When it comes to entrepreneurship, it doesn’t hurt to be ambitious. It’s a practically a requirement.
Luckily, you don’t need a big budget to accommodate your big ambitions. Below are some money-saving tips on finding a place to grow your business, keeping the lines of communications open and using professional business tools without dipping too far into your bank account.
Looking for Cheap Real Estate? Try Coworking
Need a place to get some work done and grow your business? Before skimming the classifieds for a vacant office or storefront, look up some local coworking spaces.
Rents are typically modest, depending on the location and the amenities offered. For instance, Green Spaces in New York City offers eco-minded entrepreneurs a day pass that costs $35 or full, seven-day access for as little as $295 month. Good luck finding even a sliver of office space for that amount in Manhattan.
Amenities vary, but generally coworking spaces offer a place to park yourself and your laptop, Wi-Fi Internet access and conference rooms. Perks sometimes include coffee and business services like on-site printing. But the best benefit is an opportunity to network.
Coworking spaces are essentially communities brimming with entrepreneurs just like you. It’s a great way to meet-and-greet on your own terms, share knowledge and expertise, and informally build your contact list. Who knows, a future business partner could be waiting at your local coworking hub.
Dial up the Savings with VoIP
A dedicated business line is perfect if you want to project a professional image, or if you’re reluctant to give out your mobile phone number. But what if you don’t want to pay steep prices for a landline or another mobile account?
VoIP, which stands for voice over Internet protocol, has revolutionized voice communications. The most famous example is Skype. Now owned by Microsoft, Skype is one option for entrepreneurs who need an inexpensive alternative to traditional phone service.
Skype-to-Skype calls (and video conferencing) are free, but making calls to phones from your computer will set you back a little, about $60 for a 12-month subscription, or $5 per month if you break it down. Likewise, getting an online phone number with voicemail will set you back $60 for a year.
Even at $120 per year for both services, they are cheaper than a couple of months of traditional or mobile phone plans. And with apps available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, you can take your Skype number with you.
Skype isn’t the only game in town, though. Consider Google Voice for features like call forwarding, transcribed voicemails and SMS-to-email. Google also offers low international calling rates for entrepreneurs with global ambitions.
Low-Cost Productivity Software
Microsoft Office is the standard bearer in productivity software, but it can be pricey for the bootstrapping set.
If you want Outlook, the Microsoft Office Home and Student edition — which costs $119 — is out of the question. That means that you’re spending at least $199 at the Microsoft Store for the Home and Business edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and of course, Outlook. That is, unless you shop around.
Head over to Amazon and, as of this writing, you can download a single-user, one-PC license of Office Home and Business 2010 for just pennies over $150. That’s a savings of almost $50. But keep in mind, Office 2013 is just around the corner.
If you’re comfortable with the idea of Office in the cloud, point your browser to Office 365. For $6 per user per month (50-user limit), you and your co-entrepreneurs can share calendars, message one another and view and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files online.
Better yet, if you’re not particularly tied to the Office ecosystem, try open source alternatives like OpenOffice or LibreOffice. They each have their quirks, particularly if you’re transitioning from Microsoft, but the bottom line is that they get the job done.
Again, if you’re comfortable with cloud-based productivity, look no further than your Google account. Google Docs, now accessible using the “Create” button in Google Drive, is an easy, browser-based and, best of all, free way to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. It’s basic, but for the price it can’t be beat.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Internetnews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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