When you have a small business -- especially one just starting out -- funds can be really tight. But there are several simple things businesses can do to cut costs and find what is, essentially, free money.
Many of these steps can also save you time, leaving you not only with more money but also with more minutes in the day to work on positioning your business for success.
1. Go paperless
Instead of printing invoices and checks and dropping them in the mail, consider the many online services available for a variety of business needs.
You can use file-sharing services such as Dropbox or Google Docs, electronic invoices, payments and inventory spreadsheets such as FreshBooks, WorkingPoint or Apptivo, and electronic signature services such as DocuSign to easily share information internally and externally. We often overlook how much paper we waste by printing things that could easily be accessed and shared online.
2. Get cash for cartridges
If you still insist on printing, at least make some money off the ink you’re using.
Some sites or stores offer around $20 for empty ink cartridges. Look into selling or recycling them through Staples, tonerbuyer.com or other services before buying new ones. Twenty bucks a pop can add up fast.
3. Use free forms and software
You can find tons of forms and software products online that cost nothing to try. This not only saves you money up front, but also ensures you end up purchasing the products you liked best in the long run since you were able to test them out first. Docstoc, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are just a few providers that can help.
4. Renegotiate your bundled services
Bundled offers and their value change all the time.
It's worth a five-minute phone call to your service provider to get the latest deal. They'll often make you a very good offer to keep from switching. Also, ask yourself if having the top-tier service -- the fastest Internet, for example -- is a priority, or if you can save by using what's sufficient for your needs.
5. Use connected apps
Many new services work effectively when used together by leveraging cloud-based technologies to sync relevant information.
Services like Nutshell CRM can help consolidate communications by tracking meetings, phone calls, email and more -- and can even sync with your smartphone. Leveraging connected apps where possible can help you use fewer services and save the time required to re-enter data.
6. Have a garage sale for your business
Consider selling older furniture and equipment online.
Something you’ve outgrown could very well benefit someone else so you might as well get some cash for it. OfferUp provides a safe and easy way to buy and sell locally using your iPhone or Android device. If you’re feeling generous, online nonprofits like the Freecycle Network can help you post your unwanted items to give away.
7. Build your business credit
One of the biggest mistakes that new businesses make is only using personal credit for business expenses. By building strong credit in your business’ name -- not tied to your personal credit -- you’ll be able to access more financing and at better rates, which can save serious cash. A free service from Creditera makes it easy to understand, build and protect your business credit.
8. Don’t pay on time, pay early
Did you know many suppliers offer discounts when you pay early or up front? It’s not unheard of for companies to give 10-percent discounts for paying in advance. Negotiate with your suppliers to get the best deal. To give yourself leverage, research what discounts other similar suppliers offer
9. Or...pay later
If you can put your cash to better use to save money (e.g. buying new equipment at a significant discount), take the maximum allotted time to pay your suppliers.
With good business credit, that could be 30, 60 or 90 days. You can even extend your repayment time by paying with a credit card on the due date. This gives you an additional 30 days to use that cash because you get to wait until the credit card payment is due.
10. Refinance for better rates
You may be paying high interest rates because you had poor credit when you initially borrowed money. As you build stronger business credit, you’ll look more reliable to lenders and creditors. Ask them to refinance your existing financing for better rates, or look into more favorable funding options. For example, you could switch from a high-interest merchant cash advance to a bank line of credit.
11. Separate personal and business expenses
This makes it easier to identify and use valuable tax deductions.
Start by opening a business bank account and business credit cards. Interest from a business card may be deductible, but it isn't for a personal credit card -- even if you’re using it to fund your business.
Cutting costs can be easier than you think, and being smart about where to be frugal is crucial to helping your business thrive.