One of the most common questions people ask me is:
“I’m trying to grow a photography business on a very small shoestring budget. What should I do?”
As a small business owner, “shoestring” automatically becomes a word commonly used in your vocabulary. Times are tight and when you have a very limited budget, you attempt to do whatever you can at the lowest cost possible.
With a photography business, it takes more than a camera and a computer to run it. You need many different things to make it both functional and profitable. So if “fast” “easy” and “cheap” are now permanently ingrained in your vocabulary, take a look at some of these tools and tricks for running a business on a budget. You may find some new ideas that are perfect for you to move forward with this year.
A virtual phone center to run your business from anywhere in the world. Google Voice offers a wide array of services. Start by choosing your area code, then use the system to help you with everything from budgeting your time by setting up “do not call” hours, to sending multiple SMS messages at a time. Read my review to learn even more.
Gliffy is an easy to use processing system for graphics, diagrams and flow carts. With easy to use formatting, you can create dynamic presentations for your website or presentations.
Animoto offers an easy way to produce your images into an elegant slide presentation, perfect for your website or for presentation to your clients and prospects. Animoto offers a free version to give it a try. Once you are sold on the idea, you can have your own branded player for one low cost. You’ll quickly see how this will be a necessity for your business.
Smartsheet or Basecamp
Do you have virtual employees or contractors? Maybe a retoucher in another part of town, or a processor and editor in another state? Smartsheet and Basecamp both offer a great way of keeping track of everything in one convenient place. We even use it as a husband/wife team, as it helps us manage projects we are working on together – without having to add the “nag” factor of “did you do that yet?” We simply login and see the status.
Want something done for cheap? If you have $5, you can hire someone on Fiverr to do just about anything. They’ll research your target market, or look up and deliver resources for your next project. Search through their current open projects and you’ll quickly come up with a variety of ideas you can pay $5 to have someone else perform.
If you already live the virtual lifestyle, meeting your clients in coffee shops and cafes, why not make taking credit cards even easier? Square is an easy way to turn your smart phone into a credit card processor, with one simple rate and the ability to take all major credit cards.
I’ve used this system for years. They have a basic, free option to start with, then grow from there. You can survey your customers, prospects, employees – whenever you want to collect data, you can quickly put together a SurveyMonkey survey to find out the answers.
I’ve used several different accounting programs over the years and have loved the idea of keeping my accounting online as opposed to on my hard drive. Its nice being able to connect up anywhere you have Internet access. What I don’t like is paying money year after year for a simple system – I don’t need the bells and whistles with payroll functions and large corporate options. When I found Wave, I was hooked. And the best part – its free!
When you are ready to take your business to the next level, combine FreshBooks with Wave and you’ll have a dynamic workflow system. FreshBooks adds many things on to the Wave platform, connects seamlessly with it, and provides you with upgraded tools, like helping you with the tax process and organizing your expenses.
Hosting your blog/website yourself? While its easy to focus on going with the “big” name hosting companies that offer cheap hosting, remember this is your business. Can people easily pull your site up without having to worry about load time? Are they reliable or do you share a server with hundreds of questionable sites that may bring your site down at any minute? We’ve used HostGator for years and find them to be reliable and great at customer service too.