One of the principles that has enabled our business to survive and often thrive during good times and bad is quite simple: avoid overhead. By “overhead” I mean the regular ongoing expenses you need to pay to run your business. In addition to making more money, it’s also important to save money in business. The less you have to pay out in regular expenditures, the easier it is to weather the inevitable ups and downs of business. Too much overhead can kill a small business.
Many people are shocked by the current economic climate. They shouldn’t be. The current recession was inevitable because the economy is cyclical. Yet now a lot of people are frantically cutting back on everything. Operating from a place of panic generally results in poor decision-making. Many business owners stop marketing, which is shortsighted. If you don’t market, your business is doomed.
The reality of owning your own business is that sometimes you will have a lot of work (and money) coming your way and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes these trends are unrelated to the economy or anything you have done. In a recession, huge projects can land in your lap, and your business may have slow periods during economic “boom times.”
To remain resilient, avoid the perils of overhead. When you are evaluating business products and services, consider low-cost or free options first. Here are just a few examples of ways you can save money on typical marketing expenses.
Web Sites: Having a Web developer create a custom Web site can cost literally thousands of dollars. Even a blog can range from $0 to a monthly hosting fee of $10 or $20. If you load free blog software into your existing Web site, it can cost you nothing. Experiment with a free blog before moving up to more expensive options. Discover whether or not you can deal with updating a blog and writing content. Depending on your business, a Web site may net you almost nothing in terms of bringing in clients.
Conferencing Services: If you are planning to add teleseminars to your marketing mix, again you have a wide range of choices. Many free conference services exist that also allow you to record the call. Start with those. Only after you start earning money from teleseminars should you graduate to services like Audio Acrobat and Instant Teleseminar. Why spend an extra $70 per month for services you can get for nothing?
Ecommerce. It’s easy to spend a huge amount of money adding ecommerce to your Web site. Or it can cost you next to nothing. A custom shopping cart can cost you tens of thousands. A hosted shopping cart like 1ShoppingCart with any useful features costs $100/month, plus various other fees related to having a merchant account. But a PayPal button costs you almost nothing. (You don’t need a merchant account and PayPal’s transaction fees are low.) If you use PayPal with a free shopping cart like Mal’s Cart again, your cost is almost zero. Use the free tools to get proof of concept before you graduate to more expensive options.
Carefully examine your monthly bills. Are there areas you can save money? Are there services you really don’t use enough to justify the cost? Scrutinize everything. You’ll be rewarded with a leaner business that works better in both good times and bad.