10 Easy Steps to Help You Start a Small Business on a Budget

1. Get a Website – Today you do not have to be tech savvy to create your own website. There are many web page creators out there that are essentially drag and drop. These programs are very easy use and inexpensive to run my personal favorites are Inuit Websites, Yahoo Sitebuilder, WordPress and Circlepad.

2. Get and Email Address – There are two ways to go about this. The first way which I do not recommend is to simply use a free email account service such as gmail and use your company name i.e. “[email protected]” While this is cost effective I do not recommend it because it looks unprofessional. A better solution is to use a website services (as mentioned in step 1) which includes email as well. Then you will be able to create a professional looking email address i.e. “[email protected]” These email addresses also sync up with outlook easily.

3. Make an Intranet – Intranet sites are a great way for a company to get organized. An Intranet can be used as a place to store important company documents and information that can be accessed easily and securely anywhere that has an internet connection. Google Sites has a free service where you can easily build and organize your own intranet site where you are also able to determine who may or may not view the site.

4. Get a Phone Number – Traditional business phone numbers are expensive and overrated. Small businesses often do not receive many inbound calls so it is not cost effective to pay for a traditional phone service. Again there are two great ways to cut your costs. Phone services such as Phone.com give you a business phone number with an inbound calling and voicemail service which starts out at about $15 a month with many available upgrades. Google Voice is a free service that will give you a business phone number and forward all calls to an existing number alerting you beforehand that the call is intended for your business and not your existing phone number. Google Voice also includes a voicemail service.

5. Get an Address – Stop using your home address or a PO Box! Now a days people Google everything and when they search your company address and see a house or PO Box there is a good chance they will not give you their business. Stop! There are alternatives. Many cities now have Virtual Office listings where you pay anywhere from $30-$300 a month (depending on the city/package) and you have a business listing with mail forwarding and many other available features such as office/conference room time. Another option is a work co-op. A work co-op is an office space which many small business owners share for a small fee. These spaces will usually let you use their address as your mailing address for an even smaller fee.

6. Network – A great way for a small business to network is to join local small business communities and other communities in their area. A great way to do this is to register on meetup.com. Meetup.com is a place where people from your local community groups and have gatherings. There are many small business groups on meetup specifically for networking and most of them are free to join.

7. Email Marketing – Email marketing is a great way to attract new customers and stay connected with current ones. The best tool for email marketing is Constant Contact. At $15 a month Constant Contact is definitely worth it instead of manually running email marketing campaigns.

8. Get Business Cards – This is often an overseen cost. When a new small business intranet is started, the owner is often out networking aggressively passing out business cards to anyone who will take them. This can add up. There are several ways to get a good price on business cards. Vistaprint.com has discounts nearly every day and if you go to retailmenot.com you can search for promo codes and get deals of 250 business cards for $0-$4. You can also create and print your own business cards as long as you have the proper materials.

9. Get Help – A great way to get help without having to hire paid employees is to hire college interns. Interns are usually very helpful, intelligent and interested. They are willing to work for free just to gain the experience and a letter of recommendation.

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