Starting a Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

When you are just beginning as a virtual assistant or an online service provider, one of the biggest “stoppers” is the money. You think that running your own business means you will have low overhead. You think the computer you currently have can be “tuned up” without expense to manage a full business load. You think the software you have will probably be enough. You are probably wrong.

However, there are a number of online resources, shareware and open source solutions which can make starting your business less expensive — and give you the opportunity to start providing services before investing hundreds of dollars in software considerations. And, some of the options continue to be viable long after you have hit the “big time” and are a career service provider. For instance…

  • FileZilla – an open source FTP client that makes uploading and downloading those huge files so much easier. It’s a slim little program that doesn’t “bloat” your system (and it’s a program I still install on every one of my machines!)
  • OpenOffice – this open source software package makes it easy to get rolling without the investment of hundreds of dollars on Microsoft (or similar) products. It’s free. It’s good. It’s constantly improving and it’s compatible with most well-known and often used program formats. It has been widely adopted by government offices, educational organizations and is finding fans in teh corporate world. The main “hole” I see in this suite is a desktop publishing alternative.
  • Google Mail – Get a good, free email account with lots of storage. You can set this to be your default email account (so it automatically opens whenever you hit an email link), and, you can brand it with your business name — if your name is not already taken. (While you are at it, you may want to look into using Google Calendar and Google Notebook and Google Docs.)
  • GoDaddy Domains – Not a freebie, but it is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to brand your business from the beginning.

There are some other things you may want to consider as you get started to save you money and get you online quicker. For instance, you may want to consider launching a blog before you launch a full-featured website. Blogs are easier to set up and get you noticed in the search engines quicker than a traditional website. They are also extremely affordable.

A business blogsite may not be the solution you want long-term, but it may be exactly what you need when you are starting out. (Even if you get a full-fledged site later, keep a blog going to help boost your business). Note: Do be sure to use your own URL.

As you get started, be sure you have a basic idea of your business goal. You may not want to have a formal business plan, but you should at least have a detailed outline to use as a blueprint. Without this, you will spend much of your time revisiting decisions you have already made and chasing inevitable tangents.

Starting a business opens up a whole new world — and effective pre-launch planning, efficient organization, watching the cost considerations will help ensure your success.

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