Here's a list of digital tools for the microbusiness that make it easier to get things done. The current categories are finance, marketing, research, productivity, organization and software.
Need to take money electronically? I've had my beefs with PayPal but they're still a pretty good option for taking orders- I would just caution against having them as your ONLY option.
Get the debit card and you have same day access to most funds.
Once you've gotten started with PayPal, you may find setting up buttons to sell items pretty tedious. There are lots of solutions for automating part of this process, but I found PayLoadz to be one of the better organized solutions that offers the hosting of your digital files as well, and can even be set up to communicate to your buyers.. It's definitely more than just a cart solution.
It supports PayPal, 2Checkout, and Amazon Payments.
Never actually used the Square items sent to me but I see their potential. Get people anywhere to swipe their card for your goods in person, and have it deposit to your account within a few business days. Pay per transaction and don't bother with the mess of merchant accounts.
If you have a few dozen regulars or less than a few hundred in-person transactions, I've heard great things from everyone from independent taxi drivers to organizers of some medium sized conferences.
"No credit card required. No Contracts. Cancel anytime." I hate invoicing. I love Freshbooks. If you're not getting these things done on time but aren't ready to hire an accountant or other help to handle incoming transactions for services, this is a great tool. It handles invoices, time tracking and expenses in one inexpensive package. You can try it free for a month.
I was sold the first day. I loved that I could copy the last invoice at the click of a button and just change the necessary details, and that I could send it via email or snail mail within the Freshbooks interface. I used to dread spending hours on invoicing, which of course caused me to procrastinate, and eventually led to issues collecting funds. Freshbooks fixed all of that.
Want to accommodate your PayPal clients but don't want to deal directly with PayPal? 2checkout will accept credit cards, PayPal and of course, checks and debit cards on your behalf. The money takes a bit longer to get to you but if you dream of not having to deal with PayPal, Bob's figuratively your Uncle.
"Accept payments online. 2Checkout.com is an online payment processing service that helps you accept credit cards, PayPal and debit cards."
"If after 30 days of launching Login and Pay with Amazon you have not seen an increase in sales, we'll refund your fees on up to $100,000 in transactions."
The upside? Who hasn't heard of Amazon? Customers don't have to leave your site or pull out their credit card information. The per transaction costs are right around PayPal's.
The downside? This may not be the best solution for those offering digital goods. And from what I've heard the turnaround time for funds is slower than PayPal or Square.
Set a goal for a project and get funded by supporters. Works best if you have either a great solution to a widely recognized problem or a niche solution you can share with an audience you've already gathered. Whether you use it ot launch a project or a business, crowdfunding can be a great boost.
"Indiegogo is the largest global crowdfunding platform."
Specializing in creative projects, Kickstarter is another great crowd funding platform. "Kickstarter is the world's largest funding platform for creative projects. A home for film, music, art, theater, games, comics, design, photography, and more."
E-junkie is another really great shopping cart that predates PayLoadz. The only reason I'm not still using the account I started over 10 years ago is that when I was in the hospital for an extended period, my account was wiped out for non-payment. So all the great data I had saved in there was gone instead of in a stand-by state where I couldn't use it.
If you don't have a disability that could make that an issue, I highly and strongly recommend it. If not, try PayLoadz. Your buttons might stop working if you were sick for an extended period but in my experience, your data stays there forever, including the customer list.
SmallBizTrends has a great, frequently updated Finance section. A great deal of these articles are relevant to the very small business.
I thought about doing a list of social, search and other marketing tools here but we all know what the big basic ones are. So instead of linking to them, we'll look at some beginner guides on the how to get the most out of using each one.
Not a lot of business owners use StumbleUpon, as we've been trained to direct paid traffic to sign up pages. But if you build the kind of page Stumblers like and match them to the right categories, you'll get a good percentage of engaged users.
The hot thing on LinkedIn right now is LinkedIn Publishing- why only hunt for the perfect guest blog opportunity when you can reach a huge slice of your business sector in one place? Let my pal Shelly Kramer tell you the reasons why you should start using LinkedIn publishing today.
"Get 30 days of personalized advertising support with a dedicated Facebook " And a free $50 coupon at the end of the trial.
So you don't know jack about marketing. Let Google help you with that problem. For free. (I know right?)
5 minute lessons might not solve every marketing problem you ever had, but it sure will help you find a place to start.
"Primer is an experimental mobile app created by Google to make marketing easier for you. With our 5-minute lessons, you can learn new topics quickly, get practical advice, and refresh yourself on the basics."
What does every growing company need? More leads, right? If you don't have time to tweet, but do have a compelling offer or a coupon that would appeal to your local area, consider sponsoring a hashtag with a Twitter Lead Generation card.
If you DO have time to tweet? Think about how much easier it will be to convert your followers to subscribers if they Never have to leave Twitter to sign up! You'll have higher quality leads who trust you more because they know they can catch you on Twitter if they have issues.
"New to SEO? Need to polish up your knowledge? The Beginner's Guide to SEO has been read over a million times and provides comprehensive information you need to get on the road to professional quality Search Engine Optimization, or SEO."
Enough said. Moz is my favorite SEO resource, precisely because it gives balanced advice gathered by group expertise and research, rather than the opinion of one person.
If you are primarily in business or marketing to other businesses, you need to become a member of MarketingProfs, it really IS that simple. It has training, resource, live and virtual events. And if you aren't ready for the full tool, sign up to their blog and read expert level advice on all kinds of marketing information.
The alliances they have with many of the other top industry leaders in marketing speaks for itself.
I like to think of Asana not so much project management as shared to-dos. You can use Asana all by yourself, to organize various projects - I have one workspace for each business, one for my writing career and another for personal use, each with dozens of projects in each one.
You can also use it as flexible project management - one any given project you can add people outside your company to allow them visibility of what is going on, or to pass tasks to them. You can have a completely separate workspace that for you works outside of email, but for others can work entirely within email, so that you're not forcing others to adapt to your work style or vice versa.
I also like the fact that it will pull documents in with tasks from places like Google Drive or Dropbox. So if, like me, you like to shut off your email and work, you can do it.
"Asana puts conversations & tasks together, so you can get more done with less effort."
Trello is for group organization of just about anything. It can be an on-going project or a one-off game plan. If you like mind-maps, but find yourself wanting to add pictures to them, this is for you.
"Infinitely flexible. Incredibly easy to use. Great mobile apps. It's free. Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details."
Too many tabs open? Like your number of tabs just fine but they're slowing down your computer? Try OneTab. It'll store your tabs as a list, and also let you group, name, edit, or prioritize them. Works in Firefox and Chrome.
"OneTab lets you easily export and import your tabs as a list of URLs. You can also create a web page from your list of tabs, so that you can easily share your tabs with other people, other computers, or with your smartphone or tablet."
All kinds of tab management for Firefox and Chrome from Lifehacker.
"There's a strange joy in keeping 20 tabs open and pretending like you have the ability to multitask and actually manage all of them. But in reality, most browsers buckle under the pressure of too many tabs and you start to lose track of what you have open."
Evernote business is scalable solution for knowledge sharing. And if it's just you, the regular version of Evernote has sharing features too that you an use for free on a per-use basis.
"Evernote Business makes the ideas, research and expertise of your team easily discoverable, creating an open, productive and smarter workplace."
"The Last Password You Have to Remember"
Clear your headspace. Learn one password that opens LastPass. And then use their password generator to create really hard passwords that you'll never have to remember. This is really important if you have a variation on a handful of passwords for everything.
Think: if a hacker got a hold of your Twitter or Facebook password, how many other things could they open? Your email? Your online banking portal?
Be completely and securely backed up AND have cloud drives that function like network drives. You can install Jungle Disk on more than one computer. Or if you want multiple user access, they have great plans that are affordable for small business.
Read the Google Drive and Dropbox Term's and Condition's document. If any of it sounds like it could become a problem where confidentiality is concerned, move those files over to Jungle Disk. Problem solved AND you've expanded how much disk space you have.
Thanks to JungleDisk, I never lose important documents when my computers crash, AND there's a web option that I can securely access any of my business files from on any computer - in a pinch even on my tablet or phone.
Everyone knows about Dropbox. But did you know that the pro version gvies you one TERABYTE of space for your $10 a month?
Or that you can get a lot of extra space for free by
At minimum? Never lose a photo again.