Whether you are just starting your small business, or if you have been in business for any length of time, controlling your expenses is an essential part of making sure your business is profitable.
When I started building my business, I looked everywhere for resources that I could use that were cheap or free. I still try to get the best value for my money, but here is my list of resources for you! You may not need some of them, but maybe there are some in here that you can use that you’ve not heard of!
And if you click the Special Offer button, you will see a very special price for my Strategy Sessions. This is only valid for the attendees of Diana’s Prosper Event – so don’t miss out!
It’s a 30 minute session where we talk about either your support strategy (getting help in your business) OR your marketing strategy (getting help with your marketing). It’s normally $125 but I have an amazing LOW price just for you!
Office365.com – A newer alternative for Office users, Office365 is essentially an online version of MS Office that you can get for $97/year or $9.97/month. It allows you to install the newest version of Office on all of your electronics – PC, laptop, phone, etc. For the price you get 5 installations plus mobile devices.
Freshbooks.com – An online ‘cloud’ invoicing system with packages starting at $19.95/month. You can use Freshbooks to send all of your invoices to your clients and it monitors their opens and payments. You can also track expenses. Reporting is good to see what has come in and gone out. Simple to use and allows you to easily access credit card payments or deposits.
Dropbox.com – Dropbox is a cloud-based filing system that you install on your computer. You can store files in folders that you can then access from any computer – because it keeps everything in your account online. It’s shareable, so you can share certain folders with clients or team members easily. I recently installed Dropbox on my smartphone too so I can drop photos and other stuff in it to use when I get back to my desk. It’s an invaluable piece of my business. You get a limited amount of storage to start but each time you install it on a new computer (or invite someone else to install it) you get your storage increased. You can also pay for storage.
Mailchimp – Mailchimp is an email service that has a free level of service. There are some limitations in terms of how many emails you can send and how big your list is, but there is a ton of functionality for branding emails and reporting that is unmatched by anyone else at a free price point. Mailchimp is easy to use and I recommend it to all of my clients when they are just starting to use email as a marketing tool in their business. Once you hit their paid level, their packages are on par with other systems so it’s not even necessary to change providers once you have grown your list. One of the best things I like about Mailchimp is that it integrates with many WordPress plugins – so it makes a seamless customer service option for your clients.
WordPress – Speaking of WordPress – another great free option. You can host your site directly on their site, which is free, or you can install WordPress on your own server – also for free (except for your hosting fee and domain name, of course). WordPress is one of the best platforms. ALSO, there are loads of free plugins to help maximize your WordPress platform. One of my favourites is WP eStore which is an online shopping cart (one time purchase of around $50) that allows you to have people purchase your products or services online using credit cards or Paypal.
Paypal – Need to accept credit cards or online payments from your clients? Nothing is easier than Paypal. You may even already have a Paypal account from your old eBay days (I know I did!). Using Paypal to collect payments from your clients is an easy way for them to pay any way they want to – by credit card or by using their own Paypal account. There are fees associated with using Paypal but the convenience of accepting credit cards often outweighs that.
Square – Need to accept credit cards or online payments at live events? Square has you covered. You can run cards through your smartphone or enter the number manually. The money is deposited directly to your chosen bank account. The fees are slightly higher than Paypal but it’s a great option to have if you do a lot of live networking or selling.
Adobe Reader – If you don’t have PDF software on your computer, you will still find that many people send PDF documents – whether it’s for workbooks or contracts or whatever the case may be. Being able to read them easily is simple when you use the Adobe Reader program. It’s always free, and they upgrade their software all the time so you can stay current with their versions.
Save as PDF from Word – I also have a PDF Add-In on my MS Word software, so I can make PDFs easily from Word docs. I used to use different software to convert my docs to PDFs but this PDF Add In makes thing simple. Just click ‘Save As’ and you’ll see the option to save your Word doc as a PDF. Lifesaver. Works with Office 2007 and later editions. Newer versions of Word have the PDF function as standard but if you don’t have the most up to date version, this is a great option.
Audacity – Editing audio is a really easy thing to do when you have a great system like Audacity. Even if you don’t think you need an audio program, once you start using it – you will see how easy it is to edit and combine. You can even use it to record your own audio using your computer microphone. You’re welcome!
Avast AntiVirus – Avast is a great antivirus program. I have it installed on all of our computers and it’s free on all of them. You still get good functionality from the Avast free version (you can upgrade to get a lot more protection, of course) and it always seems to work for me. Never a virus on any computer – but plenty of notifications of pending issues over the years – so I feel safe. Of course I also highly recommend keeping your family off of your ‘work’ computer if at all possible, to minimize your risk further … but that’s just my opinion.
Gimp – Gimp is a photo editing software that is really complex for being a free program. It allows you to edit photos, and apply many types of enhancements to them for more professional looking images. I don’t do much image editing so I don’t know how Gimp compares to the paid programs out there but I have used it myself and I know several others who also use it and rave about it. Free is good!
Roboform – With all of the online programs available out there, you will quickly amass a lot of different passwords (or at least, I hope you are not using the same password everywhere! tsk tsk!). Roboform keeps all of your passwords neatly organized in one place, and when you need to log in, you simply click a button and Roboform gets you in saving you endless keystrokes and brain power! You can also sync online and access your information from your Roboform account anytime you need it. Pretty cool stuff. Good idea to set up from the start.
Evernote – The ultimate notepad. Evernote is an ‘idea clipper’. It’s a service that you set up once and then when you see a website or information online that you want to save to reference later, you simply ‘clip’ it to your Evernote account. You can set up many notebooks and you tag each item that you put in your notebook so that you can easily reference it at a later date. So I clip things and tag them ‘marketing tips’ and ‘business strategy’ and so on – and then when I am writing an article or developing a program or content of some kind, I can just open my Evernote and grab that tagged list and use it when I need it. Indispensible for my business. I have it installed on my smartphone too, so it’s super easy to manage what I come across in my regular surfing.
Timetrade – Timetrade is a great scheduling software that I use – and that most of my clients also use. It has a free trial and then is about $49/year to use. It allows you to set up calendar books with different length appointment times. You put in your availability and then provide the Timetrade calendar link to your clients and they can easily schedule appointments with you. It also integrates with your Google Calendar – that’s a huge plus for me. It’s easy to use and totally avoids the back and forth of emails trying to set up appointments. I highly recommend this for your business!
Skype – Need to voice, IM or video chat with clients or team members? Skype can’t be beat. You can even conference call easily. It also offers options to screen share which really makes it a great business tool – helping you with collaboration. All the cool kids are on Skype! I particularly like the IM option – so you can text chat someone anytime, and they can get back to you on their schedule, as soon as they log in. Beware though – it can decrease productivity if you leave it open all day. Just sayin.
MyHours.com – If your business requires you to track your time, My Hours is a great option. Even if you don’t provide detailed billing to your clients, you still need maximize the billable time in your day. I even use it to track my own business admin time – this can help you see if/when you need support from someone else – if you are doing too much ‘non-billable’ work.
Coffee Cup HTML Editor – I love this company. I love this product. I use it probably every day in my business. Whether I am doing a client newsletter or putting together some formatted code for a client’s WordPress site, I find it easy to use and very functional. I have learned a lot about coding just by using it, because you can use their shortcuts and then see the actual code to know how to do it all manually. Pretty neat stuff.
Coffee Cup FTP – Another great CoffeeCup product, and this one’s free! If you need to upload and download files to your client’s servers, or your own, this is a great option. You just set up your log in information once and then you can just click to log in anytime and do what you need to do. Easy to use. There are many other free FTP options out there too, but this is the one I use.
Log Me In – If you travel a lot, or even if you do some work onsite with or for your clients, you can still access your computer from a remote location using a program like Log Me In. Couldn’t be simpler. Leave your computer at home ‘on’ and then log in from your remote location using your secure password – and you can pull up your computer screen just as though you are sitting in front of it at your desk! I loved using this when I worked on site for one of my clients. If I needed to access anything for another client, I just went in through Log Me In and then I could grab what I needed and email it to myself. It’s a great service … and … free.
GQueues – GQueues is an amazingly simple task manager. It’s basically a comprehensive task list that you can set up easily and maintain very easily. If you are a list maker like I am, you may find that this works for you. I have a ‘queue’ (a list) for each of my clients, and I am able to keep all of their tasks in their queue – assigning deadlines to them, adding notes where necessary, and even sharing the queue if I want to. I find GQueues really easy to use and again it integrates with Google Calendar, so it’s easy for me to check my calendar on any specific day to see what is coming up that needs to be done. I believe they also have a free trial, and it’s $25/year to use. Well worth the money in my opinion as you can add as many tasks and queues as you want, and you can archive completed items easily too. I love it. It’s my ‘must have’ tool in my business. I hope it can be for you too!
Zoho.com – Zoho is an amazing suite of productivity, business and collaboration apps that really has something for everyone. I find the ones I have used over the years extremely easy to manage and monitor. They have Productivity Apps, many of which I have used. These are basically the MS Office similar programs. They also have Collaboration Apps (which I have explored but not used before) that help you to collaborate with your clients by managing projects and documents and being able to collaborate using web meetings.They also have Business Apps which are fantastic. I particularly like Zoho CRM and Zoho Invoice. Zoho has a free level to access many of their services, and you can also upgrade to get more functionality within many of their suite of products. Check it out – I’m sure there will be at least one thing that you will find that will help you in your business.
Carbonite Backup – Keeping your computer data backed up is something that you usually learn is important ONLY after you have lost everything at least once. (Guilty!) I use Carbonite online backup and it just keeps everything up to date for me all the time. Never need to think about it – for $60/year. And the cool thing is that you can even log in to your account online and grab any files you need, if you happen to be away from your office without access to your computer. Love Carbonite. I back up everything from photos, music to my work documents. It’s well worth the investment.
Zoom Conference – Zoom is a lot like Go to Webinar, except it has a free version that is awesome! You can screen share, web and video conference, run webinars, with standard features like recording, whiteboard, screensharing, and more. Their paid packages start at $15/month.
EchoSign.com – Online contract signing software. Terrific solution for anyone who sends a lot of (or any) documents that need signing. You simply upload and people can digitally sign your document. Echosign is easy to sue, and is a great option to track your agreements..
RescueTime.com – This is one of my current favourites! Install this software on your computers and devices, and it tracks your daily activities to show you where your time is being spent. You can set certain websites and programs to work/leisure/etc and RescueTime monitors your productivity every day, to be sure you are not wasting time.
Email – Gmail and Outlook are two great free options to manage your email. Having web access to your email is a great idea from the start, and these two free services I use all the time in my business. Be sure to check out Boomerang for Gmail as well – it allows you to schedule emails to send at another time, so even if you are working at night your clients can get their emails sent to them in the morning – it’s a neat app! Free for limited use, and only $5/month for increased usage. Hopefully this will be available for Outlook soon.
Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Obviously all great ways to network with clients and potential clients, and socialize with colleagues as well. The key with these ‘free’ services is that if you are using any of them for business, be sure you have a strategy in place. What are you trying to accomplish (specifically)? How are you going to accomplish it? Set yourself time limits to ‘work’ on social media, and measure your results. If you are not experiencing the results you want, you are simply wasting your time. Which is not free. Those links above take you to my profiles/pages. Please be sure to connect with me there!
So there you have it. As much as there are a million free/cheap resources out there that can help you get set up in your business easily and on budget, these are some of my favourites.
Come back often – I am always updating this list! But this should get you started as you look around to set up the different areas of your business that will help you get off the ground.
If there is any type of service or product that you need to use, and you haven’t found a cheap or free option for it yet, please email me tracey (at) traceydaviero (dot) com and I’d be happy to let you know of a resource I have heard of, or used myself.
Thanks! Enjoy the list!
And I hope you take me up on my special offer!