Smart, Frugal Advertising And Marketing
J. Donald Weinrauch, co-author of The Frugal Marketer, recommends throwing in some advertising materials or coupons, with voucher codes for visitors who go online, with your everyday business mailings. For instance, if you're going to send that invoice out anyway, might as well save some postage and include an advertising pamphlet, coupons, newsletters or other promotional material.
You'll also want to get familiar with your local media. This means TV, radio, print and online publications big and small. Study some press releases and business profiles online and formulate your own releases. It's important to consider the "news hook" of your business. Keep it simple and avoid exclamation points at all costs! An editor can spot overblown hyperbole in a millisecond. Think about how the Wall Street Journal writes about small business and aim for that vibe when you're typing up a release.
But don't spend all your time vying for the affection of local media. The fact is you'll still have to spend money on advertising; the trick is keeping it frugal. Entrepreneur Magazine recommends teaming up with a neighboring business to split advertising and promotional costs. Organize an event together and split the costs of promoting that event.
You'll also want to boost your online presence. Just having a website is never enough. Look for message boards that relate to your business and sign up. There are also plenty of social networking sites such as Twitter where you can get your name out there and offer online vouchers to followers of your account for free. Typically, the only cost for using these social websites is the time it takes to log on and post.
Get Your Office In Order
You don't have to rent out an office full time to get the benefits and professionalism a suite provides. More small business owners are reaping the benefits of executive suites, or virtual offices. Think of it as an office time-share. For a price much smaller than a month-to-month lease, you can use an office or conference room part time. Most of the time, the clients you meet in the office will have no idea you don't spend 40-hours a week there. Just be sure to place some family photos and other knick-knacks around for that personal lived-in touch. You can even get a dedicated phone line and the receptionist will answer the phone using your business name while you're gone.
For those whose business has grown to the point where living without a permanent office space isn't an option, there are plenty of ways lower costs. Arguably the most important is greening up. Environmentally friendly office appliances use less energy, last longer and often come with some pretty decent tax breaks. Also, look into buying recycled printer cartridges and keep equipment turned off when it's not in use.
Master Your Taxes
If you're running your business from home, there are countless tax breaks available to save some money. You can deduct portions of your mortgage, Internet and utilities as a business expense. Even home maintenance services and lawn care can be deducted. Check out the IRS's website for more details about what you can write off as a small business owner working from home.
There are still plenty of tax options if you work outside your home. If you spend a lot of time taking clients to lunch, don't forget to track those meals as a business expense. You can get deductions for entertaining clients and the mileage used driving around town. The amount you can deduct per mile changes every year.
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