Last 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.