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10 Tools to Start an Online Business without Breaking the Bank

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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.

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More Tips for Starting an Online Business

Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

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Chris Porteous

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

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Last Updated on January 27, 2022

12 Reasons Why You Should Consider Working in Singapore

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12 Reasons Why You Should Consider Working in Singapore

Nine out of 10 foreign workers are satisfied with working in Singapore, a recent governmental survey reports. Being ranked best for numerous criteria from best intellectual property protection laws to the easiest country to do business in, Singapore also receives a bunch of accolades for the overall quality of life, top education standards and efficient medical system, ranking the nation as the healthiest in the world. So, what exactly makes the City of Lions such an impeccable place to start your career or relocate your business? Here are just 12 reasons why you should consider doing it!

1. Singapore ranks second as the most globalized economy in the world

The Global Competitiveness Report 2014 – 2015 named Singapore as the world’s second prospering economy. By defining “competitiveness” as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country, the report claims to be the most authoritative assessment of the country’s prosperity and well-being. What does that mean for you and me? High wages, low unemployment rate, excellent work conditions and nourishing business development and investment climate.

2. Salaries are extremely lucrative

As the economy is booming, Singapore companies are hungry to acquire overseas specialists, offering top salaries and lucrative benefit packages to attract highly-skilled workers and talents. With a median salary of 3.500$ per month, software engineers can earn up to 72.000$ annually, whereas general practitioners usually receive around 80.000$ per year, according to PayScale. Elementary school teachers earn around 34.000$ per year and working as a waitress part time will bring you around 1100$ per month.

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3. Progressive personal tax system

Calculating and paying taxes in Singapore is extremely easy and usually takes around 30 seconds to submit your online tax return. If you already obtained a residence permit, your personal taxes in Singapore range from 0% if you earn less than S$ 22.000 per year to 20% for incomes above S$ 320,000. Non-residents are expected to pay a flat rate of 15% from all income gained in Singapore. In addition, all of your earnings gained overseas and brought to the country are not subjected to any taxes.

4. Getting a work/residence permit is really easy…

With a population of only five million, and dropping fertility rates, Singapore is highly interested in acquiring new residence and labor force to boost the country’s economy to soaring heights. If you already have a job offer secured, applying for a work permit would take only a few clicks on the governmental website and you will know the outcome within just one day. No lines, no paper bureaucracy and no huge list of supportive documents or blankly stated requirements. Their entire procedure is even simpler if you are a business owner wishing to relocate your business to Singapore, or a start-up entrepreneur wishing to develop your company within the island. You are likely to receive your work permit for a longer term, plus the renewal process is fast and simple. Residence permits are usually issued along with your work permit for the same period of time.

5. …And the same with permanent residence status

If you have lived and worked in Singapore for over a year and enjoyed your experience, you can start considering applying for a permanent resident card. Again, the whole process can be done online without much hassle or paperwork involved. Among the factors of a successful outcome, expats name young age (below 50), educational background (degrees obtained in Singaporean universities will earn you extra points), the industry you work in (again extra points to those who are involved in scientific research and working with innovative technologies), and your ability to speak one of the four languages. The processing time does take up to six months.

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6. The adaptation process goes easy

As English in the main working language you won’t experience the dreaded language barrier. The local society is an absolute melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and British cultures with 42% of population being foreigners. There is a huge amount of expat communities and meet-ups, restaurants serving awesome foods from all over the world, and imported goods you are used to buying back at home. As expats say, “Singaporeans are generally very comfortable with diversity and have been very welcoming to foreigners” with rare case of racism or religion discrimination occurring. There are numerous international and English schools available, along with pre-school daycare centers, so your kids won’t experience much troubles either when changing environments.

7. Top notch higher education

If at any stage you feel like lacking relevant educational background or certain skills to get a promotion, you should consider getting a degree in one of the six Singapore universities. National University of Singapore currently ranks number one in Asia and 22nd in the world offering degrees in Arts, Law, Medicine, Computer Sciences, Public Policy and nearly any other profession in demand. Tuition fees for undergraduate programs range from S$ 28.600 to S$ 129,200 for medical degrees. However, all students (foreign or resident) can apply for governmental grants and tuition aid, cutting down the costs by 50%, as currently around 20% of government spendings go into education. If you are aiming at a top executive position, getting an MBA in Singapore will cost you S$ 58,000 full-time or part-time.

8. It takes three days to open a business

Being ranked #1 for the ease of doing businesses by World Bank consequently for seven (!!!) years, starting your business in Singapore is easy and fast indeed. The whole process is done online and your registration will be deemed completed within a few hours after you pay a registration fee of the S$65. Afterwards, you can either refer for further assistance to ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) offering you a huge selection of agencies and providers to handle all your business needs – from business start-up services to preparing all the documents for your annual returns.

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9. Singapore is rated #1 as the best labor force in the world

As your business grows and you feel it is time to expand, hiring new professional team won’t be much of a struggle. With expats and work migrants flooding the market, local labors are known for their effectiveness, strong work ethics and superb educational profiles. Filling in top executives and managerial positing will not be a problem either as the share of high-skilled professionals with relevant background rose from 27% in 2003 to 31% in 2013. Moreover, 25% of residents reported to have worked for the same company for 10 years, which means less personnel changes and headhunting.

10. Low crime rates and zero corruption

Currently ranked the 5th least corrupted country in the world, Singapore surpassed a long chain of reforms and law enforcement practices on the road to a bribe-free society. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau has kept an eye on matters since 1952 and tries all cases according to strict Singapore laws with long-term jail sentences and huge fines up to S$ 100,000. Same goes towards any sort of crimes–even minor offenses are treated with extreme severity. Think: three months of jail and three hard cane strokes for painting graffiti on a war memorial. When living and working in Singapore you don’t need to worry about your belongings getting stolen, nor your life threatened. Besides, you don’t need to have any sort of “special connections” to do business and get through all the legal and bureaucratic procedures.

11. You can become a millionaire in less than 10 years

According to a recent report issued by Boston Consulting Group, over one half of wealthy Singaporeans accumulated the majority of their wealth in less than 10 years. That’s the quickest growing rate in the world. Now, Singapore boasts one of the highest millionaires’ density in the world with 8.8% of the population having assets over one million US dollars. The phenomenon exists due to the ease of doing businesses in Singapore, advantageous location with easy access to nearby booming markets of India, Indonesia and Malaysia and quick implementation of progressive new technologies.

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12. Absolute political stability

Obviously, your business and you as an employee do not exist in a vacuum and are highly dependent on governmental policies and law-making. The Singaporean government is known for conducting open and fair policy towards constantly introducing new laws, tax relieves, and regulations to enhance the countries’ business environment even more. With the People Action’s Party forming the majority in Parliament since 1965, Singapore has a very stable and orderly government indeed.

Featured photo credit: Larry Teo via unsplash.com

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