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Start-up on a Budget: 14 Cheap Tools

Starting a business and trying to keep costs down? Use these expert tips to find resources that can cut your overhead.

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As a small business owner, you already know that “fast,” “easy” and “cheap” are magic words. So I asked my personal network of “Start-up Business Warriors” some of their favorite sites, tools and tricks for running a business on a budget.

One of my respondees put it simply: “Tom, we went from $0 to $500,000 in one year in part because we were able to keep our overhead low and our money at work on the things that would make us money.” This is a great strategy whether you are a solopreneur or a new entrepreneur–even if you have been running your business for a few years but want to keep things lean.

Note: The crowd-sourced recommendations below all favor the speed, ease and access of the Internet. Some I have used myself; others I included based on the good word of friends and peers. There are cautions with the Internet as well as smartphone apps–but you know those already. So be smart, careful and do your own research on these recommendations:

  • Grasshopper.com: A virtual call center for $10 a month. Toll-free numbers, multiple mailboxes, call transfer from cell and land line, and message forwarding to email.
  • Mailchimp.com: Free email marketing, research and database management.
  • Gliffy.com: Process graphics, diagrams and flow charts for managing your business and creating sales presentations.
  • Animoto.com: Tools to create free videos for marketing.
  • Smartsheet.com and Basecamp.com: Project management and online collaboration for teams, account management and independent contractors.
  • Fiver.com: A range of tasks completed for $5 apiece.
  • Guru.com or Odesk.com: These two freelance talent sourcing sites give you tools for finding, bidding projects and managing project talent in all sorts of disciplines.
  • Square: Mobile credit card payment app with a small hardware device that connects to your smartphone–and offers market-competitive fees.
  • Vistaprint.com: Cheap online printing company for business cards, fliers, collateral ... almost anything.
  • GoDaddy.com: I know, I know, those ads. And yet: For a website splash page or brochure, you can get your URL cheap and design the page using their tools. If you need more, get yourself a real web designer.
  • QuickBooks and Freshbooks.comAccounting applications that are easy to use, work with your smartphone and can be linked to your banking.

I know that there are more–so I am recruiting you. Please post in the comments section here with your favorites. Let’s share the wealth of ideas.

Last updated: Feb 1, 2012

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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