Nothing says, “Operating on a shoe-string budget” like running a business out of the home. Whether you’re a garage-based Silicon Valley start-up or a domestic day-care provider, you need to pinch every penny you can when running a home-based business.
One of the most obvious places to save money is on equipment. You can easily scour thrift stores, flea markets, and liquidation sales for cheap office furniture and accessories. You can also scan the daily newspaper classified, and online sources such as Craiglist, for people selling office furniture and accessories.
For computers, it cannot be stressed enough that by taking on a used computer, you are not only getting a bargain, but are saving one more wasteful disposal going into a landfill. For basic office needs, any computer manufactured within the past ten years will do just as good as a new one bought off the shelf. A home office only needs to connect to the Internet and run some basic applications such as a web browser, word processor, spreadsheet, and other simple services. You don’t need a high-performance machine for this.
As for the software side of computing, it simply does not make sense to pay for software any more. Small businesses are flocking to open source software such as Linux, BSD, Open Solaris, and anything released under a GNU General Public License. Download a distribution (called a “distro”) that is known to be stable and user-friendly, such as Ubuntu, Knoppix, Mandriva, Fedora, or PC-BSD, burn it onto a CD, and install it. You always have a full suite of software that comes with any major distro, so in one stop you have web suite, office tools, and desktop. As a bonus, you’ll have maximum security, so you can forget about virus and malware attacks. You’ll also have the most reliable and robust software made today.
Beyond simply getting equipment, it makes sense to team up with other small businesses and home-based entrepreneurs in your area. A group of business owners can get discounts on bulk items such as paper and printer cartridges.
While you’re at it, don’t forget that other small business owners can provide you with inexpensive support. For instance, say you have six home-based businesses in one neighborhood. If you all could network together, one of you could provide phone message services or mail-order services to the other five, in exchange for a small fee. You can also barter services, trading your skills and professions to each other.
Office space can also be gotten in bulk discounts. These kinds of commercial rentals, often called “bullpens”, are to home businesses what self-storage garages are to home owners. In addition, renting a small spot in a community office puts you side-by-side with others like you – a networking opportunity waiting to happen!
If there is a local group that is geared towards your business, consider joining it. Community groups of all kinds meet locally in any small town, with a range of interests and hobbies. Software start-ups can join a tech club, writers can sign up with the college theater club, caterers can join a recipe group. Think creatively here: what kinds of communities will both help you build your skills, keep you “in the loop” as to what’s going on in your market, and give you networking opportunities? A therapist may consider joining some support groups, for instance, and have the opportunity to hand out her card, rather than buying expensive advertising.