With all the corporate downsizing, merger and acquisition along with degrading economic conditions, more and more people are turning to entrepreneurship as the career of choice. Being in control of your earning potential can be quite exhilarating. As exciting as it is, it can also be a very daunting step to take. However, having access to resources can help put you at ease so you can focus on the essentials of running a successful business.
When I launched my business almost 4 years ago, I was excited at the prospect of turning my hobby into my livelihood. Although I have to admit, after filing the necessary paperwork I wasn’t really sure where to begin so I just dove in. I’ve had to figure things out along the way. I’ve read countless books, articles and blogs on various aspects of running a business. Google is my best employee. When I don’t know what to do, I Google it. You’d be surprised at what is out there on the web……I digress. Anyway, in all my research and trying different things, here are my top 8 resources for small business owners.
#1 – Weebly
In this day and age it is nearly impossible to run a successful business without having a website. However, having a professionally designed site can cost you a pretty penny. Not to mention maintenance expenses. Weebly has a free service with lots of themes to choose from that can be customized to fit your brand. You can drag and drop elements to design you pages, such as contact forms, social media icons, and e-commerce links. Some elements are only available with their paid services, but their basic plan starts at less than $5 per month. They also have an app that you can use to manage your site from your mobile phone or tablet.
#2 – Vistaprint
Every business owner needs business cards to help promote their business. Going to a printer can set you back a couple hundred dollars. Vistaprint has a large collection of designs to choose from. Some of them enable you to insert your logo. You can get 250 business cards for less than $10 depending on the design you choose. They also do brochures, flyers, banners, and other marketing materials. Promotional items like pens, t-shirts, and cups are also available. If you sign up for their email list you can stay abreast of sales to take advantage of even lower prices.
#3 – Waveapps
Wave is a free and very easy, full accounting application. It allows you to track sales & expenses, send invoices, receive payments, and save receipts (no more shoe box to take to the accountant at tax time). It also includes bank account integrations and report generation. When you log into your account, you land on your dashboard page which gives you a snapshot of your overall business financials. They also offer a payroll integration service for $15 per month plus $4 per employee if your business requires you to hire staff. Another great thing about Wave is it is a web based application. No need to worry about your computer crashing and losing all of your data. You have access to your account from any device connected to the web.
#4 – Facebook/Facebook Pages Manager
As of the fourth quarter of 201, Facebook recorded 1.79 billion monthly active users. If you own a small business and don’t have a Facebook page, this statistic alone should compel you to start one today. The Facebook Pages Manager app gives you access to analytics about your page usage, reach and audience demographics. It also enables you to promote your business for as little as $5. Posting to your page doesn’t have to be a chore. You can schedule posts in advance so you don’t have to be tied to it every day. You can designate one day a week or per month to schedule all of your posts. Just set it and forget it. You’ll even be notified when your scheduled posts are posted to your page.
#5 – Fiverr (totally coincidental that it’s #5)
I was introduced to Fiverr a couple years ago through a friend who is a success coach. I’ve used them to redesign my logo, do event flyers, and website banners. All gigs start at $5, thus the name. You can do “Add Ons”, for an additional fee, of faster delivery, source files, larger quantities. You get the picture. This is a great resource for high quality media content.
#6 – Todoist
While reading a book on how to be more productive, I learned about the Todoist app. Seriously….this app has changed my life. No more paper lists shoved down in the abyss of my purse. I wear many hats and this app helps me keep it all organized. It is an electronic tod0 list. In the free version you can create projects to keep your to do lists organized. You can schedule them as far in advance as you like. Each morning you’ll receive an email reminder of all that is on your list for the day and any past due items. You have the ability to postpone an item to another day if you are unable to complete it the day it is scheduled. This is especially helpful for when the completion of one item is contingent on another. I also like that it taps into my competitiveness by giving “Karma” points. There is a web based and app platform available. I use the app on my phone the most, but if I have several items to add at one time I use the web based version. Typing is so much easier on a full sized keyboard.
#7 – Square Point of Sale
Squareup.com was created to enable anyone to be able to accept credit card payments affordably. You begin by creating an account and then they will ship you a free card reader that can be plugged into any mobile device. They charge a small transaction fee of just under 3% with no monthly access fee. Customers can have a copy of their receipt emailed or sent via text message. You can also add employee users, however, as of January 2016 there is a $5 charge per person. If you find yourself in an area with spotty wireless service, you can accept payments offline and they will be processed when connectivity is restored. However, in doing so you take a risk of the transaction being declined. You have to decide if it is worth the risk.
#8 – Canva
I should have put this one first, because it is my favorite toy right now. Canva.com provides you with the ability to create stunning graphics, even if you aren’t tech savvy. It was started to create a platform that was easy to use and enabled users to design high quality graphics. They have a great deal of free templates that you can customize with your brand colors and fonts. Or you can start a design from scratch using your own images or Canva images. Each Canva image is $1 for one time use (images are downloadable without watermark for 24 hour period) or $10 for multi-use.
I recently began using these tools, so the jury is still out, but they were both recommended to me by other entrepreneurs, Hootsuite and MailChimp. Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts across multiple social media platforms at one time rather than having to log into each individual one separately. This is a huge time saver and helps you post more consistently. Whenever I wing it, I find that much more time has elapsed than I thought between posts. MailChimp gives you the ability to maintain an email list and segment that list for targeted emails. Just as with Hootsuite, you have the ability to schedule emails or a series of emails in advance so you don’t have to rely on your memory to get it done.
These are my “can’t live without” resources. If you have any additional ones, drop us a comment. I’d love to hear what works for you.