Lending Club Blog

16 Top ‘Bang For Your Buck’ Services for Small Businesses

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Running a small business is hard work. Between generating new clients, managing employees and vendors, did you schedule a backup of your hard drive?

I didn’t think so.

These 16 online resources and low-cost services can make life easier (and cheaper!) for the small business owner, freelancer or startup.

Project Tracking

To-do List: Tadalist.com

While I prefer an old-fashioned legal pad for my “To-do” list, I also use a very basic list online with “Ta-da” lists.

Ta-da List – Basic Task Tracking

Cost: Free

Software Project Management: The Trac Project

If you do any sort of software or web app development, The Trac Project is a fantastic way to track revisions, bugs, and timelines for your project. This works great especially when you’re working with a developer who is remote.

Cost: Free

Customer Support

Customer Satisfaction: GetSatisfaction.com

Happy customers return. Happy customers also tell their friends about your product or service.

Tracking customer complaints and feedback is made easy with GetSatisfaction. Not only can users get help from other users, your company can sign up to help users in an official capacity as well.

Registering yourself at GetSatisfaction and responding to customer questions is saying, “I care about you!” to your customers. Check out their company-customer pact.

Cost: Free

Customer Ticket Tracking: helperoo.com

For customer ticket tracking, nothing is worse than getting bogged down in email. Use a simple ticket tracking system like helperoo to help manage customer support requests.

Cost: Free

Freelancers

Finding Contractors: GetAFreelancer.com

Need a new logo or perhaps some fresh content? There are thousands of freelancers on the web who do great work at a great value for your business.

GetAFreelancer isn’t as slick as guru.com or other freelance websites, but it’s still my favorite. There are thousands of quality freelancers that peruse postings here. Their escrow service is simple and widely used on most GAF transactions.

I’ve hired dozens of freelancers from GetAFreelancer and had only one bad, minor experience. Overall the quality of vendors here is top notch. Be sure to check a vendor’s feedback before putting any money in escrow.

Cost: $3 to post a project

Office Basics

Office Furniture: Craigslist.com

New furniture can be a rip-off.

The good news is that quality office furniture and supplies are always in fresh supply on craiglist.com – I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $80 for a desk. And I’ve had some nice desks all courtesy of craigslist.

Cost: From free to dirt cheap

Office Supplies – Staples.com

That was easy.

No, really. Ordering business supplies, paper, post-its, paperclips, toner, whatever is dead simple with Staples online. Just make sure to spend more than $50 to get free shipping.

At least in Seattle they use local delivery services so sometimes your orders show up the next day at no additional cost. Save the trip out of the office as well as get the best prices online.

Cost: Spend $50 or more for free shipping

Financial Management

Bookkeeping: QuickBooks Online Edition

Cheaper month to month than buying a full edition of QuickBooks, the online edition can be accessed from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

Handy when working from a coffee shop or beach, the online edition will seem familiar to anyone who has worked with QuickBooks before.

If you hire a bookkeeper, giving them a remote login to QuickBooks is easy through the online edition as well. Integration with payroll services (see PayCycle below) is seamless.

Cost: $24.99 per month

Online Payroll: PayCycle.com

You do not want to manage payroll on your own.

A cheaper option than a full service payroll service is PayCycle. Once you’ve setup all your employees, running payroll is pretty easy.

The interface is very user friendly, and nearly all tax payments can be made online. Having knowledge of payroll taxes is helpful here, but as long as you have all the government documentation you need, the setup isn’t too difficult.

The monthly fee is for up to 5 employees. PayCycle can also handle contractor payments (including handling 1099′s).

Cost: $24.99 and up

Business Savings Account: ING Direct

Keeping your business and personal finances separate is vital when tax time rolls around.

I’ve found ING‘s business savings account very simple to use for my business. Opening an account will take some paperwork, but once you’ve setup your account transferring between your business checking account and your ING online savings account is simple.

Cost: Free. APR is currently 3.15% (Aug. 19, 2008)

Start-Up Resources

Legal/Startup Documents: Docstock.com

Sometimes you need a lawyer.

Sometimes it’s better (and cheaper!) to do basic legal documents yourself. Forget paying for generic legal docs, you can find non-disclosure agreements, LLC Operating Agreements, EIN Applications, and more docs like financial projections templates on .docstock for free.

For more useful startup documents check out this list.

Cost: Free

Web

Domain Registration: Google

While Go Daddy is the king of domain registration, the best value I’ve found is actually Google.

Yep, Google has a little-known domain registration service for $10/year that includes private registration. Private domain registration allows you to keep your personal information hidden.

Cost: $10

Computer Backup: Mozy.com

Backing up your computers is a must-do activity for any business. You used to be limited to ZIP disks and external hard drives. While external drives still have value, automatic backups are a snap using a cheap online backup service like Mozy.

Mozy will backup your system every night and keep the backups on their servers, so God forbid your office burns down; your data will be safe. For a few bucks a month, you can’t beat the peace of mind off-site data storage gives you.

Cost: $3.95 + $0.50/GB per month

Cheap Web Hosting: dreamhost.com

Dreamhost has had its fair share of issues (downtime, billing issues), but it’s still a great value and dead simple to use. Their 1-click software installers are genius. You can have a new website up and running in 5 minutes.

Cost: From $5.99/month for shared hosting

Website Content Management: WordPress

Use the Dreamhost 1-click installer to install WordPress for your website. Get a custom theme done for a few hundred bucks (hire a freelancer from Getafreelancer). Now you can update your website easily, and you saved thousands by not hiring a designer to build you a site from scratch.

WordPress is an open source content management platform that continues to get better as the community improves on it with each new release.

Cost: Free

Idea Storage: Evernote.com

Evernote is a hot new startup in beta that has an incredible ability to track your documents/photos/audio from the road. You are given an email address to send documents/photos/audio files too. Evernote then organizes the files and can even recognize text in photos to allow faster searching.

Have a great “back of the napkin” idea at lunch? Snap a photo and send it to Evernote. You’ll be able to access it from anywhere as well as search the text in the photo.

Cost: Free (40 MB per month)

* * *

Do you have a frugal web service that helps your business thrive? Share your favorite frugal web service in the comments section below.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Comments (11)

  1. [...] 16 Top ‘Bang For Your Buck’ Services for Small Businesses
    [...]

    August 20th, 2008 at 12:11 am

  2. Nice article, but there is another way to buy file folders,
    pressboard folders and expanding filing pockets and that is direct
    from the manufacture. We are now selling our manufactured filing
    supplies direct thus cutting out the big box retailers markup. So
    yes, I agree that buying some office supplies from a large chain
    store is smart, but the real savings is when you find a manufacture
    that is selling direct. I invite you to go too our companies web
    site and see for yourself.

    August 20th, 2008 at 5:47 am

  3. For small files/folders I’m using Backup To EMail. It’s free.

    August 20th, 2008 at 7:43 am

  4. Definitely the right step on the online savings account suggestion.
    Every business needs to have some retained earnings, but most major
    banks offer absolute crap for interest rates. ING and other online
    accounts are definitely the way to go for business savings

    August 20th, 2008 at 9:04 am

  5. [...] 16 Top ‘Bang For Your Buck’ Services for Small Businesses
    [...]

    August 25th, 2008 at 2:10 pm

  6. Great article and some nice services and tools that I didn’t know
    about. Thanks!

    October 22nd, 2008 at 9:41 pm

  7. A site for scheduling interviews for potential employees:
    http://www.interviewreminder.com/dontfollow

    October 24th, 2008 at 11:46 pm

  8. petemayo:

    Starting off a list with to do list software was a turn off, being
    that to do lists can be done on a paper list, or sent in email,
    going to a site & using their format sure is a hassle, project
    tracking and management really come into play for bigger
    businesses, maybe medium size businesses, and at that point you
    prolly need basecamp for all the other features it offers &
    communication with clients. Or maybe I am just an old school list
    writer?

    October 27th, 2008 at 9:35 am

  9. Didn’t know google had its own domain registrar… makes me want to
    switch. These are amazing resources, guys! I’m going to be working
    on the official launch of a new company and this will be very
    valuable. Thanks!

    May 14th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

  10. Like some others have already mentioned, I too didn’t know Google
    had it’s own domain registrar. Interesting information! Especially
    considering for only $10 they give you the option to go “private”
    which so many companies these days lack.

    September 1st, 2009 at 6:37 pm

  11. Audit Accounting:

    Businesses will continue to outsource their payroll function to
    people who specialize in it, providing more time to focus on core
    services.

    May 2nd, 2010 at 10:10 pm

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