Practical Money-Saving Tips For Small Businesses
by Diane Hughes
One of the primary concerns all small businesses have is saving money. When it's time to trim the fat, most look for one giant expense to decrease or eliminate in order to stay within budget. More often than not, it doesn't work that way.
Most budgeting experts will tell you that re-evaluating your overall expenses and cutting each by just a bit will actually gain you more ground than doing without something major that you really need. Here are a few ideas of areas to look at and costs to reduce that can have a major impact on your overall profits.
1) Internet Access - Every online business owner must have access to the Web. But consider this. The market is so flooded with ISPs that you have a lot of room to dicker. Start by searching the Internet under keywords like "cheap internet access" or "discount isp" to bring up lists of possibilities. Then, do one of two things.
(a) Try some of these independent ISPs. Smaller companies can have high quality service and support just like the "big boys". One business owner I know recently switched from Prodigy ($21.95/mth) to a smaller ISP that only charges $12.50/mth with no contracts. She actually liked the new provider better and it costs her about half as much. [Savings of $113.40 per year.]
(b) Renegotiate with your existing ISP. Most larger ISPs know you have a choice of a thousand other companies. Because of this, they are normally more than willing to renegotiate your costs. Be honest. Tell them you are a small business owner and you need to cut expenses. Explain that you've been pleased with their service but will be forced to go with someone else if some sort of arrangement isn't worked out. Another friend of mine did this and received 6 months free! Most will offer 2-3 months free and/or a discount with an annual agreement. NOTE: When you approach your ISP, be fully prepared to switch to someone else if your offer is rejected. [Savings of $105.80 per year with 3 months free and reduced, annual rate.]
2) Switch From A Merchant Account To A Payment Service - If you have a low volume of credit card transactions, it might benefit you to switch from a merchant account to some sort of payment service like Pay Pal or ClickBank. Statement fees, monthly fees, discount percentages and the like can all add up to big money.
While payment services normally have reduced fees, they do have higher "per transaction" costs so you'll have to do some math to find out if this is a good idea for your business. Just take an "average" invoice amount from a sale and multiply it times 12 to get a base total to work with. Now, add in your 12 months worth of fees for statement, monthly access, discount percentage, per transaction cost, etc. This is your "example" total. Do the same with several payment services using their costs to see which one, over time, would be less expensive for you.
If you were paying a $15 statement fee, $20 monthly fee, 3% + $.35 per transaction and $25 monthly gateway fee, your annual expenses would be $742.20 for an average transaction of $50.00. Your annual fees for a payment service with 3.5%, $1.00 per transaction and a one-time $50.00 set up charge would only be $83.00 per year. [Savings of $659.20 per year.]
3) Re-evaluate Your Long Distance Costs - Competition is the small business owner's friend! With hundreds of long distance companies out there, you can drastically reduce your charges instantly. Again - use the 'Net to search for inexpensive long distance service. A business owner I know changed from a MCI "program" to one of those 10-10 companies and reduced her per minute charge from $ .07 to $ .05. Depending on the volume of calls you make, some programs offer rates as low as $ .03 per minute. [Estimated savings of $20-$30 per year for 1,000 minutes.]
From just these three little things, we've saved an estimated $802.60 per year. That's enough to make anyone's spreadsheet sing! Go through your list of costs and you will most likely find other expenses that can easily be reduced with a bit of research and a phone call or two.
Diane C. Hughes * ProBizTips.com
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