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