I’m in my early thirties and it seems like these days all of my friend are getting married, having kids and starting businesses. Being the Web nerd amongst those who know me (who don’t work in the Web industry), I’m often asked for advice on the topic so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the problems that fledgling businesses face. To help serve as a guide, I’ve put together the following list of Web applications that I think every small business owner who is starting out should know about.
First, get online with Bluehost + WordPress + WooThemes – This bundle of Web applications and services is basically all you need to create a professional looking Web site without paying a professional Web site developer several thousands of dollars. The process would look something like this: Once you’ve selected a domain name you like, start at Bluehost.com and buy your domain name and a hosting package. Next, use their control panel and install WordPress. Finally, go to WooThemes and find a design you like and install it. You’ll have a site that looks just as good as the site you would have paid someone $5k to design running on what I consider to be the best content management system on the Web.
Next, create a customized logo and brand with 99Designs – If I were a design agency with a track record of overcharging clients for a logo that some designer cobbled together while stoned, then I would be very frightened of 99designs. 99designs allows users to submit a brief that outlines their general design requirements as well as a bid for how much they are willing to pay for the work. Designers from around the world will submit entries and the client will then rate the submissions and provide feedback over the course of a week or so before finally choosing a winner. The kicker? If you don’t like any of the submissions then you don’t have to pay anything. If you are looking for a designer, then there is really no reason not to start at 99Designs.
Third, announce your site with PRWeb – This wouldn’t be a blog post if I didn’t shill a bit. I’ll just leave it at this: PRWeb is the best way to get the Web to pay attention to your site and your business in a short amount of time.
Get organized with Central Desktop – I think Central Desktop is an absolutely incredible product that can handle a variety of functions. I’ve primarily used it as a project management solution and far prefer it to Basecamp (for a variety or reasons I can discuss in a different post). Central Desktop can also serve as a reliable internal knowledge base. Finally, I actually think for most smaller organizations with small sales teams, Central Desktop can even serve as a light CRM that will help you avoid spending all your early profit on SalesForce. They are constantly improving the product, they care about design and usability and they don’t constantly nickel-and-dime you (ahem…SalesForce).
Start spamming your friends with MailChimp – This isn’t a knock against Constant Contact or iContact, but I’ve looked carefully at all three and I think MailChimp has the best product from both a design and features perspective (although iContact has been making some nice strides lately). The best part of MailChimp for new businesses? You can store up to 2,00o subscribers and send up to 12,000 e-mails for free.