As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs and raise your profit margin. There are some obvious ways to save money. But you’ve likely heard them all before—suggestions like shopping around for the best prices on everything from office furniture to cell phone contracts, bartering for services with clients, and keeping hiring to a minimum.
These are all valid tips, but we wanted to generate a list of creative ways to save money, ways that even experienced business owners could benefit from. So, we talked to several entrepreneurs and came up with these money-saving tips:
1. Reach out to colleges and universities
Shaun Tuck, the owner of Professor Egghead, a company that promotes STEM education for kids, suggests reaching out to college professors, especially if you took their classes. Leverage your network for advice, or to offer internship opportunities.
Colleges that offer business degrees often require students to do capstone or final projects in conjunction with local businesses. They may do website evaluations or a short-term marketing push. Working with students is one way to get a fresh perspective on your business.
Tuck spoke to his former professors and was put in touch with the law department at USC. The team helped Tuck’s company form an LLC, which was overseen by the head of the department and didn’t cost the company a dime.
2. Use online sites for printing
If you’re headed to big box stores to print any materials, you’re probably dealing with steep markups. Rather than pay high prices, James Robert Webb, who owns his own indie record label, uses the website GotPrint for all of his printing needs.
“My first batch of business cards at a large chain office supply store cost $300,” he says. “Now, I find cheaper alternatives online and get business cards printed for a fraction of that cost.”
3. Outsource administrative tasks
Rather than bringing on a full-time employee to answer phones or handle emails, outsource these administrative tasks to virtual businesses. For example, you can hire a virtual assistant on a part-time basis to handle managing your email. You can create an ad for a virtual assistant on a site like Elance, which is a freelance site where experienced workers can apply for your job.
You can also outsource your front desk position. Businesses like Ruby Receptionists can handle your incoming calls, set a voicemail for you, and send you email alerts as specified. There are several pricing options to choose from, but compared to hiring someone full time, you’re likely to save money.
4. Try coworking or shared workspaces
If you’re just starting out, you could check out the possibility of renting a shared workspace, suggests business coach Jennifer Martin. Coworking spaces are increasingly available since so many businesses today are powered by a remote workforce. Users typically have access to conference rooms for meeting with clients and have a place to get online, make calls, and be productive.
It’s probably cheaper than renting your own space, and it’s a good way to network with other business professionals who use the office too.
5. Use cheaper phone options
Cell phone bills can be expensive, especially if you’re paying for several lines. While many businesses can’t survive without cell phones, there are ways to keep costs down. For instance, use long-distance apps like Viber, which takes away from your data rather than your minutes. If texting costs are adding up, try WhatsApp, an app that enables you to send texts for free.
You can also use Skype, which offers video conferencing, or FreeConferenceCall.com for conference calls.
Do you have an out-of-the-box way to save your business money? Share it with us on Twitter @Bplans.
Editor’s note: This article originally published in 2014. It was updated in 2019.