Earlier this week I gave you three keys to starting a business on a tiny budget. That first post focused on planning, fundraising, and office space. Now let's look at the second half of the equation: marketing the new venture and operating it on the cheap.
To win in today's startup world, you need to leverage social networks -- namely Facebook and Twitter. Start by turning your personal Facebook page into a business page, which, thanks to new Facebook tools, takes all of a few clicks.
When you're ready to turn that page into something slick and professional-looking, services like Pagemodo can help you build custom Facebook pages for less than what you spend on your daily coffee and muffin.
As for Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like, check out these real-world ways social networks can build your business. Need proof that this stuff actually works? Here's a Facebook success story worth reading.
If you need marketing materials -- a company logo, a Web site, business cards -- you can enlist a small army of professional designers to work on your project, but pay for only the one you like best. (I agree: this sucks for the designers, but if you have a limited budget, it's a hard option to pass up.)
Talk is cheap -- until you get the bill for your business phone service. But what can you do? Every business needs at least one phone line, if only to field sales and/or service calls.
Start with Google Voice. It not only assigns you a new local number, but also routes calls to any and all existing lines you might already have (home office, mobile phone, etc.). It also provides voicemail that you can share, download, and receive via e-mail as transcribed text. And it's free! Here are 10 ways to make the most of Google Voice.
If you need something a little more business-savvy, voice-over-IP services like Grasshopper and Phonebooth offer features like auto-attendants, unlimited extensions, a toll-free number, and cheaper-than-the-telcos outbound calling.
On the other hand, if you're running a one-man show, maybe all you need is a second line. Line2 for Android, iPhone, and iPad adds a new local number, ported existing number, or toll-free number to your smartphone. Rates start at $9.95 per month (unless you opt for a toll-free number, in which case they're higher).
When the day comes that you're raking in six-figure profits, feel free to splurge on pricey software packages like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. Until then, there are countless free or dirt-cheap alternatives that give you all the productivity tools you need to run your business.
For example, instead of Office, choose open-source favorite OpenOffice or the more robust (yet very affordable) Kingsoft Office. Even better, try a cloud-based solution like Google Docs or Zoho. Need Visio? Use Lovely Charts instead.
In place of Photoshop, work your image-editing magic in Paint.NET -- or use a browser-based solution like Sumo Paint. And before you spend a penny on Norton Anti-Virus or another security package, find out how to keep all your work PCs secure with Microsoft Security Essentials. It's time to abandon the mentality that running a business means paying for expensive "business" software.
Okay, startup experts -- what money-saving solutions would you share with your new-business brethren?