Running a Business on a Shoestring

Shoe Laces...

Shoe Laces… (Photo credit: Heartlover1717)


I run my business on a shoestring. Actually, it’s more like half of a shoestring that’s missing an aglet. That is to say, my business budget is very, very small. When it comes to getting the things I need to run my business, I have to get creative. Some of my creative money saving attempts have been successful, and some have bombed horribly. But with the costs of running a business on the rise, I have to keep trying. None of my ideas are what you would call earth shattering, but they may be something you haven’t thought of or they may spark an idea of your own. So, here are some of the things I’ve tried. 


Childcare Swap: My youngest daughter goes to preschool in the fall, but until then she’s with me 24/7. I can usually work around her schedule during the day, but it is difficult to find free or low cost childcare for the days when I need to meet with clients or work with a customer onsite. A friend of mine, also a freelance writer, has the same problem. So, we’ve devised a plan to watch each other’s kids once a week to give us time to work or schedule meetings, and it doesn’t cost us anything. An added benefit is my daughter gets to play with another kid during the week rather than being stuck with me. It’s been good for both of us.


Barter System: I can’t afford to hire an IT department. Sometimes I can find answers to my tech questions online or through software forums, but there are times when I need the help of a professional. IT professionals are expensive (and worth every penny, in my opinion), but my business budget doesn’t allow for costly professional fees. That’s where the barter system comes in. I have a friend who is an IT pro with his own company. We trade services. He hosts my website and helps me with the occasional computer crisis, and I write and edit copy for his business. It’s worked out very well, although I feel like I’m getting the better end of the deal. To my IT friend I say, Thanks!


Smart Shopping: When it comes to office supplies, such as organizational tools, staples, and other office basics, it’s important to be creative and think outside the typical office supply store. I have found some very helpful items at dollar stores and on the dollar aisle of Target. I bought some clear accordion files at Target for 50 cents each! I keep my client files in these. When I have a meeting or need to work remotely, I just grab the client file and go. They were a great buy! Back to school sales are also a great time to stock up on pens, paper, folders, highlighters, and other small office supplies. I also buy what I can in bulk and take advantage of online deals from websites like NeweggWoot, and Amazon. I’ve tried joining a box store club like Sam’s and Costco, but it didn’t save me enough money to make it worth my while. However, some businesses might benefit from these stores more than mine did.


No Postage: Like most Americans I rarely send anything through the mail these days. That may not bode well for the postal service, but it has really helped my bottom line. Not only do I pay all my bills electronically, I sign all my contracts electronically, or scan them and email them to my clients. It’s nice to have both a hardcopy and electronic copy on file. Not only has it saved me money on postage, it’s provided me with a much needed backup system for retrieving contract information when a client or I have misplaced my contract. (It happens.)


Dropbox: Receiving and sending large files to clients used to involve burning the doc on a disk or jump drive and taking it to the client. Now, I simply use Dropbox. This service is free (but can be upgraded for a fee). It allows me to upload files up to 18GB and share them with whomever I choose. It will send the person an email alerting them to the shared files with a link to access them. It takes just a few minutes to set up an account. Their Pro and Business plans are quite reasonable for those who need more space or are looking for access to centralized billing and administration tools. The free version meets my needs for now.


Gorilla Marketing: I’m not a marketing genius, and my business doesn’t lend itself to flyers, commercials, or conventional marketing ploys. Most of my business comes to me by word of mouth. One way I’ve tried to get my name out there is by volunteering my services for local charities. It feels good to help out, that in itself is enough reason to volunteer, but it has also been a great way to network with people who might need editing or writing done on a paid basis. Writing radio ads for a charity made my services known to a local radio station that is interested in hiring me to write commercials. LinkedIn, Elance, and BranchOut are also free ways (you can upgrade for a fee) to network with people from around the world and widen your client base whatever your business. I also joined some local guilds and attend occasionally conventions to meet people who might benefit from my services and vice versa.


Like I said, none of these tips are going to win me a business innovation award. But they’ve helped my fledgling business stay afloat. If you have any helpful tips on saving money, please leave a comment. I’m always looking for ideas on how to stretch my business dollar or get something for free.




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