Buying a laptop recently – I got the hard sell on the software upgraded – the salesman knew I ran a business and assuming that I would be spending money on the latest and greatest CRM and office productivity software. He was sadly disappointed. I rarely spend money on software – and only then when I have a) no other choice or b) the free options aren’t working as well as the paid.
Here is my current list of free software which I use to run my online business:
Sure the default which comes with Windows – Internet Explorer is free too but I use Firefox its faster and has a lot more functionality than IE because the software is open source and developer contribute add-on modules all the time.
I don’t use one becasuse I don’t want to restricted to using a single PC to manage my email from – I use Google’s free gmail service – gmail – but Yahoo offers a similar service. I have a number of email addresses and forward them all to my gmail catch-all account.
I have used OpenOffice for years and it only gets better. I predominantly use the Word alternative and Excel alternative – but there are also programs which mimic Powerpoint and drawing packages. I never have any compatibility with people using Word and Excel.
To create pdf files I don’t use a separate program – this is possible directly from OpenOffice using the “save as pdf” button – another good reason to use the suite!
Simple Text Editors
That said I use heavy duty word processors less and less and write almost all my articles in straight text format so that I can include simple html and I know that there will be no formatting issues with the article when its published on a article site or a WordPress blog. When I am being creative I also like to have few distractions and I like the retro black screen look (think Word Perfect 4.0 if you are old like me) with no clutter. Notepad will work for some people but I like the ability to spell check, word count and save snippets that these programs provide. I have been using Q10 for a long time, but recently have also been experimenting with WriteMonkey
Both these editors are very small programs so you can also load them onto your USB and use them on the go if that’s important to you.
I am not a heavy user of photo editing software and even though I own Photoshop I often prefer to use the free program Gimp for quick edits or format changes.
Moving Files Around
You will need to compress files and sometimes load them to your website. For compression of files I use winzip which is often already installed with windows. For a simple free ftp program with a nice interface I recommend Filezilla
Many business owners want to know how to create an online business without realising that they are already moving in that direction. You may not realise it but many small business owners are already using the Internet for their own marketing purposes. Even unintentionally you may already be starting the process of driving traffic to your website.
This post will examine some quiet ways that small business owners may already be developing an online business to complement their real world business, without even realising it.
Does your business already have a website? Owners who can answer yest to the question, are already presenting their products or services online by virtue of their website. With a functional website you can already have the possibly of capturing the odd curious on-line browser. Even if you are yet to start actively promoting your website online you may still be getting the odd inquiry from potential customers who found your company via the Internet. This is why having a website is often called passive marketing.
Do you hang out in forums and have a link to your website in your forum signature? Its a bit like the on-line equivalent of passing out your business card to acquaintances. Smart small business people participate in relevant forums and make sure that their signature clearly includes their website’s name and their tag line. They can also use a forum to establish their product knowledge and credibility in their knowledge of their specialist area. Subtly participating in forums and message boards allows the clever business owner to establish their credibility with future customers.
One thing that is key that your website includes you main keywords. These are not necessarily your business name – say “Cute Cats” – but what need you are actually solving for your business: practical cat clothing. Using your keywords affects your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). You need to use your keywords particularly in titles and sub-headings- but not stuff them to much: searh engines caught onto that trick many years ago. Although the whole area of SEO can be quite complex its a good start if website owners just use their main keywords naturally as they write their site’s content.
Do you get feedback from online customers? This is another way that owners can be marketing their business online without even realising it. Soliciting feedback can be easy as running an online survey – cheaper and easier than doing it in the real world.
So you may well be doing more online marketing that you realised that you are already
Creating an online business to complement your bricks and mortar business is not as hard as many online consultants would like you to believe. We have already mentioned several ways that owners may already be promoting their business online without even realising it. Moving from accidental online marketing to the next level will really start to show results and drive targeted traffic to their website. Whether you want to go it alone or hire a consultant its not that hard to create an online business