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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

10 Tools to Start an Online Business without Breaking the Bank

10 Tools to Start an Online Business without Breaking the Bank

Hundreds of new online businesses go from idea to reality every day. While statistically most of these businesses are destined to go belly up, there are those that will grow and ultimately become very successful. Everybody who learns how to start an online business obviously hopes to be in that select category of success stories.

The question is how to start an online business that will beat the odds and succeed.

Determination and hard work, of course, are the coal that fuels the engine, but that engine will have trouble staying on the tracks if the right tools aren’t used to keep it moving.

There are plenty of tools out there that can help your online business perform more efficiently to save you time. Thankfully, a lot of them offer a range of plans that are quite affordable for business owners just starting out.

The goal is to shoot for tools that get the job done in the best way possible and won’t put your online business in the red before it’s up and running.

1. LivePlan for Business Planning

Having a good idea for an online business is the first step to launching your career as an online entrepreneur. Making a solid business plan for that killer idea is second. There are a number of great tools out there that can help you make a business plan and lay out the blueprint to turn your idea into a profitable venture.

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For example, LivePlan starts at $11.66 per month and walks users through each step of the business planning process and has over 500 different business templates to ensure that users find the perfect one for their business venture.

2. Siteground or InMotion for Web Hosting

If you’re going to start an online business, establishing a website is going to be one of the first steps. You can get free web hosting, but it’s often lower-quality, and you’ll probably find that spending even a couple of bucks a month makes a world of difference. When it comes to web hosting, it’s important to look at your business’ needs.

For a small business, a shared hosting plan like Siteground is probably your best bet. You’ll be sharing a server with other websites, but it’s affordable at often less than $12 a month and is easy to use.

If you’re expecting a huge amount of traffic, a dedicated hosting site such as InMotion may be a better choice. This type of web hosting will be more expensive, but it is highly secured and won’t get bogged down easily by a lot of visitors.

This article can help you learn what to look for when choosing a web hosting provider.

3. WordPress or Squarespace for Content Management

Now that you’ve got your web hosting in place, it’s time to choose a content management tool to build and maintain your online presence. WordPressis obviously the best-known and for good reason. It’s incredibly customizable and comes with an array of free resources, tools, and plug-ins that can be applied as your business grows.

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Squarespace is another popular website content management platform that many newbies will probably find a little easier to use than WordPress. No coding required! Both products have several levels of pricing, with Squarespace starting at $12 a month and WordPress at $8 per month. Really, you can’t go wrong with either one.

4. Weave, Mailchimp or MailMunch for Customer Communication

In regards to communicating with your customers, there are far more ways today than there were even 15 years ago. The online businesses that excel at customer communication are the ones that are going to succeed. Communication for online businesses needs to be both streamlined and natural, which is what makes Weave such a great tool that allows you to automate your customer communication with texting, appointment scheduling, and payment reminders.

For email, Mailchimp and MailMunch are two wonderful and affordable online business tools for growing and maintaining your email list. Both have customizable features, such as allowing for custom landing pages and automatic syncing of email and newsletter campaigns.

5. Hootsuite or Zoho Social for Social Media Management

Yes, social media management is customer communication, but it’s really its own animal, too. We all know about Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc, but how about tools that utilize those social media platforms in the easiest way possible?

One of the most popular tools for businesses in regards to social media management is Hootsuite. From scheduling online posts to tracking the customer engagement of those posts, the tool is well worth the $29 a month subscription fee. An even cheaper option that has good reviews for being easy-to-use with similar functions is Zoho Social, which starts at just $10 a month.

6. Upwork for Outsourcing Tasks

There are going to be parts of your online business that you’re just too busy to dedicate the required time or aren’t quite skilled enough to handle. In the beginning, hiring a full-time employee to handle those tasks might not be feasible.

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Whether it’s logo design, copywriting, software development, or SEO strategy, you can probably find a skilled freelancer to tackle the job on Upwork. The platform guides business owners through the freelancer hiring process all the way up through job payment and has qualified candidates around the globe.

To get started with outsourcing, check out this article.

7. Trello or CoSchedule for Project Management

Regardless of the size of your online business, keeping projects on track and proper calendar management is going to be key. Two valuable online tools in this category are Trello and CoSchedule.

Both products utilize a sort of bulletin board format with lists and cards for projects that make for easy team collaboration and communication. Trello is the cheaper of the two at $10 a month, but CoSchedule may offer quicker troubleshooting should any issues pop up.

8. Shopify or Stripe for Shopping Cart Software

If you’re going to be selling any goods or services through your online business, you’ll need a way of accepting payment from customers. This is one area of your online business where making things as easy as possible for your customers is going to literally pay off.

The second customers run into a glitch while trying to make a payment, you can expect a loss of sale. If your online business is going to be something in the retail sector, you really can’t go wrong with Shopify. At just $29 a month, it will provide tools to cover everything from social media management to website design, and, of course, payment processing.

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Other sorts of online businesses may want to look into Stripe. It has a strong reputation for making payment processing easy and secure, and with a flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, and it doesn’t saddle business owners or their customers with a bunch of hidden fees.

9. ShippingEasy or AfterShip for Product Shipping

While eCommerce isn’t something that’s going to apply to all online businesses, for those that do fall under this category, a smooth delivery of the product is crucial. Two tools that online business entrepreneurs should consider using are ShippingEasy and AfterShip.

Both services help business owners find the best shipping rates, manage inventory fulfillment deadlines, as well as provide customer reassurance like automated tracking and SMS notifications about order updates. Even better, for businesses with fewer than 50 shipments a month, both tools are free.

10. Freshbooks for Bookkeeping

Your online business is up and running like clockwork, and it’s starting to make some real money. Now time for the fun part — bookkeeping. Accounting might not be as exciting as launching an inventive email campaign, but it’s still essential if you want to stay in business.

Freshbooks is an all-in-one online business accounting tool that will handle everything from payment acceptance to invoices and expense reports. With plans as low as $6 a month, it’s one of the most affordable bookkeeping tools on the market when first starting an online business.

Conclusion

Because every business is unique in its own way, not all of these tools will apply to your online business. As your business grows, you’ll likely find that the tools needed to get the job done will change. For starting an online business, though, the above categories and their respective tools are a great place to start.

More Tips for Starting an Online Business

Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

More by this author

Chris Porteous

The CEO of Grey Smoke Media / My SEO Sucks, helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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