Don’t be a Hero: Setting Attainable Goals for the New Year.

A new year has begun, and with it are the hopes of losing weight, finding love, quitting smoking, leaving a dead end job and taking up new hobbies. Hey, as long as we are being unrealistic, let's go ahead and resolve to quit drinking, never swear, become vegetarians and end world hunger. This year, why not set an attainable goal, a goal that may not be good for your health or the world but is easily achieved. If you own your own business, large or small, there are numerous ways you can cut back on expense. We live in the 21st century, so why not take advantage of it and try out some of these cost saving tips?

The first thing to do is cut all those memberships that aren't doing you or your company any good at all. In order to not incriminate myself, I won't mention them by name, but you know what they are. They promise to promote your business and help you gain new clientele for only a few hundred dollars a year, and if you're lucky you and your employees can attend social functions for a mere sixty dollars a plate. If you don't sign up, they will pour on the guilt and claim you aren't supporting your community. If you're getting positive results from these organizations then stick with it, but if not then why not try spending that money on an email blast about your company or send out a monthly newsletter? If you're not HTML savvy, then find someone who is and have them create a template to plug in your artwork and copy. This will run you the same amount as those yearly memberships and provide better results.

What about the gym membership you only use once a month? I'm embarrassed to say how much money my company has spent on gym memberships the last few years compared to how many times we have actually shown our faces at the gym. To top it off, we have fancy executive locker rooms, so when we show up we can take a shower sitting down while watching TV at the same time. I can tell you that if you don't have time to go to the gym, you don't have time to take a shower sitting down. I'm sure my face turned a little green when our company accountant told us we couldn't write off any of our gym memberships. To top it off we're locked into the contract for another year. In the future, when we need exercise we will be taking a hike or a bike ride, free of charge. If you live near NWA, then you know the bike routes are great and the hiking trails are even better.

I'm sure many of you have already eliminated the office, but if you haven't it's time to do so. Large companies like Hewlett-Packard have paved the way, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by shutting down many of their offices and having employees work from home. For meetings with clients, simply suggest meeting at their office or a neutral ground, such as a coffee shop, lounge or hotel lobby. Whether you're designing, coding or copywriting, you are usually working solo. In most cases, it's not a collaborative effort. Any communication that needs to take place between work associates can be resolved with a telephone call, a video conference or a quick meeting. Technology makes it easy to stay in touch without sitting in side-by-side cubicles.

One of the downsides to a home office is separating your work life from home life. Instead of waking up and showering, you will roll out of bed and hop on the computer to check emails. Before you know it, it's 5:00 and you still have morning breath, uncombed hair and are wearing P J's that haven't been washed for 3 days, but it's almost time to put them on again, so you decide to go ahead keep them on for the remainder of the day. As much as you try and avoid it, it will inevitably happen at some point. That being said, there are also some major advantages to having a home office. For starters, you get the tax write off instead of the company. This can be extremely helpful when it's time to pay taxes. You can also catch a little extra shut-eye in the morning because you're not commuting to work in 8:00 traffic. Perhaps the biggest advantage is losing the high cost of an office space and utilities. Without having this cost to pass on to your clients, their bills will shrink and you will become their number one fan.

One of the biggest benefits of living in the 21st century is being a part of the digital age, where we no longer need to pay for marketing. With resources like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, those expensive magazine ads, yellow page ads and commercials are no longer necessary. If you aren't convinced, then simply look at Barack Obama's presidential campaign. He had over 170,000 followers on Twitter and personally followed 165,000 others. Since he won the presidential election, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it worked. You Tube's top videos for 2010 were Isaiah Mustafa's Proctor and Gamble commercial with 24.2 million views proceeded by Evian's roller babies with 45 million views. It's time to wake up and smell the free marketing. Let's face it, you probably won't get 45 million views for a commercial you shoot with your handheld camcorder in your backyard, however, 200 views is more exposure then you will get out of most local magazine ads. I'm not against supporting local community magazines, and if my company had a 100,000 dollar a year marketing budget, I would be designing billboards and placing full page ads, but in the interest of saving money, my company will continue to take advantage of free marketing while it's still free.

There are plenty of ways to cut back on business expense. It's great to live in a century where you can work from home and market your business without spending much money. Even if your company is wildly successful and you can afford to sit down in a shower and watch TV, it's better to cut back where you can. You never know when your biggest client might cut their marketing budget or choose a different creative firm. So, keep the cigarettes, the extra weight and the alcohol and work a little harder to save your company money this year.

Sherry Pappas

Sherry Kington

Teacher and Part-Time Author