FRUGAL FRIDAY: How Bartering Can Help Your Business

Have you ever thought about how you can use bartering to help your business? Barter has a great value for businesses if you take full advantage of the opportunities provided you. And best of all, it’s not overly complicated; you just need a sound understanding of value to become a master barterer.

Determine Your Leverage Position
The first step in becoming an expert at barter is to determine your barter leverage. You need to ensure that there is a market for the products or services that your business provides, which is something you should have been thinking about from the very start, of course. With a market for what you can provide, you’ll be able to barter profitably.

After this, then think about all the things you want or need for your business. Maybe you need technology supplies, office equipment, furniture—whatever it is that your business needs and other businesses in your area can provide.

Bartering for Goods and Services
How does this work? Think about it: the products you make and the services you provide cost less than their retail price. The same is true for other businesses. Retailers have lavish markups for their products, and even when their prices are brought down due to negotiations or promotional pricing, they’re still making a respectable profit on their products. It might not be the full markup of 100 to 300 percent, but it can still easily be between 30 and 50 percent.

When you barter with a retailer, you should put forward a direct exchange of your product for theirs. Offer an equal dollar amount of your goods or services, which they need, in exchange for their goods or services, which you need. Emphasize that you’re willing to make the trade at full retail value, which is a very effective way of getting other businesses interested in bartering with you. When you barter at full retail price, it’s a way for the other business to make their full markup, and all the while you still save money because you’re likewise trading your product at a markup.

As long as the other party has a use for your product, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested, even if it’s not something they need right away. It can always be put aside for future use.

The Advantages of Bartering
Following these simple steps can win your business huge rewards. Because you’re trading at retail price instead of the cost of actually creating your products, you can save as much as 80 percent on the items you barter for instead of purchasing. Moreover, it allows you to not worry about cash at all. You are able to get things you need with money you’ve already spent.

The preceding article was provided by the staff writers at GoSmallBiz.com. For membership information, click here. For a benefits overview, watch this brief video.

Mobile Broadband on a Budget

Clear Stick

I’m always on the market for some gadget, service or resource that is going to save me money, especially when it comes to my business. When I find one, I’m quick to shout its praises from the nearest rooftop. Well, I’m back on the roof today with something that has made a significant impact on the way I do business: mobile broadband service from CLEAR.

I came across this fabulous service a few months ago, and I was instantly intrigued by the following facts (most of which set it apart from the competition):

  1. There is no credit check.
  2. There is no contract.
  3. There are no surprise fees, taxes and surcharges lurking in my bill each month.
  4. I have unlimited data usage (no overages).
  5. I have crazy fast internet access practically anywhere.

Since I am rather mobile in my daily work, I was often frustrated with always being limited to the library, coffee shops and restaurants that offer free wi-fi. Now I carry my internet connection with me wherever I go – and I didn’t have to sign my life away or pay out the schnoz for it.

The stick cost me $49 at Best Buy, and the service is $49 per month (plus sales tax). They also have a $99 mobile hotspot that can provide internet access for up to 8 devices – for the same $49 per month.

I have received excellent customer service from both Clear and Best Buy, and I could not be happier with the device and my monthly service. If I decide I don’t need the service one month, I don’t pay. Then I  can pick it back up the next month. No penalties. No questions asked.

This is one of the best (and most frugal) decisions I have made for my business.

If you happen to be in the Cedar Park area, stop in at the Best Buy store at Lakeline and ask for Samantha. She provided me with over-the-top customer service, and so did Ryan (the CLEAR rep). Tell ‘em I sent you.

Next Week’s FRUGAL FRIDAY topic: Saving Money in the Cloud

How VOIP Works for My Business – And Saves Me Money

magicjack

I often talk with business owners and local non-profits who are concerned about the cost of adding a business phone line. When you are just starting out, every penny counts, and you want the biggest return on your investment possible. If you don’t have a huge call volume and don’t really have the need for a multi-line phone system, then VOIP might be the solution for you.

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) has been around for a while now, and while it is typically marketed as a home phone solution, I have found that it works perfectly for my home-based business. There are a variety of providers to choose from. I use MagicJack (and have been using it for years).

My initial investment was $19.95 for the device, which has a USB stick on one end that plugs into my computer (desktop or laptop) and a standard phone jack on the other end (into which I can plug any regular land-line phone). My choice was an inexpensive cordless model that gives me freedom to roam around the house and is small enough to pack up and take with me if I feel so inclined.

I pay an annual fee of $19.95 for the service. Period. Long distance is included. No hidden fees or random taxes. $19.95 and I don’t have to think about my phone bill for a year. Directory assistance, call waiting, caller ID, and voice mail are all included.

As long as you have an internet connection, you have phone service. If you turn your computer off or disconnect from the internet, the service does disconnect (which can actually be a good thing if you work from home; it helps me disconnect during non-working hours if I don’t hear the business line ringing). MagicJack does now have a newer model that plugs directly into your modem, so it is on all the time, regardless of whether your computer is on or not.

Here are some of my favorite features:

MP3 Voice Mail
If I miss a call, the voice mail is saved as an MP3 and emailed to me. This not only alerts me immediately (email on my mobile phone) that I have received a message, but I am able to save my voice mails on my computer and even forward them to associates as needed. If the MagicJack is unplugged or otherwise not in use, voice mail automatically takes over.

Phone Number Transfer
When I moved from Arkansas to Texas, I was able to change my phone number to a local number for free. I could have kept the same number, but I wanted my customers, friends and family to be able to reach me via a local number. Switching the number was easy and cost me nothing (my favorite combination).

Call-Forwarding from Anywhere
If I am away from the office unexpectedly longer than I planned to be, I can log into my account from anywhere and forward the phone to my cell or any other phone number. I don’t have to have the land-line phone in hand to initiate call-forwarding. The truth is, much of the time, my MagicJack and the land-line phone are in a cabinet and the phone is forwarded to my cell.

VOIP phone service is not ideal for all small businesses. But for many of us, it’s all we really need; and why spend money we don’t have to?

Believe it or not, this is not a paid endorsement for MagicJack. It’s just my experience as a very satisfied customer for several years. There may come a point in my business when I need more than this awesome little device can offer, but until then I’ll just keep enjoying my little money-saver. What I will have spent on the device and the annual service will still be less than what I could have spent for a single month of phone service doing it old-school. No regrets.

One thing to keep in mind – this device works best plugged directly a USB port on your computer. Using a USB hub is not advised and can affect the quality of service.

Other than that, my MajicJack rocks – and save me some serious coinage!