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Keeping Expenses Down

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  • Keeping Expenses Down

    I thought this might make a good thread for those of you in business, or those of you thinking about starting a business. I don't know how many ways there are to get the most bang for your buck, but I expect most of the money saving tactics would come in the advertising part of business. Feel free to add anything you can think of, whether or not it's in the advertising category.

    Here's my first one. Advertising, in it's most simplistic form, would be telling somebody that you've started a business. So get on the phone, and tell all your friends about it. It doesn't matter if they're interested or not. If they know what you do, and they hear of someone wanting those services, you come to mind. Cost = zilch! Not a thing to lose. Okay, your turn.


  • #2
    If you're serious about it, it still pays to advertise in the Yellow Pages. Simply because when a person wants the type of service you offer, they will "let their fingers do the walking". It's not the cheapest form of advertising but it's the best and most consistant and it hits the people who need what you do.


    • #3
      A good thing about Yellow pages is that the potential customer is almost always ready to do business. Depending on the locale, and the size of the ad, it could be costly, but it is effective.



      • #4
        I've been considering a sticker for the back of my car. This way with our tax laws I can claim part of the running costs of my car towards my business.


        • #5
          We can also claim business related travel expenses. But I caution everyone to know how the law relates to you, and what you are expected to have to verify expenses if needed. I think Tom's wife is a CPA, so maybe he can relay some information for those of us in the U.S.



          • #6
            Keep all your reciepts, keep mileage records and dont try to charge your Vacation to beautiful upper Romania as a business trip....unless you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company....
            One thing to avoid is spending too much on super fancy Business cards and stationary..keep it tasteful and simple...too much glitz can actually turn potential clients off plus costing a bundle in printing costs...Tom
            Last edited by thomasgeorge; 07-28-2002, 09:40 PM.


            • #7
              I just bought advertising with the PPA. They have a listing there called Photo Expo. There you will find a list of services that businesses can put their names under with links to their site and a small description of their company. I purchased advertising with the PPA because I belive it to be the largest professional photographic orginization on the planet.

              And can you believe it, there wasn't even a listing under retouching! So I asked the PPA to put a listing of Retouching in the Photo Expo and they did! So, I quickly bought add space about two weeks ago with them. It has brought a good amount of traffic to my site.

              I also get banner space on their home page 6 times a year for a week at a time.

              However, this advertising was not cheap.

              My next move was to find much cheaper advertising. And I found it in web site submission agencies. I spent $60 and the traffic to my site has doubled, which is to say I get about 20 visits a day now.

              I used They bill me $60 quarterly and submit my website to serch engines world wide.

              My third source of advertising is also in the form of banner space at This is a local photographic organization that I ocassionaly put a banner up with at $35 per month. I also help sponsor their anual Christmas Party. I do love a good party.

              My fourth form of advertising is through direct mail outs. I pay my sister to surf the web for me and take down the address and email address of professional photography studios across the planet. I give her $50 for every 200 addresses she gets for me. She enters them directly into a database for me. The Business Name field is set to be a unique entry in an effort to not have the same company twice.

              This mail out is then sent out with an email at the same time. I also schedule the assortment of banners to be broadcasting at the same time. This way I saturate the market as much as possible. All I pay for here is envelopes, ink, paper, stamps, and my time.

              The mailouts and emails and banners are all designed to attract professional photographers that are shooting digitally and that can send their files to ADI for retouching. I do not advertise for restoration work at all.

              I firmly belive that in the very near future, we will see more and more studios switching to digital cameras. Soon after that we will see companies like Epson selling large format printers directly to the studios. So really, one of the main services that studios will be outsourcing will be retouching. And they will be doing this over the internet. This makes it possible to advertise to studios every where in the world!

              I am sure you are saying to your self "Studios will just buy their own computers and retouch their images themselves." I am sure they will. In fact I hope they do! Then they will learn that they don't have time to retouch. Studios make their money booking and shooting thier clients. They could be reoutching now if they wanted to with brushes and dyes. But they aren't. Why? Because you have to retouch lst of images to make any money at it.

              The day of the retoucher is comming, if not already here. And I belive that we can now look for orders all over the world because of computers and the internet!
              Last edited by Aric; 07-28-2002, 11:50 PM.


              • #8
                I can't sleep, so I might as well write.

                When I first started my business, I needed to get the cash flow moving. So here is what I did to keep my expenses down, and bring in the money. Cha Ching!

                I went from lab to lab in Houston looking for large format digital printers, specifically looking for the Light Jet 5000.


                When I found a lab that had one, I got a meeting with a lab manager and basically said the following...

                "I am actively selling my scanning and retouching services to portrait studios here in Houston. If I send you the files to be printed, will you bill the studio directly instead of billing me?" I had to do this because I couldn't afford to go out and buy a $60,000 printer, pay an employee $30,000 a year to run it, and pay for a $10,000 service contract. Nor did I have the space for a printer that size, or the money just to ensure it! Nor did I have the cash flow to cover the bills that I would receive for the prints.

                Of course they said yes! I basicly became a sales person for that lab, bringing them business.

                Next was the hard part, finding studios that would use my services. I went from door to door with a laptop to show before and afters, and a portfolio case that would hold 30x40 prints! I had the lab that I was going to use print me some samples of work I had retouched as 30x40s. I then showed these prints, along with the before and after presentation to potential clients and left them with a price list and business cards. With in 2 months I had delivered two accounts to the lab! And not only that, I was doing the scanning and retoucching for these new accounts bringing in much needed money!

                That was four years ago. Those two accounts still get billed directly from the lab. But, all my new accounts get billed directly from me, and I mark up the cost of the prints some to make some profit for myself. On top of that, the more prints I bring to the lab, the lower my print cost is!

                Write me if you want more details.
                Last edited by Aric; 07-28-2002, 11:57 PM.


                • #9
                  I've just sent an enquiry to our Sydney yellow pages to get my business listed. I have no idea how much it's going to cost.The Photo Restoration and Retouchers section is reasonably small so I won't be too hard to find. I've also put in a request to be contacted about the adjoining country directory as I live on the fringe of the city and can easily do business with both city and country clients. Hopefully it won't cost and arm and leg to get listed in those directories.


                  • #10
                    Advertising PAYS

                    I know you've all heard this before - "advertising doesn't cost - it pays" . Problem is that it may be hard to believe until you actually acquire some numbers for your own business..

                    Example: In the PDX Qwest Directory our in-column 3 in ad costs $600.00 a month. I use a "market extension" line phone number for that ad. That costs me 5 cents per call but for that I get a monthly report on the numbers. We average 110 calls a month from that ad. We follow up by sending out "inquiry packages" (if the prospects cannot come in right away) and from that, track the results. We average 16 orders from the ad per month. Our average order is $162 so that's a $2,592 gross return on that one ad.. Bottom line: The ad, phone costs and printing costs amount to about $40.00 per client. Or about 24% of gross.

                    I could go into the full detail here - but to keep it short, that's just the beginning. Most of those customers will repeat if you do the job right and that will bring your cost down to nearly ¼ of the cost of bringing in a "new client". In our case, the "real costs" over a two year span amount to less than $12.00 per order. We use the yellow pages ads in all of the nearby counties with similar results.

                    There is an old Fortune magazine cartoon with the board of directors ...and at the head of the table the new CEO is saying, "We just achieved the ultimate in cost reduction - we went out of business!" So instead of cutting advertising, allow for it and look at your ad budget as "investing" and you can achieve real growth instead of taking two step backwards for every one forward.

                    Jim Conway


                    • #11
                      When I just started out I didn't have any money to spend on advertising. I ended up doing something I'd like to call 'fishing', which is low-cost and can be quite effective.

                      I bought a 30x40 portfolio case, filled it with my best work and had 500 2-color business cards printed. Simple, but nicely designed.

                      Then, all i did was take my portfolio case anywhere I went. Even if just to the supermarkt. And then put some stuff you often need IN the case, like wallet, keys, mobile phone..

                      This gives you an excuse to open your case often. preferrably with a lot of people around (bars, restaurants fairs etc. ..)

                      Without fail, somebody would start looking over your shoulder. If one has the guts to do so and he gets a positive reaction from me, immediately anyone else will want to have a look..people are curious

                      Let them browse through your book a while, and then somebody might say...hey, I have a friend who has a company that....
                      BINGO! Give him a card, be nice to him and go to the next spot for more fishing. Even if only one in 20 actually call, it'll be worth it, it only costs a little time

                      This is how i built up my client base from scratch the first year.


                      • #12
                        Brilliant idea Pixelmover! Not just the portfolio idea, but how you implemented carrying it everywhere and creating the need to open it where people are. Thanks for that tip!


                        • #13
                          That's the kind of thing I was hoping for when I started the thread. Things people could use when they're just starting, and don't have the extra dollar to spend. Cool idea.



                          • #14
                            Looking for inexpensive color postcards?

                            The portfolio idea is a nice one especially because you've talked with people in person and made them feel comfortable with you.

                            I designed a postcard (image is in another thread somewhere) with a before and after pic, list of services and other relevant information (black and white back). Created a database of companies/organizations that would use my services (I was lucky I already had a client base from the previous business I worked for that folded) and added new names by searching the internet and on-line yellow pages.

                            I bought 500 full color postcards for $95 from I just checked and the price has gone up to $125 for 500. However, if you ask them to send a sample package they send a discount card so your first order is less and reprints are at a reduced rate as well ($90 vs. $125).

                            Even at $125 that's 25 cents a card plus another 22 cents (?) for a postcard stamp and a printed label. So for about $275 you can reach 500 people.

                            I sent out about 400 cards and kept the last 100. These cards I send out to people that call up on the phone, hand out to friends, potential clients and even the photographer that shoot pictures of my house for a magazine article (she took them to her buddies at the camera shop she deals with).

                            People love getting the postcard because it's got an example, all the services and the contact information. It's an elaborate and impressive oversized business card basically. And they aren't turned off by it like they would be an expesive business card because they are too busy looking at the pictures and appreciate the list of services so they don't have to call up later and ask...."Do you do.....?"

                            Anyway I'm almost at the point of getting rid of my business card all together and just using the postcard. Anyone know the per card cost of a simple printed business card? I think the little extra is probably worth it.

                            I also am listed in the yellow pages. I don't have an ad just the one line listing that is included with a business phone. In fact it's one of two reasons I have a business line at all. The second reason is so I don't have to answer the phone after hours and my husband doesn't have to talk to my clients. It costs me about $45.00 a month for the phone line and honestly I don't get that much business from the yellow page ad. I think people don't know what to look under because there are only two people in town listed so there isn't much competition. I think more people call the photo shop, gallery, framer, museum etc. and get a referal first.

                            Don't forget the old website. With a bit of work and a few bucks you can make a nice on-line portfolio. Provide people with information not just an ad to give them a reason to come back to the site and you will get work out of it. Remember to list the website on stationary, postcards, business cards etc so potential clients can browse examples of your work at their leisure. You may not be able to see how much business is influenced by the website but for the little bit of cost it's worth it.

                            And finally....probably the main way of getting business is word of mouth. Treat your clients nicely and they will tell others and come back themselves! It's also the cheapest method!



                            • #15
                              Plan ahead

                              Personal calls are a great way to check out the "lay of the land" before you start a business ...but make an advertising plan for the future as well.

                              Once you start a going business, time becomes your main asset and making outside prospecting calls is much too time consuming. If you have no other source of advertising, you can easily get into the cycle that I mentioned in my previous post.

                              Old adage: "I'm too busy going broke to make any money" :-)

                              Jim C


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