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6 Ideas To Save On Start-up Costs

By Edited Apr 25, 2016 2 3
Credit: thanks to Nicki Mannix. On CC BY 2.0.

So you have decided to finally go-out alone. Scared? You should be! This is where it gets tough. Much tougher than when you could hide behind your computer all week. This is where you need to go into offices packed with successful business people, sell yourself and win. Good luck you’re gonna need it! Only kidding…

Well half kidding. These are some of the fears which were going through my head before I started out. They weren’t unjust either. One thing you could say is that it doesn’t pay to have a negative outlook on the above. Successful people as a rule are not out there to roast you alive, critique every mistake you make and then fire you like Alan Sugar (or Donald Trump depending on where you’re from).

Most successful people have got that way because they want to work with you and leverage your skills. However one thing you will need to master all by yourself is getting your house in order financially. Most people start-up on a shoe string. I wasted a fair chunk of change myself when I started out.

So here’s a few tips which I wish I’d had before starting out.

Buy Used

Buy everything used and really I mean everything. Obvious items that everyone knows about like cars are a great example. They can lose 5k when bought new in their first week on resale value. Use this as an example to motivate you with everything else, as it will add up!

From coffee machines, computer equipment, fridges, dishwashers, tables and chairs there exists now a plethora of websites where you can go to pick up used items in great condition. Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist, The Gumtree.

Keep Overheads Low

A big take-out I took from growing a business was to be careful as they can scale very quickly. This is obvious when you start out because you are beginning from zero. Any increase in zero is huge. Keep a hold on overhead costs from the outset.

Your rent is a good example. Work from home for as long as you can afford.

Contract Labour Only As You Need It

Use your contacts and outsource where appropriate. You have a skill and in using it you are creating value to your clients and therefore for your business. When you start to do other peoples work you lose your edge.

If you have contacts in other fields use them when you can but manage and minimize their hours. Pull in favours when you can. Use people who are in a similar start-out place as yourself. Everyone needs favours when starting out. Do favours for others and don't be afraid to call them in when you need to.

Take Advantage Of Global Talent

A little like the point above where you can outsource the areas where you’re not the specialist. You can also outsource the areas where you are. That’s right you can do nothing! This starting a business malarkey is sounding better by the minute.

Well in truth I guess you can outsource your own work although you will have to manage very well who you outsource your work to. For me personally the reason I began my business was to design and create the best buildings and interiors I possibly could.

So one way to take advantage of the global marketplace for yourself is to outsource the more dull, simple and repetitive tasks, once you have them mastered.

With the below resources you can outsource Architectural drafting, 3d modelling, photoshop work, Graphic design, Web Design… the list goes on and on.

Nowadays there are so many places where you can take advantage of the global workforce by outsourcing these repetitive tasks, it can be an enormous time saver although it also has its pitfalls. As with whenever you ask somebody else to work for you, they need to be well managed for quality and time. For these points you need to be very clear from the outset.

Resources (elance, odesk, freelancer).

Use Open Source Software

Don’t pay for all of the premium software packages as there are free open source versions which have 90% of the functionality. There are so many examples now, some of which are now surpassing the originals like in sketchups case.

I found myself a couple of years ago on a jobsite in Miami with a new laptop. I realized that I hadn’t installed AutoCad before I left. I was stuck and needed to open and read a dwg file to do some simple check dimensions. I downloaded draftsight very quickly and easily in my hotel in around 10 minutes. With its similar user interface to AutoCad (visually I would say a couple of years lag in the design) I was snapping away getting everything I needed. I even shot off a few printouts at the hotel to take to site with me.

There are heaps of examples like Sketchup (3d modeler), Kerkythea (3d renderer), Gimp (photo editor) or Inkscape (vector based graphics package like illustrator) that you can use for free!


When I first started out I was an awful negotiator. Even for my first project my future client put me on the spot by asking how much I was going to charge for a small shop renovation. He had already softened me up by practically suggesting that he probably wouldn’t work with a designer at all and would try and work directly with a shopfitter.

Normally I would have started out at about 7-8k for a project such as this. However as I badly wanted my first job I went in at 5k. A few minutes later I had agreed to work for 3.5k and had had to fight for it!

If you have any points that you could add I would love to hear about them.



May 11, 2015 2:13pm
Nice article. I'd add that even though you can save money by working from home, you need to continue to make an effort to stay in touch with people. Work hubs are a good way of doing that. There are more hubs opening all the time and they can be relatively inexpensive to use.
May 11, 2015 5:03pm
I'm a little biased, my field being graphic design, but I think it's always good to buy with local service providers. Working with local talent like contractors, IT, accounting and yes, graphic designers, can bring more referrals to your business. Everyone wants to see the local businesses flourish, and I've learned word of mouth is the best method to get your next client.

Some of my clients have used the five dollar logo web sites, and they come to me after the fact when they learn of the need for something that will work across platforms, and is unique enough to copyright.

I love the idea of Haggling, when working with people that charge by the hour, they may have some need your new business can address
Jun 15, 2015 3:23am
Outsourcing is a great way of reducing costs, especially if it's something that someone else can do more cost effectively. I've also had decent results with open source software; Scribus may not be quite as flexible as Adobe InDesign, but it's also free, and InDesign is now subscription based (unless you can get an old version).
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