Small Business Basics

Yesterday was a full and exciting day. The cost of running a small business professionally can be minuscule if you’re careful. What I mean is that you can use the following providers for some basic and much-needed services:

VistaPrint – A great and very inexpensive place for business cards and other promotional items. Don’t scrimp on their free offerings that include their branding (not unless you like that kind of thing). Pay the little bit extra so that it looks truly professional. I purchased cards from them in 2011 and did so during a great promotion so I still have cards and mailing labels even today.

FreshBooks – If you’re just starting out and don’t have many clients you can use the premiere online accounting and invoicing software, FreshBooks. As of 5/7/14 you can still get a free account which provides you with the ability to add up to 3 clients. You do have to pay a premium for the first paid package. This package, which costs $19.99 per month, allows you to have up to 25 clients and provides some additional features. I used the free account for a long time, I then upgraded, downgraded and I just upgraded again. A way to get the most of the free account is to use one of the client slots as your “general client.” This works well if you do a one-off job for someone. Plus, even if you upgrade later, it’s easy to reassign their invoice to their newly created client status. There is also a iPhone and iPad app in addition to their web interface. I’ve used them since 2011 and while Zoho‘s invoicing software also comes with a great deal of bells and whistles (including their paid plan of $15 per month and 500 clients), I’m sticking with FreshBooks.

HelloFax – I’ve also been using this service for some time. Their free service, which I used briefly, allows you to send and receive faxes but doesn’t provide you with a fax number. At the time I purchased the service a few years ago my monthly fee was only $4.99 per month. I still have that fee but a quick look on their site now shows that their lowest plan is $9.99 per month. There is only a web interface.

HootSuite – I can’t say enough about this software. It’s extremely convenient and is full of features from scheduling posts to being able to view and post to an almost limitless number of accounts. The only thing it’s missing, which many users have lamented for years, is to view the streams from each of the social network accounts you connect to as one. For now each account has its own threads/streams. I also did the free and unpaid back and forth for a while but am now simply using the free account as you can connect up to 5 social network accounts. Presently I use if for 1 Facebook and 4 Twitter accounts. These range from my personal to business accounts. Their pro plan at present costs $8.99 per month and allows you to have up to 50 different social profiles. HootSuite is available via their web interface and apps on mobile devices. Another client I use is EveryPost. It doesn’t allow you to see your streams but it is the best at posting to multiple accounts despite it only being available on mobile devices. Oh, and it’s FREE. However, there you are limited to one account per social network. I’d definitely suggest using it for your personal accounts as it allows you to ignore the character limits imposed by Twitter.

Zoho Mail – Although I was lucky to have created my Google Apps account for my business before they started charging for it, I do use Zoho Mail to host the mail for my personal domain. I loved it so much that I set it up for others in my family. The cost is free (although there are paid plans) and they provide you so many additional tools and resources you can’t turn it down. So, if you’re looking for a terrific email client for your business, definitely check them out! Plus, the free account allows you to have 5 users so any small business owner can save on this necessary tool.

Elance – If you have services you’d like to offer, like you’re also an administrative guru or you are a great programmer, speaker, the list goes on, I’d definitely suggest signing up for Elance. It’s free and who doesn’t like free? However, in order for you to apply to jobs in multiple categories you have to pay a monthly membership fee, $10 as well as an additional fee of $5 per month for each additional category. Regardless, it’s a great place to pick up some extra jobs. Basically clients post their job, what they’re looking for, and you submit proposals on how much you’d charge them to do it. They then choose from all of the freelancers. I am using it as an integral part of my business. It means that you don’t necessarily have to do the traditional “hitting the pavement” to find jobs. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get something or if it doesn’t pay a lot, the point is in cultivating relationships and fine-tuning your craft.

So, I think that’s all for today’s tidbits. Maybe in the coming days I’ll spend more time writing about each individually. I’ll also talk about LinkedIn, WordPress, Google Apps, Craigslist and Skype. I’m grateful for all of the advice and feedback I’ve received on my personal Facebook page and encourage you to like Davidson Administrative Services on Facebook!

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