In an increasingly competitive business arena, one of the major challenges facing small business owners is how to effectively manage operating costs. While certain expenditures remain fixed, many variable costs, such as those incurred in running a home office, are often overlooked. By implementing these seven proven ways to reduce home office costs, small business owners can free up extra funds and put them to more effective use.
1. Be aware of business climates: Almost anywhere you live your home and home office will be subject to seasonal climate changes that can lead to extra costs in terms of heating and air conditioning. If you are spending a goodly amount of time in your home office and are not meeting face-to-face with clients, you should set the thermostat on savings mode and dress according to the climate, i.e. layering clothes and wearing sweaters in the winter months and lighter loose fitting clothes in the summer. If you face extremes in either winter or summer consider a space heater or window AC unit to control the climate in your office rather than the entire house.
2. Choose a dedicated “get-it-done” day: As a natural result of running your business from home there will be times when you need to leave your office to run business related errands. Being that running errands on a daily basis can cut into your productivity, you’ll save time and money by designating one day of the week errand day. To make the day more productive you’ll want to keep a running to-do list, prioritizing your errands and creating the most efficient route to save on time and gas money.
3. Shop smart for office supplies: While stocking up on supplies ahead at the big box store might seem to be the most cost-effective way to shop, patronizing office supply stores such as Staples and Home Depot can give you extra advantages. For one thing, they offer rewards cards and programs which can give you additional savings through rebates, coupons and special notification for upcoming sales. An added benefit is that these stores are now offering small credit lines to small businesses which can improve cash flow and help you establish business credit which could come in handy down the road.
4. Print less: To print or not to print. With a touch of a button any document can be delivered almost instantly at your fingertips, in black and white or full color. But the question is, does that document really need to be printed on a page of paper, which is no longer cheap, to do the job? If the document in question is just for research, when you’re done with it flip it over and print on the flip side and you’ll have cut printing costs by ½. Even when it seems like printing is the only option, resist the urge and try to make the document work anyway. This habit alone can save you big time on toner and paper. Should you need to send documents to clients for approval or signatures, sending them electronically eliminates both postage and faxing costs, which can really mount up quickly.
5. Make your own scratch pads: While scraps of paper can make for some awesome paper airplanes, they also make excellent scratch pads. Just cut them into quarters and you’ve created the poor man’s Post-It for leaving notes or messages. Staple a stack of these together or fasten them with reusable paper clips and you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save.
6. Green your office: Another money saving strategy is to buy energy saving items and equipment. If you find yourself performing multiple tasks such as scanning documents, making copies and sending faxes, consider buying an all-in-one machine as they are usually less expensive, take up less space and perform needed tasks as well if not better than their stand-alone counterparts. You can also save money by using recycled ink and toner cartridges. Also, If you are using a landline in your home office you can save money by using your cell phone for making and receiving business calls. You can save even more by using Skype or a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone service to make local, long distance or even international calls. Be sure to shop these services as they can vary in price and quality.
7. Go virtual: At some point as your business grows you may need extra help to service your client base or perform specialized tasks that are beyond your abilities. Hiring virtual assistants is an approach you should seriously consider. Being that you can hire help on an as needed basis and, due to the current job shortage, you will be able to find qualified people to assist you at very reasonable rates. If you have a legal matter, such as the need for legal contractual agreements or other specialized documents, consider hiring a virtual lawyer on a job by job basis, as opposed to incurring the expense of keeping a traditional brick and mortar lawyer on retainer.