You are a courageous soul. You’ve decided that you have what it takes to start your own business. “It’s not easy”…that is what they all will tell you. Friends and family alike will offer you their unwanted and unsolicited advice on what you should do and how you should do it. They’ll tell you how either they started their own company or some story about a company started by someone they know (probably the neighbor of the accountant’s son, or something like that). Their tales will be full of trials and tribulations, successes and failures. The best part of all these stories and all of the advice is that most of it is useless. Unless any of these businesses were started in the last six to twelve months, the “lessons learned” are as outdated as that 2009 Dell laptop you just chucked in the trash (hopefully, you recycled it).
Anyway, unless your friends and relatives are giving you the following advice (or sending you money for your startup on WePay) , you should smile and thank them politely for their input and be happy that they just have your best interests at heart. Then follow these tips instead:
1. There are few ways to get customers to know about your business, so in all likelihood you will need to advertise. Problem is, advertising can be REALLY expensive. So you have to be smart about it! One way to do this is to use unconventional ways to advertise your products or services. Make the most out of email and social media to ensure that you have a way to regularly connect with your customers (see this article on how to make Twitter work for you). Ask yourself a question…how many companies send me emails or tweets to let me know what their sales or promotions are? The answer is “all of the successful ones” and these mediums are generally free to use!
2. Be nice to your neighbors. No, this is not a proverb that your parents taught you on how to be a good citizen. This is essential to running a successful business. Your neighbors and fellow business owners can be a huge source of revenue for you, as long as you have a good relationship. Not only will they potentially be customers of yours but they can also be a huge word-of-mouth advertiser for you. Also, think about offering to split advertising costs with them by sharing ad space. This saves you both money and allows you to purchase twice the ad space. Who knew when you first heard this advice at the age of five that it could actually make you money as an adult?!
3. Back to that laptop you just threw out, having a computer is essential to running and managing almost any business. So make sure that your connected devices are working for you. While a desktop may seem to be the right thing for your business, it is not the most cost-effective or business efficient choice. First, a desktop will keep you tethered to one location and that can be damaging if you need to be on run and also stay connected to important files. Two, that same desktop uses A LOT more energy than today’s extremely energy efficient laptops. How much more efficient is the average laptop over a desktop? Try 90 percent more efficient. So if your startup is going to use multiple computers you probably want all of them to be of the laptop variety!
Free Tools? Use Them!
4. Networking is crucial for anyone to have a successful career or business today, so if you have not done so you need to establish a LinkedIn account. This is important for many reasons but let’s stick to the issue at hand, SAVING MONEY! Say you are connected to an accountant…and a lawyer…and a successful business person. And let’s continue to say that you need advice in one of these three areas…and you can’t afford to pay for it…and wouldn’t it be nice if you only knew someone who could give you this advice for free? Get my drift? LinkedIn will allow you the opportunity to connect and interact with people who can help your business be successful, and the price is right on using the service. Here are some other ways to make LinkedIn work for your business.
5. If you are not an expert at using Google tools (such as the shared documents/calendars/instant connect feature) then let me suggest you acquaint yourself with them. These tools are great for being able to access stuff on the go (there is an app for that) and allowing you collaborate in real time with others. Most importantly these tools are all free to use. Here are some tips on how to make Google docs a part of your business. And, of course, don’t forget all the other free apps out there for everything from managing all of your social media efforts, to tracking your time, to accounting, to sending invoices online and saving a stamp.
Now get going and good luck turning your new business into a huge (and cost-efficient) success!!
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