You want to become an entrepreneur, but you don't have buckets of cash lying around for startup costs.
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And maybe you haven't had any luck trying to convince lenders or investors to give you some seed money for your new enterprise. Or perhaps you just don't want to take on thousands of dollars of debt before you open your doors for business.
Good news: You may not have to rely on outside funding anymore.
In the 21st century, there are numerous services and resources which cater to the small business owner, startup creator, or individual with an idea and a dream. In fact, if you utilize all of the resources listed below, you can launch your business with just $1,000 or less in your bank account for the first year. And that figure could be lower if you generate any sales during that time.
Here are some ways to acquire or outsource some of the necessary business functions which can often balloon into large startup costs.
The need: Telephone systems
The solution: Google Voice
The cost: Free (though long distance calls are 2 cents per minute)
It's perfect for entrepreneurs who need to maintain a business presence but don't want to hire a receptionist or install an expensive telecom system. Google Voice not only supplies you with a local number, but lets you forward it to as many cell phones and landlines as you want. Also, incoming calls can be recorded and heard on the web at your convenience, and the system even transcribes voicemails so they can be viewed as email or texts.
The need: Fax machine/service
The solution: eFax
The cost: $16.95 per month
Forget about installing a costly fax line or purchasing another piece of office equipment. eFax supplies you with a local fax number and up to 130 pages of incoming faxes monthly. These faxes are sent as email attachments electronically – so you don't have to worry about your fax machine breaking down.
The need: Credit card processing
The solution: Square
The cost: $1 plus 2.9% of each transaction
You want to make it easy for your customers to pay, but accepting credit cards means setting up a merchant services account and shelling out hundreds of dollars for equipment and network access. Not anymore: Square, a startup by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, can provide you with a device that accepts credit card payments. All you do is plug the "square" into the headphone jack of your iPhone or iPod, and the photo verification, email receipts, and onscreen signature processing are all completed in the palm of your hand.
The need: Accounting
The solution: Freshbooks
The cost: $19 per month
Freshbooks is an online invoice, expense, and tracking service which can fully automate your accounting process for up to 25 clients. Its simple web interface lets you send invoices and other documents (which contain your company's logo) to your clients.
The need: Office space
The solution: Basecamp
The cost: $24 per month
Chances are that you don't need walls, doors, and a break room during your initial months as an entrepreneur. But you do need a home base where your employees, contractors, or vendors can meet and collaborate on projects. That "place" can actually be virtual with Basecamp, an online project management application. The system lets you and your workgroup chat, assign tasks, edit documents, build presentations, and track the progress of up to 15 projects at a time. All you need is a computer and a Wi-Fi signal.
The need: Incorporation
The solution: LegalZoom
The cost: $149
You know you need to incorporate, but don't want to spend hundreds of dollars for an attorney to do it for you. So LegalZoom can let you create an LLC or trademark your company's name. The cost includes a customized operating arrangement and all applicable filing fees.
Now you can start your business inexpensively and see if your idea takes off. As you start to see cashflow, you can upgrade your office services to more traditional functions as revenue permits. Whatever you do, don't let a dearth of funding kill your entrepreneurial dreams.