Tom Church is Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, a small business he set up in 2016 which now has a team of 30 people. The company has grown organically to 7-figure revenues without paying for any advertising. The online website helps people save money by finding the best prices for consumer products.
Speaking exclusively with SME News, Tom shared his 5 tips for saving money as an online small business owner to help with cash flows and increase margins.
I try to learn to do everything myself first – and make it profitable – before hiring someone to do it. This way, you know how long every task takes, how difficult it really is, and how much it ought to cost. For example, I was quoted by PR agency will charge £100,000+ per year to get some press coverage. At first I thought it was a joke. There was no chance we could afford that. Instead, I studied online, spoke to journalists, and through trial and error learned to do it myself. Latest Deals now gets about 2,000 media mentions every year. Over 10-times what the proposed PR agency targets. When you learn what the task really entails and can do it yourself, you can hire in-house and train generalised staff to do it at a much lower cost. This principle applies to everything: Accounting, technology development, writing, video editing, logistics…
Open-source software generally means free to all and fully customisable. Whilst it may not always be perfect and paid options may have some killer feature you like, starting with open-source is a great way to save money. It’s free! Plus, unlike paid services you can change it to fit your business needs. For example, if you’re setting up an online shop you can either pay for Shopify, or go for WooCommerce via WordPress which is free. LatestDeals.co.uk has grown successfully over the last six years thanks to our ability to quickly adapt our open-source codebase to meet the needs to users. If we had used a paid-for out of the box system, it would have been much more rigid and expensive.
Latest Deals used to have an office. An expensive one by Tower Bridge in London, UK. It had fancy views and looked impressive. But it cost a whopping £500 per desk, per month. Management all thought it was worth it for the productivity benefits of having everyone in the same room. But then came the COVID-19 pandemic and we switched out of necessity to remote working. Unlike some companies, we are likely never to return to the office. We found no change in productivity – for as long as each employee’s tasks were clearly defined. There are some people who enjoy the social aspect of working in the office and feel lonely at home, and I can understand that. However, in general we have found an increase in work-life satisfaction and balance. You can save a lot of money on office space, plus hiring remotely means you do not pay a premium for big city salaries and can hire people from all regions.
A large portion of tasks at Latest Deals is done by international freelancers. If a task is relatively straight-forward and repetitive, you can save money by hiring someone abroad. The cost can be half as much as a UK employee (but the money is still very good for them abroad). I’ve heard complaints from business owners saying international freelancers are no good but my experience is the opposite: They tend to be the hardest working, most consistent workers of all. The key is to have detailed click-by-click process documents and training videos, along with calls and regular check-ins. Unfortunately I think too many business owners don’t treat international freelancers as people and therefore lack the patience of nurturing talent. Done right, this can save you huge amounts of money on salaries and turbo-charge your business growth.
Paid advertising is the fastest way to burn your cash. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn all charge silly money per click. Plus, you have to practically be a scientist to figure out where that click goes and to track it all to see if it’s profitable or not. But because every marketer in the world swears by paid advertising, it’s hard to say no. Nevertheless, Latest Deals has grown to 2 million members without advertising. How? By trying pretty much everything except advertising. Go old school: knock on doors, pick up the phone, attend events. Social media is powerful and can be free – but it takes a long time. If you’re a small business, figure out how many customers you need to be profitable and make it your goal to pick up the phone or visit 10 times that many. Plonk them into a spreadsheet and build your sales funnel. It’s old-school but it works. And most of the time it’s free. Email marketing is a great channel and is free to a certain level.
Tom Church is Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, a money-saving community with over 2 million members.