There is no doubt that starting a new business is hard. However, the range of new products and services on offer means it is getting cheaper and easier to get up and running.
Here are some examples of what many new businesses are using.
Shared office space
More and more shared office space has been opening up across the capital cities, allowing new businesses to get desks for a fraction of the price of a traditional office. Often they are month-by-month and do not need you to commit to long-term leases.
There is a lot of press around the facilities provided by various incubators and accelerators; however, there are plenty of shared office spaces elsewhere. While rates can be as low as $400 per month, in Sydney it is more commonly in the $600 to $700 per month range if you want to be near the city.
Voice over IP
Essential to the operations of many businesses is a regular phone number. In the past the cost of getting a new number would run to the hundreds of dollars, and then ongoing monthly costs for a basic service would easily start at $30-$50 per month.
And that’s before adding basic functions for voice greetings, menus to direct callers to the right place, call queues or even just voicemail. These PABX features used to require small business phone systems to be purchased and physically installed.
However, this can all be provided over the internet using voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, which are quick to sign up to online and work on your computer or a cheap IP phone from a local electronics shop. They cost a fraction of the price of a physical system and generally do not have setup fees. They work over your internet connection, so there is no need to wait around for the technician to not show up.
A standalone phone number with Internode’s NodePhone service costs $5 per month, and services such as Edgetel offer PABX functions that allow you to automatically answer a call during business hours with a greeting and a “press 1 for support” type menu system. You can also divert calls to different numbers, at different times of the day, ring one number or handset first before calling others, or place callers in a queue. Everything you need to make you sound like a big company, for as little as $20 per month.
Online business applications
Gone are the days when to have your own email address [email protected] would mean buying your own server, connecting it to the internet and spending thousands getting things configured. The same goes for sophisticated systems such as customer relationship management or building an online shopping website.
The recent advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) means business can now access these powerful applications online and pay for them by the month (often after a free trial). There are a huge range of applications in a broad range of categories. Some common examples include:
- Office style productivity, such as Google Apps, Office 365
- Customer relationship management (CRM), such as Zoho, Highrise, Salesforce
- Accounting (invoicing, payroll, etc) such as Xerox
- Websites and online shopping, such as Bigcommerce, Wix, Squarespace
- Project management such as Jira OnDemand, Pivotal tracker, Basecamp, Trello
- Source code management such as Github and Bitbucket
Offshore software developers
For new online businesses, or those who have a significant online component, the cost of software development is usually by far the largest expense. Offshore software developers are an effective way to cut down that cost.
All the software development can be moved offshore, or a blended on-shore/offshore team can be used to help maintain control and quality while still greatly reducing the price. Hiring an independent resource overseas is easy to do through myriad contract hire websites such as Freelancer and oDesk. There are also businesses such as SoftwareSeni that complement the offshore resources with Australian-based operations to provide an additional level of technical oversight and quality.
In the old days, servers had to be bought and installed, and system administrators had to set them up and keep them going. Now there are a range of cloud-based hosting services like Amazon Web Services where you pay for what you use and you can increase and decrease capacity quickly.
Some of the more sophisticated ones, such as Heroku and AppFog, also provide online setup and automation which empowers developers to manage the hosting, removing the need for a system administrator.
Taking advantage of these “enabling” products and services will give you the ability to put your focus on your core business idea, as well as keep your cost base competitive with your peers both within Australia and abroad.
Paul Russell is the managing director of SoftwareSeni, a Sydney-based startup specialising in near-shore software development seat outsourcing.