Owning a business in the 21st century is, as Dickens put it, “the best of times and the worst of times.” It is the “best of times” because e-commerce has opened up the entire world to wanna-be entrepreneurs or pretty much anyone able to set up a website, list some products (not necessarily own) and add a checkout.
It is the “worst of times” because operating a successful business requires huge and continual re-adjustments to ever-changing technology that can allow the competition to out-shine, out-sell, and out-pace the business owner who gets lazy.
And the kicker is this: Tools for everything you want to do are out there for free! Here are just a few to start you out.
Company up and running? You have a small staff of employees, including sales people who are out and about during the day. How do you all collaborate, communicate, and share tasks and projects? The best new tool to provide all of this is at Bitrix. It’s free for up to 12 employees and allows you to set up an in-house email, video conferencing and group chaps from anywhere, online document shares, tasks and project collaboration, and a CRM that tracks all activity and communication with customers and clients, so that anyone can view the entire history. Basically, that’s everything you need to kickastart your company and keep it running smoothly from day one! As you grow, you can add to the plan, and there are several reasonable options.
Got the right team on board, it’s time to turn your biz from just an idea to the reality. Here are the initial free tools for you:
PickyDomains.com: If you want a catchy name for your business or for a product, you are introducing to the market; this is a crazy fun app to get it for you. You begin by providing a few small details, like are their letter combinations you want included and do you want the word to be close to normal or not? Once you plug in your specifics, you hit the search button (upper left corner) and you will get pages and pages of possibilities and combinations of possibilities.
Strikingly: chances are you have probably heard of this platform for both designing a great website and also as probably the best platform for setting up your business blog (and you will certainly need a blog). What you may not know is that Strikingly has one of the most pleasant post editors and loads of free, mobile-friendly designs to choose from – you can also re-code them in something more personalized later on with basic PHP skills.
Website Analysis: You need to be constantly mindful of how our site is performing. There are 3 great free tools for you to use regularly:
- BrowSeo If you want to see how your website is viewed from any search engine, then just go to Browseo and type in your URL. You’ll not only see your site as others do, you will get a brief analysis of which parts and pages of your site are good for SEO.
- GTmetrix: This is a great app that will analyze the speed of your site and all of its pages. You will get suggestions for improving speed, and that’s a good thing!
- Hotjar: a pretty great tool allowing you to spy on your users, record their sessions, analyze heat maps and adjust, adjust and adjust your website to squeeze out the most conversions. It’s a free tool having the same functionality as a lot of paid ones like Crazy Egg and more.
Want Invoice Simplicity and Efficiency? Then you will want to use Slimvoice, a free downloadable tool that lets you create a clear and simple invoice. You fill in the fields, itemize the charges, let the tool generate the total and then click the paper airplane at the top to email it to your customer/client. It is delivered in PDF format, and you then file your copy in the generated file for that client.
Do You Travel: Here’s a great little app - Open Signal and allows you to find free Wi-Fi hotspots anywhere on the planet to work like you’ve onced dreamed - on the beach with a cold fancy cocktail in hand. (working on the beach is impossible: hot, noizy and fancy cocktail are too overpriced. Just so you know...)
Content: Whether you are writing text for your site or posts for your business blog, you will want your grammar carefully checked. Try GrammarCheck.net. It has a basic grammar check for free and an upgrade for a minimal cost. Nothing is worse than grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors on content that your visitors and/or followers read.
About that Blog: Content marketing is all about have a great business blog on your site and then sharing the content, images and graphics everywhere, so that your brand and your niche expertise is spread everywhere. Here are some free tools that can make your blog a “go to” spot for great information and entertainment.
- Hubspot Blog Topic Generator Let’s say you have a custom kitchen cabinet business. Once you access this site, you simply type in three nouns related to your business, and the generator will provide you with 5 related topics. You can “try again” with different nouns as often as you like.
- Your blogs should always contain visuals and graphics to break up text and to capture interest of your readers/followers. Pixabay is a huge source for free photos and images, and you do not have to worry about copyright infringement. And if you are looking to create your own infographics, you can do so easily with some of the great new free tools. Find them at CoolInfographsics.
- One of the ways to get your posts and your brand spread all over social media and to have your marketing emails actually read is to include surveys and polls. You can create them for free through Survey Monkey. Up to 10 questions can be placed in your survey or poll for free.
- Buffer: This tool allows you to schedule the sharing of your posts and tweets by setting dates and times. Of course the other way to accomplish this sharing is to have the free plug-ins on your WordPress platform that will automatically share your content as it is created.
- Social Locker. This ingenious little tool is not free but worth every penny of the $24 you will spend. If you really want to move your content out, then add this plug-in to your WordPress platform. Here’s how it works. You activate the plug-in then click on part of your content that you want “locked out.” When a visitor comes to a page or to your blog and begins to read something really interesting, or decides they want a coupon you are offering (or anything else of value), they will have to “pay” for that content or that coupon by first clicking a “like” or “share” button to a social media site. They get the content or the coupon, and you get your name out there to all of their friends and/or followers.