We all like that idea of starting our own business. To be our own boss, work when and how we choose, be inventive, get satisfaction form our own work efforts. We all like to do that.
But there are only two ways of getting started in your own business.
Firstly, you can buy an established one which means you need the purchase price or be able to borrow it.
Or secondly, you can start it yourself. But you still need enough money to pay for start-up costs and ongoing running costs of the business until enough income is generated to make consistent profits.
In all cases you need capital funds. It’s easy to go broke and it’s probably the main reason why businesses fail, namely insufficient capital funds.
The best way to preserve your capital funds and make it less likely to fail is to use services which cost nothing or cost as little as possible.
That’s where free online business software and tools come in!
These can literally save your business thousand of dollars if you learn how to develop and use them correctly. And the internet is full of online freebies readily adaptable for your business.
I will cover some of them here that I have advised my accounting clients to use as an alternative to more costly alternatives. These have helped their businesses grow and flourish.
A business plan should be prepared for any business you start. It sets down on paper how and in what direction it’s going to take.
This is the hardest part of starting a business and it’s up to you how much detail you want to document. It can be one page to a hundred page plan. I think for most purposes the shorter the business plan the better.
Free templates and software to prepare a business plan are available online, either from government funded organisations like the SBA. Go to their website and search business plans.
Or from other online sites like Bizgym.
Or keep it simple and write down a “One Page Business Plan”. Template samples can be found online by Googling One Page Business Plan.
Computer security is next and one of the most popular anti virus programs that offer a free version is AVG.
Using this and being aware of spam and websites that contain viruses will save you a lot of lost data and effort in the future.
Your business must also be compliant with taxation laws. For that you must record all your business transactions and keep all source documentation to substantiate the transactions.
So you’ll need an accounting package. This not only keeps the Taxman happy but it’s an invaluable record of your business’s activity and can supply you with reports you can view to see how your business is performing.
Wave Accounting is one of the best free online ones I have seen and though American it can be adapted for other countries that have GST or VAT taxes.
The best thing about it is it’s online, so you can access it from any computer you like and all data is stored online.
For an Australian version of a free accounting software package you can try ‘Freeaccountingsoftware’ site, and it’s called Free Accounting –
Marketing is at the very crux of any business success, so you have to start advertising and make yourself known to everyone as soon as you can.
A website is a requirement for any business these days, so it’s the first marketing effort you try. The cheapest way to create a website online is to build it yourself.
This can be done with a website builder. The easiest, quickest approach here is to get an internet service provider that has a good website builder wizard included as part of the package so you can start building for free.
The best option I have come across is to use an internet service provider like Bravenet. Their hosting cost is $99 per annum and the website builder wizard they provide free is the easiest one I have ever used.
Other free ways to market your business is to sign up to website business directories that offer a free listing. Sign up for as many as you can and if you find one that gets you clients or customers you can even start paying to upgrade for a better listing position.
Some of the well know online business directories are:
Even sign up for your free listing in your Yellow Pages and White Pages as they also list your business online now.
Printing business cards to hand out to prospective clients and customers is good marketing. To get you started with this Vistaprint allows you to order up to 250 free business cards at a time.
Backup and storage is another important issue for a business. One way to solve this problem is to use an online backup service. There are many that you can sign up with that allow you up to 2GB to 5GB free online storage.
Dropbox, is an example of one of these. It’s also great at syncing the data stored online with that data on any computer you have the Dropbox application installed on with that account. No more wasting time in daily backup routines.
Communicating with clients and customers is great way of keeping them as clients.
This can be done free with Skype, which I have found to be one of the best free software I have ever used. Free phone calls, free video calls, free IM, free file sharing. If you want to also phone them on mobile and other phones then you can buy Skype credits that’s a lot cheaper than what telecommunication companies charge.
The best of all free online software for business is Google Apps.
It has everything you need in software applications and it’s a great free replacement for Microsoft Office. They now allow up to 10 users free. It used to be 50 users free but being so successful and popular they have lowered the free cap.
You get free docs, spreadsheets and calender applications, custom Gmail, webmaster tools, Google places and many other applications that can be found in the Google Web Store that are useful business and collaborative productivity tools.
I hope what I have covered in this article can be use by you and save your business a lot of money. But remember you are the driving force behind your business. If you buy paid proprietary versions of any of the free software and business tools I have covered here always make sure the cost incurred returns you much more than you pay for.