Post by Ryan Gilbert:
Startup Cheat Codes: 7 awesome cloud-based tools that destroy unnecessary business expenses, wasted time and frustration.
Juggling 1-8 different roles as a small business owner can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
Web apps have become powerful business tools over the past few years, sight unseen, right under the noses of entrepreneurs.
While building my own business, I discovered these online resources that saved me thousands in outsourcing fees and working hours. They’re all accessible by internet, intuitive and best of all, free (with 1 exception).
Strikingly makes it really hard to come up with a good excuse for not having a professional website. They feature free, amazing templates that you can quickly personalize using their intuitive interface.
Time efficiency: high
Time cost: 1 hour to create a professional website, portfolio or product page
$ Savings: $100-$1,000 depending on your previous website design plans
Drawbacks: You have to upgrade to premium to use your custom domain.You’re limited to 1 site from the start.
Canva is a Godsend if you don’t know Photoshop. Anyone can use this cloud-based graphic design tool to make near-professional designs. You get access to Canva’s free library of icons, designs and drawings; higher-quality photos start at just $1.
Time efficiency: medium
Time cost: 30 minutes-2 hours to create a design, depending on you experience in the field
$ Savings: $100-200, compared to hiring a graphic designer
$50/month compared to Adobe Creative Cloud with Photoshop
Drawbacks: If you’re using Canva, you’re probably no Picasso. You can make good graphic designs on here, but it takes some time. Still, it’s considerably less time than learning Photoshop or explaining the project to a consultant that lives across the world.
Management Dashboard / CRM / Sales
Insightly is the best free control center for any business in regard to sales, leads and administration. Look no further for a CRM solution.
A free membership on Insightly.com offers:
- To-do lists, contacts storage
- Lead and project tabs for team-based tasks
- Email alerts and reports
- Syncing with Google Apps & Email
Time efficiency: medium/high
Time cost: 1-2 hours to set-up
$ Savings: $65/month, compared to Salesforce Professional package (similar to Free features on Insightly)
Drawbacks: Lacks some of the neat, Premium Salesforce features
“One of the top 10 reasons for entrepreneurial failure is not delegating the “intelligent grunt work.”
Fiverr lets you do just that: outsource your work- for cheap. Freelancers on the website offer specific jobs and name their price. Work is sold by the ‘gig,’ which always costs $5.
The amount of work for $5 will buy you varies with each freelancer, but here are a few examples of things that cost $5:
- Site traffic, marketing, SEO optimization
- User feedback, testimonials
You can also request a specific job to be done and multiple freelancers will come to your aid. The website’s review and workflow system makes it easy to stay productive and find the best bang for your buck.
Time efficiency: High
Initial time investment: 1-2 hours to register, find the right Freelancer, and provide directions for their work
$ Savings: Pennies on the dollar compared to similar freelance jobs on other sites; no fees for the buyers
Drawbacks: High demand drives up wait queues for work anywhere from 1-14 days.
Marketing, A/B Testing, Landing Pages
UnBounce is a free marketing tool used to create landing pages, sales pages and test marketing strategies. You still have to plan your marketing strategy well and ensure your landing page generates conversions. That being considered, it’s an incredibly cheap and effective way to analyze useful data.
Time efficiency: medium/low, depending on experience in marketing
Time cost: 2-3 hours to set up an account and landing page
$ Savings: $500, compared to hiring a website designer or marketing specialist
Drawbacks: Larger learning curve, unless you’re already experienced in online marketing
Accounting, Finance and Budgets
Wave Accounting can give you the productivity of a CFO with the requisite knowledge of Accounting 101. Wave can track all business expenses via linked bank accounts. Premium starts at $9/month, based around increased customer support.
These features come standard in the free version:
- Financial snapshots and graphs of your business
- Invoices, receipts, bills, accounting
- Multiple users, auto-generated accounting reports
Time efficiency: Very high
Time cost: 1-2 hours to set up financial accounts and adjust balances or transaction categories (which you’ll likely need to do)
$ Savings: Compared to QuickBooks, $50-200
Drawbacks: I can’t think of any significant cons! Please let me know if you’ve spotted any.
IFTTT is an automated web system that runs on simple recipes which make it execute tasks throughout the internet.
It can perform administrative work but can also save you a significant amount of time.
Time efficiency: high
Time cost: 1 hour to set up a few good recipes that will save you tons of time in the long run
$ Savings: $0- unless you decide to fire your administrative assistant
Drawbacks: Can be distracting and superfluous for many tasks.
You might find yourself automating systems you don’t use all that much because it’s just so much fun.
“You don’t need to have a 100-person company to develop that idea.
– Larry Page, Google
And you don’t need a team of full-time employees to pursue your business, product or blog. Free resources can be leveraged to offset smaller profits margins from small operations or increased competition. It’s not about learning the algorithms or advanced techniques behind these tools. When you’re starting out, it’s about utilizing what you can to move forward as quickly as possible.
Ryan B. Gilbert