Starting a business for less
- Willeke Leensma
- How to
- 14 Jul 2020
- Edited 7 Mar 2023
- 9 min
It might just be your best decision ever: becoming self-employed or starting your own business. But what if lenders are less confident than you? You might still be able to make your plans come true by cutting costs and modifying your business plan.
You may need less money to get started than you think. There is a lot you can do to save money, from picking the right legal form to doing everything yourself or outsourcing matters you do not excel at yourself. Take a close look at your plans and discover new ways to save money!
Pick an advantageous legal structure
Start saving money by picking a suitable legal structure. If your expected profits are less than €150,000 a year, you will usually pay less tax with an eenmanszaak (sole proprietorship) or vennootschap onder firma (vof, general partnership) than with a besloten vennootschap (bv, private limited company). If you meet certain requirements, you may qualify for the entrepreneur’s allowance. Besides, the costs of forming and running your business will also be lower, since you will not be required to work with an accountant.
If your expected profits are greater than €150,000, a besloten vennootschap may be an interesting option, as you will be subject to a lower tax rate that will outweigh the allowances you could qualify for with an eenmanszaak.
If you choose to form a bv, you will need a deed of incorporation, for which you have to go to a notary. They will charge anywhere from €300 to €1000 to draw up a deed of incorporation, so even picking the right notary can help you save hundreds of euros.
Important! Each legal form has its own pros and cons. Make sure to consider more than tax benefits alone: liability and control over your company are just as important.
Do your own marketing and lead generation
After you register with KVK, you are officially an entrepreneur. You will have to start landing customers and jobs, but how? You can spend anywhere from several hundreds to several thousands of euros on a website, online ads and other promotional materials, but you could also decide to put a lot of time and effort into generating customers through online and offline channels. How much time you want to spend generating leads is entirely up to you, but remember that any time spent here is time you cannot put into your core business. Whatever approach you take to marketing: always start by creating an (online) marketing plan.
There are other ways to invest in your relationship with your target audience than publishing ads. Creating a social media profile, for instance, is entirely free. Make sure that you are visible on your future customers’ favourite channels. Show them who you are and what you have to offer by sharing photos of your work, your products, or testimonials from happy customers and co-workers.
The downside of social media is that they tend to limit your creative options. Building your own website will give you more freedom and you do not even need to be an expert coder to build your own professional website these days. The Internet is packed with smart website builders, helping you cut costs. Keep in mind that building your website yourself can also take several evenings of work and might be frustrating at times.
Tip! Check out our article on boosting your search position (in Dutch) without having to pay.
Cherish the relationships you already have, especially in times of crisis. There are countless online and offline networking opportunities. Go to business get-togethers, attend networking meetings, or invite a business associate over for coffee. While observing social distancing, of course! Your network can help you land jobs and save money, too, for example by sharing facilities and costs with your fellow entrepreneurs or using each other’s services.
Start your business from home
If you have the space and facilities you need to get to work at home, you are one step away from eliminating a major expense: rent for a commercial space. Running your business from home can save you hundreds or even thousands of euros a month. In some cases, making modifications to your home can have tax benefits. If your workplace has its own entrance, toilet, and water connection, you may qualify for cost deduction (in Dutch).
Can’t host customers at home? Not to worry, you do not necessarily have to rent commercial space. In many industries, meeting in coffee bars or flexible office spaces has become common practice. You can rent a flexible meeting room with WiFi and a beamer for a few tenners an hour, and because they are business expenses, you can even deduct the costs.
Planning to open a shop? If you decide to sell your products online, you can still run your business from home. In March 2020, 10% of all new business owners opened an online shop. An important caveat: check whether your municipality will allow you to run an online shop from your home first. If you sell your products on online platforms such as Bol.com, eBay, Amazon, and AliExpress, you will not even have to store large amounts of stock at home.
Or find affordable commercial space
If working from home is not an option for you, you will probably have to rent a space. Many landlords and lessors are also feeling the crunch of the corona crisis, so take some time to think and reflect before committing to a 5-year contract. Compare and negotiate the rent and lease term in order to stay flexible. After all, you may have to move if your business takes off or if things take a turn for the worse. In locations with lots of vacant spaces, you can often get a good deal on starting a temporary pop-up store. Alternatively, you could consider setting up shop in a multi-company building, where you will be surrounded by other entrepreneurs but will still have a space to call your own. You share expenses for office supplies, photocopiers, and meeting rooms with all the others, helping you save money.
Manage your own accounting and tax matters
Managing your accounting and tax matters yourself has its advantages. It is an easy way for new business owners to save money that they would otherwise spend on a specialist and has the added benefit of giving you more insight into your income and expenses. There are user-friendly accounting packages available that will let you do everything yourself.
Still, working with an accountant or tax expert is probably faster and more accurate, not to mention the fact that they can provide advice and submit your tax returns for you. In the end, you will have more time to spend on activities that generate income, so it might not take too long to recoup an investment in an accountant or tax expert. They will be familiar with a host of tax benefits that you might not know and could see you pay less tax. Requesting a quote is always worthwhile.
Make money with your timesheets
From the moment you start your business, you should keep track of how much time you put into it. Not only will it tell you how much time you are spending on your business and help you decide whether your hourly rates and prices are correct, but you also qualify for tax benefits if you can prove that you spend at least 1225 hours per calendar year working for your business. If you meet these requirements, you are entitled to the private business ownership allowance and the relief for new businesses, which means you will have to pay less income tax. The same does not apply if you own a bv, because that legal form is subject to corporate tax.
It goes without saying that you should record the time you spend working for customers on your timesheet, but you are also allowed to include so-called indirect time. This is the time spend on admin work, taking courses, or updating your website. Here is how to track your time and what you can get out of it.
Be smart with staffing costs
If your new business needs employees right away, it is worth asking yourself whether you have to employ all your staff members. Wage costs are the largest cost item for many entrepreneurs with staff. If you are still uncertain about your income, starting off with flexible workers may be a more suitable option. Alternatively, you could consider outsourcing certain activities, for instance by having a call centre provide customer service on your behalf.
For some employees, you may be entitled to subsidies or a contribution towards wage costs, such as for people with an occupational disability or over 56 years. There are various government schemes for this, such as the wage cost subsidy, the wage expense allowance, or the low-income allowance.
Collaborate with others
Collaborating with other entrepreneurs may be a very interesting option for you, as you can share your expenses, land bigger jobs together, and learn from each other.
Working with students also has its benefits, especially if you are looking to test new products or services. Students are brimming with knowledge and will work on your idea for relatively little compensation. They often have access to equipment and workspaces at their school or university that you may not have yourself, helping you save rental and purchase costs. It is customary, however, to pay interns, and you should always provide sound supervision and a suitable workplace.
More cost-effective procurement
You might have already joined forces with your neighbours to buy cheaper energy as a collective, and the same goes for businesses: you will save more as a team than on your own. You can often get discounts on group insurance and legal support through industry associations, and you can also choose to partner up with other entrepreneurs through a purchasing platform. If you are looking to open a restaurant, you can get extra discounts on furniture, linen rental, food, soft drinks and many other things through a hospitality platform, to give but one example.
Encourage Chip-and-PIN payments
If you still let your customers pay cash, it is important to realise that there are hidden costs involved. Just consider the time you spend every day on checking your till and going to the bank for deposit. Besides, the costs of POS equipment and theft insurance are two other factors that make cash payments particularly expensive.
According to Betaalvereniging Nederland, every cash payment will cost you an average of €0.29. By comparison, Chip-and-PIN (in Dutch) payments cost an average of €0.17, while contactless payments cost only €0.15, including the cost of equipment, the network connection, and receipts. Besides, contactless payments are twice as fast as Chip-and-PIN . Customers can simply use their card, phone, or other wearable to pay. You can even accept contactless payment via Apple Pay for no extra cost.
You will have to purchase a payment terminal that supports contactless payments. Before deciding to rent or buy a device, take a close look at your total number of transactions.
Cars: company or private?
If you need a car for work, explore which approach works best for you. Driving a company car affects how much tax you pay and gives you access to certain deductions. If you buy a car for your business, for example, you are allowed to deduct certain car expenses from your profits, subject to certain conditions. For example, you are required to keep accurate journey records to demonstrate that you do not use your company car for more than 500 km of personal travel every year. If you exceed that limit, other rules apply. Use our tool (in Dutch) to calculate which option will result in the highest net savings.
Use free tools and open source software
You do not always need expensive software packages. If you only edit photos occasionally, a free online tool will do the job just fine. Besides, there is a lot of open source software out there that you can use to build your website or online shop, for instance. Open source means that the source code is available to everyone, so you will not be tied to a single vendor. Open source does not mean free. You may need assistance or someone to help you get the software ready for use. Still, this will generally be cheaper than buying a licensed software package.
Not done saving? Start bootstrapping
Many of the cost-cutting tips we already shared are part of the bootstrapping arsenal of cost-saving methods. Bootstrapping can be very useful if you are looking for money but do not want to borrow it. Instead, you try to work with the resources at your disposal, making do with what you have.
Some examples of bootstrapping include sharing equipment with other entrepreneurs, renting out part of your property, and recruiting volunteers, but you have many more options.
Incorporate your savings into your business plan
Once you have a good idea of which costs can be whittled down, include the corresponding measures in your financial plan, the financial part of your overall business plan. With your financial plan, you can determine whether your plans are financially feasible.
Perhaps cutting costs alone will not cut it, and you might have to modify your plans.