Starting a business on a tight budget

Statistics show startups are on the increase as figures rose from 432,300 in 2007 to 436,600 in 2008, with the overall number of businesses in the UK rising to around 2.9 million. However, it has never been more vital for startups to keep a firm hand on cash.

Here are some helpful tips on how save money when you’re starting a business.

Don’t buy office space Renting office space can be a huge overhead for startups. Fortunately, today’s market can provide better solutions that guarantee startups save money. Take virtual office space – startups can run their day-to-day office from home, making considerable savings and tax benefits. When they need to meet clients face-to-face, they simply set up meetings or conferences in a virtual office business centre. This is a godsend for startups, especially when they need to impress an important client: first impressions count and startups project the right professional image at a price they can afford, and the customers are none the wiser! Hiring virtual office space will set you back a meagre £29 per day and you can opt for private office space or shared office space. Visit regus.co.uk or basepoint.co.uk for further details.

Home office space no longer has the stigma it used to as more and more startups try to save money in these uncertain times. For those startups who want the best of both worlds, why not work from home 80 per cent of the time but 20 per cent from virtual office space.

Software that doesn’t cost a fortune!Startups shouldn’t buy traditional software packages as it means paying out a large amount initially, plus training, implementation and maintenance costs will need to be factored in as well as future upgrades. Instead, startups should opt for their software to be hosted online. That way you pay as little as £5 per month and you won’t have to foot the bill on maintenance and implementation costs – no IT guy required! Best of all your software is always the most up-to-date version and it’s free.

Some business software companies will offer module pricing plans so startups can customise their requirements and pay for additional software that they won’t use initially. For a business software trial for free, try: icomplete.com or 37signals.com and for accountancy software: kashflow.co.uk or xero.com.

Don’t hire staff in the beginning – outsource insteadThe cost of employing people these days is high and reliability can be an issue, especially when you’re starting a business. A much cheaper alternative for startups when starting a business is to use virtual resources on a pay-as-you-go basis. The virtual industry market is booming in the recession as more and more small businesses and startups are cutting costs and reaping the benefits of low risk outsourcing. What is great about virtual assistants is that you don’t have to pay sickness, holiday or other benefits. Over time you build up a great relationship with your virtual assistant as if they were part of your team. Try moneypenny.co.uk.

Alternatively if you want even cheaper outsourcing without the human element, you can set up automated mail-outs. Simply provide the template and the company will do the rest, including stuffing envelopes and posting out the mail-shots via machine. For more information, contact viapost.com

Slash your telephone costs instantlyStartups should look at reducing their phone bills every quarter by installing VoIP technology. VoIP enables you to make your phone calls over the internet at a fraction of the cost of a normal phone call, saving startups hundreds of pounds annually. It’s really easy to set up and run so don’t be put off by telecom technology. Startups can also benefit from using voicemail to email and a divert call function so that you can pick up calls wherever you are. This can save startups from losing business. Contact icomplete.com.

Look at more cost effective ways to market your business.E-marketing is a very powerful and cost-effective way for startups, especially when they’re first starting a business. It enables startups to send out newsletters, mailshots, special offers and loyalty schemes directly to their customers via their email address at no extra cost. Startups save on postage and/or printing costs, too. It also encourages customers back to your website to see what other services you offer. The only investment is the time needed to design the promotional e-mail material.A website is a must and there is one to suit every startup’s budget.For startups, it is essential to have a business online presence when you’re starting a business and there are many ways you can get a good quality website at a good price if you know how. Startups that want a cheap e-commerce website should try stock-a-shop that will enable you to display a wide range of products for sale. Startups that want to build their own website from simple templates that can be customised should try homestead.com or alternatively if, as a startup, you want a bespoke website on a tight budget (but with quality layout), then try simplewebsitedesigns.co.uk.*Claire Hibbert is co founder of icomplete.

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