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8 Tools to Start an Online Business without Breaking the Bank

8 Tools to Start an Online Business without Breaking the Bank

Deep down, you know you want this. You want to taste the freedom that other entrepreneurs have. You want to follow your passion and hopefully also make a living at it. You want to…start an online business.

But here’s the thing: Instead of jumping on the bandwagon to start an online business, make sure you do your homework first. Most people launch a product and market it later. Big mistake!

You want to do the opposite – study the market first, launch next. How? Since it’s going to be an online business, start looking at online forums, comment sections of your competitor sites and what people are searching in Google (using Google Keyword Tool).

Once you pass stage one successfully, you can think about launching a website/product/service. That’s where the real magic happens.

Here’s what comes next:

  • Writing content
  • Starting a blog
  • Having a presence on social media
  • Establishing an expert status for yourself
  • Email marketing
  • Outsourcing tasks you don’t have the time or inclination for
  • Following influencers closely
  • Launching a product or paid service

The list is unending.

It’s easy to get burned out in the sea of tasks and strategies when starting an online business. Thankfully, there are tools available to help you get off the hamster wheel and launch a successful online business.

The best part? You don’t have to spend a fortune on these tools. Here are eight tools to start an online business without breaking the bank: 

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1. Hostt

An online business needs a website domain name and space to “host it”. Hosting is an ongoing expense for your business and it usually incurs a monthly cost with an option to pay it upfront on a yearly basis.

And that’s where Hostt.com is revolutionizing the hosting world. What I love about Hostt is that it offers free hosting for all your websites. They also have a 24/7 tech support and a cpanel that makes website management quick and painless.

There is no catch – no ads. The hosting is 100% free. They only ask you to have one domain name with them (which costs $13.95 a year).

2. WordPress/Shopify

Once your website is set up and hosted, you’re ready to install a CMS or a platform on which your web pages and content will sit.

WordPress, originally a blogging platform, is the most popular solution in existence today. Most top bloggers use and recommend WordPress. The best part? It’s free to use.

Once you have your website hosted (see #1 above), your hosting company’s cpanel should let you install WordPress using the “1-click install” functionality.

WordPress is great for any type of website; but, if you want to create mainly an e-commerce store (in other words, an online store with a checkout shopping cart), you have better options out there.

Although WordPress is pretty flexible and a full-blown CMS now, it was originally built for blogging, not for e-commerce purposes. If you predict having a large product catalog and lots of e-commerce relevant features, try a service such as Shopify.

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Most e-commerce experts will advise you against WordPress for an online store. Shopify is highly customizable, robust and affordable for a professional shopping cart. There are other alternatives available in the marker too, so make sure you do your research before launching a web-store.

3. BuzzSumo

Once you have a platform ready, you need content. And not just any content but good, solid content one that your readers find educative, interesting and engaging.

BuzzSumo is a neat little tool that analyzes what works for your readers. It helps you find content and topics that will do best for your type of audience.

Just open their webpage and enter your main keywords in the top search bar. You can also add a domain name to see what’s working well for them.

BuzzSumo returns a list of articles with the number of shares (so you know what is popular and can get ideas from those topics for your own website).

Super-helpful from SEO perspective also. So go on, give it a try!

4. MailChimp

But you can’t just stop after creating juicy content. The next step in line is to promote your content and one of the best ways to do it is email marketing.

Mailchimp is an email newsletter service that is used by more than 7 million people. You can get started with their “free forever” plan if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers and send less than 12,000 emails per month (which is very likely when you’re starting out).

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To get add-ons such as autoresponders and delivery by time zones, you can upgrade for as little as $10 per month. I’ve been using MailChimp for years now for my own websites and that of my clients, and have no regrets.

5. Buffer

Apart from promoting content and educating your readers via email, you can also use social media to share and push your new posts out there.

Buffer is a nice little tool to schedule all your posts across different social media. The clean and easy to use interface is one of the reasons it’s so popular. What I personally love is their “Suggestions” tab on the dashboard.

Buffer scours the web for best posts on other websites that you can instantly use to share with your own followers. When I’m low on the shareable content reserve, this feature is super-handy – all I have to do is read the suggested article and (if I like it) click the link to share or schedule it for my own channels.

6. ClickMeeting

If you are in a freelance/service-provider business model like I am, you have a constant need to communicate with your clients or collaborate with your team all over the world.

ClickMeeting is a platform to meet and record audio and video conferencing with your clients (for up to 25 participants). It’s perfect for briefing and presentation purposes. You can also brand all your meetings and impress your clients like a pro. Plus, they have a translation service if you’re exploring international markets.

They also offer a sister-product called ClickWebinar to conduct virtual trainings (for up to 1,000 participants) and webinars with your audience.

7. FancyHands

Let’s face it – despite all the tools in the world, you will still need external help. That’s where services such as FancyHands come into picture.

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FancyHands brings you a team of virtual assistants who can do a lot of things at less than $1 a day, if you’re using their basic plan that costs $29.99/mo.

Here are some services for which people have requested in the past (as per the company’s website):

 My co-worker is in the hospital after a bad car accident. Can you call the gift shop there and ask them if they sell fun things to do to pass the time that they could send in a gift basket type of thing to him? Crossword puzzles, trashy magazines, stuff like that. I’d like to spend about $50. If they don’t do that sort of thing, please find a place that can.

Please make a lunch reservation at Barolo under my name for Friday at 1pm and call Jennifer Wilson’s office and let her know that the meeting is confirmed. Please add it to my schedule as well.

Please fill me in on the top 5 trending topics on Twitter today, both worldwide and locally in Los Angeles.

A fun way to get your time back, right?

8. Xoom

I saved the best for last – getting paid. Xoom is a perfect alternative to Paypal. Where Paypal is notorious for charging hefty transaction fees (try this calculator to find how much you’re being charged), Xoom charges a flat fee of $4.99 for up to $2,999.

With their 24/7 customer support and faster money transfers, Xoom is one of the easiest ways to send money.

Your Turn

Are you starting an online business? Which one of the above tools is your favorite? Would you like to add more? Tells us your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Published on November 9, 2018

How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

Technology has taken the business world by storm. People and businesses are progressively reliant on technology world these days. As a result, the people with impressive knowledge and experience with a computer are in demand.

Considering this growing market trend, if you too wish to bag a profitable job, this article is apt for you. Here, we will dig deeper into the business and technology world to look into what are the best computer skills one should invest in and what resources to get help from.

So, are you ready? Here we begin.

6 Most-In Demand Computer Skills This Year (and Beyond)

When talking about computer skills, following are the 6 computer skills that can fill your mailbox with endless job opportunities (besides, having an English and Hindi typing speed of 40+ WPM):-

1. Spreadsheets and Databases

Considering the treasure trove of data companies are handling these days, Spreadsheet and Database management skill tops the list. It is considered the most wanted job skill in the market, with a salary of around $53,129/yr for an entry-level position. However, the spreadsheet skill does not confine to auditing data from cells.

To get hired based on this computer skill, you need to become a Spreadsheet ninja. From storing data to organizing them, applying complex mathematics formulas, and creating complex macros, you need to be an expert at all.

In other words, you need to have an expertise at working with:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Access
  • Statistics
  • Data Analytics
  • Adobe Campaign
  • Quickbooks
  • XML Database management system
  • Filemaker Pro
  • MATLAB
  • Hive
  • FORTRAN
  • RDBMS (Relational Database Management System)
  • SAS

2. Social Media, Email, and Blogging

Though people are socially active, not everyone knows how to use the social media tools on the professional front. In such a scenario, having an expertise at writing engaging yet professional emails, writing blogs, and managing social media activities is a ticket to entry in reputed organizations.

Some of the skills related to social media, email and blogging that will have a leg up in the hiring process are:

  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Google Analytics
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
  • Email Marketing
  • Web Page Design
  • WordPress
  • Digital Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Campaign Management Software

3. Graphic Design and Word Processing

A solid grasp of skills to present the gained information in the much readable form is another market need. When considering this computer skill category, you need to enhance your skills at:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • AutoCAD
  • CorelDRAW
  • Microsoft Visual Studio
  • Maya
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Operating Digital Cameras

4. Software and Hardware Design and Development

The Software and Hardware development, in simpler language, means designing, implementing, and testing the computer software/hardware applications. It is the most profitable computer skill, with a different job opening, including Software Architect, Software Analyst, Software programmer, Hardware configuration, etc.

To be capable of developing and testing the software and hardware, you need to peruse your users’ needs and build an application that hits their pain points. You need to work with different web and mobile app coding languages for gaining the attention of your audience, some of which are:

  • HTML
  • C/C++
  • Java
  • Python
  • XML
  • UI/UX
  • LINUX
  • CISC and RISC architecture
  • Embedded Processor Hardware Design
  • Memory Management
  • PCB Layout
  • SQL

5. IT Troubleshooting

Working on computers is one thing and having a knack of looking into the associated issues and resolving them in real-time is another. There are various employees and graduates who work with computer systems in their daily lives, but get confused when it comes to dealing with frozen programs and performing routine maintenance.

So, if you are familiar with the basic anatomy of computers and machines and know the tricks to perform such tasks to streamline the working process, enter the IT support arena. The prime IT troubleshooting skills one needs to work upon are:

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  • Backup management
  • Diagnostics
  • End User support
  • Client-Server management
  • Installation and configuration
  • Issue tracking system (ITS)
  • System administration
  • Tech support

6. Enterprise Systems

Many Enterprises have their own enterprise solutions like PeopleSoft for managing their data and operations.

Becoming a master at using the enterprise solutions mentioned in their ‘Requirements’ area can also lessen the barrier to get a job.

The Roadmap to Excel Your Computer Skills

Now that you know the 6 most popular computer skills in the market, the first decision, you need to take is which computer skill you want to work upon. All the skills are equally considerable for making a career ahead. So, choose one as per your interest.

Once done, look forward to the following resources for boosting your computer skills and getting a reputed, handsome job.

Depending on the computer skill you opt, here are the online courses you can turn to for elevating your career opportunities:

1. Become a Spreadsheet and Database Ninja

a. Microsoft Excel Training Online Course – Basic & Advanced

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or expert at working with spreadsheets, this online course has something new for everyone to become excel efficient users.

Divided into 48 interesting lessons, the course empowers you to learn the technique of using mathematical, statistical, logical and text functions, sorting and filtering the data, creating Pivot Tables, building macros, finding a value with VLOOKUp, and much more.

b. Excel- Online Courses, Classes, Training, Tutorials on Lynda

This is another impressive course to unlock the power of Excel. Designed for people from all walks of life and familiarity with Excel tools. This course helps you gain in-depth knowledge from the experts about this data-analyzing tool and make the magic in spreadsheet creation and management process.

c. SQL & Database Design A-Z™: Learn MS SQL Server + PostgreSQL

Build a successful career in the data analytics world with this online course.

Revolving around the two top databases, MS SQL and PostgreSQL, this course will give you a comprehensive knowledge of the working of the databases and understanding of all the related elements, including how to create, update, organize, and safeguard the data.

2. Rule the Social Media World

a. Free Social Media Course by HubSpot

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Introduced by the top experienced inbound professors from Hubspot, here you will get a comprehensive knowledge of Social media marketing.

From understanding how to build relationships on different social media platforms to creating a perfect strategy to engage them, leveraging the benefits of social advertising, and analyzing your social media ROI, this course will bring out the best out of you.

b. Write Professional Emails in English by Coursera

This online course will be the right weapon to look into the differences and similarities between different email styles, improve your English writing skills, write effective subject lines, maintain the formality tone in emails, and more to make a powerful impact on the receivers with your email.

c. Ninja Writing: The Four Levels of Writing Mastery

Founded by Udemy, this online course will excel your skills to build a masterpiece everytime you write.

Here, you will get the guidance from the editors of the top newspapers and websites, and understand what kind of words and tone to use for leaving a spellbinding impact on the readers.

3. Launch Your Own Software or Hardware Equipment

a. Hardware and Software Courses by Coursera

From Big Data to IoT, Sensor Circuit Design, Embedded Software and Hardware Architecture, and Motor Control Circuit, this course will give you a glimpse of all the hardware devices, equipment, and programming languages to build wonders.

b. Free Software and Web Development Certifications Online by Alison

Become the software developer market demands with Alison’s Java, C#, Python, R, PHP, or MySQL database course. From backend to frontend development and software testing.

The course helps you to learn how to design, develop and test software and working in a team while contributing to the team success.

c. Free Online Software Development and MOOCs Course by Class Central

The Class Central online course will make you a master of software development. Here, you will learn the basic concepts of development like Agile, Design Patterns, and Version Control with Git, along with gaining experience of working with the top programming languages.

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4. Live and Breathe Creativity

a. Udemy: Introduction to Graphic Design

It is a top-rated program for the new learners and designers to explore the Graphic Design world.

From the history of communication to the design principles, the course will help the students to learn everything specifically and implement in the real world.

b. Canva Design School

From a beginner to advanced level, this course will provide you with an elaborated and comprehensive knowledge of graphic design. In the form of 4 modules, this course will help the interested graphic designers to try out their skills at Graphics, ranging from fonts to colors, backgrounds, images, shapes, and layouts.

c. Microsoft Word – Basic & Advanced

62 personalized lessons, premium video tutorials, and unlimited tests and quizzes – this certified course has everything that will make your entry to the business world easier.

d. Microsoft Office: Word, Excel and Access Productivity Bundle

The course will make you productive in Word, Excel, and Access through video lectures, articles, and various other supplemental resources.

Besides, it will offer you exclusive tips and tricks to enhance your skills at using Microsoft office.

5. Raise Your Reflexes to IT Troubleshooting

a. IT Troubleshooting Skill Training by Udemy

IT Troubleshooting Skill Training will upgrade your logical concepts over technical components to find and repair faults.

It will provide you with a methodological approach to learn the basics of troubleshooting, practice them via exercises and drills, and enhance your IT troubleshooting intelligence.

b. IT Help Desk Online Course on Lynda

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The Lynda’s IT troubleshooting online course will train you how to respond to the issues related to Windows 10, Office 365, JIRA software, and more, from a local as well as a remote location.

Mobile Apps and Websites to Enhance Computer Skills

The aforementioned online courses will undoubtedly train you for a successful career ahead. But, in case you want a long-term support, turn towards the following websites and mobile apps:

  • Duolingo – Duolingo app will improve your spoken and written communication skills in different languages. With the magic of gamification added to the study, the app will make learning a fun and addictive task.
  • Hemingway – Hemingway app defines the length, complexity, and common errors associated with the sentences. In this way, it helps you to write effectively and go ahead in the career.
  • Udemy – The Udemy, with its 2000+ courses, is a great platform to master new skills, advance your career and explore the newer technologies and programming languages. Enrol a course as per your budget and make a brighter future.
  • eDX – eDX is yet another commendable platform you can look forward to. The platform offers you the best of the tutorials prepared by the business professionals and technology experts, ensuring a great boost in your computer skills.
  • Excel Easy – Excel Easy, as the name depicts, will make working with Excel easier for you via their detailed tutorials and 300+ real-life examples.
  • GCF LearnFree.org – It is a one-stop platform for accelerating your future in the computer world. From graphic design to Microsoft Office, resume writing, enhancing adaptability, and much more, the top experts will guide you with everything on this platform.
  • QuarkXPress – The QuarkXPress will aid you to add soul to your design with its unparalleled collection of font style, size, and typography. The best part is that it is avails all the options in different languages, including English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian to name a few.

Bonus: Tips to Accelerate Your Approach For a Better Career Ahead

Though these resources will make you stand out from the crowd and get hired at once, you need to focus on various other things, such as:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

It is common to forget what we learn. To ensure that you do not miss any opportunity just because you forgot, keep practising.

Make it your routine. Polish your computer skills and you will surely end up getting an offer letter from a recognized firm.

2. Work on Your Efficiency

Remembering what you learned is not enough; practice to enhance those skills to do better.

For example, if you take around 50 minutes to create a design, target for 40 minutes.

3. Look for Shortcuts

Smart work rules over hard work more often. So, look forward to learning shortcuts to do any task. This will increase your chances to crack an interview and get selected.

4. Apply for an Internship

Last but not the least, apply for an internship to see what’s trending in the market and how much you are ready for it. While doing an internship, pay attention to your weak points and work on them. This will ensure a success when you apply for your dream job.

By the late, it’s never too late to be an intern or grab whatever opportunity to learn something new! Here’s how:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

The Bottom Line

Seeing the current market scenario, it is evident that having computer skills is a boon for a better career ahead.

So, rather than struggling with thousands of other things and trying to crack interviews, focus on the computer skills mentioned in this article. Utilize the resources and experts’ tips shared and look forward to having a successful and prosperous future.

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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