Budgeting is the bane of the startup entrepreneur. Traditionally, the ‘cost of admission’ to big business has been totally prohibitive to any but the fully-funded. With the rise of the e-empire, the Internet and cloud computing, the cost of admission to business in those fields is much, much lower. No physical premises, no staffing overheads, a broad and varied outsourcing network at your fingertips…there’s never been a better time to get your idea up and out the door. Even considering the new field of play, though, costs can escalate rapidly. In this article, we’ll point out several great resources from trimming your start-up costs without hurting your business prospects.
Outsourcing, like many high-level business processes, has really benefitted from the evolution of the Internet. Why? Because it’s easy to package as a platform. Let’s explain what we mean by that.
Before the rise of the consumer-facing Internet, auctions were niche platforms for very specific requirements. They had a small intake of products, and a small intake of purchasers. It was not a massive industry. However, the format – buyers on one side, suppliers on the other, an enabling platform (or system) in between – was very, very easy to replicate over the web. Buyers? Check. Millions of people have stuff to sell. Purchasers? Check. Everybody wants something. What was needed was a system to connect the two. Exactly the kind of thing, in fact, that is simple to build on a computer – and so, eBay.
Just like auctioneering, outsourcing – previously the domain of highly-trained agencies – is fairly easy to transition to an online platform. So, we have oDesk, Elance, and even more niche services such as Microworkers. Use them well. They will provide you with access to a temporary workforce without any of the legislative (read: tax) overheads.
2. Buy used stuff.
Don’t shy away from the second-hand tech market. In recent years, technology has become increasingly reliable (a little like the Japanese car industry in the late nineties). Reliability means longevity. However, technology still suffers from immense depreciation (the second you walk out of the shop with your shiny new laptop, it’s lost 20 percent of its value). This means there’s a lot of used, good hardware at bargain prices. The stack of money you save might be better invested in a new software license, or perhaps a grand outsourced marketing campaign. Second-hand computers might be a good investment if you’re trying to save money, but be aware that there may be some downsides to buying used laptops.
3. Trial everything, but pick only what you need.
The start-up entrepreneur knows the value of subscription-based online services. However, between the web hosting, project management web apps, the special e-mail, the dedicated cloud storage and subscriptions to every magazine under the sun, it’s difficult to make solid cash flow projections. Monthly outgoings are still outgoings, and they’re much more worrying when you think about them in annual terms.
Free trials are the heaven-sent solution to this problem. Set aside a couple of weeks to get your perfect system set up, combining the myriad different services into your ultimate workflow. Then ditch what you didn’t use before you pay a penny. Being thrifty with your subscriptions will really pay off in the long run – and simplify your cashflow projections forever.
Sam is a cross-domain academic with interests in psychology, technology, education. He founded and runs Handcrafted, a boutique web application development company.
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