Today, I’d like to share with you 5 FREE Small Business Resources You Probably Don’t Know About. I believe one of the keys to staying in business is managing money well (including the little of it you may have in your early days) and as such, I work to maximize the cash I do have by utilizing the litany of free and low-cost resources at my disposal that can help make my job as a busy entrepreneur and business owner a bit easier.
Here are the 5 FREE Small Business Resources You Probably Don’t Know About:
1. Mailchimp: If you’ve visited one of this blog’s recent posts then you know that I use and highly recommend MailChimp as an Email Marketing Service. Under their “Forever Free” program you can have up to 2000 subscribers and send 12000 emails per month. There are no expiring trials. No need to sign a contract, and no credit cards required to start using the service. In my opinion, this is THE BEST email marketing program for someone looking to grow and build their email marketing list! I believe this is the ideal Email Marketing Service for a new startup business or a business just beginning to organize its electronic customer database.
2. Open Office: OpenOffice.org has everything you expect in an office suite and it’s open-source, which means you can have it for FREE! With the latest version of Open Office.org you get a word processor (similar to Microsoft Word), in addition to a spreadsheet program (similar to Microsoft Excel), a database program (similar to Microsoft Access), a graphics editor (similar to Adobe Photoshop), and a presentation creator (similar to Microsoft PowerPoint), all for FREE! Plus, you can create your eBooks and share your documents using the built-in PDF writer to make PDF files, without buying additional PDF creator software! There are two ways you can get this software. One is visiting OpenOffice.org and downloading it directly, and the other is ordering a CD of it from OpenOfficeUSA.com, where the software is still FREE, but you have to pay $9.97 for Shipping and Handling to receive the FREE OpenOffice.org CD* (*Orders Accepted From the United States Only). It’s been my experience that despite the $500 price differential between Open Office and Microsoft Office, people still prefer the latter, but for those who are open to a FREE alternative and looking to save money, Open Office is definitely the answer!
3. CutePDF Writer: If you choose not to use Open Office with its free PDF Writer, then you might want to consider installing the CutePDF Writer (formerly known as the CutePDF Printer). CutePDF Writer is a free utility that lets you print almost any Windows Application documents into PDF format with just the click of the PRINT button. What this means is that you can create PDF documents without purchasing more expensive software like Adobe Acrobat Professional (which is the $499 upgraded version of Adobe Reader which is offered free to READ PDFs). You may not think much of this ability, but if you’re in the habit of delivering digital documents for review, you’ll definitely want to move into the direction of sending those documents in PDF format for a few reasons. One, when you send something in PDF, you know that it’s delivered the way you want it. Sometimes with Microsoft Word or Excel files the formatting can cause it to appear differently on another person’s computer, or they can hit a key and ruin your formatting altogether. Second, you know that people can open the document since Adobe Acrobat Reader is included for free on most PCs and opens intuitively on Macs, thus you avoid the possibility of sending a Word or PowerPoint file to someone who doesn’t have those programs and thus can’t open the file. Finally, you can save many trees by NOT printing documents for your archival purposes on paper, but instead with the CutePDF Writer, you can print your documents in PDF format and store them securely on your hard drive or a USB thumb drive.
4. MorgueFile: If you run a blog, one of the top tips you see is about using pictures in your posts to appeal to the visual sensibilities of your readers. I know that I enjoy including pictures within my blog post that help to visually depict the message or overall imagery I’d like to project on a topic. Sometimes it’s difficult to do, but with a little bit of forethought and planning, it is something that can be achieved. I mention all of this as a segue into talking about MorgueFile. I love this site and I visit it often! MorgueFile is a public image archive database that offers FREE photos for use in creative works, be they personal or commercial! It’s a great source for high resolution pictures, and I’ve been using it now for quite some time and I’m amazed that it’s yet to let me down!
5. Picnik: Once you get your high resolution pictures from MorgueFile the next step is to resize them. The picture files you download from MorgueFile are huge and definitely high-quality, but the resolution and file size will likely be too much for simply posting in a blog post. The best thing to do is resize the picture to a “workable” or more manageable size, and that’s where Picnik comes in. Picnik is an online image editor that is great for resizing and editing pictures quickly. All you have to do is upload the picture, resize it (typically to a width of 600 pixels – letting it auto-resize itself proportionately to retain its original shape) and you’ll create a picture whose file size is small enough that it should fit nicely within your blog post. Plus, you can add graphics and do other editing to the picture like framing it or adding shapes, all for FREE! Yes, they have paid premium options that you can upgrade for purchase, but many of the basic functions (similar to the ones a blogger would need) are absolutely FREE!
Did you know about any of these resources? And can you think of other FREE small business resources? If so, please leave us a comment letting us know.
Kindra Cotton, Small Business Survival Specialist