While we all wait with bated breath (not) for the global economy to return to the wild abandon of confetti-throwing boom time and banks to deliver unrequested credit cards and approve loans with equal measures of gaiety and irresponsibility, there has to be some other way to create wealth and grow small businesses conservatively until we’re over the hump. As far as getting organised and growing a start-up on a budget, technological innovators have created lots of little nooks and crannies to get you started.
A website provides a great opportunity to create a good first impression for most businesses and it need not look like you’ve commissioned your younger brother to do it as a school project. Easy-to-use website creator ‘Weebly’ makes it possible to create a content rich site, loaded with features and a pretty, professional layout, absolutely free and gratis. Through simple drag and drop processes and with next to no technical skills, over 6 million users have created an impressive on-line presence that includes text, photos, maps, and videos with no installation time or software upgrades necessary. Hundreds of template choices also mean your site won’t end up looking like everybody else’s. If you do manage to get stuck, there’s always step-by-step tutorials and technical assistance available.
This user-friendly e-commerce platform eliminates the hassle and technical hurdle-jumping that merchants would have to overcome when amending their sites to take money on-line. Shopify manages ‘uploading products, changing the design, accepting credit card orders, and viewing incoming orders and completed transactions’ – for a whole lot less than would be charged if you paid to have this done independently. Over 20 million products have been sold through the Shopify e-commerce platform since its inception in 2005 (they keep a running tally of product sales on their homepage if you don’t believe me). Tons of credible brands use the site proving it’s not just a time and money-saver for small fries but just a good, solid platform all-around, with over a hundred store templates and a lot of creative control over the final look of your e-store. You and your customers can rest assured that their shopping cart and details are in a secure place, at a cost of only $29 for basic functions and up to $179 a month for all the trimmings.
This site provides legal documents and advice without having to pay hefty lawyer fees. You’ll get advice on forming your business (whether non-profit, sole proprietor, incorporation, etc.) naming it, taxes, legal forms, patents, real estate, trademarks and so on. It’s a one-stop shop for all your legal start-up needs and will save you a fortune in paid-per-hour advice. There’s an on-line team should you need extra help and they can be contacted by phone as well with advice costing as little as $14. It’s quick legal advice tailored to your specific needs, minus the shark fees.
With the ever expanding smorgasbord of social media networks to manage and multiple accounts to update with various company events and offers, it makes a lot of time and business sense to utilise a tool that manages all of this by cross-platform scheduling and effortless data tracking. According to Mashable.com, “HootSuite is an essential tool for managing social networks by allowing teams to efficiently track conversations and measure campaign results.” You can manage all your key accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and more while adding content to YouTube, Flickr and Tumblr from one secure dashboard, launching campaigns and growing your audience while keeping abreast of responses and reactions across the net. It’s a one-stop shop for on-line marketing and much quicker than doing it all one by one. There’s a choice between the basic free plan or pay just $9.99 for all you’ll ever need.
Created by two university students in 2010, InDinero allows quick and easy management of cash flow and business finances. By syncing all your bank accounts and credit cards the app records trends in cash flow while keeping tabs on all your financial activity so you know how you’re doing and what to expect in the future. It’s much easier than highlighting transactions on a bank statement at the end of the month; it provides real time tracking and even flags unusual spending. Amazing knowledge to have on tap if you’re starting a new business and need to be aware of risks and accomplishments as they happen.
You have up-to-the minute knowledge of your business’s financial health in one central location, with your transactions categorised so you can keep to your budgets without spending precious selling time doing book-keeping. Charges do apply but they sure beat hiring an accountant.
Newsletters provide a very important link between you and your customers, updating them with new products, offers and any changes to your business, however, managing huge mailing lists that require adding and subtracting subscribers can prove a timeous hassle. Mailchimp makes this process easy (and free) by providing data tracking for up to 2,000 subscribers. You will have to pay for the service if you have more than 2,000 people signed up but it’s plenty service for a small start-up looking to limit out-goings. The service helps you design email newsletters, share them across social networks, integrate your existing services and track your results. There are mobile-friendly campaigns available, analysis on newsletter ‘opens’, ‘clicks-through’s’ and ‘reads’ and ‘InstaChimp’, a ‘free web app that connects your Instagram and MailChimp accounts so you can easily share your favourite photos.’ There are ‘pay as you go’ options and reasonably-priced plans for those sending out large amounts of emails, all dependent on the size of your business and your specific needs so you’re in complete control of what you spend and when.
Life may seem a little unfair if you feel the market slumped just in time for your big business debut but thankfully we live in an age when easily-accessible and low cost innovation helps us along. There’s no holding a good idea back when you incorporate the best processes, saving you time and money.