I'm fortunate: My business is low-cost to operate. I just need a computer and a broadband Internet connection, and I'm set. Other small business owners I know, however, have a more difficult time-saving money when it comes to their businesses. They have more moving parts to manage.
"The keys to saving money in your small business are shopping around for the best prices and looking for creative ways to save in other areas," says Rich McIver, the owner of Merchant Negotiators, a company that provides price comparisons for merchant account providers. "You might be surprised at how quickly seemingly small savings can add up for your business over time."
If you are looking for a way to save a little more money -- money that can be put back into growing your business -- here are 5 strategies to try:
1. Use Public Relations to Grow Your Business
If you approach it in the right way, public relations can be a great way to grow your business, at a fraction of the cost of an expensive advertising or social media marketing campaign.
"It's important to understand that effective public relations can take time, whether you are doing it on a budget or not," says McIver. "You need to invest time in developing relationships with others, and making sure that you provide a narrative that has purpose."
McIver suggests using news values as a guide when crafting pitches. He points out that the existence of your business isn't what makes it newsworthy. You need to find a good angle. While you're doing that, make inroads into the community that's related to your business so that people see you as one of them, rather than an outside. Resources like HARO can also help you connect -- for free -- with journalists and other influencers.
2. When Possible, Use Independent Contractors
Depending on your business, there might be some tasks you can outsource to independent contractors. Freelancers cost less than full-time (and even some part-time) employees.
"You don't need to provide benefits to independent contractors, and you can save on overhead costs since you don't need to provide them with a workspace," McIver points out.
Some of the tasks that are relatively easy to outsource include writing and content creation, bookkeeping, graphic design, and web development. There are also thousands of virtual assistants that can help you with scheduling, email, and other administrative tasks.
Another possibility is to use interns for some of your work. You might only need to provide them with feedback and experience so they can receive college credit.
3. Consider Shared Space
Save on your business location by sharing space. If you only occasionally need a meeting room or a conference room, look into coworking spaces that provide you with those options. You might not need a traditional office suite of your own.
Some businesses also lend themselves to sharing in other ways. I had a friend who, instead of buying or leasing the premises to make and package her line of preserves, rented space at a pizza restaurant kitchen once a month. She paid a relatively small fee to use the kitchen first thing in the morning on a specific day of the month, so she could be done before the restaurant opened in time for lunch.
You might be surprised at some of the shared space arrangements available to you if you take the time to look around -- and you might be surprised at how much you can save.
4. Use Crowdsourcing
Today, there are several ways to use the collective mind power of crowds to accomplish your business goals. Crowdsourcing is a low-cost way to tap into others' thoughts and ideas, as well as get help from various sources.
Some crowdsourcing resources like 99designs cost you some money, but you get access to a number of ideas that you can choose from. There are also ways to get crowdsourced feedback by offering surveys to your customers (resources like Survey Monkey allow you to do it for free), and even use crowdsourcing for creating posts.
"Thanks to the Internet, it's easier than ever to tap into the power of crowds, and do it for a small amount of money, or even for free," says McIver. "You can even crowdsource some of your funding if you have a good enough idea that people are willing to pay for."
Between crowdfunding sites and P2P lending, the need for venture capitalists and angel investors is fading in the small business world. While it's still nice to get those infusions of cash, there are many other ways to fund your small business today.
5. Comparison Shop for Tools and Services
Finally, don't forget to comparison shop. "You compare prices when you buy a new TV or look for insurance in your personal budget," says McIver. "You should do the same in your business budget."
You'll need business insurance, as well as a number of services from web hosting to payroll. The good news is that there are plenty of business tools and services that cost very little. Technology has made it possible to quickly comparison shop for almost anything. Whether you are looking for inventory or supplies, or whether you are trying to find a merchant account provider, there are websites designed to help you find the best prices.
"Don't settle for one price quote," says McIver. "Use aggregators and other tools to get several quotes at once. That way, you'll be able to make a more informed -- and less expensive -- decision."