The Poor Entrepreneur’s Toolset: 100 Freebies for Bootstrappers

Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 2:31pm by Site Administrator

Starting and running a business can be a pricey endeavor, but not everything has to be expensive. From printers to a wide variety of great freeware, the internet is chock full of free stuff that can help out the poor entrepreneur. Here’s a list of 100 free products and services that can help you save money as you grow your business. Productivity Software

  1. BizPlan 3— Do you need to write a business plan, but aren’t sure where to start? BizPlan comes complete with templates that give a detailed framework for how to go about writing up your next venture. If you have any questions, it comes with an extensive help guide.
  2. Launchy— Launchy makes your start menu obsolete by indexing programs and documents. How is this helpful? Because Launchy allows you to start any of these programs with a simple keystroke, meaning your hands never have to leave the keyboard.
  3. Backpack— Get yourself organized by using Backpack. Create to-do lists, notes, files, images. Also make use of the calendar with reminders that can be sent via email or to your mobile device.
  4. Central Desktop— Working together has never been easier with programs like Central Desktop. You can collaborate on projects, communicate, and share files with clients and coworkers.
  5. iOrganize— iOrganize helps keep work efficient by storing notes, ideas and bookmarks in one place.
  6. Viapoint— Viapoint helps you organize and find emails easily and quickly, by client or project.
  7. Stikkit— Like virtual Post-it notes, Stikkit’s little yellow notes can be used to keep in touch or work with clients and coworkers.
  8. Webnote— Webnote allows users to take notes using a web browser, then save and return to the notes on any computer. That means you can access them even if you’re not on your own system.
  9. Neptune— Neptune is a web based to do list tool that helps you keep track of your daily tasks. You can even get an email report every morning and upload files to store with your projects.
  10. Ta-da List— Keeping track of multiple projects can be difficult, but Ta-da List can be a big help. It allows users to create to-do lists and even share them with others so items can be checked off as you go.

Office Software

  1. OpenOffice— Open Office is one of the best options for an all-in-one free office suite and is available for almost all operating systems. The suite comes with programs that can help you with word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, databases, vector drawing, and editing mathematical formulas.
  2. GNOME Office— GNOME Office is another free complete office suite. For users of Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, GNOME provides free word processing, spreadsheets, and database utilities. Those using Ubuntu will have increased functionality with additional programs for drawing, creating diagrams, editing images and managing projects.
  3. Google Apps— Google gives Microsoft a run for its money with its suite of easy to use and free office applications. In addition to the popular email client Gmail, Google Apps also offers a personal calendar, word processor, and a spreadsheet editor. Because the programs are web-based, all information edited on them can be shared easily and in real time.
  4. NeoOffice— Developed in conjunction with OpenOffice, NeoOffice may be a better choice for some Mac users. It has the same features as OpenOffice, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, and graphics program, but they have been made for the Mac.
  5. ThinkFree Office— ThinkFree Office is an office suite designed to be similar in look and feel to Microsoft Programs, plus it can read and write all Microsoft Office file types. The suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet editor, and a presentation program.
  6. KOffice— For those who prefer Unix, KOffice is a compatible office suite complete with tons of great programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, diagram drawing, vector drawing, painting, reports, charts, databases, and project management. While currently only available for Unix, Linux and Mac users, KOffice is working on developing a Windows version of its software as well.
  7. Zoho Office Suite— Similar to Google Apps, Zoho Office Suite is on online group of programs offered free to use. Zoho has a word processor, spreadsheet editor, project manager, database manager, calendar, notebook, web conferencing and a presentation creator.
  8. ajax13— A web-based office suite, ajax13 offers attractively designed programs for word processing, drawing, listening to music, editing spreadsheets, and creating presentations.
  9. gOffice— gOffice is another web-based office suite with integrated word processing, desktop publishing, presentations and spreadsheets. At 99 cents per month, it’s not exactly free, but it’s incredibly cheap and can allow you to take your work with you anywhere.
  10. ContactOffice— Contact Office lets you create a virtual workplace where you can manage your data from any computer with an internet connection. While it does not have word processing or spreadsheet capabilities, it can be a good substitute for Outlook with its email, contacts, tasks, notes, and phone call manager.

Accounting Software

  1. BillQuick Lite— BillQuick Lite is a great timecard and project management tool for small businesses. It works for almost any kind of billing system and allows you to keep track of time and expenses in an easy to use format.
  2. Wesabe— Wesabe can help you get a handle on where the money in your business is going so you can make sound financial decisions.
  3. Instacalc— A web based calculator, Instacalc is packed with features. You can create spreadsheets, charts and graphs as well as convert units easily or even send links to calculations you’ve made.
  4. FreshBooks— FreshBooks makes billing much easier so you won’t have to waste precious time sending out client invoices. FreshBooks allows users to manage and send invoices, handle work orders and generate reports with ease.
  5. Dimewise— Dimewise, a web based program, can be a great solution for business owners that need to be able to access their finances from anywhere.
  6. TurboCash— TurboCash can be great for businesses with special accounting requirements, as it gives a lot of flexibility in how it’s set up. If it doesn’t work for you in its current state, it allows the source code to be changed. This isn’t something just anyone can do, but modifying an existing code is much cheaper than building software from scratch, and can be a good option for those with special needs.
  7. Adminsoft Accounts— Adminsoft Accounts is a versatile and completely free accounting program that allows users to record customer details, print sales invoices, keep track of money owed, and record supplier details.
  8. Lazy8 Ledger— Those with experience in bookkeeping might find Lazy8 Ledger to be a great free solution. You can keep track of your finances and create a number of reports.
  9. Miser— Miser is an easy-to-use program with ledgers and sales analysis as well as security to keep your records private.
  10. One Step Accounting— Designed with small businesses in mind, One Step Accounting is a user friendly program with a variety of features including: general ledger, invoicing, bill paying, and inventory tracking.

Print and Web Design

  1. ezCheckPrinting— ezCheckPrinting allows you to design and print your own checks on computer check paper, saving you money on purchasing checks from your bank.
  2. Vista Print— For the cost of shipping, Vista Print will send you 250 free business cards of your own design.
  3. Businesscardland— If you’re the DIY type, you can use the free templates and design program on Businesscardland to print your own business cards at home.
  4. WordPress— There are dozens of sites for creating free blogs out there, but WordPress allows the most customization so you can create a blog that truly represents your business.
  5. ExpressionEngine— You can get a free version of ExpressionEngine online and use it to help create and design an impressive website packed with features.
  6. Nvu— Nvu is the free alternative to expensive web design programs like Dreamweaver and FrontPage. It can even help novice users to create an attractive business website.
  7. Microsoft Live Office Basics— Microsoft provides free web hosting and email to small businesses who might not otherwise be able to maintain a web presence. While the templates available are somewhat limited, they do make it easier and simpler to set up a site. You’ll also get to choose your own domain name, 500 MB of web storage, and support for up to 25 email accounts. Not too shabby for a free service.
  8. Avery Labels and Cards Kit— Business owners can try out a sample pack of Avery labels, cards and other products free of charge just by filling out a short online form.
  9. Website Templates— While having an original website can be an asset, sometimes you simply don’t have the time or resources to create one. That’s when web templates like these can come in handy. Choose from hundreds of designs to find something that suits your company.
  10. Xerox Free Printer Program— If you need a color printer but can’t afford one, it may be worth it to check out Xerox’s free printer program. To qualify, a business must be U.S. based, have more than one employee, print at least 2,000 pages a month and be able to pay with credit card. The catch is that you have to purchase your ink refills from a designated retailer and provide monthly reports of your usage.

Marketing and Sales

  1. Alexa— Alexa allows users to track the popularity and traffic of their website or blog. This information can be very useful to businesses who want to increase traffic through key wording or updates.
  2. Avail Suite 2.6— Designed for the small or home based business, Avail Suite helps you to manage consulting, contracting and freelance jobs as well as schedule appointments. You’ll also be able to manage your invoices and customers so you can keep track of your sales.
  3. Vstore— Vstore is a free online storefront. There are no commissions to pay for the service and you’ll get access to a subdomain, shopping cart, web hosting and design tools.
  4. HitTail— Most people have access to their web logs, but many find them hard to read and understand. HitTail will do the work for you and give you suggestions on how to change your site to make it work even better for you. The service is free for websites with 100,000 or fewer hits per month.
  5. AgoraCart— If you’re selling things directly through your website, chances are good that you’ll need some kind of shopping cart system. AgoraCart will allow you to set up a simple template-based store if you’re just starting out. For established businesses, AgoraCart also supports the integration of fairly sophisticated Web designs, but you’ll need to be a little more tech savvy to set them up.
  6. Google AdWords— Google AdWords lets you put free ads for your business on a variety of web pages. There is no up front fee— you only pay when people click on your ads so there is little risk in giving it a try.
  7. Overture Credit— Get some free advertising through Overture, Yahoo’s ad program. New users only need to sign up to get a $75 free credit.
  8. Webspector— Webspector automatically tracks changes in web page content to help you keep an eye on what your competitors are up to.
  9. Moneybookers— Moneybookers helps you safely open your business up to the international market with secure worldwide payment acceptance.
  10. Cafe Press— Cafe Press offers on-demand printing for promotional items. It can be a good way to get your company logo out there on products like t-shirts, coffee mugs, and baby bibs.

Communication

  1. Campfire— Campfire is a web based chat tool that works great for online meetings with clients and coworkers. Features include file sharing, live image previews, and Basecamp integration.
  2. FaxZero— Archaic as it may seem, some places still rely on fax machines for communication. Using FaxZero, you don’t need to purchase a fax machine for yourself. Simply use FaxZero to send a fax to anywhere in the US or Canada for free via the internet.
  3. K7— For those cases when someone wants to fax something to you, you can use K7. K7 assigns users a free phone number for faxes and voicemail which is then routed to your email.
  4. GoToMeeting— Keep in touch with clients and coworkers using GoToMeeting. It allows users to send files and collaborate in real-time. The website offers a free trial, but the full program has a monthly fee.
  5. LogMeIn— If you don’t have a laptop, taking your work on the road with you can be a bit of a problem. Luckily, LogMeIn allows you to access your computer desktop from anywhere and even share it with others for collaboration.
  6. Comodo— How can you make sure that your private emails stay away from prying eyes? Comodo can help you to seal your emails using a security certificate which verifies that the email hasn’t been altered or opened along its route. A digital ID for Comodo is available free of charge for one year of use.
  7. Who’s-In— Who’s-In allows you to easily keep track of who is in or out of the office at any given time. A 5 person version is available for free on the website or you can request a trial period for a larger number of users.
  8. Basecamp— If you’re working in a group on a business project, Basecamp can be a valuable utility to have. The online service allows users to log onto the site from anywhere to post messages and work collaboratively on the Writeboard. The free version only allows for one project, but additional projects and services are available with paid plans.
  9. SightSpeed— SightSpeed is one of the best places on the net to get free video conferencing and video emails. The free version only allows conferencing between two locations, but for a small business it might be all you need.
  10. MeetingAgenda Lite— MeetingAgenda allows users to share desktops and files easily and comes complete with a built in messenger for keeping in contact with coworkers or clients.

Instruction and Management

  1. Free White Papers— Get access to an extensive list of white papers on a wide variety of business-related topics including management, marketing, operations, sales, and technology. All articles are free to businesses professionals that qualify.
  2. Business Plan Workshop—If you’re starting up a new business or expanding your existing business, a business plan is most likely going to be required by banks and most other sources of finance. CIT Small Business Lending Corporation offers a free online tutorial which explains how you should develop your business plan, including a list of items which should be discussed in your plan and a helpful guide to financial jargon.
  3. Business Management Courses— The Small Business Administration offers over 40 free business-related courses, most of which are available to take online. The typical course only takes about 30 minutes to complete, so it can be easily squeezed into your workday.
  4. Work.comWork.com provides tons of business how-to guides for any aspects of entrepreneurship you might be unfamiliar with or need a little guidance on.
  5. Skinny Shoestring eBooks— Skinny Shoestring eBooks aren’t entirely free, but they are priced low so that nearly everystartup or small business can afford them. You can find information on marketing, building a website, or just general startup advice.
  6. My Own Business— Here you will find a free course on starting and running your own business. The organization is non-profit, so all materials and resources are available free of charge.
  7. ShareItNow— ShareItNow allows users to quickly and easily share a desktop. It works well for training sessions, product demonstrations, and web tours.
  8. Planware— An important part of planning for your business is planning for your finances. This is where Planware comes in. It provides free Excel templates for both financial projections and cash flow planning.
  9. StatusView— StatusView provides an easy a free way to keep track of where all your employees are at any time.
  10. SchedulerLite— SchedulerLite can help scheduling employees easy and pain free.

Customer Service and Relations

  1. Highrise— Highrise allows you to keep on top of your customer relations. It helps you keep track of your customer contact information, create tasks, set deadlines and interrelate all of them. You can even have a daily task summary sent to you so you can keep on top of what your customers want.
  2. Mailman— Mailman can be a great way to send out electronic newsletters. Mailman helps you take these mass mailings off of your PC, where they can bog it down, and onto a server where they can be processed more easily.
  3. Free CRM— Free CRM can help with your sales process from managing prospects to established customer relationships. Slightly more in-depth than Highrise, it allows you to more easily see if your sales are on track for your budget.
  4. Breeze— Create and send email campaigns with Breeze’s easy to use format. You can even get reports to see who has opened your email.
  5. Wufoo— Wufoo makes creating forms, surveys and invitations for your customers easy with its free online builder.
  6. Relenta CRM— Relenta helps you keep track of customer relationships through email, contacts, and activity management.
  7. Scratch and Scribble— If you find ecards too impersonal but don’t have time to write cards yourself, use Scratch and Scribble to send handwritten cards to your clients. It isn’t entirely free, as you have to pay for postage, but it can be worth it for the time it saves.
  8. LiveChat ContactCenter— LiveChat ContactCenter is online customer support software that allows users to store business contacts, chat, send files and establish conferences to help improve online customer support. A trial version can be downloaded for free.
  9. Sky Blue Support Helpdesk— Sky Blue is a fully featured program that allows users to create a customer support center. Tabs allow users to easily switch between different screens. The free version allows up to 1000 calls and 500 customers.
  10. Web+Center 5.0— Web+Center is a suite of 4 CRM and help desk programs: Customer+Center, Tech+Center, Business+Center, and Pocket+Center. It includes an asset management component, group calendar, customer surveys, FAQs and time spent invoicing as well as automatic HTML notification options for cell and email.

Free Samples

  1. Trade Pub.com— Business professionals can get dozens of trade magazines for free. With numerous titles, there’s bound to be something that will apply to your line of business.
  2. Boxes from the USPS— Business owners are often unaware that the USPS will provide packaging and mailing material to you free of charge. Simply fill out a form online and they’ll be mailed directly to your place of business.
  3. SiamJava— Starting and running a business sometimes requires long hours, and a little coffee can help make it easier to stay alert. Get a free sample of SiamJava coffee when you supply your address in the online form.
  4. Accu-line— Pens and office supplies are easy to misplace, so it never hurts to have too many. Get free high-quality pens and rulers from Accu-line.
  5. Post-its— There are a variety of free samples you can get from the Post-its website. Sortable post it cards are one of the free offers.
  6. Sun USB Drive— Portable storage is a very useful resource for the mobile business owner and you can get a free 128 MB USB drive just by ordering a Sun catalog.
  7. Coffee Mug— Get a free Optima coffee mug to go along with your free SimaJava coffe just by filling out a short online form with your address.
  8. Paper from 3M— Try out a free sample of 3M’s Print to Last paper just by filling out a short online form.
  9. Free Postage— While not entirely free, this could be a good offer if you do a lot of mailing. Order a Pitney Bowes digital postal meter for your office and you’ll get $50 worth of free postage.
  10. Business Free Recycle— Get free supplies and equipment that other businesses no longer have a need for but could still be valuable to your small business.

Networking

  1. LinkedIn— LinkedIn is one of the best online networks for businesses. Find opportunities and contacts through people you already know.
  2. askCHARITY— askCHARITY provides free online media contacts for charities worldwide.
  3. XING— XING is a business network that provides more than just a directory. It also has unique discovery capability and advanced contact management tools
  4. Ning— Ning allows you to create your own social network. Place a network on your webpage and customers can network with each other.
  5. Ryze— Ryze can help you expand your business network and make new valuable business contacts.
  6. Ecademy— Ecademy provides a free place for you to advertise your business as well as make new business contacts.
  7. Biznik— Biznik provides local business networks all over the US. Biznik-sponsored events can give you the opportunity to meet new friends and contacts in person.
  8. FastPitch— FastPitch allows you to create a free business profile and market your business to companies worldwide.
  9. Cam-100 Video Shopping Network— Upload videos of your products and services to this network and potential customers can watch and contact you directly to negotiate a sale.
  10. Orkut— Orkut is an invitation-only networking site. All invitees are vouched for by someone else on the site. This helps eliminate many of the problems with bogus accounts that have plagued other networking communities.

While there may be no such thing as a free lunch, there sure are a whole bunch of other great free things if you know where to look. Hopefully at least a few of these suggestions will help your business to save a few dollars that can better be spent elsewhere.


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Filed under: Tools + techniques

11 Comments »

  1. Christina,

    Thanks for a great list. I’m bookmarking this. And thanks for the Work.com mention. We’d love for you to write your own Work.com how-to guide about good resources for bootstrappers!

    Cheers,

    Shara Karasic
    Work.com Community Manager

    Comment by Shara Karasic — August 8, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

  2. This page is a fantastic resource. I see several tools on this list that I already use.

    I’d like to point out another free tool for the communication category that I just started using: OnStage. OnStage’s free version offers plenty of storage such that a business could actually use it… not just a trial.

    Comment by Ivan50 — August 9, 2007 @ 11:20 am

  3. A great companion piece to this is:

    http://www.pcworld.com/printable/article/id,133272/printable.html

    I have blogged/linked both. Thanks for the resource!

    Comment by Mike at Carputers — August 9, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  4. If you don’t mind using Gnu/Linux, I would suggest GnuCash for accounting as well.

    Comment by GBGames — August 10, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

  5. Hi Christina, thanks for the mention! I’m glad you found instacalc useful. Feel free to send any feedback to kalid@instacalc.com.

    Comment by Kalid — August 11, 2007 @ 2:03 am

  6. Great list Christina.  I thought your list would be helpful for fellow
    small business owners so I mentioned it on my

    BookWise
    site. No doubt they can find several tools that could be of use to
    them.

    Comment by BookWise Leisa — August 11, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  7. Good job, Christina! And lots of helpful information! I’m definitely bookmarking this. I actually have been using several of those tools for months now. I also would like to add one to productivity list. It’s Wrike. I found an article about it at PCworl.com, when I was surfing the web. It’s not a suite, but it could be almost everything for you: a project management tool, a bug tracker, a to-do list and even as CRM software to certain extend. Worth checking out.

    Comment by cherry — August 13, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

  8. Here is the PCworld article

    Comment by cherry — August 13, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

  9. Thanks for the great list. I’ve linked to it at Mine Your Own Business

    Comment by Mike — August 16, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

  10. I noticed that GNU/Linux was mentioned a couple of times in this list and wanted to add that Linux is a great alternative to the Windows operating system.

    Also, don’t forget Google docs for word processing and/or spreadsheet work.

    Comment by Robert MacEwan — August 19, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  11. Great List! you just missed one important website for php web template.

    http://www.freephptemplate.com

    Comment by steve — December 14, 2007 @ 3:20 am

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