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Last month we offered bootstrapping founders a short index of cost-optimization sites to help cut expenses for things like health insurance, web hosting, wireless plans and electric bills.
Many of you wrote in to offer your own recommendations, so this week we’re expanding the list with seven additional resources to help you cut costs associated with project management, conferencing, financial planning and accounting — plus, an entire search engine devoted to sourcing free applications for just about everything else, including: data backup, CRM, product price tracking, professional video editing and more.
As always, if you’ve discovered additional tools for cutting startups’ commodity costs, please share them in the comments section.
1. Financial Modeling
Even if you never plan to raise professional money, you need to know how to build and read financial and accounting models in order to run your business effectively — especially during a recession. FinancialModelingGuide.com offers free tutorials and Excel spreadsheets (available for download once you register) that you can use to round out the capital-investment and cash-flow models in your business plan and help you with ongoing operations accounting. You’ll likely find the template for the enterprise software company useful. The site claims an active community of some 4,000 finance professionals, entrepreneurs, and academics who can give you quick and unbiased feedback.
Also take the time to listen to this lecture, by Prof. Aswath Damodaran of New York University’s Stern School of Business, in which he explains the how to easily assess the beta risk (or market correlation, a.k.a. recession exposure) of your business. (Ever wonder what tobacco companies and Twitter have in common? A low beta!) Other valuation resources are here.
2. Web Hosting (Addenda)
Slicehost.com is a reader-recommended site for web hosting and applications development. It includes a community for seasoned developers to share their tips and war stories and a very long list of free tutorials for building e-books working in MySQL, Ubuntu, Debian, Capistrano, etc. (Reviews of the tutorials are positive.)
WebhostNinja.com is another reader-recommended site that aggregates hosting vendors so you price-compare and buy wisely. We especially like this site for its index of coupons for further discounts and this handy list of articles, such as “The 3 key numbers when buying Web Hosting.”
3. Credit Assistance
Interactive media and online advertising firm MediaTrust is behind SmarterChoices.com, which aims to help consumers and startup founders (some of whom are also, we presume, MediaTrust’s clients) with certain finance and credit pressures. The site already provides auto loans, cash advances and will help you repair your poor credit. Apparently health insurance, debt consolidation and auto refinance are on the way. The sites seem a bit predatory at first, but MediaTrust is an established company, and heck, it’s an ugly truth that such services will be needed in tough times.
4. Conference calls
Freeconferencecall.com offers reliable and free conference calls under a variety of plans, including one you can use for a mini-conference, called Simple Event, in which up to 96 organizers and panelists can conduct a presentation for up to 1,000 passive listeners. One caveat: we hear this service isn’t as effective for some VoIP users.
5. Task Management
Priacta.com offers a list of 108 free or low-cost software tools designed for various kinds of task management. They’re intended to save you time and, therefore, money. The site trades on author David Allen’s best-selling book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. If this doctrine appeals to you, consider the coaching pages — but know that Priacta’s Totally Relaxed Organization (or TROG) toolbar, for which the site serves as a lead-generator, is only free during trial. If you like how it manages your calendar, you’ll have to pay to keep it.
6. Free Apps for Everything!
The SearchFreeApps.com engine was built by our friend and early Found|READ contributor Bruce Judson, of the Yale School of Management, expressly to help bootstrapping startup founders access free (or mostly free) resources for building and running their companies. Bruce personally vets every application entered into his database (we don’t know where he finds the time), which now includes applications for things as basic as business cards, virus protection, data storage, legal forms and CRM, as well as business-enhancing applications for things like video editing, foreign language instruction, mind mapping. Bruce adds new applications daily.
Also consider Bruce’s book: Go It Alone!: The Secret to Building a Successful Business All On Your Own.
7. Spending Priorities
We’ve linked to The Calacanis Cost-Cutting Hacks post before, but we include it again for his very useful instructions on how to prioritize your startup spending (e.g., why you should pay for expensive chairs, but not a phone system). He also offers tips on how to minimize some of the latent but recurring “costs” that drain your day-to-day operating efficiency (e.g. the hours your workers spend each month standing in line at Starbucks). But we think Jason’s most important cost-cutting tip is No. 15:
“Go to each of your vendors every 6-9 months and ask for 10-30% off. If half of them say yes you’ll save 5-15% on fixed costs. People will give you a discount if they think they are going to lose the business.”
We suggest you print out this advice and frame it on your wall.