Getting your startup idea out of the gates can be tough and intimidating. The first steps, however, are actually
much easier and more affordable than many entrepreneurs believe, especially with the slew of useful tools available
Here are 10 free or very affordable, and easy-to-use tools to help you take action and get started.
With the wildly varying licensing requirements and business structures available, setting up the legal structure of
your business can get confusing.
For this reason, consider using SCORE, an organization of experienced and often retired entrepreneurs and business
professionals that was set up by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide advice to small business owners
at no charge. while you can certainly change the legal aspects of your business later, it’s best to set up your business
properly from the start and avoid unnecessary expenses later.
Find your local SCORE office and contact a business professional for help.
Determining the Best legal Structure for Your Business
One of the easiest and highest impact tasks you can complete for your business is securing a website domain and
setting up a great landing page. I have ha success with Square space, which is very easy to use and provides a great
web and mobile interface. Other sites, like GoDaddy and Wix also have great resources for getting started, an all
allow you to reserve your business website domain (URL) with their service.
While you are at it, you should also look at securing other website domains for your business (Such as .com,.net, .co,
.ninja, etc.), which can be done affordably through Names.com or CheapNames.com. You may then simply forward
these secondary domains to your primary landing page.
If you need creative help with your brand or producing quality images for your website and digital channels,
consider using a crowdsourcing site to get started. I have used 99 Designs on a number of occasions to tap into the
immense pool of talented designers who helped me formulate a creative design I needed.
For images, consider Dollar Photo club, which provides licensed use of tens of thousands of high-definition photos
for only a dollar each. Also Canva provides a free and easy online design platform for everything from a Twitter
masthead to business cards and letterhead.
4. Digital document storage.
Risking the loss of important documents to a computer crash is no longer necessary these days. Instead, use cloud
storage to securely save documents and allow for easy collaboration and sharing with others.
Google Drive provides up to 15 gigabytes (GB) of storage for free, which unless you are producing videos or storing
thousands of photos is more than enough space to store digital files. Google also allows you to collaborate on
documents through Google Docs.
Other cloud storage sites, such as Dropbox, are affordable, convenient and easy to use. Both Dropbox and Google
provide tools that allow you easy access to your files on your PC or Mac or via mobile device.
Signing the required long term business phone contracts can be expensive and intimidating. Instead, consider voice
over internet protocol (VOIP) service, which allows you to make phone calls through the Internet. You can set up a
Google Voice phone number for free and make unlimited domestic calls (WIFI is required, and some restrictions
apply) with a free mobile app.
If you would like a more robust phone service, consider RingCentral, which offers complete office phone systems with
conference calling and a host of other convenient features, that run completely through VOIP. Ring Central is more
affordable than most business phone plans and provides for unlimited phone lines and domestic calls. It also has a
great mobile app that allows you to control your entire phone system through your mobile device.
6. Management software.
Once you start looking like a company, it is time to start behaving like one. These days, more and more business are
moving to software as a service (SAAS), or online software that provides the same service as those you might
download and use on your computer.
For instance, for a small monthly fee, Quickbooks online allows you to manage your finances from any computer or
mobile device with access to the internet. In the long run, this fee beats the inevitable upgrade costs and, more
important, provides secure storage of all your data.
You should also research and utilize SAASs for your specific industry, such as FreshBook, which provides an easy to
use platform for service companies that bill on time.
Staying on top of industry trends and news does not require you to scour the internet for hours each day. Instaed, set
up free Google Alerts, which will notify you of news daily based on keywords you tell it to research.
8. Social media.
Securing your business name and profile on all major social sites is critical for managing your online brand, but
keeping up with all of them can be headache.
Hootsuite is a great tool for monitoring your social media sites in one place, and it also provides you the ability to
monitor social media feeds for specific keywords. For a small fee, you can add individuals to your account and allow
the same management access as you participate.
10. Personal Tools
I strongly recommend purchasing a high quality computer and high speed internet access. From experience, I
know what happens when you try to cut corners on these. While you may perceive the cost saving as significant and
important, especially at this early stage, it is nothing compared to the productivity (and frustration) you will have
dealing with a sluggish computer or slow internet connection.
This goes for mobile data service as well, when choosing your mobile data provider, prioritize coverage over price.
You will not regret it.