Anyone who's ever done it, or even tried it, will tell you that starting a business is exceptionally difficult. It may be among the most challenging endeavors many people ever attempt. Which means any rational person would examine the risks and opportunities and fully consider the obstacles.
Usually, one of those obstacles to starting a business is financial. Starting a business costs money.
At the same time, lack of funding can be an excuse for inaction because it's now, with the abundance of web-based tools, easier than ever to start a business for next to nothing. To illustrate that, I asked folks on our team to share the best, most inexpensive tools founders can use to get their business going.
Together, we agreed on this list of six tools to help start a business for less than $500.
WordPress is already a well-established brand in the Internet business space. Some of the best known media brands in the world use this highly adaptive platform for publishing and sharing their content and products. Best of all, many WordPress products are free and easy to use. Whether you need a landing page or a whole website or professional looking contact and lead forms, WordPress can get you started.
Google Analytics is an exceptionally powerful tool if used properly. But learning how to really squeeze value from it can take some poking around or outright education. Even so, the free basic services are stocked with valuable information about who is reaching your website, what they're doing and how they got there. Data from Google Analytics can drive a host of marketing and branding decisions for even the youngest companies.
MailChimp is a powerful tool as well. New accounts can send high-quality marketing and promotional e-mail to up to 12,000 contacts for free. You can, of course, unlock better tools and send to larger lists for an upgrade. But starting with 12,000 is nice. A word of caution for first timers, though, MailChimp can be extremely picky about your lists. If your lists are old or have not specifically asked to receive mail from you, the service will block you. So clean your lists first.
Yesware is another great, but less well-known, inexpensive business tool. The e-mail management tool can not only track your sales and other prospects, it can tell you when (or if) they read your message. It can also allow you to schedule the sending of business e-mails. Knowing who read your e-mail, and when, can really help you plan your follow up.
Amazon Web Services is real hidden gem for the cash-strapped entrepreneur. Amazon offers a host of free and inexpensive services from server space to database management. Before you drop your contact lists into MailChimp and your content in WordPress, for example, it's worth it to spend some quality time exploring what Amazon offers.
Heroku is another great option for developers and businesses which need more flexibility. With Heroku, pushing your site to a live environment is quick, painless, and free. They provide many of the same services available at Amazon Web Services, but can be less of a hassle to launch and maintain.
None of these services is the answer to having a great business--you'll still need a great product or idea and plenty of determination. But these six tools--and others like them--can absolutely get your business live and visible quickly. And, in most cases, for free. At least to start. And getting started can be one of the hardest parts.