Start-Up Savings:

10 ways entrepreneurs can save money through broadband Internet

Entrepreneurs are the heart of the American economy.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, young firms were responsible for nearly all the net job creation in the United States between 1980 and 2005. Kauffman estimates that new firms create approximately three million jobs each year, and have created 40 million new jobs since 1980. Encouraging and enabling entrepreneurs has been an essential element of America’s global technology leadership and economic exceptionalism.

One of the most powerful resources strengthening America’s entrepreneurs and creating opportunities for new businesses is broadband Internet. Access to broadband gives entrepreneurs innovative tools, new networks and business opportunities, and it also lowers the cost of starting a business.

The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) and Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) created the “Start Up Savings” report to show how broadband is lowering the cost and barriers to entry for starting a new business. The report looks at the top 10 ways broadband creates significant savings for a solo-entrepreneur – not only during the start up phase but also in yearly savings.

According to IIA and SBE Council calculations, these start up savings amount to $16,550.52 for the new entrepreneur. Savings may also be greater for businesses that tap into broadband for a host of other needs not covered in the study, including purchasing equipment and furniture, utilizing cloud services, or marketing products and services, for example.

Be a Bean Counter

Save money with online accountant services

  • Traditional Accounting and Bookeeping $2,101
  • Online Services and Software $267.30
  • Potential Annual Savings $1,833.70
  • Potential Percent Savings 87.30%

For a start up firm, accounting costs – including basic bookkeeping and tax preparation – can cost plenty. Broadband access makes it far less costly for entrepreneurs to manage their own books through innovative software offerings.

According to Intuit Rates Survey 2011, the national average cost for an accountant/general bookkeeper was $68 per hour. At just two hours per month, that's an annual cost of $1,632.

For good measure, according to the National Society of Accountants, average 2012 tax prep fees for Form 1040 (and state tax return) with Schedule A is $233, and for Form 1040 Schedule C (profit or loss from business), it is $236. That's a total cost of $469. These add up to total potential accounting costs of $2,101 annually. Meanwhile, online services and products create significant dollar savings.

For accounting and bookkeeping, QuickBooks Simple Start costs $12.95 per month for an annual cost of $155.40.

Personal and business online prep and filing software for federal and state taxes (average 2012 fees associated with leading national online tax prep and filing services, i.e., Turbo Tax and H&R Block) comes in at an average cost of $111.90.

The total costs for online services and products per year, therefore, are $267.30.

  • Traditional Accounting/Bookkeeping$2,101
  • Online Services and Software$267.30
  • Potential annual savings:$1,833.70
  • Potential percent savings:87.3%

Bring the Print Shop Home

DIY marketing materials are easy to create online

  • Traditional Printing
  • Online Printing
  • Potential Annual Savings $378.07
  • Potential Percent Savings 43.2%

For a start up, it's critical to have basic marketing materials to get the word out to potential customers. Business cards, letterhead, envelopes and brochures are essential to communicating, networking and projecting a professional image.

We compare printing service costs between traditional printers and online printing services for five basic marketing materials (color products at cheapest costs available). Traditional printing prices assume design and logo work are completed for a printing run, where online services have a range of do-it-yourself designs that are included in pricing.

Traditional Printing Services

  • 250 Business Cards:$46.15
  • 1,000 Brochures:$312.55
  • 500 Postcards:$95.90
  • 1,000 Envelopes:$227.77
  • 1,000 Letterhead:$192.85
  • Total Cost:$875.22

Online Printing Services

  • 250 Business Cards:$19.99
  • 1,000 Brochures:$181.66
  • 500 Postcards:$60.00
  • 1,000 Envelopes:$118.00
  • 1,000 Letterhead:$117.50
  • Total Cost:$497.15

  • Potential Savings:$378.07
  • Potential Percent Savings:43.2%

VoIP Your Phone

Talking to clients shouldn't break the bank

  • Traditional Telephone Line Costs $696
  • VoIP Business Line Cost $264
  • Potential Annual Savings $432
  • Potential Percent Savings 62.07%

The telephone remains a business staple in running a successful enterprise. New technologies provide new choices for entrepreneurs, as well as the potential for significant cost savings. Competition is lowering both line fees and long-distance charges. The vast improvement in VOIP service offers a clear alternative for start-up businesses, as well as cost savings.

A traditional business line costs on average $58.00 per month (excluding taxes and fees) or $696 on an annual basis for unlimited nationwide calling. Additional phone lines are extra.

VOIP offers significant savings. The average monthly cost of the 8 most popular VOIP providers in the U.S. – all of which include unlimited nationwide calling (incoming and outgoing), most on a month-to-month contract basis, with several providers providing free set-up and headsets, as well as a free second business line – is $22.00 ($264 annually). In addition, if an entrepreneur chooses a Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) VOIP option, the cost can be as low as $6.78 per month ($81.36 annually).

  • Traditional Business Line Cost$58.00 per month, or $696 annually
  • VOIP Business Line Cost$22.00 per month, or $264 annually
  • Potential annual savings:$432
  • Potential percent savings:62.1%

Spin Your Own Web

Website design in just a few clicks

  • Traditional Web Design and Hosting $2,397.84
  • Online Web Design and Hosting $299.64
  • Potential Annual Savings $2,098.20
  • Potential Percent Savings 87.5%

The Internet has been a tremendous tool for entrepreneurs to expand their market, including being able to reach consumers via websites with information and access to products and services.

In terms of website design and hosting, choices have expanded for entrepreneurs starting up new businesses.

Consider what might be called the traditional designer/developer for a basic site development. In terms of web designer cost, the average cost presented here is based on a review and averaging of quotes from designquote.net and website design firms for basic website (template-based type set up) with minor customization and graphics. Features also include contact form, site search, email auto-responders, Google AdSense integration, and off-the-shelf blog and MetaTag keyword optimization. In addition, some quotes include minor ecommerce capabilities.

As for web hosting costs, the average monthly/annual costs are based on the 5 Best Rated webhosting sites by http://findwebhosting.com.

Based on this research, average costs for traditional design and hosting are estimated at:

Web design cost: $2,340 (traditional designer)
Web hosting cost: $4.82/month – $57.84 year
Total traditional website design and web hosting costs: $2,397.84

In contrast, online services – i.e., do-it-yourself website design – can reduce costs substantially. The average cost is estimated using “business” design and web hosting packages of leading national companies providing website design and hosting services (Intuit, Web.com, Vistaprint). The estimate includes monthly hosting service, email accounts, do-it-yourself sitebuilder, ecommerce/online payment capability, local directory submission, search engine submission and listing tools, social media tools, YouTube, contact forms, and Google AdSense. “Standard” packages are significantly less (without ecommerce capability and other services), and some companies offer free 60-day trials, or waive fees entirely for one year.

For these online services: Free website design (do-it-yourself) and yearly hosting cost: $24.97 per month x 12 = 299.64 annually

  • Traditional website design/hosting$2,397.84
  • Online website design/hosting$299.64
  • Potential savings:$2,098.20
  • Potential percent savings:87.5%

Take It to Go

Mobile apps can save your business time and money

  • Traditional Services Annual Cost $35,027.20
  • Online Services Annual Cost $31,524.48
  • Potential Annual Savings $3,502.72
  • Potential Percent Savings 10%

Mobile apps offer start-ups opportunities to achieve productivity and efficiency gains.

As noted in the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council's "Saving Time and Money with Mobile Apps: ... a small business ‘app'ortunity" report (May 2011), "Apps on mobile devices are helping small business owners save time; reduce costs; increase revenue and productivity; work more effectively; and better serve customers. In fact, there seems to be an app for almost every business need, and entrepreneurs are quickly tapping into these solutions made possible by rapid innovation in mobile technologies."

More specifically, regarding productivity gains for business owners, it is noted in the report: "Of firms reporting that they use mobile apps, 72 percent of the owners themselves use apps to manage their businesses. In terms of saving time, 78 percent of these small business owners believe that their company's use of mobile apps saves time for the owner. On a weekly basis, these small business owners estimate that they save an average of 5.6 hours (a median of 4.0 hours) due to their firm's use of mobile apps."

According to Payscale.com, the estimated median salary for a self-employed individual with less than one year experience is $35,035.

At 2,080 hours a year, the hourly pay for the median self-employed salary would equal $16.84. At a median of four hours per week saved due to the use of mobile apps, the annual savings for a start-up self-employed individual, annual savings in the owner's labor would be worth $3,502.72.

  • Potential savings:$3,502.72
  • Potential percent savings:10%

Give Your Business a Facelift

Use a speciality logo service online

  • Traditional Logo Design Costs $500
  • Getting your Logo Online $42
  • Potential Annual Savings $458
  • Potential Percent Savings 91.6%

The right logo can make a real difference in getting word out and gaining customer appeal. Based on a review of design industry averages, and taking the low-cost end of fees charged by freelancers or independent/small firms, a traditional fee for a logo design averages about $500.

In contrast, the costs of a logo design based upon a review and averaging of fees charged for business logo designs of online firms (such as fastfreelogo.com, createlogodesign.com, logodesignjuice.com) found an approximate average cost of $42.

  • Traditional logo costs$500
  • Online logo costs$42
  • Potential savings:$458
  • Potential percent savings:91.6%

Do It at Home

Start your business from the comfort of your couch

  • Traditional Office Rent Costs $6,180
  • Cost of Using an Home Office $0
  • Potential Annual Savings $6,180
  • Potential Percent Savings 100%

Broadband Internet has made the home office a major advantage and cost saving opportunity for start-ups.

Let's look at the costs of Class B office space, which appeals to wide array of industries and is more affordable for small, young firms than more exclusive Class A space.

In its "Office Market Trends Q4 2011: United States," Grubb & Ellis offered data on office rental rates for 60 metro areas. The asking rent (as noted in the report: “Rates are per square foot, quoted on an annual, full service gross basis. The rate in each building is weighted by the amount of available space in the building.”) for Class B office spaces range from a high of $49.24 per square foot in New York City down to $9 in Kalispell, Montana.

The average asking rent for these 60 areas is $20.60 per square foot.

If one assumes 300 square feet of office space for a start up, the average annual rental cost would come in at $6,180 annually.

In contrast, additional rental outlays for a home office would be zero.

  • Annual office rent$6,180
  • Home office$0
  • Potential savings:$6,180
  • Potential percent savings:100%

Inc Well

Incorporating a business with online tools

  • Traditional Cost of Incorporating $394.67
  • Cost of Incoporating with Online Help $98.67
  • Potential Annual Savings $296
  • Potential Percent Savings 75%

Many entrepreneurs decide to incorporate their business. Incorporation, of course, provides legal protection for one's personal assets. In addition, going the route of an S Corporation or LLC allows an entrepreneur to get that legal protection, but without the additional tax costs of becoming a C Corporation, as S-Corps and LLCs are pass-through entities for tax purposes.

What are the costs of getting a lawyer to aid with incorporation? Estimates vary widely. But the following comments/analyses are typical of what is revealed through an online search of the topic:

• According to Lawyers.com: "Rates for legal fees vary based on location, experience of the lawyer, and the nature of the matter. Believe it or not, rates may vary anywhere from $50 an hour to a $1,000 an hour or more. In rural areas and small towns, lawyers tend to charge less, and fees in the range of $100 to $200 an hour for an experienced attorney are probably the norm. In major metropolitan areas, the norm is probably closer to $200 to $400 an hour."

• According to CostHelper.com: "With some research on the Secretary of State website for your state, and maybe a legal help book, you can incorporate your company on your own, paying only state filing fees. State filing fees vary by state typically range between $100 - $200. In California, various filing fees to the Secretary of State and Department of Corporations are approximately $165." And a bit later, it was reported: "A small law firm, like a solo practitioner specializing in small businesses, may charge approximately $100 - $300 per hour, totaling around $1,000-$2,000 + state filing fees for a basic incorporation. Many lawyers will require a ‘retainer' – payment beforehand."

• Finally, StartupBizHub.com reported the following on incorporation attorney fees: "Attorney fees could vary depending on the package included in the service offerings and on the case type – whether it is an expedited or a regular processing. An expedited processing could cost an additional $50 to $100. The most basic service could cost $300, which only covers business name search/reservation and preparation and filing of the articles of formation. That is exclusive of fees for articles of incorporation and governmental filing. Legal Club of America charges members $295 for regular processing. A complete service, which includes, in addition, tax application and complete corporate kit, could cost $450 – still exclusive of filing fees."

Meanwhile, online services provide a range of costs as well. For example, for setting up an LLC, consider the following:

Economy: $99 + state fee
Standard: $289 + state fee

Basic: $99 + state fee

Standard: $99 – state fee covered
Deluxe: $199 – state fee covered

For our purposes, we will assume that the start-up entrepreneur is willing to get the most basic service. Based on the above research, the lowest cost cited for a traditional lawyer is $295 plus the state fees (which we will peg at the low of $100), and the best online price is $99, with state fees included. That points to savings of $296.

  • Potential savings:$296
  • Potential percent savings:75%

Go There Virtually

Video conferencing is cheaper and faster than jet travel

  • Average Air Travel Costs $1,083
  • Videoconference
  • Potential Annual Savings $1,023.12
  • Potential Percent Savings 94.47%

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Transportation ("3rd-Quarter 2011 Domestic Air Fares Rose 6.2% from 3rd Quarter 2010"), average domestic airfares registered $361 in the third quarter of 2011.

Assuming three flights per year on average, the average annual cost for airfare for a start up would come in at $1,083.

But rather than flying, broadband Internet offers online video calls/conferencing. For example, the premium service from Skype – which includes unlimited calls to a country of your choice, group video calling and screen sharing, and live chat customer support – costs $4.99 per month, according to Skype.com. That’s an annual cost of $59.88. (Of course, Skype and other services also offer free packages, with the Skype free option featuring Skype-to-Skype calls, one-to-one video calls, instant messaging and screen sharing.)

  • Annual airfare$1,083.00
  • Online premium video calls/conferencing$59.88
  • Potential savings:$1,023.12
  • Potential percent savings:94.5%

Switch to Digital Delivery

Save money by reading the news online

  • Print Newspaper Subscription Cost $348.71
  • Online Newspaper Cost $0
  • Potential Annual Savings $348.71
  • Potential Percent Savings 100%

Updated news and information can be invaluable for businesses, including start up firms. Broadband access can create the opportunity for entrepreneurs to shift from paying for newspaper subscriptions to getting the news and information online without subscription charges.

We look at the annual subscription costs of the largest newspapers (found on each newspapers website) in five U.S. cities: New York (New York Times), Chicago (Chicago Tribune), Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times), Dallas, (Dallas Morning News), and Jacksonville (Florida Times-Union). Those subscriptions costs are averaged.

  • Average annual subscriptions$348.71
  • Potential savings:$348.71
  • Potential percent savings:100%