You might think that starting your own home-based business is a guaranteed money-maker…
After all, you’re keeping your costs low, you’re making smart decisions, and you’re disciplined about tracking your time.
But here’s the reality:
Income is often irregular which means cash-flow can be tight.
Sometimes we get too busy keeping the business afloat to realize we’re missing opportunities to correct the bottom line. So yes, small-business owners often struggle with their finances.
The good news?
We can do something about it.
Be it a full-time gig or a side hustle, here are a few tips to help cut business costs when working from home.
Save on software
If you believe every pop-up warning you a certain piece of software is about to expire – or needs to be upgraded – you could easily shell out thousands of dollars for software.
But did you know that a lot of the programs you need are actually available for free?
1. Keep it in the cloud
Most people may think that they NEED to buy Microsoft Word and Excel, but there are free versions – available through any Gmail account – that are virtually identical.
You have unlimited access to:
- Google Docs (“Word”),
- Google Sheets (“Excel”), and
- Google Slides (“PowerPoint”).
These free versions allow you to open, edit and save traditional .doc, .docx, .xls and .ptt files.
The best part is that all of your files are saved in your Google Drive, so you can access them anywhere – from any device – as long as you log into your Gmail account.
2. Back-up for free
If you’re paying for fancy backup software that runs nightly, you might not have to any longer.
If you have enough storage on your Google Drive, you can download a syncer that keeps your files safely in the cloud.
By keeping your work there, you can rest easy knowing it doesn’t matter if your home office computer crashes and loses all its files.
3. Invoice on the cheap
Certain cloud bookkeeping systems, like FreshBooks, offer free trials so you can see what it’s like to track your time, log your expenses, and create/send your invoices with them.
If you decide you like the services, FreshBooks offers a “Lite” account for $15/month that lets you have five active clients.
(Pssst! You can get around the five-client limit by deleting one-time clients and adding new ones as needed.)
Run a no-frills home-office
Even when you’re working from home, it’s hard not to want to buy EVERYTHING when you’re in an office-supply store…
Colour-coded folders, file boxes, fancy pens, highlighters, thick creamy stationery – it all seems so essential, right?
4. Streamline your systems
A computer might be one of your biggest expenses, but keep in mind that not everyone needs a top-of-the-line machine.
Some things to consider:
- Do you really need a desktop computer AND a laptop?
- What about just having a laptop, and maybe purchasing a monitor to connect to when you’re in the home office?
- If you’re content with working “in the cloud” and don’t need to run any special software, what about buying a Linux-powered Chromebook? You could have significant savings, compared to a traditional laptop. (Plus it’s lightweight for toting around.)
5. Reduce tech expenses
Do you really need that printer/scanner/fax combo?
Your first instinct is probably that you do, but think about it for a second. Not only do you have the cost of the machine, but you’ll also pay regularly for fresh ink or toner.
Scanning apps are free for smartphones and you’ll often get the same results. Faxing is almost obsolete, but online services like HelloFax let you send them – and receive them – on your computer.
As for the “printer” part of that monstrous machine?
If you really don’t print very often, it’s much cheaper to outsource the job to your local office supply store. Upload your files to Staples and you’ll get free shipping on orders over $45 (or you pick orders up the same day, in most cases) as well as special pricing.
Consult the experts
When it comes to your business, you may want to do it all…
But even the savviest business-owner benefits from good advice – especially when it comes to saving money.
6. Consult with a tax accountant
Whether you’ve been self-employed for a while or you’re brand-new to the game, tax rules are always changing.
Sit down with a tax accountant to find out these basics:
They can also help you apply for a business number, if needed.
Likely you’ll have more questions, so keep in mind that many professionals offer their first hour free. Make sure you ask about it!
7. Organize your finances
If you haven’t met with a small business financial advisor recently, call and make an appointment.
Couple of things to consider:
- Your business should have its own business account for payments and expenses.
- It’s also a good idea to have a separate account where you put aside money for taxes – and HST, if you collect it.
Keeping your business’s finances on track means you’ll be far less likely to be crying at tax-time.
Related: 5 Ways Families Can Get a Tax Break
If you have a home-based side hustle or full-time gig, what are some of your tips to keep your expenses low?