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25 Online Resources For Freelancers and Small Businesses

By Erik Folgate

tool box for small business and freelancersLast week I revealed to you how my best friend and I started a side business doing internet marketing for small businesses and one reason for our success was that we found clients before we set up the business. Now that we have some clients, we need to look a little more legit, so we started shopping around for some online resources to help us get more organized as a business. Doing freelance work and/or starting a side business is one of the best ways to earn extra money to help you pay off debt, save for retirement, save for kid’s college, or save up for a large purchase. You should focus on seeking out clients first, and then set up business processes. When that time comes, here are 25 online resources to check out when setting up your business.

General Office Applications

Google Apps: You can get Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs integrated into your domain for FREE. I use DreamHost for my web hosting, and they have a feature that automatically installs Google Apps onto your domain, so I can manage my Presence Media mail while maintaining an email address that looks like [email protected] This is essential, because you can collaborate on a calendar and documents with partners and/or employees.

Open Office: A solid alternative to Microsoft Office and iWork. It’s open source software, so it’s constantly in development, being tweaked, and modified to suit user’s needs.

RightSignature: We use this one too. You can upload contracts, invoices, or estimates and get them electronically signed by clients, rather than playing the faxing game. Get this, there’s an iPhone app that allows clients to sign your iPhone using their finger! How sweet is that?

Invoicing, and Bookkeeping

Freshbooks: We chose Freshbooks for all of our invoicing needs. Freshbooks as a great API that allows it to hook up with other services for seamless integration. You can also create estimates in Freshbooks, which was a huge feature for us.

Zoho Invoices: It lets you send 5 invoices for free, but after that you’ll need to pay for the service. Zoho has an entire suite of small business applications, but everything is a-la-carte, so their services can quickly add up.

Outright: We chose Outright for all of our tax filing needs and expense logging. Outright helps you prepare tax documents for the end of the year and for estimated quarterly tax filing. The best thing about Outright is that it’s FREE, and it hooks up with Freshbooks, Expensify, credit cards, and Paypal.

Curdbee.com: This is a simple, straightforward invoicing system that’s the cheapest we could find, but didn’t have all of the features we wanted. It hooks up with Paypal and Google Checkout so clients can pay you directly online from the professional invoice you sent them.

GoToBilling.com: A full-service invoicing and bookkeeping system, but it runs a little on the high side for monthly fees. It’s part of the suite of applications such as GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC.

CannyBill.com: CannyBill can help you accept credit cards, export data to QuickBooks, automate invoicing and late payment notices and a host of other tools.

Expense Reporting

Shoeboxed: Once we have more monthly expenses and we’re traveling more, we’ll definitely sign up for Shoeboxed. It allows you to take a photo of a receipt, and Shoeboxed will record the expense, categorize it, and keep a digital receipt. It hooks up with Outright.com to record expenses for tax purposes.

Expensify: Expensify is similar to Shoeboxed, but it helps you create expense reports and automatically reimburse a credit card for expenses. If you’ve got employees or contractors that work for your business and you want a simple way to reimburse them for their expenses, this is a great application. It also allows you to scan receipts by taking a photo with your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android phone.

Time Tracking

MyClientSpot.com: Helps you keep track of your billable hours, staying organized, tracking leads and numerous other features.

TickSpot.com: This application allows you to easily track time and expenses, and it has an iPhone application to easily track time while away from your computer.

Calendars and Scheduling

Appointy: An online appointment management tool.

SuperSaaS:This is online scheduling software that allows you to accept appointments booked directly on your website.

Contact Management Systems

SalesJunction: Sales Junction looks really easy to use, it’s easy to customize, and best of all it’s affordable.

BatchBook: BatchBook is a small business CRM that manages contacts, communications, and to-do lists. It’s also good for managing email lists and labels.

Mojo Help Desk: If you do freelance IT work, web development, or any other tech-related work, you must have an organized system for fielding client needs. This is a great help desk application that creates help tickets to easily manage and prioritize requests and tasks.

File Storage and Information Management

Pixily: An online service that lets you aggregate, organize, find and share your documents.

Thinkfree: Online access to files, collaboration space for your team, and the ability to edit documents and post to blogs with a Web-based editor.

Soonr: We use this application for file storage, file sharing, and collaboration, mainly because it has a virtual team drive feature. It creates a virtual hard drive on your computer that you can access without logging into the website application.

Planning and Project Management

Torch Project Management: Torch allows you to collaborate using messages, e-mails, files, tasks, Google Docs, and other methods. You can bid, track your time and invoice clients directly. Offers seamless work flow (connecting bidding, project management, time tracking and invoicing).

PlanPlus Online: An online calendar, time management, project management, and contact management suite from FranklinCovey.

Comindwork: Project management, knowledge management, and collaboration software.

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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Comments

  • http://expensify.com David Barrett

    Hi Erik, thanks for thinking of Expensify. (“Expense reports that don’t suck!”) Incidentally, we just launched a FreshBooks export option, and a new Palm Pre app. Woot! Please keep us in mind the next time you’re agonizing over an expense report; we can help ease the pain.

    • Erik Folgate

      David, you guys are great, and it’s a great application. I love all of the integration with other apps like Freshbooks and the iPhone integration as well!

  • http://www.1scan.co.uk Jeff Underwood

    Interesting article for all small businesses. We’ve been using Zoho Invoice for about four months and it’s fantastic. As you’d expect it saves a lot of time and bother, but more importantly our clients like the built in PayPal integration.

    Save time and improve your cashflow.

  • http://blog.easycalapp.com kareem

    Great post Erik. Have you checked out DropBox for file management and sharing? It’s the easiest software in that space that I’ve used.

    • Erik Folgate

      yes, heard of DropBox, it’s another good one for file management, I’d highly recommend it.

  • http://www.garden-home-retailer.com/ Jamespati

    Nice post! very interesting topic. keep on posting.

    Bathroom renovations

  • Jason Olson

    You should also try SSuite Office for a free office suite. They have a whole range of office suites that are free for download.

    Their software also don’t need to run on Java or .NET, like so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small and efficient.

    You may try these links for more info:

    http://www.ssuitesoft.com/index.htm
    or
    http://www.ssuitesoft.com/ssuiteexcalibur.htm
    or
    http://ssuite5element.webs.com/thefifthelement.htm

  • http://www.comindwork.com Arturas Kvederis

    A great post Erik, thanks for adding Comindwork to your list. I would also add http://www.skype.com for communication needs, It’s really cool and they have integrated screen sharing now.

  • http://www.pixily.com Pixily

    Erik,
    Great list; thanks for including Pixily. A couple of other cool services we use that are really affordable are Zoho CRM. It’s cheaper than Salesforce and has a lot of good functionality. You might also want to check out Microsoft’s Biz Spark: http://www.microsoft.com/BizSpark/. You get free Microsoft Office software if you are a software startup. I’d think your business would qualify.
    Healy Jones
    Head of Marketing,
    Pixily

  • http://outright.com Jennifer @ Outright

    Thanks for mentioning Outright in your list of resources, Erik! We just started a new 1099 filing service, too, so if you hire contractors for your new business this year, we’ll collect their W9s and file their info with the IRS, saving you and your team the hassle. (More info: http://outright.com/contractors/1099)

    Good luck with your new internet marketing endeavor!

    • Erik Folgate

      Jennifer,

      My only request with Outright is that you make the capability to prepare 1065 tax documents for partnerships. We have an LLC, but we want to treat it like a partnership for tax purposes.

      • http://outright.com Jennifer @ Outright

        Hi Erik,

        We love feedback and we’re always listening. I’m sending your request to our team right now!

        Feel free to also check out our hopping “What would you say are the most important improvements we can make to Outright?” thread (link below) and vote yours and other ideas up in the ratings. Thanks again for the shout out!

        http://community.outright.com/answers/what-would-you-say-are-the-most-important-improvements-we-can-make-to-outright-com-6

  • http://www.twitter.com/manishwebmaster Manish Chauhan

    Thanks for this great list. I hope this is going to help me. However, I am bit amazed not to find skype for communication and http://www.invoicera.com for latest invoicing needs.

  • Andrew

    Hi Erik,

    You should also check Fanurio: http://www.fanuriotimetracking.com

    Fanurio is a desktop application designed to help freelancers manage their work and be paid for it. With Fanurio you can customize invoice templates using your own layouts and export them to HTML or PDF. It also has idle time detection and it can be used on Windows, Mac and Linux.

  • Suruchi

    Nice post Eric. Quite a few helpful tools mentioned.
    You can also add DeskAway – http://www.deskaway.com, an awesome online project management & collaboration tool which has some very good features like Calendar, Integration with FreshBooks, Data Export/Backup, contact management, docs/file sharing, blog, Reports, SSL enabled etc.

  • http://blog.raleighwoodmedia.com Lisa Jeffries

    Nice comprehensive list, but your strategy is what gets me:

    “You should focus on seeking out clients first, and then set up business processes.”

    I think that need to include a few caveats.

    1 – You better be really, REALLY organized or you’re going to be doing a lot more work to make sure you’re not forgetting things (or not getting paid for projects/time).

    2 – You also need to be really, REALLY organized so that you are managing these early clients’ expectations appropriately and providing what you’ve been hired for. If you don’t have your business operations set up, you may do more harm to the impression that they get in regards to your “side business” than anything.

    All the best!
    -Lisa

  • http://www.processusa.com/ Merchant Accounts – Liz

    Great list, you might want to list a merchant account as well if you wish to take online payments.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • The Rat

    Nice post! You’ve given a wealth of ideas for business owners or new start-up to save a boat load of cash! Keep up the good work.

  • Newb

    Nice list. Open office is great in particular, but there are a lot there I’ve never heard of so I’ll make sure I check them out. I’d also suggest having a look at 1DayLater which is good software for tracking my time, money and mileage. http://1daylater.com

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  • http://www.smoothentrepreneur.com Stephen

    Zoho has some great stuff. I highly suggest all entrepreneurs on a budget to check that website out.

  • Joshua

    Hi Erik,

    Nice list, but you left off Fanurio: http://www.fanuriotimetracking.com

    Fanurio helps with the less appealing aspects of freelancing like keeping track of time and invoicing. It’s a useful application, with a user-friendly interface.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S3T7EYPHYYIRBB7K26GBRKRQFA Michael

    Very thoughtful of you Erik to give us those helpful recommendations. Hope your business has gone from strength to strength and I’m sure it has. We are no longer a start up but we do use collaborative software and I wish we had used it when we were starting because it would have saved us a lot of overtime and not-quite-there communication. It’s quite hard to choose because there are so many of them and all very good. We took a chance on Dooster which would be suitable for a start up and small to medium sized company as well.

  • Pdcutie

    why can’t I find something that works with my Mac for scheduling while using my quickbook12.
    I tried to use qb stuff and they said it would not go ‘with the mac program… so now I can’t find ANYthng that I can use to schedule customers to go with my quckbooks and mac? BBOO HOOO… any help..!!!!

  • Melissa Evans

    I found all these features combine in one new software named Talygen. A great innovation in time tracking technology.

  • Jane Berry

    Nice post Eric. I would like to recommend one more tool in your list Proofhub, an awesome online project management & collaboration tool which has some very good features like Calendar, Integration with Google Docs & Dropbox, file sharing, live chat, gantt charts, notes, labels, proofing, sub tasks and more.

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