner ads onto third party content sites, and is a great way to drive web traffic.
14. Use free stock photo sites
Your content becomes more appealing and attracts more people if it contains images. But where can you get these from? You may have a graphic designer doing the job for you, but a much better idea is to use free stock or royalty free images which are available in a wide range on the Internet. The proliferation of smartphones with high quality cameras has made it so that anyone can take professional-quality photos. You can secure rights to use the photos for free or pay a nominal fee, depending on the site you use. Examples include iStockPhoto, Stockxpert, Fotolia, Dreamstime or Shutterstock.
15. Provide excellent customer service
Successful businesses are aware of the importance of high levels of customer satisfaction. You should keep your customers satisfied so that you retain them and have them become brand ambassadors for you.Some of the best known brands with the most loyal customers thrive due to their superior customer service, including Nordstrom, Costco, Southwest Airlines, Rackspace web hosting, Zappos. Best of all? Excellent customer service simply requires the right company principles and hiring the right people. Check out the book “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh for a great behind the scenes overview of customer service in action.
16. Keep track of your conversions
Online ad campaigns are an effective way of getting your word out, but do all your ads actually work? It depends what your goal is. If it’s simply to build a brand, this doesn’t matter as much. But as a small business, most are concerned about driving leads or sales. In that case, knowing which ads work is critical. Make sure to have conversion tracking codes in place for whichever online ad platform you’re using. Regardless, also make sure to have your free Google Analytics set up so you can analyze incoming traffic and figure out which ones converted as well.
Learn more about conversion tracking specifically for Google AdWords here.
17. Avoid print ads
Print ads may have worked wonders in the past. Not so anymore. Targeted online ad campaigns provide you with better results and often cost much less.Even better, online ads have full reporting to show you exactly what you got for your money. Dropping $5,000 for a full page print ad might make you feel good, but what did it actually get you in terms of Return on Investment? Online ads also give you the ability to set smaller budgets on a daily basis, with the ability to start and stop campaigns in real-time.
And when advertising online, if you make use of the tips which we have already presented above like utilizing remnant space, you can save even more.
18. Cross-promote with Joint Venture (JV) partners
Joint Ventures are a fantastic way to rapidly gain scale in marketing. For marketing purposes, JVs mean identifying people who already have a large following. The goal is to get them to promote your product or service to their list, in exchange for revenue sharing. Presto! You’ve now accessed huge prospect lists for no cash outlay on your part. Virtually every industry has influencers or websites or forums where people gather. Simply spend some time Googling around to identify potential JV partners.
19. Reconsider trade shows
Most companies go to the same trade shows every year without really thinking about why they’re there. Surprisingly, most also do not have specific goals for the trade show. Truth be told, most trade shows are just opportunities for the same industry players to catch up. Considering the huge amount of investment required for trade shows, carefully consider if it’s worth the money. Besides the hard costs of the exhibit space, shipping, travel and lodging, there are also the hidden costs of time spent away from doing business and at the show.
If you’re set on exhibiting at a trade show, make sure you make the most if it by leveraging public relations.
20. Build strategic alliances
Strategic alliances can be an effective way to either tap into new markets or leverage each others’ resources to gain more awareness. A small business can benefit from the existing awareness of a top brand. One example could be a small software provider partnering with an HP or Microsoft to host a joint panel at an industry trade show. Another example would be partnering with a large brand to do a joint sales promotion. The key is to focus on the benefit to the partner company so they believe their time is worth it.
21. Use press release wire distribution resellers
Wire services are companies that take press releases and distribute them across the Internet and to various journalists. Wire services alone don’t usually result in media coverage, but they can, and they offer other benefits as well. There are many wire service companies, but one of the top ones is PR Newswire. The problem is that the cost for distribution across the US can usually top $800, pretty hefty for most small businesses. Thankfully there are companies like eReleases which is a reseller of PR Newswire, offering savings of more than 66% with the lowest tier starting at only $249.
First time customers can purchase distribution credits at a discounted rate from this link.
22. Consider using affiliate marketing instead of a direct sales teams
Do you sell your products through a direct sales team? What is the total sum of the amount you pay them every month if you include salary, benefits, taxes and overhead? Switch to affiliate marketing and you will be spending a fraction of the money you spend right now.
Affiliate marketing, which has become extremely popular, allows you to sell your products online through an affiliate network. You only have to pay commissions to your affiliates, which is a small percentage of the sales they get for you. Check out Clickbank or CJ.com (formerly Commission Junction). Also check out Warrior Forum for their excellent community of marketers versed in affiliate marketing.
23. Monitor your competitors
This tip does not have a direct immediate effect on your savings, but it still contributes to your bottom line and may boost your sales. Keeping a close tab on your competitors is mandatory in every industry if you want to stay a step ahead of them. Compare your products, services, rates and strategies, and see if you can improve yourself in any way over your competitors. A simple way to monitor what your competitors are up to is using the free service Google Alerts, and you’ll get email notifications whenever your competitor is mentioned on the web.
24. Know what is being said about your brand
Do you monitor what your customers are saying about you on social media? Start doing this today for free or little cost with tools like Sprout Socialor the aforementioned Google Alerts. You will get an idea of your online reputation and credibility. Use the customers’ comments to improve your services. And if they have something to negative to say, apologize and clarify on the same public platform so that everyone gets to know that a) you monitor the Internet and b) you care enough to resolve the issues.
25. Launch A Guerrilla Marketing Campaign
Guerrilla marketing has the aim of boosting sales and increasing profits by implementing unconventional strategies so that you can enjoy more savings.In other words, using creativity rather than just a large budget. Rather than spending money, you will be spending time and energy. When it comes to guerrilla marketing, the sky’s the limit. Here’s an article on Entrepreneur.com that outlines what it takes. Jay Conrad Levinson wrote a definitive guide called “Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business”.
Need more money to start up a new operation or launch a new advertising campaign? Knowing tips on how to secure funding can be the difference between life and death for most small businesses.
26. Use Ximble.com
Did you know that a practice called “buddy clocking” could be costing you money? Buddy clocking happens when a different employee clocks in or out for the one that should have been clocking. According to Nucleus Research, 19 percent of employees admit to buddy clocking a practice whereby employees clock in for each other. This practice is often used to disguise tardiness, longer breaks, or even entirely missed shifts. This practice accounts for over 2% of gross payroll losses. Not only is the practice financially draining, it often leads to mistrust and management challenges for the company. Ximble.com’s Time Clock App puts a stop to buddy clocking for good. Workers can punch in or out with a PIN or QR code. It also has an optional feature of photoClock that takes a picture to make sure whoever is clocking in/out are who they say they are.
27. Understand bank deposit policies
You know those pages of small print that you likely didn’t read? They could end up costing you a pretty penny in the form of overdraft fees or other charges if you’re not careful. Banks have different ways of dealing with deposits and the amounts that are available for withdrawal. While they are fast to take your money, they can be slow in crediting your account. Make sure you know exactly what your bank or credit union’s policy is. You never want to be in the situation of being overdrawn on your account before the full amount of a check is credited. This New York Times article has a good overview of the situation.
28. Avoid credit card cash advances
If you are in the habit of using your credit card for taking cash advances, put a stop to it. The moment you make a cash advance, you start incurring interest which is often at a higher rate than a typical purchase (about 6% higher on average, according to creditcards.com. Even worse, some credit card companies may prioritize which debt gets paid off first. Your minimum monthly payment may only go towards purchases, with the cash advance amount sitting there compounding massive interest as the months go by.Save cash advances as a last resort, not your first instinct.
29. Purchase checks from outside vendors
When you use up all your checks, do you automatically reorder from your bank? A smarter strategy is to buy them from an online printing service and ask them to deliver you the order at your doorstep. Not only do you save money in terms of fuel costs, but you also get to avail rates lower than what your bank would have charged you.
There are many companies which offer check printing services. Among these, Deluxe and Costco Checks are popular choices.
30. Pick up orders yourself and avoid shipping costs
Where are most of your suppliers based? If they are anywhere near you, consider picking up orders yourself. You will save on all shipping costs this way. Perhaps all your time is devoted to managing your business and you cannot squeeze this into your busy schedule. But maybe your friends, family members or other employees can do it on your behalf.Make sure that picking up orders yourself is actually saving you money. If that is not the case, the pain probably is not worth it and you will be better off by paying the shipping costs and getting the order delivered at your doorstep. Generally speaking, the cost of gas, the distance to the supplier and how fuel efficient your vehicle is will be the key determining factors (not to mention how much your time is worth).
31. Partner up with other businesses for bulk discounts
If you partner up with other businesses, you may be able to get huge discounts when you buy raw materials. Many suppliers, vendors and distributors charge lower rates if you order in a bulk. Your individual inventory needs may not classify as a bulk order, but if you and another similar business buy together, the order size will increase, and you may be able to avail lower rates or more favorable payment terms. So form as many buying alliances as you can. Combine all the savings, and it will turn out to be quite a handsome amount, especially in the long run.
32. Restructure payment terms
If your business offers payment terms through invoicing, consider overhauling the terms you extend to your clients. One example could be for an advertising agency that would invoice clients the month after work was completed with 30 day payment terms. By changing your terms to invoicing for the upcoming month, with payment due upon receipt, you’ve dramatically reduced the payments receivable timetable from 60 days to 14 days or so. Another less dramatic example would be tightening up payment terms from 2% net 21 to 2% net 14, or simply removing the 2% discount for early payment. While the initial assumption is that clients wouldn’t go along with the terms, in reality clients generally will accept any terms that a vendor spells out so long as the industry is a reasonably competitive one. Test the revised payment terms on new clients or smaller clients, then roll it out across all your customers.
33. Use budgeting software
How can you know where you are losing money if you are not budgeting? This is why larger companies, most organizations and governments across all levels create budgets. Indeed, even the most rudimentary budget is better than no budget at all. This is why using Microsoft Excel is a fine alternative for small businesses creating their first budgets, starting with simple columns for Revenue and Expenses, then using Insert Chart functions. The other end of the spectrum includes Intuit Quickbooks, which is easier than ever to get started on and learn how to master. Even better, most popular software have migrated to the cloud, allowing users to access and manage their budgets from anywhere with an Internet connection. Check out the 5 best budgeting software for small businesses here.
34. Watch credit card rates and fees
Credit cards may make finances easier, but if used unwisely, they can also eat into profits. Conduct a thorough search and make sure the card you are using offers the best possible interest rate while fulfilling your needs. If you come across another a credit card provider which features lower rates, consider switching to them. In the long run, this move means saving a considerable amount on interest paid if you typically carry large balances from month to month. Some credit card providers may even match a lower rate of a competitor if you call and tell them you are considering cancelling your card. Of course, the best situation is to completely pay off credit cards every month to avoid interest charges.
Remember to examine the annual fees as well. Cards that charge no annual fees for the first year are a good idea, and any cards that charge no annual fees are even better. You should also sign up with a card which allows you to enjoy interest free periods and other promotions, giving you a chance to avoid most of the costs associated with credit cards.
The Internet has completely changed the way the world does business. It has also leveled the playing field, allowing start-ups and mom and pops to compete with the big players.
35. Branded e-commerce stores
For the very newest people to ecommerce, the fastest way to get up and running with selling online is by going with one of the Big Three: Yahoo Stores, eBay Stores and Amazon WebStore. At the time of writing, each of these three providers has numerous pros and cons that should be examined to see which one fits your needs the best.
Yahoo Stores, originally launched in 1998, is one of the most comprehensive ecommerce platforms for small businesses. The primary benefit to going with Yahoo over Amazon is that Amazon has the very real potential of going directly to your supplier and cutting you out through launching their own private label branded products, like they did with diapers.
Yahoo Stores start from $26 per month at the time of writing, with fees of 1.5% or lower. Customers also have access to staging servers for previewing storefronts, as well as more powerful ecommerce functionality such as real-time ordering and linking to inventory data.
Amazon’s obvious advantage is the access to its huge customer base and the ability to participate in their popular Prime program of free two day shipping. eBay, on the other hand, allows for auction format listings and branded stores. For more feature by feature comparisons of Amazon and eBay,check out this chart. And at the time of writing, Alibaba was visible on the horizon as a potential major ecommerce player in North America; keep your eyes on them.
36. Reduce your SEO expenses
The field of SEO has changed dramatically in the past few years. The simple A-B-C approach that used to work by throwing tons of money at building links has been discarded for ever-intelligent algorithms by Google to rank sites. The best way to tackle SEO is to avoid chasing the latest algorithm changes of search engines, and just build an awesome site with great content that your customers love. Then engage in traditional marketing such as public relations to naturally make search engines like you.
The first thing to do is to conduct an SEO audit of your website, making sure that both the layout, coding and formatting of the site and its content are in line with best practices that Google outlines. Things such as Title and Description tags, loading time of the website, user-friendliness and others are both good for making website visitors happy in addition to search engines.
For companies on a tight budget, consider merging SEO efforts with other marketing activities by staying on top of industry players such as Moz.com or Backlinko.com.
37. Join online discussion groups
The power of the Internet includes the ability for people to gather and discuss subjects from anywhere in the world. Joining online discussion groups or forums of professionals in your industry or marketing professionals is a great way to access expert advice and stay up to date with the latest happenings in the industry. LinkedIn has groups for pretty much every industry and function. Google “name of industry” + “association” and find groups that represent your industry. Also try using Quora to directly get answers to questions you can’t find elsewhere.
One key point to note: keep your engagements educational and informative. Overly promotional postings in groups will likely lead you to getting ignored or banned.
38. Promote your website everywhere
Your website serves as a window to your business and is one of the most powerful tools which you can use to generate leads and increase your conversions. A simple and cheap (or even free) way to boost website traffic is to promote your URL and put it on everything you can think of. This would include your letterhead, purchase bags, vehicle fleets, employee uniforms, local directories, email signatures, invoices (hard and soft copies), forum signatures, social media posts and anywhere else you can think of.Or why not a tattoo of your URL (kidding)? You’d be surprised where your customers might come from.
39. Fully engage in social media
Most likely you are already using social media, but are you doing everything to leverage its power? Social media is a free tool which can help your business in so many ways. Getting the word out, gaining more exposure, increasing leads, retaining customers, building authentic communities and helping SEO; the list of social media benefits is long. You can do all of this and so much more, if you take an active role on social media platforms. At the time of writing, the top social media platforms all small businesses should consider (depending on your industry) are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus.
Extend your social reach and enjoy what social media can do for your business, all for free!
40. Switch to VoIP (Voice Over IP)
Traditional phone carriers and their monthly bills can be a significant ongoing business expense, especially for those with heavy long distance and international calling. With the improvement of technology in the call quality and stability of VoIP, you can reduce or eliminate these costs by moving your voice and teleconferencing traffic through your Internet connection. Formal third party VoIP providers include Vonage, RingCentral and even broadband providers. VoIP generally includes all the advanced features traditional phones do, such as voicemail, and even may provide additional benefits such as encrypted calls if they are routed through a VPN. The downside of using VoIP is the loss of phone services in the event your Internet connection is lost, as well as some issues with call quality, echoing, dropping calls.
41. Use a virtual phone system or virtual receptionist
Being small doesn’t mean you can’t project the image of being bigger. In fact, that’s the beauty of the Internet and technology. Anyone with a very nice website, some VoIP and a virtual receptionist can project the image of being far bigger than they are. One of the better known virtual office phone systems is Grasshopper, which gives you access to a toll free number complete with extensions and call forwarding. This gives team members who are on the road or far flung access to one unified number, and makes you look big. For those who want a personal touch, check out Ruby Receptionists who actually give you access to live receptionists. And with prices starting from only $249 per month, that’s far lower than $2,500 that an entry level receptionist might command in salary.
42. Make international calls with Skype
Do you have clients across the borders? How do you get in touch with them? If you are still doing this with your mobile phone or landline, you are spending money unnecessarily. As long as you have a quality Internet connection, and the other party has a Skype account,you can make all these calls directly with Skype. Even if the calls last for over an hour, there are no charges to be paid. What if your clients are not available on Skype? You can still call them, but this time you will have to paya small fee, which is still a lot cheaper than doing it with your cell phone or landline. Examples include calling China from the US for 2 cents per minute (pay as you go) or $1.19 per month for 120 minutes (1 cent per minute). The entire list of Skype’s rates can be found here.
43. Compare Join.Me and GotoMeeting
Join.Me and GotoMeeting allow you to hold online meetings and share your screen with other attendees in a virtual meeting room. These software programs have similar features; you can record meetings and your attendees can decide if they want to join over VoIP or via their phones. GotoMeeting goes a step ahead, and also offers HD videoconferencing, but it is the pricier option of the two. While the monthly rates of Join.Me are less than $13, you will have to pay $39 for using GotoMeeting. That’s a difference of $26 every month, which you can put in your pocket if you sign up for Join.Me.
Free editions are available with both programs, but they have their limitations. For trial purposes, they will still give you a good feel for which one best suits your needs.
The overhead of maintaining an office space is one of the larger expenses for small businesses. Here are some ways to save money.
44. Have a virtual office
Virtual offices are all the rage now, and with good reason. Why pay $2000 or more a month in rent when so many free and cheap tech tools are available for teams to work remotely? With a laptop or smartphone, Google Hangouts, Skype, Slack, Google Docs, Rescue Time and others, a team from around the world can work together virtually with the same productivity output as a physical team. What about the address? You can either rent out a P.O. Box or use a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA).Interested in ditching your physical digs and making the move to cyberspace? Check out this guide on virtual offices.
45. Go with carts or kiosks
If you want to establish a proper retail location for your business, you may incur annual costs of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in rent or lease, which can be a huge drain on cash flow. Leases also have difficult provisions that lock you in for years at a time, with no way out. Save the money, pain and hassle by selling your products through temporary spaces such as carts and kiosks. The costs can be a fraction of a store,and the leases also last between a month and year, which makes it easier for you to close the shop or switch locations if things are not working out in your favor.
Restaurants have already seen the light as can be witnessed in the food truck craze of recent years. It’s far cheaper to start up a food truck versus a full-blown restaurant. Here’s a fascinating article on how the roots of food trucks began in Los Angeles.
46. Buy recycled printer ink cartridges
How long do your printer cartridges last? Not very long, it always seems. This can be a common recurring expense for most small businesses. You may not be able to reduce the frequency, but you can still decrease the costs involved if you start purchasing recycled or generic printer ink cartridges. Simply do an online search by typing in the model name and number of your ink cartridge preceded by “generic” or “recycled” and see what comes up. Over the long run, it could add up to quite a bit saved.
47. Free or cheap forms online
Save both time and money with this tip. Rather than purchasing forms from a local office supplier or even creating them yourself, you should just use the ones that are available online. These forms are downloadable, customizable and printable. And the best thing is that they are free or cheaper than the alternative. So even if you cannot find a form that matches your needs, you can always personalize and customize it as per your requirements. One example is LegalZoom which has all sorts of legal documents available for simple legal matters. Others include forms or templates for functions such as marketing or accounting. You’d be amazed what’s out there and available from a simple search.
48. Free software programs
Software costs are another expense which businesses have to face from time to time. Save money by downloading free software programs or using cloud-based free software rather than paid versions. You should also try out the free trial period before you download and pay for the whole program. One example is using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, or Mozilla Thunderbird for email management versus Microsoft Outlook. Paid software packages may offer you more features, but at a price, and in most cases the basic or the free editions offer sufficient functionality. So instead of increasing your expenses unnecessarily, use free software packages as much as you can. The ultimate destination for checking out software—both free and paid–is Download.com.
49. Buy used office equipment
Used office equipment is obviously cheaper than buying the same things brand new. You can save as much as 60% if you purchase used furniture, cubicles, computers, copiers and other necessary office equipment. The best places to find used office gear? Auctions, newspaper and online websites such as eBay, Craigslist or Backpage.
You can reduce your office space footprint and equipment usage/requirements if you outsource some of your day-to-day tasks. This means lower rents, reduced spending on office supplies,and paying lower salaries to your staff. Online contractors are just as talented and will do the same work for you, while allowing you to save.Talented admins are capable of doing all sorts of tasks, from outbound cold calling to project management or online research. Outsourcing allows you to pay far lower rates while accessing equivalent talent. Top websites include eLance, Outsource.com, Guru.com and other more niche-specific websites.
Many entrepreneurs feel that allowing employees to telecommute results in lower productivity levels but study after study show otherwise. For companies with more than 2,500 employees, 77% allow for remote working. 89% of respondents from another survey consider the opportunity to work remotely as one of three main perks. Employees benefit from an improved morale and work-life balance. Employers benefit from more motivated and happy employees. Companies also save money from reduced ongoing costs with more of their employees staying home versus coming into the office. Not all people are suited to work remotely. Start by letting some employees telecommute for one day and week and measure the output. Too worried about employees goofing off? Consider software like Rescue Time or Spector 360.
52. Go green
Save the environment and save money side by side. There are many ways in which your business can become a green company. Start with the basics first. Unplug any equipment if you are not using it. Use dimmers and minimize the usage of lights during the day time when there is ample sunlight to brighten up your office. Rather than using incandescent light bulbs, switch to fluorescent bulbs. You should also invest in energy efficient products. Reducing paper usage, telecommuting and utilizing recycled products are also eco-friendly options.
The net effect on your monthly bills can become prevalent even by taking little steps. Read more about becoming a green business here.
53. Consider desktops versus laptops
Unless your employees travel a lot or need to work remotely from home, consider using desktop workstations versus issuing laptops. While laptops are convenient due to their portability, that advantage comes at a cost which could be rather significant. Similarly specced desktops can be 25% cheaper than their portable counterparts. Also keep in mind the lifetime cost of the computer. Desktops can easily be upgraded, swapping out RAM, hard drive or even the motherboard. Most laptop components, especially for the trendy thin and light laptops, can’t. Over the years, upgrading desktop components versus buying a new computer can add up to significant savings. Finally, consider that laptops are more likely to be lost or damaged due to their portability. For those who need a remote work option, look into GotomyPC as one of the remote solutions which allow employees to access their work desktop from any computer with an Internet connection.
54. Get a postage meter
A postage meter can streamline and optimize your mailing operations, reducing your costs in the process. On average, you can save 2%off first-class letters that would otherwise incur from regular postage. But savings are not the only advantage. With a postage meter, your operations become convenient and hassle-free with less trips to the post office. Postage meters are great options for companies that need to send large volume of regular mailings. Newer options such as Stamps.com claim a large savings over postage meters, so make sure to research and find the solution that fits your mailing needs. The cost savings over the years could be significant.
Payroll is one of the largest expenses for any business. But with some savvy planning using the tips below, any company can reduce their labor costs.
55. Use freelancers/contractors
The actual cost of hiring employees is more than the salary alone. Other costs include signing bonuses, payroll taxes, health care benefits and retirement benefits. Add to that the costs incurred by HR to recruit, sort through, interview, manage and fire employees, and it’s no wonder that some studies show actual costs of employees to be 25% above their stated salary. Enter the freelance contractor, made even more popular these days from the myriad websites that make finding the right match a breeze. Sites such as eLance, Guru.com, oDesk, Outsource.com and many others help you find the perfect match of talent from around the world, sometimes at pennies on the dollar off your regular costs. Freelancer didn’t work out? It’s typically far easier to party ways with a contractor than an employee.
56. Lease your employees
Most people know that cars, computers, office equipment and work spaces can be leased, but few know that employees can be leased as well. Employee leasing is a process where a workforce is handed over to another professional organization, who then leases the employees back to the company. This reduces the direct costs of retaining employees mainly through the benefits owed. Some employee leasing firms include Xenium and Emplicity. Employee leasing services could be an acceptable middle ground between hiring internally and outsourcing to freelancers.
57. Hire temporary workers
Got a huge team, most of which don’t have much to do when business is slow? Consider switching to temporary workers, who will be able to handle all the responsibilities assigned to them during busy periods.
Temporary workers can do pretty much the same tasks as full-time employees, but at lesser costs. Register with a temporary agency and start hiring temps through them. Not only will they demand reduced salaries, but you will also be able to avoid the costs associated with advertising open positions.
Even better, temporary agencies take all administrative tasks into their own hands, which further simplify things for companies. Most temp agencies also allow an option to ultimately hire the temps as permanent workers. Make sure to inquire about this option.
58. Offer internships
Interns are willing to work for much lesser than full-time employees, and a lot of them will be willing to work for free. Hire college and university students as interns, giving them a chance to brush up their skills, while lowering your overall expenses. From administrative support to managing your SEO campaigns, interns can be a huge helping hand for your business, especially when there are plenty of orders to complete and several deadlines to meet. Internships are a win-win. Companies get access to eager employees, interns obtain valuable experience and a chance for a full-time position.
59. Hire on commission basis only
An effective sales force can been the difference between strong revenue growth versus a company whose sales are just treading water. But, as with all employees, their costs include salaries, bonuses, training, health care benefits, payroll taxes and more. To further complicate matters, often it is hard to judge the effectiveness of a new salesperson until they’ve been out in the field for a few months. If they haven’t produced any sales or even leads, that ends up putting a large dent in your budget. Consider alternative sales structures based solely on commissions and bonuses. To offset the initial training period, offer a “draw” against their future commissions to provide a minimum income. Top salespeople tend to be some of the most highly paid employees due to their ability to generate huge commission.
60. Make sure you have attorney fees in writing
As a business owner looking around for ways to save, get everything in writing,especially the fee agreement, before you hire an attorney. Sign the written contract only after you have read it thoroughly. The agreement should clearly specify everything in writing such as expenses are covered in fee, the costs which you will have to bear yourself and the amount of time that will be devoted to your case. Remember that every action an attorney takes for you is “billable”. Use the fee agreement as a baseline to decide what you can do yourself and what you need the attorney to actually do.
61. Hire someone to teach you
Virtually any business skill can be learned to be done competently. Usually it will make sense to outsource the entire task. Sometimes you will either want to do it yourself or need to know how it is done as the owner of a business. Consider hiring an expert to train you for an initial period of time. While business owners shouldn’t be spending all their time doing menial tasks, they should know enough about each business area to fill in should an employee or contractor suddenly become unavailable. One example is setting up and sending out email campaigns. While not difficult, there are nuances that need to be pointed out. Go on eLance and find an experienced email marketing consultant who is willing to train you. Since it is a one-time project, you may need to pay more than if it were an ongoing project.
Business Operations and Taxes
What do your operational costs and taxes owed amount to every year? You can do a lot to bring these down with a little knowledge and planning.
62. Watch your petty cash
Your petty cash can have a considerable effect on your taxes if you are not careful. Though these expenses are small, they add up quickly. Track all of them down and be sure to save each and every receipt if you want to get a tax advantage. The IRS does not ask for any record for expenses less than $75, but in case your spending increases, you will not be allowed a deduction unless you provide receipts as proof.
63. Compare local tax rates
The state or city your business is set up in can have a big impact on your net earnings. Since many small businesses incur taxes as an individual, it’s crucial to know how much your state charges. On one end of the scale is California, with up to 12.3% state income tax for the highest earners. Other states have no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wyoming. Click here for the entire list of states and their income taxes.Cities within close counties can charge different sales taxes as well. The city of Pico Rivera in Los Angeles County charges 10% sales tax. The city of Bakersfield in nearby Kern County charges 7.25% sales tax.
64. Avoid lawsuits at all costs
Lawsuits can be a huge financial and emotional drain on your business. Do whatever you can to avoid going to court. Virtually all disputes can be resolved before either party has to pursue legal remedies. Find a way to create a win-win situation. With the costs of lawsuits being so high, it even makes sense to “eat it” and take the short end of the deal if that means not having to go to court. Sometimes pride needs to take a backseat to business reality. Mediation or binding arbitration is also preferred to going to court. Having proper Terms & Conditions or legal language in your Statements of Work can go a long way to avoiding potential legal problems down the road. Here is an example of this type of language:
– (a) Attorney’s Fees and Litigation Costs: In the event of a disagreement between the parties to this Agreement, the prevailing party shall be entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs from the non-prevailing party. Attorney’s fees shall be awarded whether the claim for relief is based on contract law, tort law or both.
– (b) Venue: The venue where any dispute shall be maintained is the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America. (ENTER YOUR CITY, STATE AND COUNTRY)
– (c) All disputes and disagreements (except for matters for which injunctive relief is sought pending arbitration) may be resolved by non-binding arbitration before a single arbitrator in Los Angeles County, California (ENTER YOUR COUNTY AND STATE) in accordance with the Rules of the American Arbitration Association.
– (d) Consultant makes no guarantees of results and Company should not assume any guarantees. Consultant will make reasonable efforts to achieve results on behalf of Company.
65. Make sure that you are utilizing all possible deductions
A fact of life and of business is that the more you make, the more taxes you pay. Thankfully there are plenty of tax deductions available to the savvy business owner. Make sure you are taking every last legal tax deduction that you are entitled to. This is where the cost of a good CPA or tax attorney pays for itself in spades.
Here’s a list of oft-overlooked tax deductions which business owners often miss out.
66. Hire Independent contractors
Depending on the type of business you run, it may make economic sense to hire independent contractors versus hiring full time salaried employees. Contractors offer some cost benefits over employees, including not having to pay benefits, profit sharing, payroll taxes. The key is in making sure a contractor indeed fits within the definition that the IRS has set. FedEx has started to butt heads as it takes what some consider a very liberal definition of the term “contractor”. For the official IRS explanation of the differences, click here.
67. Hire your kids
Have kids who are 14 years or older and pay their own taxes? Bring them on your team and decrease your taxable income. Children have a lower tax bracket than adults, which you should use to your advantage. Transfer your income into your child’s account, and enjoy significant tax savings. Though this tip is beneficial in terms of savings, you have to make sure that you hire your children through a proper channel and pay them a reasonable amount as salary. If you break one rule or do anything wrong, and the IRS catches you, you will be faced with huge penalties.
So before you hire your child, do go through this list of Do’s and Dont’s. Also consider checking with your accountant to make sure everything is in compliance.
68. Create an Employee Retirement Plan
Do you offer a retirement plan for your employees? If you create one, both you and your employees enjoy several tax advantages along with other incentives. You would have to contribute a regular amount to their accounts, but this amount grows tax-free for the employee. Plus, you also reduce your taxable income and become entitled to a number of tax credits.
Read more about the benefits of setting up an employee retirement plan on the IRS website.
69. Consider bartering
Want to avoid cash flow issues due to invoicing and payments or reduce inventory which is no longer in use? You could try swapping your products and services with other businesses. Bartering has been in existence since early human history, and for a good reason. If you want to get serious about bartering, consider using a commissioned broker rather than doing it directly with businesses. You can even join a barter exchange or club such as IBE Barter and Hudson Barter Exchange.
70. Ask for early payment discounts
Some suppliers offer a discount to business owners if they make their payments early. One example would be “2% 10, net 21”, which means if you pay within 10 days, you get a 2% discount, with the full invoice due within 21 days. Talk to your suppliers and see if you can get lower rates in this way. If an early payment discount is available, you should make your payments early; otherwise, delay them for as long as you can without incurring any extra charges or penalties so that you cash for a longer period of time.
71. Join an association (or quit one)
Are you a member of any business or trade association? Find out more about these and see if there are any member benefits that would apply to your business. For a membership fee, you get to enjoy several advantages, one of which is discounted rates on a number of businesses expenses. So by becoming a member, you can reduce the costs associated with traveling insurance, car rentals, phone bills and a number of other expenses. Other types of member savings include those for select American Express customers, or for using Paypal as a payment type. The opposite is also true. Not every membership discount is necessarily the best rate you can get. If your insurance broker finds you a rate where your premiums are 15% lower than what the association can get you, and you see no other benefit from the association, cancel your membership. Savings from the annual fee plus the reduced premiums can quickly add up to thousands over the years.
72. Scrutinize travel expenses
What percentage of your expenses is related to travel? There are many areas where costs can be reduced if you or your employees travel frequently. Hotels come in almost infinite variations. Finding that balance between a hotel that offers business-friendly services for reasonable rates is key. Examples include Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Marriott Courtyard. Also note that hotels slightly further away from popular areas can be cheaper if you’re willing to drive a few more miles.
Airlines also have many ways to create confusion on finding the best rates. Aggregator sites like Kayak.com and Expedia help. The best places to start include airlines known for lower prices such as Southwest Airlines, Jetblue, Virgin America or other regional airlines. However, make sure to always compare rates. If you are flying into or out of major metropolitan cities, also check airfare in alternate airports. For example, Los Angeles has LAX as well as Long Beach, John Wayne, Burbank and Ontario.
The same goes for rental cars. Budget and Thrifty will generally be cheaper than Avis or Hertz. Other areas of cost savings include looking at using a mobile hotspot for Internet access while on the road versus paying for Wi-Fi in a hotel if it isn’t complementary.
73. Get three bids on everything
How often do you compare prices when buying something? Do this every time if you want to make sure that you are saving every penny. Whether you are buying office equipment or searching for a new supplier, take quotes from at least three different companies. Now go with the lowest ones of these, but only after you have assured that all your needs are being met and there are no compromises on quality.
74. Reevaluate your insurance coverage
There are several insurance policies available for small businesses. Which of these have signed up for and which have been left on the table? Go through all your policies with an experienced insurance broker who specializes in small business insurance and make sure you have adequate coverage. Generally, you should have property insurance and liability insurance. If you have a huge fleet or if your employees are involved in tasks that pose a risk to health and safety, you should also have auto insurance and worker’s compensation. An umbrella policy is also available which is a bundled coverage policy. Insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense until the time comes when you need it. For more information on small business insurance, read this article by the Insurance Information Institute.
75. Increase your deductibles
What deductible does your insurance package require? Increase this to the maximum amount that you can afford in times of an emergency, and your regular premiums can be reduced significantly. Generally speaking, the monthly savings from the premiums should offset the additional cost of paying the higher deductible should a claim be necessary.
76. Have a disaster plan
Disasters can happen anytime and anywhere. Is your business ready for them? Should any misfortune strike, you must be prepared for it beforehand by having a proper disaster plan. This helps to reduce business interruption, minimize down time and bring down the costs associated in dealing with damages. The Small Business Administration has a detailed guide on Disaster Planning, which is worth a read.
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