The tough economy has been a learning lab for many small businesses on cost control. Fortunately, advances in technology have helped. For instance, many business owners have turned to low-cost or free, cloud-based services as a way to save on IT administration costs.
But there are lots of other ways to save money in your business. Here is a list of tips for cutting costs in your small business:
1. Share office space. If the downturn left you with empty desks, sublet them to other entrepreneurs. Or instead of owning your own office space, take advantage of the booming marketplace in temporary and shared office space. If you only need an office to impress customers once a year at a big meeting, you don't need to pay rent on an office year-round anymore.
2. Buy secondhand office furniture. If you've ever priced new office furniture, you know it's a major cost if you're starting a business, moving offices or remodeling. But you can buy furniture for your office from liquidators and often save 50 percent or more.
3. Go virtual. Some surprisingly large and successful companies don't have offices at all these days. Their teams are entirely virtual, and everybody works from home, wherever in the world they are. This company structure allows your business to tap into a broader talent pool, since many of the best creative minds won't relocate and want to stay home-based.
4. Hire contractors. Full-time employees are a major cost, both in terms of fringe benefits and possibly office space to house them. Evaluate carefully if you really need a full-time staffer, or if perhaps you could save by having a contractor work part-time or on a per-project basis instead. You could even contract out your top management -- for instance, get a CFO to come in one day a week if that's really all you need.
5. Use barter. Instead of paying anyone, team up with other businesses in your town. Refer each other customers to save on marketing, and trade services instead of paying contractors.
6. Do-it-yourself legal work. There are great resources for getting many of your business's legal requirements met on your own, which can save you a bundle on attorneys' fees. For instance, Nolo Press has many books on topics such as the Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business. There are also low-cost resources such as MyCorporation for getting your business incorporated.
7. Free business cards. If you need a marketing tool fast and don't have a budget, free business cards from companies such as VistaPrint can get you ready for networking.
8. Bootstrap your marketing. Instead of paying for splashy ads, pay your customers with discount coupons if they refer you a customer. That way, you're not sending ad money out that may or may not bring you customers. Online, choose ad programs that only cost you if a customer buys.