Starting a small business - 50+ web apps and online resources
If you're starting a small business and looking for advice on choosing the best web apps and online resources, you'll appreciate the following list, that will help you start your small business right.
We have accumulated this list on personal experience, research for our clients and general industry knowledge.
Before launching Email Signature Rescue, we had been running our own small web design and graphic agency in South Australia for nearly ten years. Being in the web design industry, we like to keep up with the latest technology and consider ourselves early-adopters of new technology.
Being also from Gen Y, we're not afraid to jump-ship and change technology to more appropriate resources to fit our needs.
For these reasons, we make the perfect candidates for writing this article and giving good recommendations and advice for other small businesses that are just starting out.
So here is our list of starting a small business - 50+ web apps and online resources you need to know about.
For Everyday Small Business Tasks
Small Business Online Accounting Programs
Online Accounting Programs have to be one of the best things to come out of this technology era. Most people starting their own small business don't have Accounting or Bookkeeping staff because their budget simply doesn't afford it. It's just one of the things that we must do without in order to keep our cash flow positive. From importing bank feeds, to simplifying GST/BAS/Tax reporting, online accounting software programs are helping small businesses stay in business every day.
- Xero - a very powerful online accounting program with payroll, Super, GST/BAS/Tax reporting built in. You can also connect your small business bank accounts and credit cards which makes monthly reconciliations a breeze. Made in New Zealand. Highly recommended.
- Quickbooks - we have not personally used Quickbooks, but general reports and reviews are usually positive.
Small Business Accepting Online Payments
Are you a small business that needs to accept online payments from your customers? Whether your whole business is online or you have a bricks and mortar store but still need online payment facilities, there's lots of options out there to start collecting cash from your customers online today.
- Stripe - Depending on how you need to use it, you might need a developer with knowledge using the Stripe API but it's money worth spending if you can afford it. If you have some technical abilities you can setup once off payments easily. Lots of options for recurring payments and one off payments. Highly recommended.
- Paypal - great for small businesses just starting out, start accepting online payments immediately, no monthly fees
- EWay (Australia) - a bit more old school that Stripe but gets the job done. Setup can be a hassle and not as easy as Stripe.
- Pin Payments (Australia) - on par with Stripe but not as full featured.
- Transferwise - Banks set their own exchange rate to make money off you. TransferWise gives you the real exchange rate, also known as the mid-market rate. The exchange rate is guaranteed as long TransferWise receives your money in 24 hours. Now backed by Sir Richard Branson (the Virgin guy). Useful for paying Freelancers or transferring money overseas.
Small Business Communication Tools
- Slack - a messaging app for business teams, used by some pretty large companies like AirBNB and Pinterest.
- HipChat - Also a messaging app for teams. By Atlassian an Australian company who also make Jira, Confluence and BitBucket. If you or your development team use any of these other programs, Hipchat integrates nicely.
Small Business Project Management Tools
- Trello - an extremely easy to use project management tool. Create lists, add cards to the list and assign people to the card - simple and straight-forward. I don't know what we'd do without it.
- Basecamp - We tried Basecamp approximately 5 years ago now. We did like it but found it not simple to use so we stopped using it. May be more appropriate for larger companies where more employee task tracking and time-tracking/billing is required.
Small Business Customer Support, Communities and Feedback
- Zendesk - We started using Zendesk when our customer support emails for Email Signature Rescue were getting out of control. Great for following up on support issues, you can keep tickets open or close them when they are completed. We are very happy with Zendesk. Offers a lot of options, but most of all is just easy to use. It would be hard to switch to another one due to nice design and features.
- Get Satisfaction - customer community software. Allows customers to connect with businesses and other customers. We used this to start with but eventually needed more features and switched to Zendesk.
- Uservoice - transform customer feedback into intelligent data to drive product strategy
- Formilla - Live chat software and analytics
- Vanilla Forums - Create an online community. Vanilla's cloud-based community software is used by top brands to better engage customers, drive loyalty, empower advocates and reduce support costs
Small Business Marketing Resources
Small Business Websites and Blogs
- Tumblr - easily create your own blogging website.
- Wix - create and design your own websites. Has themes and styles to suit a wide range of industries.
- SquareSpace - create and design your own websites.
- Wordpress - Website and content management system with a lot of templates, components and plugins already developed.
- Joomla - Website and content management system with a lot of templates, components and plugins already developed.
- Yootheme - Themes and components to make your Joomla or Wordpress websites look amazing.
- Rockettheme - Themes and components to make your Joomla websites look amazing.
HTML Email Signatures
- Email Signature Rescue - all small businesses that are just starting out should have a HTML email signature at the bottom of all emails they send. Email Signature Rescue offers professionally designed, coded and tested HTML email signature templates and software to easily customize them.
If you have a list of your customer email addresses, there's some tools available that make sending them regular email newsletters easy. They also keep your business on the right side of the anti-spam laws with features like adding automatic unsubscribe buttons from subscriber lists. If you're just starting out, our best advice is to start collecting all of your customer email addresses right away. Ask for it on registration forms, or ask to swap business cards with your customers.
- Campaign Monitor - start collecting email addresses on your website so you can send them HTML email newsletters. Made in Australia. Won several awards for customer service.
- MailChimp - one of the largest email newsletter software companies, offers HTML templates and a system to send newsletters and update subscriber lists automatically.
Crowdfunding can be incredibly useful in giving your small business the "kickstart-er" that it needs. Crowdfunding involves preparing a pitch, uploading supporting documents, images and videos and showing off the potential of your product or service before you have actually built it. It allows you to gauge market interest in your product and even sell your product or service, before spending the funds building it or creating it. Genius. All of the three platforms mentioned below are similar. Be sure to check out their websites and compare their features for yourself before starting you new crowdfunding campaign.
Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing and Business Strategy Blogs
If you have started your own small business and have a website or blog setup, you need to know about SEO and Content Marketing. These are two
- Moz - Competitor and keyword research tools and blog for SEO. Highly recommend.
- Neil Patel, QuickSprout and KissMetrics - Neil Patel is a content marketing God and is the driving force behind all three of these outstanding content marketing websites/blogs.
- GrowthHackers - Basically reddit for entrepreneurs and businesses.
- Sixteen Ventures - Great advice on onboarding customers, pricing your products and services and growth strategies.
- Yoast - Awesome SEO plugin for Wordpress, also has a blog with SEO tips and tricks
Online Advertising & Affiliate Marketing
- Google Adwords - when you visit Google and search for something, you might see ads at the top or to the side of the page, this is Google Adwords. You can advertise on Google Adwords too. Highly relevant and targeted marketing.
- Facebook Ads - only recommended if your small business targets local areas close to your business, not recommended for worldwide targeting due to false clicks and likes
- Adroll - offers Remarketing tools - remarketing is form of marketing to visitors who have already visited your website. If you have ever visited a website, and then you start seeing ads on Facebook or other sites you visit, from that website you visited, this is remarketing at work.
- Buy Sell Ads - you can buy ads on large well known websites with lots of visitors and/or sell ads on your own website
- UpCounsel - Post jobs, read proposals, hire a lawyer. Boasts 60% reduction in fees due to no overhead costs of using a traditional law firm.
- LegalVision (Australia) - fixed fees, wide range of legal specialists and lots of free information too. Their tagline is "smart law for business", need I say more.
- UpWork (formerly known as Elance and ODesk) - find Freelancers to help with any tasks you can imagine from copywriting to web and mobile app development. We have personally used Elance and Upwork many times now for odd jobs that we didn't have staff with the knowledge to achieve. Highly recommend.
- Freelancer.com - very similar to Upwork, hire Freelancers to complete tasks. We haven't personally used but have heard good things and there are lots of jobs n the site.
Addons and Plugins for your small business website
Hiring a coder or developer can be expensive. Luckily there are plenty of options for a small business operator with some technical skills to add some cool features and tools to your website, with limited knowledge.
Accept credit card payments online quickly and easily. Integrate Stripe or Paypal with your online form manager and start accepting online payments immediately.
Analytics and Reporting
- Google Analytics
Content Distribution Network
- Wisepops - You know those popup ads and forms you see on some websites that go over the top of the content you are reading, well now you can make your own popups too with Wisepops.
Written by Amy Jarrett, Co-Founder of Email Signature Rescue on 5th November 2016.