Building your new business isn’t easy.
In this economy — where profit margins are razor thin due to competition — you have to figure out creative ways to establish your brand while also promoting your start-up’s products and services AND balancing a cost-effective, professional, and efficient way of conducting business.
Many software tools available today would be AMAZING to have, but you just can’t afford them right now. What’s an entrepreneur to do?
The first thing you should look for are creative alternatives to those pricey tools, platforms, and software programs designed for core business areas like Project Management, Customer Relationship Management, Social Management, Accounting, Creative, Marketing, and Content Management (e.g., Web Building).
There is an upside to our economy being the way it is right now — It’s forced people to look for, create, and share affordable tools for businesses JUST LIKE YOU.
Here’s my personal list of 5 must-have tools for your start-up business, at prices (some even FREE!) that are sure to fit your budget.
1. Basecamp (www.basecamp.com) — Basecamp is a project management and collaboration tool that not only offers you a free 60-day trial, but also integrates with a plethora of web applications to make collaborating with your clients a breeze. It has web-based calendars and drag-and-drop file sharing. It’s simple, intuitive, and best of all, after your free trial period is up, it’s completely affordable, with plans starting at $20 per month.
2. FreshBooks (www.freshbooks.com) — This cloud-based Accounting platform is an amazing tool for the budget-minded entrepreneur who does not fancy his/herself an accountant. FreshBooks offers a free 30-day trial; however, this doesn’t mean you have to stop using it when the trial period is over. You can use the software indefinitely for up to 3 clients. When your business begins to grow, you can upgrade to 25 clients for only $19.95 a month. FreshBooks makes invoicing simple, and integrates with a large number of payment options both on- and offline. For someone starting out, FreshBooks is a no-brainer when it comes to wanting to professionally manage billing and accounting.
3. DropBox (www.dropbox.com) — DropBox is one of those tools that has revolutionized how we share files with one another. The best part? DropBox is essentially FREE, with tons of storage; the ability to back up your mobile devices; and drag-and-drop convenience for sharing documents and files with clients, family, and friends. Being able to collaborate and share documents through the cloud on almost any device with DropBox has made complicated FTP file-sharing systems almost obsolete. DropBox offers creative ways to increase your storage space, too, by simply getting friends to sign up, install, and use the mobile app. It has an application programming interface to integrate with a number of applications so wide and vast, I can’t even begin to count. Be sure to get DropBox today!
4. Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics/) — Let’s face it… If you have a website, you need to know how effective your website is and what its place in your industry is. Google Analytics has revolutionized how you manage the direction you want your website, your messaging, and your brand to go — and it’s FREE! There’s no reason you shouldn’t already be using this powerhouse tool to measure your website’s performance. The tools within Google Analytics are infinitely customizable to see the statistics you need to out-perform your competition. If you have a WordPress site, be sure to check out my colleague Mike Kissel’s post about adding the Google Analyticator plug-in to your site.
If you’re not already using Google Analytics,
Contact Cultivate Communications today to find out how to get
it integrated into your website: 1-414-727-2440.
5. Gimp (www.gimp.org) — To really make anything happen with great design, you need expensive photo-editing software (like Adobe Photoshop). But not everyone can afford this expensive program when they’re just starting out. Fortunately for those of you trying to establish your start-up’s presence in the world, you don’t have to be pressured into pirating that precious Adobe software to get your feet wet. Check out Gimp’s features to see if this program might be an option for you.
If you use Gimp to build your business and get to the point when you can afford to buy a suite of Adobe creative products, please feel a little obligated to throw a donation their way for making it possible for you to get your start without breaking the bank. You can donate to Gimp here: http://www.gimp.org/donating/
I hope this list of useful apps and programs motivates you to grow your business in new and exciting ways. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or Google+.
Have you used any of these great applications? Share your experience and tell us how it benefited you, your business, and/or your clients.