Bootstrapped Budgeting: 20 ways to get ahead for (almost) free

Is the goal of your business to make money and provide a great life for you and your family? Yeah, same here. But what about all of your business expenses that eat away at your profits? What if you could put together a plan that not only built up your marketing and branding but also took some of the headache out of your administrative costs. Below you will find twenty ways to get your business running like a well oiled machine for just about zero cost. If you know of any other ways that have been left off the list, please feel free to take a moment and let us know in the comments section.

Business Marketing

Social Media Websites – Building up social media profiles on sites related to your field can do many things for you. It can gain you traffic to your website, it can build up your branding efforts and it can also allow you to network with potential clients as well as other businesses in your field.

Pay it Forward – Depending on your business niche, this can be done very easily or it might take a little bit more thought. Either way, the idea is simple: do a good deed for three people and all you ask for in return is that they do the same thing for three others. Before you know it, there is a lot of good deeds being done in the world and a lot of discussion on who started the flow of things (hint, that would be you!) It’s free, it boosts your publicity as more people talk about you and it also is a good way to bring some positive karma points into your life.

Fake Publicity Stunt – For the cost of a few signs and some food for your friends, you can stage a fake publicity stunt and generate a lot of word of mouth about it, as well as your business. One idea is to have your friends standing in front of your store picketing with signs that read “We hate this store because their prices are too low” or “The quality of (insert product here) is outstanding”. Use your imagination and I’m sure you can get a few good ideas together on what to write. By doing this, you’ll attract attention from everyone walking, running and driving by. Some might stop to ask what they’re doing and others might just notice the signs, read them and then decide to check your store out. Either way, its a win/win for you.

Guest Blogging – The trick here is simple (and free); find a group of blogs related to your business (or geared towards your target market) and send an email to the owner stating that you’d like to submit a guest article. Odds are that the owner of the site will be happy to lessen the burden of constant writing on their end and if your article topic is good enough, they’ll let you publish an article or two on their site. Once it’s published, you’ve just reached an entire new market that you would have otherwise never been face to face with, and you did it all by spending a little bit of time writing. *helpful tip: If you’re not a writer at heart, you could always outsource this task for a small amount of money

Help Home Based Businesses – The chamber of commerce in your city probably doesn’t have a home based business committee yet and you’re the perfect person to start it. By starting it, you’re not only showing you’re an expert in your field, you’re also networking with other home based business owners who might be in need of services you offer (hell designers and copywriters!).

Give Free Lectures – I first realized this was a good idea for marketing your business when I read Mason Hipp’s article on his blog titled: How I gave away 15 minutes and made $5,700.00 Its a genius idea when you really think about it. Hold an open lecture related to your business topic and showcase your knowledge without really coming out and “selling yourself”. People will realize quickly that you’re an expert in your field and you can be sure that you’ll get a few people to bite and request more information about what you do. All for a little bit of time talking about what you love most; your business!

Run a blood drive – Get a few 6 foot wide banners printed up with your business information as well as a spot talking about the blood drive on it and get on the phone and contact your local television, radio and newspaper reporters and let them know you are building the biggest blood drive your city has seen in the last 5 years. It will generate buzz and is a great news story for the reporters who would more than likely be glad to talk about it for you and expose a lot of people to it. Giving blood is an easy way for people to help out their city and it costs them nothing; the exposure you gain from it will cost you the price of a couple banners, but the outcome can be astounding!

Writing an e-book – Another way to get your name out for free and also showcase your knowledge as well as showcase what you do for a living is writing an e-book related to your business niche. Again, if writing is not your expertise you can do the same thing I mentioned in the Guest Blogging tip and hire someone to write the e-book for you. The exposure of the book will be great for your business and in some instances, e-books travel around online for years so you can reap benefits of the marketing of the book for years to come.

Cross Promotions – Are you a website designer? How about promoting a web hosting company in exchange for them giving your website design business some promotion on their website. What about a clothing company? Why not cross promote with a shoe company or a hand bag/accessories company? There are many ways this can be done and it’s a win/win for both parties involved (as long as the business you’re working with is near the same level you are sales and exposure wise).

Business management

Time Management – Tired of clocking in and out every day or writing down your start and stop times on paper and trying to tally up your time spent on certain tasks? Yeah, I was there too. I found slimtimer to keep track of my time spent on specific tasks. It works similar to a stop watch except it keeps records of your total time spent on tasks. If you’re like me and you know you spend a lot of time doing things online that aren’t productive to your business, rescue time is the perfect solution for you. It tracks what programs you have open and also what websites you’re on and how much time you spend on them. You can group sites together as “work” or “socializing” and each week a report is emailed to you so you can become aware of those time wasters.
Invoicing – Sending invoices is a piece of cake. My choice for this is Freshbooks, simply because it’s ease of use and it’s killer interface. It also has been mentioned on many, many, many business and freelance websites so I know it’s a trusted source. Definitely worth the money, with plans ranging from free and up it gives each business its choice depending on the size of your business.

Client Management – Your client list is like a very, very expensive Rolodex. Highrise is another application from 37signals that doesn’t disappoint. With a free plan or a paid option of your choosing, you are sure to be able to store all of your clients contact information as well as information about each client without worrying about forgetting anything in the future.

800 Number Services – This is a co Marketing/Management tip for you. Having an 800 number can give your business a more professional look in the eyes of potential clients and it’s also a great way to separate business and home/cell numbers. Kall8 is the service I use because it lets you set it to ring any phone (home, cell, ect) and also sends any voice mails to your email address so you can listen to them. Best of all, it never reveals your regular phone number so you’re able to seamlessly run your business line without worrying about late night phone calls to your house (it lets you set it to ‘straight to voice mail’ also).

Misc. Business Tools

Accepting credit card payments – There are many credit card processors that will charge you hundreds of dollars per month/year in order to use their services but why spend all of this money when you can find places online that will handle it all for you and are trusted around the world? Paypal, Google Checkout  are  solutions that are used every day by 99% of the people who make purchases online with credit cards. Take a minute and check them out if you haven’t already, they could save you a bundle in administrative costs.

Online Calendars – Follow this simple link in order to track what you are supposed to do from anywhere in the world: One of the best (if not THE best) calendar services online, google calendar lets you create multiple calendars depending on the business or specific groups of tasks and also will send you email updates for tasks needing done (so this could also double as a project management tool as well).

Instant Messenger Management – Having a way for clients and potential clients to chat with you live online is crucial to some businesses, but having 10 different instant messenger clients open at once can be a huge load on your computers speed as well as a huge headache to manage all of the open windows.

So there you have it, twenty ways to get your business on the right path for (almost) free. Again, if you’ve got a way to do this that is not listed above, don’t hesitate to share your knowledge with the rest of us in the comment section below.

Bootstrapped Budgeting: 20 ways to get ahead for (almost) free

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