Whether a start-up has plenty of funding or it's running on a shoestring, keeping costs as low as possible - which often means getting the best value for money, rather than going for the cheapest short-term option - can make the difference between sink or swim. These days, many business services can be found online, and often on a pay monthly or PAYG basis, which gives a greater flexibility and less investment up front. The extent of available services is surprising, with virtually everything from accountancy to entire callcentres (made possible by online dialer and networked telephony) available over the web.
The cost of premises can be high, so if you can get business rolling without them, so much the better. Obviously this depends on your business type - trying to entertain new clients in your living room would probably compromise your chance of success if you're trying to set up an insurance business.
Avoid falling for sales pitch that encourages you to buy into serviced office space you don't need; empty desks use up funds you could be spending on freelancers who can work on your project from home, and buying call-centre hardware when you can rent the facilities online - and stop renting them whenever you need to - is an unnecessary commitment.
Many of the best online applications and hosted software offer a month's free trial, and scalable pricing policies - really good for making sure that the solution is right before committing to it. Pricing bands that start low for small-scale use let individuals and small businesses get what they need without spending large amounts of money, while the capacity for larger operations is available as the company grows.
Hire freelancers and contract workers
As a business grows, it's good to establish long-term staff with a vested interest in helping the company thrive, but at start-up level freelancers and contractors offer flexible affordability without committing to a long-term salary, especially when it comes to things the business might not need permanent staff for, like web design, copywriting, SEO and graphics. There are freelancer recruitment sites springing up all the time, and many entrepreneurs hire by requesting work samples and looking at portfolios, but the best way to find a freelancer is still word of mouth - this is a great reason to network with other entrepreneurs, even if you don't expect to work with them directly.
Whether you need to rent space or you can set up a business from your spare room, try to avoid being too extravagant when you furnish it. This doesn't mean going for the cheapest option, which may well be false economy, and harvesting someone's discarded office chairs from a skip probably won't make for the best aesthetic. Either might even result in staff sickness due to back problems!
But second-hand office furniture is widely available and often good quality, having been sold during business closure proceedings before anyone had the chance to wear it out - just use common sense and check what you're buying thoroughly before you pay up. Likewise a few "vintage" pieces, repainted and reupholstered, can give reception areas and private offices a far classier appearance than Identikit new furniture that might be seen anywhere.